We’re living in an age where women are bringing home the gold. Women have started creating history in fields which men once considered their divine birth-right. With a collective pledge to break the glass ceiling, they have taken to proving their worth and showing the world that for them, the orthodox limitations of the ‘kitchen’ has been replaced by an ocean of delightful possibilities.
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Today, a little girl is being taught that she can lead a school, a company, or even a government if she desires. However, while women have largely taken to the primary branches of the professional world, there are still some unconventional professions which have, unfortunately, always been considered ‘male-dominated’.
But like I said, women are bringing home the gold. And much like everything else in life, they are prepared to throw stereotypes over the bridge and cause the beginning of a new era. Women are forming everlasting legacies in a plethora of undiscovered fields and professions, and here are a few that you may not have heard about.
“I look upon untried careers such as bartending for women as an opportunity to shine and change perceptions that arise out of cultural blocks and lack of insight. You have to be exceptionally strong or come from an evolved family and be immune to pressures, if any.” – Shatbhi Basu
For some unfathomable reason, bartending has always been considered a ‘man’s job’ in India. While international students paying off their loans overseas take up part-time jobs as bartenders to earn the keep, the system is still considered uncouth and alien to us in India. However, one woman decided to brave the raised eyebrows and half-turned faces, when she took to controlling the bar. Shatbhi Basu, 53, helped dismiss the stereotype three decades ago, at a time when bartending wasn’t even a common profession for men. Fondly referred to as the ‘Queen of Mixology’, Shatbhi became the first lady bartender of India, startling the predefined male perceptions everywhere.
Facing a fair share of bumps along the way, Shatbhi tried her hands at innovating, and after considerable trial and error, her luck fell through! Today, she heads STIR, a professional bartending institute, and is the proud author of The Can’t Go Wrong Book Of Cocktails, a comprehensive guide to cocktails and alcoholic beverages for the Indian consumer.
“Don’t assume that any job is unfit for someone purely on the basis of their gender. The women of today are flying fighter jets, fighting fire and doing the unthinkable…Ability should only be judged on the basis of qualification and not gender.” – Harshini Kanhekar
Cinema has had us objectifying male firefighters for decades now. Our idea of macho men with good bodies and strong arms, saving the damsels in distress has been more than a passing fancy for most girls. However, the need to break through this male-dominated profession rose as high as the flames they counter, and this is what 37-year old Harshini Kanhekar set out to do. The first and only woman to graduate from an all-male National Fire Service College (NFSC) in Nagpur, Kanhekar’s journey was no easy one, having faced accusations of setting down this road as a ‘publicity stint’. However, she paid no heed to the rumours and dedicated all her time into becoming a notable firefighter. Today, her name is an inspiration for girls everywhere, and she is currently the deputy manager at Fire Services.
“Everybody was given the chance to chase their own dream. Whatever they wanted to do. My mother never said being a girl child you should do cooking. You should give priority to your studies and be bold.” – Surekha Yadav
Would you ever imagine that the 24-coach train you were travelling in was driven by a woman? Surekha Yadav became India’s first female train driver back in 1988. She was the first to drive the ‘Ladies Special’ local train from the Central Railways into CST, when it was first introduced by then Rail Minister, Mamata Banerjee, in 2000. On March 8, 2011, she became Asia's first woman train driver to drive the Deccan Queen from Pune to CST, through a fairly difficult topography.
“It's hard to top the thrill and sense of freedom you experience while riding waves and interacting with the ever-dynamic ocean. It never ceases to satisfy and renew my thirst for adventure.” – Ishita Malaviya
The popular idea of a ‘surfer dude’ that has picked up globally through entertainment cinema has again seemingly been side-lined as a profession for men, in India. Riding the waves of patriarchy, Ishita Malaviya from Mumbai created national headlines by becoming India’s first surfer girl. Not only did she create quite a positive stir among the coastlines, today she runs a surf club named the Shaka Surf Club as well as a camp called Camp Namaloha in Coastal Karnataka.
“They would tell me that I am a girl and that I couldn’t do it, say things like girls should get married. I took it up as a challenge. And with every race, I worked hard and I improved my position.” – Alisha Abdullah
Race-car driving is another profession that has seemingly been reserved for men. However, Alisha Abdullah from Chennai has proven otherwise. Harbouring an avid interest in racing from an early age, Alisha would enrol herself in go-karting championships and win with flying colours. When she was just 13 years old, she won the MRF National Go-Karting Championship and the Best Novice Award in the National level Formula Car Racing in the open class. Today, she is one of India’s best racing drivers and the first female national racing champion, running through the stereotypes as she blazes through the tracks.
Racing through life and aiming to shatter that glass ceiling, these women have dived headlong into the most unconventional of professions to prove that when you really put your mind to it, the world is your oyster.