Be it financial constrains, societal pressure or just their calling to do something hatke — women are increasingly becoming pioneers of ‘odd’ professions of the day. As they set examples and make every woman of the country proud, this International Women’s Day we introduce you to the women who not only stormed the male bastion but also conquered it.
Pooja 33, hairdresser, Chandigarh
She got married at the age of 18, right after Class 10. After learning basics of makeup from some local salon, she started working at Headmasters, Sector 8, 11 years ago. Her inclination towards hair then made her learn skills over the years. Ever since, her world has been about haircuts, chemical rebounding, colouring, and much more.
Why this field: It’s a very creative field. One can only grow in this field, provided your creativity remains intact.
Difficulties: It’s difficult to keep standing all day long. Also, it’s obviously not easy when you have all men for colleagues.
What keeps you going: Will power is the key. Also, my husband, family and boss have been quite encouraging.
Your USP: In my salon, I’m the only woman hairdresser. Even in the city, I haven’t seen a woman hairdresser in any salon.
Message: No matter what, always move forward. There is nothing girls can’t do.
Rani 40, electronics mechanic, Jalandhar
A sister to six sisters and a brother, Rani lost her father at a very young age. Her father used to run an electronics shop, National Radio Station, which she started looking after soon after his demise, in order to run the family.
Why this field: As a child, I used to assist my father, as I found electronics and repairs interesting. But then, I had to work at the shop to marry off my sisters and run the house.
Difficulties: My family was not exactly keen on me looking after the shop. Shopkeepers also didn’t take me seriously initially. But then, I didn’t have the time to think about my difficulties.
What keeps you going: When customers appreciate my work, it gives me the strength to continue.
Your USP: I’m happy that I’m an independent woman who successfully runs a shop on her own.
Message: Hard work and will power are the keys to success. Don’t be scared of anything, keep working hard.
Kiran Thakur 34, bouncer, Manimajra
After marriage, five-foot 11-inch tall Shimla girl, Kiran shifted to Manimajra (1996). She started working as a primary school teacher, before taking up jobs as a security guard at Fun Republic and Infosys. When actors Sunny and Bobby Deol were visiting the city, someone suggested she should become a bouncer — a term she wasn’t aware of till then. Since then, Kiran has been a bouncer. Recently, she received the IBN7 Zindagi Live Award by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Sheila Dixit, and CII’s International Women Award (2013).
Why this field: The amount of money the field offered was enough to convince me to take this up as a career.
Difficulties: The harsh comments from society at large — about wearing jeans or returning home at 2 am — were the most difficult to make peace with.
What keeps you going: It was my husband who encouraged me at every step. He simply said, “When our kids wanted food to eat and milk to drink, did the society come to rescue? If the society is ready to pay us the amount you earn by working, you can quit your job and sit at home.”
Your USP: From being a bouncer for Vidya Balan to Sunny Leone and John Abraham — whatever I
am today, is only because of my efforts.
Message: Don’t pay attention to what society thinks. Concentrate on your work and keep going.
Gagandeep Kaur 23, tiffin service, Chandigarh
Ambala girl Gagandeep, with a degree in BSc from GCG 11, is working as a centre coordinator at Anovus Institute, Sector 24, for medical graduates. Alongside, she has been running a tiffin service called Ghar Ka Khaana with her mother. This young girl is known for delivering tiffins on her Activa to almost every sector of Chandigarh, including PGI and PU.
Why this field: I always wanted to have a business of my own. Since I myself had lived in a paying guest (PG) accommodation, I knew the difficulties a paying guest faces in terms of food.
Difficulties: Everything is difficult before it gets easy. My mother and a positive approach made every task easy.
What keeps you going: The Almighty and the zeal in my heart. Failure is never permanent, hard work can be. My mother is my main strength.
Your USP: I don’t pay attention to what others think or say. I do what my heart says. I never say never!
Message: All girls should know that they are capable of doing just about anything. No one can shake our confidence.
Sudipta Mukherjee 40, chef, Chandigarh
With a hotel management degree from IAM, Kolkata (1996), Sudipta started working with Taj Bengal. After two years, she shifted to Orange County Resorts Bangalore, then to Hampshire Plaza, Hyderabad, and The Grand, New Delhi. For the past one year, she has been working as the head chef at Cinnamon, the coffee shop at Park Plaza, Sector 17, Chandigarh.
Why this field: It’s very competitive. Moreover, the profession is very lucrative.
Difficulties: The profession has odd timings. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. One also has to work 13
to 14 hours on busy days, not to mention the sacrifices in personal life. I get to visit my family only once in six months.
What keeps you going: The field is vast. There is no end to production and presentation of food. Meeting new people and satisfying their gastronomic needs is an everyday challenge.
Your USP: Tolerance, patience, energy and sincerity.
Message: Women have been handling the domestic kitchen for ages. It’s such a thankless job! If they come out and join the industry, they can prove themselves. Why do we see men as chefs when we know damn well how to cook?
Manjit Kaur 32, ambulance driver, Jalandhar
She got married to an alcoholic at the age of 15, delivered a girl child and faced problems for the same. The child died within two months. Since her husband allegedly sold all the land they had, she had to work as a sweeper in a hospital. Paralysis suddenly hit her husband, and Manjit took to driving an ambulance.
Why this field: Circumstances. Four years ago, she didn’t even know how to drive.
Difficulties: Initially, my husband created problems. The society also did not agree with the profession. My brothers turned against me. I am fighting a legal battle with them for my rightful due in paternal property.
What keeps you going: A son to look after, a paralysed husband and the will to stay alive.
Your USP: Despite everything, I have managed to set an example for women.
Message: Jhukko mat.
Rajpreet Kaur Warna 34, scuba instructor, Dhariwal (based in Kolkata)
The only Sikh woman scuba instructor in India certified by Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), Rajpreet is also the first Sikh to be a specialty instructor and to qualify for Master Scuba Diving Trainer (MSDT), in the world.
Why this field: I was hydrophobic and started learning swimming in October 2011 just to overcome my fear of water. In just one month, I started diving, and entered the ocean in January 2012. My love for the sport made me take up professional training and make a career out of it.
Difficulties: Building the stamina to swim against the current is not easy. It was a world dominated by men, and I wasn’t even physically strong! But my father told me, if boys can do, so can I. Being the only woman diver in training strengthened my will to promote the sport amongst women in India.
What keeps you going: I’m a single mother to a 10-year-old son. I want to be an inspiration for him.
Your USP: A hydrophobic woman unfurled ‘Nishan Sahib’ 60 foot underwater at Netrani Island, Murudeshwar, Karnataka.
Message: Women should lead life on their own terms and do things they love. If I can start afresh at this age, anyone can.