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International Women’s Day: Women on the go, an unstoppable force

On International Women’s Day, we bring to you real stories of real women who have shown ingenuity, courage and drive to succeed. They have not just challenged conventional notions but soared way above them to build fulfilling lives for themselves.

punjab Updated: Mar 08, 2018 12:38 IST
Team HT
Team HT
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
International Women’s Day,Women's Day,Chandigarh
DELIVERING AT YOUR DOORSTEP: Pooja Rani, Sunita, Prabhjot Kaur and Bhupinder Kaur deliver food in the city. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Read on to meet the tricity’s feisty ladies who home school their children, work in food delivery services, run a travel company, control traffic and yes, even command units.

Delivery from dependence

Zipping around the city on their scooters with delivery bags on their backs, four city women are driving past all the hurdles of societal stereotypes cheerfully.

Pooja Rani(37), Sunita (19), Prabhjot Kaur (20) and Bhupinder Kaur (40) are women delivery partners with online food ordering and delivery platform Uber Eats. Pooja, who took up this job as a break from “routine work” and to recover from the heartbreak over her dog’s death, says she’s happy with her ‘new life’ and job and thankful for the support from her family and husband.

Sunita dreams of being a flight attendant but loves what she does now. “I don’t want to be a burden on my mother as she already has three of my siblings to look after,” she says .

Age no bar is Bhupinder Kaur’s mantra. Tremendously committed and competitive, she finds her current job empowering and works 10 hours a day.

BA second year student Prabhjot landed this job through her brothers, who support her quest for independence. Reactions of customers on seeing a female delivery partner often makes her day. A customer was once so happy to see her that he called her his sister and offered to help whenever she needed it.

Major General Rashmi Datta

Major general’s leap over life’s obstacle course

Who needs a son when daughters can carry forward the family’s legacy? Major General Rashmi Datta, commandant at the Command Hospital, Western Command, is one such daughter. On the eve of Women’s Day, she shares her journey — about balancing her personal and professional life.

“I was preparing for entrance exams of PGIMER, when I got a call from my father informing me that I have been selected for Army Hospital, Delhi,” recalls Maj Gen Datta, who completed her MBBS from IGMC, Shimla.

Her father wanted her to join the Army so she picked the olive greens. On September 22, 1984, when she put on the rank of three stars on her shoulder, there was a big celebration at home.

The Major General found her life partner at Army Hospital, Delhi. “He had come to hospital with a patient and I was on duty that day. Later I met him at a family function and we tied the knot in 1987,” she says. Her husband, Maj Gen Rajat Datta is commanding the Command Hospital, Lucknow.

“We are the first couple, who are commanding two command hospitals at the same time,” she says with pride. On how difficult it is to balance personal and professional lives, she says, “There are difficulties, but even if a woman is a house maker, there are challenges. ” Like any army officer, she has been ready for anything that comes her way. Once sent on temporary duty to Ranikhet, she took her three-year-old son along to realise there was no direct train to the place. “We reached Muzzafarnagar at 3am, took a lift in a jeep carrying newspapers and then took a bus to reach Ranikhet.”

Even in the operation theatre, if there was no one to look after her child she would station him outside and request someone to look after him while she carried on with her surgery.

Don’t even think of bullying this traffic policewoman

Nikki at work at the Sector-29 Traffic Police Lines, Chandigarh. (Sikander Singh/HT)

It was the uniform that inspired 28-year-old Nikki from Sonepat, Haryana, to join Chandigarh police. Nikki is at present posted with the traffic wing of the Chandigarh police. For constable Nikki, who has done a masters in political science, it was “love for the uniform” that made her chose this profession.

“I get up daily at 5am as I have to report on duty at 8am,” says Nikki, but the time when she gets back home is not fixed. “My duty hours are from 8am to 6pm but whenever there are nakas we have to accompany the staff on duty,” added Nikki loves her work. She gets a half day on Sunday, which is the weekly off for the traffic wing staff.

Deputed at the challan branch at the Sector-29 police lines, she says, “Despite knowing that they have violated traffic rules, people continue to argue. Not just this, residents, especially men, even try to bully youngsters like me. This is where our training to deal with such people comes handy. I make sure I assert myself but without being aggressive.”

