For a young independent-minded woman like Meena (not her real name), questions like “Are you living at your father's house" or “Are you engaged in any prior commitments”? are no real obstacles in pursuing a promising career. Of course, this isn't the first time that Meena has had to sit for an interview in posh boardrooms and be the subject of social discrimination that undermine her innate capabilities. At first, these sort of queries appeared to Meena to be an indirect way of prying into one's personal life, as if it really mattered to a person whether she was actually living at home or with her in-laws. Meena only wishes that at these moments, the employers would come out with it in a straightforward fashion instead of beating around the bush and waiting the costly time of both parties. As Meena grows wiser with similar experiences, she now realises that the odd behavior of prospective interviewers, are part of a protocol ,an internal strategic device that reflects only one shade of the spectrum in the bureaucracy behind recurring competent employees.
It may come as a bit of a shock that Meena is visually impaired. Her condition has remained her companion ever since she was born, sometimes in good faith sometimes in bad. Nevertheless, Meena's disability has not left her side, it is an active expression of her own personal identity. As it is the duty of every parent to ensure that their child grows up in a happy and healthy environment from where they learn to view life with their own judgmental attitudes, Meena's parents gave her the prospect of being educated abroad to enhance her linguistic, communicative and aesthetic skills on a broader template. Meena's experiences overseas have provided her with a cutting edge an advantageous standpoint from where to progress with daily activities regardless of them being in academics, social or in professional spheres.
Being a capable and self-reliant person, Meena like any other young woman in her place remains alert to the fast moving pace of the competitive world that waits for no one. She understands that opportunities need to be snapped up instantly, she herself knows that she has to act quickly to reserve her seat in this frantic arena of enterprise before someone else comes and snatches it from underneath her.
There will be some who may sympathise with Meena and her predicaments, there may be others who will see Meena as having a disadvantage, writing her off as just another one of those cases we often hear about and then automatically forget. There will still be others who may feel that in the light of sound professionalism, young women and in particular Meena aren't receiving due justice and should be treated equally not withstanding the fact that an individual is female, short sighted, coloured, religious-minded, etc.
The only way to comprehend Meena's dilemma, is to envision the world through her eyes. How would one feel when being scrutinised in an interview under the microscope of an employer, where most of the questions have nothing to do with to what a prospective candidate can contribute to an organisation as a team player? In these instances, one cannot help but speculate that the employers have already made up their minds about who to keep and who to reject. Nepotism does play a profound role in the corporate scene especially in contemporary Bangladesh. It often happens that the boss's close relative or family friend has been appointed to the post. No matter who you are and how proficient you may be in handling your duties, the employer's favouritism has a knack of rearing its ugly head and overshadowing the traits of better qualified and more competent individuals. All this is a result of the mentalities of key corporate officials who bask in the joy of absolute power. These individuals feel that they have earned a top-notch position for themselves with or without their own merit and somehow have come to the verdict that they have the right to include others in this gross act of immorality, as it is their birthright. The truth is that such sentiments are only crippling the country's backbone. No wonder we are going around in circles. The time has come for us to be more objective and permit fresh blood to flow within the country's corporate, legal and social operative systems.
As far as Meena's story is concerned, she doesn't want anyone's sympathy, she desires pure recognition. When she succeeds in getting a suitable job, she will wish to turn the heads of others with her unique charisma, work ethics and level of determination to see things through to the finish. She loves challenges and does not believe in taking short cuts, as we seldom learn a valuable lesson by taking them. Mena feels that she should be evaluated based on such qualities.
At the end of the day, should Meena's physical disability become an obstacle in her dream to be treated as a person and valued a an efficient, capable employee? Her impairment is not a curse; she has stuck through thick and thin despite having to face constant prejudice. There are many like Meena who have the willingness and capability to handle the most demanding jobs, it just needs a little more compassion and understanding to make sure that these people reach their full potential which will ultimately benefit society.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008