I can do all that a man can

As a twenty something, this was my motto, at all times! I would look for opportunities to prove it.

Of course, women can do all that a man can…. But is it really needed? Is it the only way to prove our ability?

Now, with more salt than pepper in my hair, I have learnt that there are smarter ways to success… Ways that avoid unnecessary personal risks. Today, I shudder at some of my dare devil actions. Here’s an example:

As Customer Support Engineer, my territory included West Bengal, Bihar, UP, Assam and Orissa. In early 90s, Bihar was notorious for crime. There was a sales opportunity in Darbhanga Medical College. My boss wanted to send my colleague. I put my foot down! I can travel anywhere a man can travel, there was no stopping me! My boss was firm, he forbade me from staying in a hotel. Fortunately, my friend’s uncle lived in Darbhanga. He agreed to host me and take care of my local travel. So, off I went to Darbhanga.

The visit was not very successful, the male doctors were hard to reach, they were aghast to see chit of a girl trying to explain nuances of a high-tech medical equipment. I did what I could…. My train back to Howrah was in the evening. Uncle came to see me off. The train was late; by the time it reached Darbhanga it was 9 or 10 pm. When I boarded the AC coach, it seemed unusually quiet. We realized that all the coupes around my berth were empty. Uncle was uncomfortable and advised me to travel the next morning.

Remember my moto: women are brave; they can do all that men can do. I assured him that I can take care of myself, and he need not worry. It was a short stop and we soon heard the long whistle; with a concerned look uncle got off the train. As the train started moving, I walked across the coach, checking for other passengers.…. All empty!!! I was the only passenger in the entire coach. The dead silence roared above the mechanical sound of the fast-moving train. I was gripped with fear.

After couple of stations, four ticket collectors walked into the compartment. One checked my ticket and joined others few berths away, playing cards… I climbed the upper berth and sat close to the chain, ready to pull… hoping, no praying it would work!! That was my position for rest of the night.

We reached Asansol next morning; few passengers boarded the coach. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I finally fell asleep.

Anything could have happened to me that night. Despite all my fears, no one bothered me through the night, I came out unscathed!

Over years, I have understood the power of our strengths and the need to play to our strengths. And the uselessness of trying to prove something when it’s not needed or even expected.

That’s the advice I would give to my 25-year self!

What’s the advice you would give to your 25-year self! Would love to hear it….

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