‘Marriage can wait, profession cannot’

Nikki earns Rs 45,000 per month and ensures she sends a part of it to her parents in Sonepat. She also aims to study for a PhD.

Out on field, the female traffic staff faces many hurdles. Many a times, nakas are set up at spots which don’t have toilets or eateries close by. But, she adds with a smile, “We have to do our duty, marriage can wait but work can’t.”

There’s nothing like travelling solo

Ambika Monga has founded Solo Women Travel the World. (Sant Arora/HT)

Don’t we all love holidays and vacation time? But how many of us take time off to go solo and turn explorers on our own? For Ambika Monga travelling by herself has always been a done thing. Having travelled the world – she’s worked in the beauty and aesthetic industry for 15 years – Monga is out to prove that when it comes to going on a trip, you are your own best company. “Women travelling by themselves have always been frowned upon in India but it’s fast changing,” says Panchkula-based Monga. For close to seven years, she’s been exploring India and overseas destinations as a solo woman traveller.

“I worked in Dubai for three years as well but I was always keen to explore India,” says Monga who finds travelling alone an altogether different and liberating experience. “When it comes to vacations everyone thinks it works best either with the entire family or with some company. For me, and for many women, holidaying alone is equally fun,” says Monga who has founded ‘Solo Women Travel The World’, a company that promotes solo travel among women and helps put together customised itineraries.

‘See India first’

“A lot of friends and family members were keen to know about my experiences and guidance for planning their trips. So I decided to offer consultancy. I intend to promote only India travel for the sake of my country’s cultural and geographical diversity and get the women to see India first,” says Monga who is keen to get women, especially homemakers to overcome the initial hesitation and go on a solo trip.

“On Women’s Day, I would want every woman to think and plan on taking a solo journey. It helps you connect with yourself on a different level,” she sums up.

This mom believes in home schooling her child

Malini with Kismet Sood. (Sant Arora/HT)

Ask Kismet Sood, 9, where she studies, and she steals a look at her mom, flashes a big smile, and answers: “Home”. Kismet was under five when her parents pulled her out of a conventional school and decided to teach her at home. Today, the articulate girl has reached an equivalent of grade four and Malini Sarin Sood is not just her mother, but full-time teacher, friend and guide.

Sood, a resident of Sector 6, Panchkula, quit a full-time job as an entrepreneur and a teacher to focus on the education and overall development of her daughter. “It was a well thought out decision, I have no regrets,” Malini smiles. But there was a lot of learning on both sides. “Initially, anyone and everyone would give me advice on why home schooling was not a good idea. Unfortunately, there are no regular programmes for homeschooling in India and even though it is getting popular, parents are working out ways on their own,” says Malini who with her husband spent a lot of time researching home schooling.

“Kismet is learning by doing. We spend two hours on study each day and end up finishing the curriculum prescribed by a regular school much before children in school would do. We have more time to engage in activities like painting, pottery, gardening and music,” says Malini who feels the current education system is stressful and makes children too competitive at a young age. Malini has written to government to help regularise homeschooling.

This month, it’s exam time with questions set by her dad. “It’s only fair as I know her strong points,” quips Malini.

Powering up the factory’s shop floor

ON THE SHOP FLOOR: Women employees of Swaraj Tractor factory in Phase 5, Mohali. (Sushil Prajapati/HT)

At Mahindra’s Swaraj Division in Mohali, gender equality and an all-inclusive approach is an integral part of the work ethos.

“For us at Swaraj, it’s not just one day or just one event that celebrates women power,” says Viren Popli, chief operating officer (COO), Swaraj Division, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited. The factory in Mohali is the first tractor manufacturing unit in the region to employ women staff on the shop floor. For the uninitiated, the shop floor is the part of the factory where production takes place and is a male dominated area. “We started inducting women in 2011. Though there was initial apprehension by male staff, it has been a successful model. Today, our women workforce on the shop floor is close to 100,” informs Popli. The women work in both shifts – morning and night. “In fact, women were the ones who suggested that they wanted to work in both shifts. They do all the work, including lifting the machinery and assembly,” pitches in Parmod Lamba, vice-president, ER & CSR, Swaraj Division.

(By Aakriti Sharma, Tanbir Dhaliwal, Shailee Dogra and Jagmeeta Thind Joy)

First Published: Mar 08, 2018 12:31 IST