This is the annual gala, and media houses, political parties, trade bodies and cultural organizations frantically source out women past and present who can be featured as the embodiment of ‘empowerment’, the ‘betis’ who outshone the ‘betas’, and the inspiration for all ‘mothers to be’ to have daughters who will be there to take care of them. I am all for celebration of women on “Women’s Day” and their achievements especially for those in unconventional professions where gender bias is still very pre-dominant and grit and determination alone help women make a mark. It is certainly nice to be acknowledged for your work even if it is a token one, but these commendations apart, the fact remains that women need to get over insecurities and victim mentalities and be comfortable in their skin if they are to be role models of empowerment.

Financial independence and good incomes alone do not contribute to Self- esteem which comes from supreme confidence in one’s capabilities and ability to take decisions that have implications in the long term. That’s why we see some rural women with less financial power and education seem more at peace with themselves than their urban counterparts who are unable to cope with the contradictions of who they are and who they want to be.

The public spat between highly placed women officers in Karnataka, their social media posts against each other, and complaints to the state chief secretary just weeks before the Women’s Day event seems to me a sophisticated version of a brawl in a chawl. I haven’t gone into the details of their hate war nor am I interested to, but the fact remains that the entire episode between IPS officer Rupa and IAS officer Rohini Sindhuri is a highly avoidable manifestation of undesirable insecurities and the inability to handle them. They must have both individually worked very hard to be where they are today but what they have done by washing dirty linen in public is to squander away the advantage they have garnered after years of toil. They have both been transferred by an embarrassed state government but there are no winners here. Just a poor image of women officers who could have inspired hundreds of others through their great work.

When officers involved in security and governance start behaving like the beautiful but evil women portrayed in serials we have to seriously worry over ‘the reel following the real’ with negative connotations. Even if this is a rare case that has made its way into the headlines and not something that we see often, it makes us ponder over the fact that achieving one’s just goal is one part of the story. What you do when you get there is far more important and of greater consequence. There is no place in this world without strife whether it is within the family or at work. We often find ourselves targeted without reason but when we refrain from getting into a duel, we can avoid battle. To remain calm in the face of unprovoked criticism is the test of one’s strength which often looks like weakness. I think the wise words of Chankaya, the wily ancient Indian teacher and strategist and his ‘Chanakya Niti’ which is essentially a collection of aphorisms from our Shastras should guide all women in whatever they do. Chanakya says “One small chain is enough to control an elephant. A small lamp is enough to erase darkness. A thunderbolt can crush a large mountain. Your body, shape, size or beauty are not important. Only your strength and confidence are important”. Happy Women’s Day!