When I went in for my first counselling for admission into engineering, my cousin brother was in his final year, belonging to the electronics and communication discipline. He was a diploma holder, and thus had gained direct entry into the second year of engineering, having evaded the counselling process. He had no idea what I was going through. When I called him up after my counselling to tell him that I secured a seat in the mechanical discipline, instead of congratulations, this is what I heard, "Tu pagal hogayi hai?? Ladki hokar mechanical leli! Kaise survive karegi? Pata bhi hai mechanical kitni tough hoti hai! Tu toh gayi... Ab meri baat sunn, ghabra matt, second counselling mein upgrade karwa lena. Theek hai?"
I didn't say a word. I handed the phone to my dad, and choked back on my tears. Not because I was sad that I had mechanical, but because of the reaction it had invoked. "Couldn't he have been happy for me?", I thought.
Dad smiled, he had understood. He said, "Don't worry beta, achi stream hai, evergreen! Cars toh hamesha chalengi na ;) "
My mom wasn't happy either, but that was a mother's worry, and not some judgmental ordinance passes so thoughtlessly. Same story with parents' friends, their friends, relatives and other people I didn't give a damn about, nut who had lots of advise to give to me. (India hai, yahan free advice metric tonne ke hisab se milti hai :p )
Did I change my stream later on? No, I didn't. Did I even try to? No, I didn't. I began feeling proud of my choice, and defending it whole-heartedly. Working and growing in it, and constantly trying to prove to everybody that my aim isn't lesser than anybody else's because of my gender, that my choices and knowledge deserve to be respected irrespective of my gender, that my inclusion in a workforce is decided by my capability, and nothing else.
I, along with my team mates, went on to participate in the SAE BAJA 2012 event (pronounced as "baha"; for the uninitiated, kindly google it before proceeding further). I would love to say that the event was devoid of any gender biases, but sadly this wasn't the case. I say this because amongst other things, one of my fellow participants commented on my team mate during the event, "Ye toh Delhi ki ladkiyan hain, apna rape bhi kara lengi." She told me about it later.
The person who said this didn't win anything. My team won the chairman's award. And of all the teams whose cars had broken down, mine was the only one which didn't give up. We had a transmission failure, thrice, and yet we didn't give up. Repaired it each time, and completed the four hour long endurance run. And to the gentleman who made the rape comment, if you are reading this sir, please know that I intend to punch you in the face the next time your misfortune brings you in my path.