unequal than others
the girls to dream big"
Chandro and Parkashi Tomar have won nearly a hundred medals at shooting events across the country. Nirupama Dutt meets the devrani-jethani duo at Kila Raipur games
Life literally begun for Chandro Tomar (70) and Parkashi Tomar(65) of Baghpat village, beyond Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, after they had crossed their sixtieth year. The two sisters-in-law clad in their traditional rural costumes of ghaghra-shirt and a long odhini trailing down their heads make quite a pair with their sporting pistols in hand. The gun looks quite incongruous with their traditional attire, reminding in fact of a painting by Arpita Singh, which had caused quite a stir because the artist had placed a gun in the hands of an image of Goddess Durga.
These two gun-totting grannies were the centre of attraction at the recent Kila Raipur rural a sports as they displayed confidently their skills at aiming and shooting. It was a spectacle indeed and photographers flocked to them and they posed willingly and these pictures found their way onto the front pages of many national newspapers. Well, the two have got used seeing their pictures in print for they have been causing ripples for over half a decade participating rural sports events all over the country.
How and when did they pick the skill? The tall and statuesque Parkashi casually replies, "Some five years ago. My grand-daughter Shefali taught me." At this the older plump Chandro murmurs in anger saying, "Either she should talk or I. When both talk it is such a khichdi." At this the younger woman surrenders and says, "You must talk only to Chandro. She is my jethani and older to me. She will tell you everything."
With the matter of hierarchy settled once for all, the older woman tells the story of their exploits. Baghpat happens to be a village famous for its shooters and more so in their Tomar clan. "Earlier only men wielded pistols and guns. Women just looked after the home and hearth. But our grand-daughters learnt the art and joined the Badal Sports Academy. They would come home and show us their medals." One day Chandro told her grand-daughter to teach her shooting too. Smiling, Chandro says, "My little Ruby agreed and I started learning from her. Watching me Parkashi too got interested. So her grand-daughter Shefali taught her."
Once they had learnt to shoot well, invitations started coming for them to participate in rural sports in their home state and then they started expanding their horizon and now they have won nearly a hundred medals participating in events all over India including Indore, Asansol, Ahmedabad, Chennai and many other places. "We came to Kila Raipur the first time. They did not give us medals but we got Rs 500 each."
If the destination is far then they take a train but a day’s journey they accomplish in a Qualis with boys of the village driving them around. The two say that they find enough time for the sport as now they have daughters-in-law and grand daughters-in-law to look after the home. At this Parkashi adds, "But when we are home we do tend the cattle. But the kitchen duty is no longer ours. Ab roti to bahuein hi pakaein." So while the younger woman of this clan are busy sweating it out in the kitchen, the two grandmothers are having a whale of a time romping around the countryside with pistols in hand.
"In the US, women have a lot more freedom than women in India, but women in India can climb to the top if the men in their family cooperate," says Lucy Haugh who has studied women, both in India and in her native US, where she lives in San Diego, California.
Her love affair with this nation started 40 years ago and continues unabated. She has been studying Indian women and recording, on tape, their perceptions about social change in their lives.
Lucy came to New Delhi in 1965 and knew nothing about the country that her then husband, John R Hubbard, was posted to. He was Chief Education Advisor, USAID, a US government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide.
She was a Texan who had graduated from the University of Texas in Austin; he a teacher of history who later became the president of University of South California, where he is Emeritus Professor of History.
"I knew nothing of India when I came here, but I love the country and the people," she says, noting that her interaction was with over a 100 urban English-speaking middle-class women including Lotika Sarkar, Arundhati Roy, Illa Bhatt and Kiran Bedi, who have all been interviewed extensively on tape. She has done radio programmes for public radio in Los Angeles, California and in a programme called Feminist Magazine. She has not written about her experiences, and is currently busy digitising her recorded archive.
Asked to share her perceptions about the changes in the lives of Indian women, she says: "In the 1980s women did not eat out, even as a group (of women). Today women work, they move around and interact with outsiders more freely. They did not call their husbands by their first name, a custom that sounds quaint in urban India today. Girls are being educated to work, though the desire to have a girl child is generally still not there." She also notes that the family structure is changing and the joint family system is breaking down.
"Women are earning. This changes perceptions and equations within the family, the mother-in-law is less dominant now." Overall, she has also noted that more social consciousness is to be seen in India, especially sensitivity to what happens to the poor, and that the country is much better off now that it is was in the mid-1960s. "There has been a tsunami of change, most of it for the better, but there is also a huge difference in traffic."
helped her to discover self
In a state where women make news only as victims, the emergence of a woman inventor has provided a welcome change. The harbinger of this change is Manu Bhambi, a student of M.Sc (Biochemistry) of Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, the only woman in a three-member team of scientists which has invented a technique for the immobilisation of enzymes onto inert support by physical or chemical or both methods. The technique which finds application in pharmaceutical, food and detergent industries has been submitted to the Indian Patent Office for grant of patent through the Technology Information Forecasting Assessment Council of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. Manu, a svelte young girl, looks more like a happy go lucky college goer at first glance than a scientist. But her scientific moorings surface when she talks about her invention. "The new technique we have standardised will bring down the cost of several products in the pharmaceutical, food and detergent industries. Enzymes are soluble in water and these cannot be isolated after a chemical reaction. This means enzymes can be used once only. Our technique binds enzymes onto inexpensive support materials like plastic strips, PVC tubes and even egg membrane. This means these enzymes can be used over and over again", she explains.
Strangely, she is not a bio scientist by choice. "I wanted to be a doctor. I worked hard but still could not manage a score good enough to find me a seat in the dissection halls of a medical college. So, I joined B. Sc (Medical) at the Government College for Women at Rohtak and passed out with a score of 70 per cent. This was more than enough to join MDU’s Department of Bio Sciences", she says.
