Summary: At the end of the day what matters is what you think of yourself. If you believe you can do it, then “being a woman” will never stop you from achieving it.
I was only seven when I was forced to join music classes. I wanted to have swimming lessons, just like my twin brother. But I was told that I was a girl and people will like me if I could sing and swimming would get me nowhere.
I convinced myself that what I was told was correct. After all, it was my mother who said it — a woman whose experience and knowledge I could not question. It still did not change the fact that I hated these singing classes.
At the age of twelve, my mother first introduced me into the kitchen. I helped her crack and whisk eggs. She also let me mix the cake batter. “My little angel,” she said, “it is essential that you learn how to cook. No family will accept a girl who is unable to feed her husband.” I did not understand her then but I enjoyed the time spent in kitchen.
On my fourteenth birthday my uncle surprised me with a bicycle. It was a shiny blue one. One morning I had a row with my brother and I stormed out of the house. I mounted on my bicycle and started off. I was so upset that my eyes were clouded with tears. I didn’t notice the boulder lying on the street. My cycle tripped on it and I fell. A bunch of boys who looked a couple years older than me burst out laughing.
I couldn’t hold back my tears. Bloodied knee and a bruised elbow made everything worse. “Look, the little baby is crying,” said one as the others guffawed. “Hey little girl, go home and paint your nails. Don’t try to act like the boys,” said another. I got up, trying very hard to not yelp. The constant staring and pointing of people on the street eventually made me give up cycling.
From then on, whenever I felt upset I put on my apron and cooked. I found comfort in the sound of a sizzling onion and the smell of freshly baked cake. Even I started to believe that a woman’s place was in the kitchen. Going outside, riding bicycles, swimming all these were not meant for a girl.
Once, my father got free tickets to the cricket match from his boss. I did not go with them because I was told, “You are a girl! You won’t understand the game so you will be bored.”
The list of things I shouldn’t do just because I was a girl was unending. I was then a 25 year old, brainwashed by society into thinking that I am the inferior gender. I was glad that among all the things my parents thought a girl shouldn’t do, selecting her life partner was not one of them. I married my classmate with the blessing of both our parents.
I was rejected at a job interview because ‘even though I had the skills’, they thought a man would be more suited for the job as it required travelling to the country often.
I have had had enough. I was tired of repeatedly being told I was unworthy because of my gender. I was tired of people constantly expecting things which they themselves imposed on me.
My husband noticed how disturbed I was. The next day he came home from work early. He did not come alone. He had bought a present for me. It was a black scooty. I was confused at first. Then I understood. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “This is the upgraded version of a bicycle. You do not need to depend on anyone. This is your mode of transportation. You do not need to work under anyone because you are a leader. Do what you are best at. Start cooking. Start your own catering business.” I started laughing. “You are expecting too much from me. I am used to cooking for 10-20 people only. This is huge. I can’t do it.” I said. “Listen to me” he said, as I noticed his tone getting more serious. “You have let people get inside your brain and convinced yourself you are not good enough. All your life you have heard that you cannot do it because you are a woman. Today I am telling you that you can do it only because you are a woman. You are stronger than you think. Have faith and confidence in your ability.”
Half the night I was awake wondering what he said. I finally decided to give it a shot. The next morning I discussed the whole deal with my husband. I printed out flyers and distributed it to my family, friends, relatives and neighbors. It started out small, cooking for a small family get together — a house warming party with 30 people. I was alone at first. A few months later I hired two helpers. After struggling for three years I found success. Now, I am a successful business woman running a catering agency. Supplying food to weddings and official parties is a common thing.
I thank my mother for helping me learn how to cook. Of course it was essential that I learned to cook, but not for the fear of being rejected by a family but only for the reason that I loved doing it. At the end of the day what matters is what you think of yourself. If you believe you can do it, “being a woman” will never stop you from achieving it.