Women's Day Special – Chasing the Working Women of Delhi
Living a hard but independent life.
[Pictures and text by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They don’t look glamorous. They don’t have the best paying jobs. Their employers are not listed in stock exchanges. There is nothing enviable about them. They are the working women of Delhi.
A silent revolution is in process in this conservative capital of a conservative country. The women have started coming out from their homes. They commute in tightly packed buses, with shoulders touching the arms of men who are not their relatives. At work they spend a major part of the day with men who have never met their husbands or fathers. With these men, strangers to their families, they distribute their workload, crack jokes, and share midday meals.
The women of Delhi have started coming into their own. They earn their own salaries and operate their own bank accounts. They do not have to ask for shopping money from their husbands. If something tragic happens–the death of a husband or a father, for instance–they don’t have to look to others for support. They now stand on their own feet.
But concerns remain. Although in urban India, a growing number of households have started discovering the advantages of working women and appreciate the consequent increase in monthly income, life for them is tough. The husbands do not yet share work in the household management, a domain still considered a woman’s job. These women essentially are obliged to do straight double shifts(!)
For a woman employed in a 9-6 job, she has to wake up early in the morning, help the children get ready for school, iron clothes for the husband, prepare breakfast and lunch for the family, and all of it to be done efficiently and in time so as not to miss the bus for work. If it’s a traditional joint family, the women are also expected to care for their aging parents-in-law.
For their bosses at work though, these women are treated simply as employees, not as mothers, wives, and daughters-in-law. Once back home after an exhausting day, there is no time to rest. Dinner needs to be cooked, children to be assisted with homework, and husband to be given time.
It is hard, but the women are not complaining. After all, sweet is the taste of independence.
Employed as house-maid, she is crossing the busy highway
Running to catch a bus that has already started moving
Dressed and to Office–in a rickshaw
Do they all work and in the same office?
A Flash of Her flowery shalwar
Long day ahead
An Employed lady with handbag and work tool–a broom
9:30 AM–Behind the bank counter