How does it feel to be in a place filled with faces-prejudiced,untrusting,unbelieving, treating you like an alien.
Since the day I passed out of the girls school and till date, I have landed myself in places full of men.I am trying to pen down some experiences in my first of full-of-men places, before my memory of it starts to fade out.
I got admission in the engineering college,a place dominated by boys.On the rollcall in my classroom were 3 girls amidst 40 boys,must be around 25 girls in the whole batch of 300-350.Mostly all of us, straight out of girls school,now floating in this sea of boys.
The ragging period in college.Boys perched on dad-given motorcycles, with cigarette stubs in mouths staring at me – those were the X-ray looks, going through my bone and I nervously clutched the corner of my dupatta to make sure I was wearing something.That look piercing through the haze of smoke coming from their mouths, I cannot forget.They looked like a pack of wolves ready to pounce upon a solitary lamb who had lost her herd.But did I have a herd at all there, my species grossly outnumbered.
That time I was so unsure of myself, of what I stood for ,I just kept my eyes fixed to the ground.How I wish at that time,I had lashed back-“Hey Mr, spare me that look and leave my way”.Like a splash of cold water on his face.Wish I had caught that reaction look.
I had gone to study Electronics Engg and how I hate the makers of the curriculum who forced all to take up a Workshop course.A girl among a bunch of 10 boys in the physically testing carpentry shop, the foundry shop, the lathe machine!!God what did I do to deserve this!!Sometimes, one of the hunks even had the audacity to say- “Miss, take it easy, dont twist your wrist, working with these heavy tools”.I felt like driving my fist straight into his face and show him how fragile it was.I know the power of my hands and I know I can perfectly well handle switches and keyboards, I dont have to hold a hammer.Somehow I managed to get through that course without a red line, but I loathe those who insist on including such a chapter for all branches of engg.
And while working in one of the labs,trying to get those results correct,one of my groupmates said-“You dont have to strain so hard.Somebody,somewhere is working for you.”
This meant ,you are going to be married and he will earn for you.So why do you bother. Just enjoy.I knew this is what all these guys thought all the time and some of them gave voice to that feeling.I had to measure my words before speaking in this place,because all ears were turned to me.But sometimes, I did give them a piece of my mind -“Do you mind if I opt to work,if I opt to carry my own weight.”
These guys,some of them too humble, too polite when speaking to a girl calssmate.
Some of them not speaking at all, too anti-female, too angry what she’s doing here.Some of them also blushed deep red, their hands trembled if they had to work with a girl in the lab.
But never ever one who treated a girl like an equal.
And on top of this, these boys said -“Your answer sheets will fetch grades just bcoz you are a girl”.How wrong!!It as not a breeze of air, not in the least bit a cake-walk.
The girls’ sheets were scrutinised under a microscope.Every t of her had to be crossed, every i of hers had to be dotted.A boy’s work could be overlooked but no chance for a girl.
The professors had that man-gene in their DNA as well.They hatched a grudge against any girl student as if she had snatched away a precious seat which had their sons’,nephews’ name on it.For him any girl was just wasting a place in the engineering college, which could be put to better use.
Once when I made a mistake in one of my lab reports,the reverend prof said-“Did your dad force you to get into the engineering college?”
I burnt with anger.I knew the purport of his comment which translated to – “You want to get this degree so that you can get a husband with a degree too.” My lips were sealed , values inherited did not petmit me,but how much I wanted to lash back at him -“Sir, you were not munificent enough to grant me admission to this college.My dad does not have the kind of money to do it,even if he wanted to.”How prejudiced these men were,how unwilling to share their turf with a girl!!
And besides the college, we girls were stalked upon, like movie stars by papparazzi.
Each of our visit to the market,library,canteen was inconspicuously registered and then made conspicuous in that boys hostel.And the next day,quite expectedly -“A friend saw you at the canteen yesterday”.
And not to mention we were a target of frivolous humour of these guys which showed up frequently on the blackboard or posters on the wall!Thank God, email was not so popular then!!
But all these incidents, each day, formed a strong coterie of us girls.This was the silver lining.We shared comments we got, ordeals we went through, reactions faced.. all of it.We were building a mental encycolpaedia of all these incidents, aware that what happened to one, could happen to me tomorrow.We shared,supported each bother,providing a backbone when needed.That advice, that solace provided by these friends made the whole journey worthwhile.We were constantly learning to handle swords in that little fortress called the girls hostel.No more vulnerable, no more fragile.