Daughter of a businessman father and a working mother, Manu, considers her father as her inspiration. "Since my mother is employed in Himachal Pradesh, my father brought up the three children including me. He is everyone’s role model in the family", she said her eyes beaming with joy and a hint of gratefulness for the dedicated father. Manu’s elder sister is a lecturer and her younger brother is still a student.
Besides her father, Manu gives credit for her achievement to C. S. Pundhir and Nar Singh Chauhan of MDU for their guidance and hard work. Incidentally, both are senior members of the team that has applied for the patent. Manu now has her eyes fixed on the industry. "I would like to take my work further in professional laboratories of industrial houses. There, I can break the academic barriers of a university laboratory and enter the tough world of conducting meaningful research for industrial application," she says, adding that commercial application of scientific techniques provides both academic and monetary satisfaction to a scientist. Manu has a streak of social activism in her too.
Black women and those from ethnic minorities face multiple forms of discrimination, according to a recent survey, reports Marie Woolf
Black and ethnic-minority women in Britain are "powerless, poor at every level of society."
In a damning analysis, the research found women from ethnic minorities were "almost entirely absent from the rank of decision-makers in the UK" and face "massive inequalities in education, health, employment and pay, levels of political engagement and treatment by the criminal justice system".
The report by the Fawcett Society, which promotes and supports women in public life, found ethnic-minority women were "struggling against multiple discrimination on grounds of their sex, race and or religion." The report found that women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin earned only 56 per cent of the average hourly wage of White men.
Rates of suicide among young women from south Asia were double that of the general population and Black women who were being beaten up by their partners have to wait longer for help from the authorities than White women. They also had a higher chance of being a single parent, of earning less and of going to prison than their White counterparts.
"Our report reveals the terrible impact that multiple discrimination on grounds of sex, race, religion or age can have on BME (Black and ethnic minority) women, who continue to be excluded from positions of power," said Dr Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society. "The experiences of BME women have been too easily overlooked, with the focus too often being on gender or race, but not both." Around 2.3 million black and ethic-minority women live in the UK - around 4 per cent of the population - but only two black women are MPs. A female Asian MP has never served at Westminster, and the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly do not have any black or ethnic-minority representatives. In 2001, 1.9 per cent of local councillors were BME women. However, seven sit in the unelected House of Lords - 1 per cent of the total.
The report found that many ethnic-minority women were active members of local community and voluntary groups. They had the same level of trade union membership as white women, but only 2 per cent of appointments to quangos were by women from an ethnic group.
The report also found that ethic minorities had adverse experiences of the criminal justice system, from the courts to the prison system.
"Discriminatory attitudes" were preventing agencies from tackling violence against Black and ethnic-minority women.
The report found that a woman experiencing domestic violence contacted agencies 11 times before getting the help she needed. But black and ethnic minorities had to contact agencies 17 times.
The report also found they were more likely to go to prison than white counterparts and that "race relations in the criminal justice system remained a serious problem for BME women offenders." In 2002, BME women made up less than 8 per cent of the total female population but 29 per cent of the female prison population.
The report found that there were very few ethnic minority women at senior levels in the police and the judiciary. In 2004, Linda Dobbs became the first Black woman to be appointed to the High Court. Justice Dobbs said she had faced obstacles because of the "perceptions of clients". She said: "You had to show you were better than the others to gain their confidence."
— The Independent
"Get the girls to dream big"
believes that men have to be sensitised to accept women as bosses. The
President of the Apeejay Satya group talks to Geetanjali
Gayatri about how women can balance work and family well.
She does not believe in the presence of a glass ceiling for top industry positions. Sushma Berlia, President of the more than Rs 100-crore worth Apeejay Satya group, has juggled her domestic and professional life to perfection. For her, the sky is the limit and each year she soars a little higher. This year, she took over as the first woman Vice-President of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) and she’s all set for a repeat when she takes over as the first woman president of PHDCCI sometime next year. "It has been a long journey to the top. We don’t have many women at the top, not because they are not competent but because most of us have our own priorities where family and household occupy centrestage. Also, we women need to put in a little extra when it comes to proving our worth in this male- dominated world," she says. Berlia might seem a firebrand entrepreneur pioneering a crusade for "her tribe" but she’s not the feminist she may sound. "We just assume and expect that a man can handle five different businesses. When that is possible, why can’t the women perform the balancing act when it comes to home and work. I just want to tell all the competent women out there in the world? It is possible, even if it means giving one priority over the other occasionally," this passout of Delhi University asserts. Based on her 15 years experience in the industry, Berlia says that the problem in the industrial sector is that women foraying into business are not taken seriously. "Men perceive it as just of the many things a woman undertakes. Then, the other issue is slightly ticklish. while they are not prejudiced, they are plain uncomfortable with the reversal of roles," she claims.
Endowed with astute business acumen, this Vice-president of Apeejay education society which runs 25 educational institutions all over the country, is convinced that there is a need to sensitise men to accept women as bosses. "Besides, there is also a need to groom the girl child in a way that she learns to dream big and realise those dreams. Her family should not perceive her gender as a handicap. It is the parents and schools who hold the key to a better tomorrow for their girls," Sushma emphasises. She is optimistic that the time is not far off when women will take over as corporate honchos. Sushma is opposed to reservation for women in the Board of Directors to enable them to secure top positions. She asserts,"We don’t need patronising men around us. In fact, just like the IT industry has blossomed on account of an ‘enabling environment’, the industry and government need to create a conducive environment to prompt women to come out of their shells and grow."