The Durga Shakti in every woman – Shobhaa De

Durga Shakti Nagpal IAS

Shobhaa De“Durga is fortunate her colleagues stood by her, calling Durga ‘upright and fearless’. Her husband Abhishekh Singh, is also an IAS officer, and therefore as vulnerable as his wife, when it comes to facing the wrath of local netas and assorted criminal elements.” — Shobhaa De

Akhilesh Yadav is the CM of the UP sand mining mafia!Yes, Durga Shakti Nagpal, the young , upright IAS officer from Akhilesh Pradesh, has been converted into an overnight icon by the media. She richly deserves the honour. Durga is a hero.

The interesting aspect of this national elevation is the fact that she didn’t participate in the process. Not for a moment did the reticent, reserved Durga court media attention. Nor did she capitalise on the debacle. As a true professional, committed to her vocation, she went about her life with quiet dignity. 

In today’s publicity-driven times, Durga’s restraint is admirable. She is certainly not the first female government officer to be penalised for doing her duty. And she won’t be the last.

The real reason why Durga’s predicament touched millions of lives is because her travails at the workplace became the travails of every woman who has had to deal with harassment and oppression while doing what she’s paid to do — her job!

Nothing more, nothing less. The even bigger difference in Durga’s case was the brazen, cavalier attitude displayed by the young, educated (???) Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Far from chastising law breakers and taking action against those who had threatened Durga, he went on to say she was the one who had asked to be fixed!

To make it worse, he brought in a corny analogy of parents ‘punishing’ badly behaved brats, suggesting that Durga was no better than a tantrum-throwing kid who’d stepped out of line. There was not just condescension in that outrageous remark, but also deep-seated prejudice against women in positions of authority.

You’d say that’s a common enough trait, right? Yes, it is. And that should also explain why there was a nationwide outpouring of support for Durga.

We’ve all been there, done that, at some point in our careers. It is falsely assumed — yup, even in this day and age — that the Durgas in our midst can be dismissed and browbeaten by the system with absolute ease.

The modus operandi is simple — when brutality and intimidation don’t work, authorities attack the woman’s character, accuse her of crimes she has nothing to do with (in Durga’s case, there were fake charges of a wall demolition brought against her).

Durga is fortunate her colleagues stood by her, calling Durga ‘upright and fearless’. Her husband Abhishekh Singh, is also an IAS officer, and therefore as vulnerable as his wife, when it comes to facing the wrath of local netas and assorted criminal elements.

That her father-in-law is a former IPS officer, and her father, a  defence services officer, is good news. At least Durga doesn’t have to ‘explain’ the nature of her job to a non-comprehending family. These three men know what it takes to negotiate shark-infested, sarkari waters these days. Their unconditional support must matter a great deal to Durga. Gutsy Durga.

But what of the women who don’t have an enlightened family backing them during a crisis? I have seen the strongest women wilt and crumble under pressure which emanates from within the walls of their own homes.

Often, they are compelled to weaken their moral stand and arrive at some sort of a compromise with their employers. While these same women can take on powerful opponents in the public space, they are unable to battle domestic hostility and rage.

In-laws, in particular, push such women to retract, apologise, back down and crawl back to a disgusting status quo sans personal pride or integrity.

Self respect takes a hit. The woman gets demoralised. Family members remind her to think of  the honour of the ‘parivaar’ before slaying dragons. She retreats. And her tormentors win!

Which is why, when we venerate Durga, it is equally important to acknowledge and appreciate the enlightened attitude of  Durga’s husband, father and fatherin-law, who have stood by her.

We joyfully take it for granted that Durga does indeed enjoy the love and adoration of the ladies in her family. What is there not to love? Durga’s is the modern-day fable India needs to accept and believe in, if we are to save ourselves. – Mumbai Mirror, 10 August 2013

» Shobhaa De is a celebrity columnist who lives in Mumbai.

Sand mining in Noida and UP