Till about a decade ago, teaching was considered the best career option for women. Today, we are ruling the roost in media houses, courtrooms, hospitals, boardrooms and even the airspace. But while we continue believing all is right with the world, we are constantly reminded of just how unsafe the fairer sex still is in India, so we decided to put a positive spin on things and inspire the next generation in time for Women’s Day. Here’s an intimate tête-à-tête with six superwomen who have carved their way to success in unconventional professions and are encouraging others to dream big!
TC: When and why did you choose to take up this profession?
MARY KOM, BOXER: I initially started with running sports, but with the introduction of women’s boxing in national games and the success of Dingko Singh in Asian Games, I shifted to boxing because I’ve always liked martial arts.
PANDITA ANURADHA PAL, TABLA PLAYER: I started playing tabla at the age of seven. Initial interest grew into a passion and then I started doing it professionally. Later on, I decided to expand my potential by learning percussion. Now, apart from being a tablaplayer, I’m a multi-percussionist and a music composer as well.
DHANASHREE PUNEKAR, BARTENDER: I graduated in Hotel Management from SNDT University and was primed to work as a chef. My first job was in a flight kitchen at Ambassador Sky Chef, where I worked in butchery. Even while working in the kitchen, I developed a great interest in beverages and started creating new concoctions. Eventually, I was convinced that beverages were a far bigger attraction for me, so I switched jobs to become a liquid chef.
JERRY CHAUHAN, TATTOOIST: Art came to me naturally and I was into sketching since childhood. A Diploma in Fine Arts gave me the opportunity to enhance my skills and tattooing was always of interest to me since it was a mysterious form of art. My dreams came true when I joined SattyInk Art in Rajouri Garden as a tattoo designer. Currently, I’m working at Angel Tattoo Design Studio in Gurgaon and look after basic as well as advance custom tattoos.
TASHI AND NUNGSHI MALIK, MOUNTAINEERS: It was at our dad’s insistence that we attended a basic mountaineering course for developing higher self-awareness, and there we discovered it was our biggest passion. We were initiated into this sport soon after leaving school at the end of 2009.
ALISHA ABDULLAH, BIKER: It is all because of my father. He was an excellent racer himself and I found racing to be a very interesting sport. I started at the age of eight years with go-karting and later moved on to bikes and eventually, car racing.
TC: Any hurdles you faced in this profession? If so, how did you overcome them?
MARY KOM: Unending hurdles – starting from my early days in boxing to my marriage, being a mother and even till today. But my passion and love for boxing and my dream to reach the Olympic podium as well as to be a successful daughter, a good mother and wife led me this far.
ANURADHA PAL: I don’t come from a family of musicians, so I had to struggle a lot but I took it as a challenge and showed the world what I can do. Ultimately, it is all about your determination. And with my dedication, today I’m the only Indian female musician to have performed in two of the biggest international festivals – the Woodstock Festival (Europe) and the Womad festival (UK).
DHANASHREE PUNEKAAR: I have never faced any hurdles while working in this profession. In fact, at times people are happy to see a female bartender behind the bar. Also, you need to have a supportive family when you are into this profession as we work late nights. My brother introduced me to this profession and I have a supportive husband who helps me continue with it. Rather than finding it challenging behind the bar, I think it’s the safest corner in a restaurant with most of my male colleagues helping me and often becoming bodyguards.
JERRY CHAUHAN: Although I belong to a middle class family in Amritsar, I did not face any major issues in choosing this profession. Shifting to Delhi gave me a better understanding of this art form. My whole family was supportive and encouraged me to do better day by day.
TASHI AND NUNGSHI MALIK: Our dad is very liberal. To him, success is to be able to live your dreams. With his backing, it was easier for us to continue progressing to higher skills and training despite a very reluctant mom. Her permission for us to attempt climbing Everest came only after two years of persuasion and clearly meant that it would be our first and last attempt on any peak!
ALISHA ABDULLAH: I haven’t faced any complications so far and I’m still in this sport because of my parents support. And of course, self confidence and determination brought me to where I am today.
TC: What advice would you give other women pursuing this career? And what significance does Women’s Day hold for you?
MARY KOM: Unexpected challenges in life will come to you in a series, but concentrate in your training and remain dedicated. Only with hard work and passion will you be able to fulfill your dreams.
Women’s Day reminds me to reflect back to the status of our sex and appreciate myself as well as my fellow women for being such a wonderful creation of God. Most of all, I’m happy when I’m able to be a source of encouragement to them.
ANURADHA PAL: It is very important to understand that you should not see yourself as a female but as a professional. Seeking sympathy for being a woman is something I would never suggest. Show your potential through hard work, commitment and professionalism. I want more female tabla players to come out and choose this as a professional career.
As far as Women’s Day is concerned, each day is a celebration of life for me, as womanhood is about being able to balance life and work.
DHANASHREE PUNEKAR: The bar is by far the most spirited, artistic and safe place to be in. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the passion to excel and the creativity to follow through.
Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect, rejoice and recharge ourselves together. It’s also a day to connect with one another virtually and spiritually, and to give thanks for the generations of amazing women who have come before us, and the generations of phenomenal women still to come!
JERRY CHAUHAN: Each day is a special day. All we need is to do is work hard for our dreams. But I do hope to see more female tattooists in the near future.
TASHI AND NUNGSHI MALIK: Serious mountaineering is as much about mental robustness as it is about physical strength. And it is not about pitching a woman against a man in a physical contest. It is about perseverance under extreme odds. We strongly believe that conquering mountains helps us conquer ourselves and become more humble and self aware.
ALISHA ABDULLAH: Stay confident, be who you are, and bring all the speed to the race track. We definitely need more women racers to represent our nation!
Note: The article first appeared on What’s Hot/TimesCity