The Determining Fire

ITBP - Women contingent

Image: source

Late on 15th night, I read a news piece about 500 trained women personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) being the first women contingent to be deployed in high-altitude posts along the India-China border. I was thrilled.

However, I’m also sure many may have asked, ‘would they be able to handle it’? Or, ‘can they meet the grueling job expectations, in conditions where even their physically stronger male counterparts perhaps sometimes find it tough’?

Well, there are capable people, okay ones, and damn good ones, both men and women. On the corporate side, I’ve seen a fair share of men and women who’re below average at their jobs, and those who are really exceptional too.

What makes some truly exceptional, I have come to learn, has a lot to do with the distance they’ve covered, and the resistance they’ve overcome, to get to where they are. Often, it’s also what drives them to go even further.

Distance and resistance are overcome by sacrifices. Sacrifice being the screening fire. Those who have been through it, come through on the other side with something extra. All they then need to do, is fight complacency.

An incident comes to mind. My office building has good security. Friends, clients and acquaintances who have come to meet me there have always mentioned it. From visitors needing to register at the reception, a picture taken, a gate pass issued, security at the turnstiles, and acknowledgement on the gate pass from the office you’re visiting.

As I entered the building sometime last year, I realized I’d forgotten my access card. A male and female security personnel were at the turnstiles. Many of them are on rotational shifts, and I’m not a particularly regular face there, so they don’t always remember me.

Now anyone working in India knows how we deal with things like forgotten access cards. Many people even know how to deal with breaking laws and rules the same way. Saying it’s a one-time mistake, it happens, everyone else is doing it, and so on.

Anyway, I walked right to the turnstile, and told the chap to let me pass, telling him which floor I worked on, that he could call and check, etc. He agreed without any hesitation, and was just about to swipe his card to let me pass, when the lady security personnel who was quietly watching us, stopped him. She politely expressed her reluctance to allow it, requested me to go to the reception and get a guest pass.

I was impressed to the point of beaming. Because, funny as it is, in our country, it is rare that someone sticks to a rule, a law, a process; and not because they’re scared or feel pressured, but because they understand them and their responsibility towards enforcing them. And this lady wasn’t the least bit scared or confused. I know the difference.

In many situations, people bypass such rules or even the law with a little pat on the shoulder, a little bribe here, a nonchalant ‘chalta hai yaar’ there, and so on. But not this lady, who was polite, but was in no uncertain terms, following the procedure, and expecting me to do so too.

How often do we stop at a red signal light when the streets are empty? And if we do, how often do we still jump the light if someone behind us honks, or other cars drive past without waiting? How frequently does name-dropping happen, or do we feel entitled without having earned something? How often do we throw our weight on people who stand no chance of defending against it, waiters, security, small shop employees, peons?

This security lady was one of those concerningly rare individuals we have in our country today, who isn’t afraid, or doesn’t feel awkward about being fully responsible for what she’s been entrusted with. Now all we need are more such people. Many, many more.

The ITBP women, as indicated by the news itself, are the first women contingent ever. Which means there’s a mountain of ice and glass they’ve already overcome to be where they are today. It is also why would they be just as strong, if not far stronger, and more effective than their male counterparts who’ve been guarding that region till date.

Koi shuck?

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