They have not broken the glass ceiling but they have cracked a glass door. Post-Corona, a large number of young girls from smaller districts in Uttar Pradesh have moved to bigger cities to take up jobs and make themselves self-reliant.
These girls belong to the rural interiors of the state and have moved out of their homes - some without parental consent — to strike out on their own. Renuka Singh belongs to Kudebhar in Sultanpur district. She is now working in a high-end cosmetic story and earning Rs 4,000 per month.
Talking about her journey, she says, "Four months ago, I came to stay with my aunt, who lives here. I them decided that I should do something on my own. My parents were unwilling and wanted me to get married. Without telling them, I went job hunting and found that this store wanted salesgirls. I applied, got selected and spent four weeks training in the art of make-up and product details. I convinced my aunt not to tell my parents about this." Renuka's father and two brothers are farmers and she is the only graduate in the family.
"I did graduation through a correspondence course. My two younger sisters gave up education after primary and now make cow dung cakes with my mother. I always wanted to go beyond the village and I have done it," she says proudly.
For Renuka, her present job is not her goal. "I am learning English after my working hours. I hope to work harder and get better openings," she confides. Her parents know that she is 'working somewhere' and her aunt manages to convince them to let her stay on in Lucknow. "The revolt will finally come the day they try to force me back to the village," she says with a smile.
Shalini and Ragini, both sisters, are also in Renuka's mould. They belong to a Dalit family in Kori Ka Purwa in Bahraich district and they set their eyes in a big city for the first time when they boarded a bus to Lucknow in November last year.
Both are working part time in a multi-brand store and live in a paying guest accommodation that is actually a garage with six girls living in it.
"Our mother thinks we are doing our graduation in the university. They know nothing about our jobs. We had come here with the intention of studying but then we realized that earning money is more important than spending it on studies," says Shalini, the elder one.
The girls lost their father three years ago to cancer and their mother is working in the fields to let the girls' study. "I am sure that when we visit our mother next month with our first salary (Rs 3500 each) she will forgive us. We plan to take up some more odd jobs after working hours to add to our income," the sisters say. Shubhi, a small-town girl from a family of weavers in Mau district, is another one who has knocked hard at the glass door and is working in a beauty parlour. She worked for a month without any money at a local parlour, learnt the basics and then got employed. She gets Rs 2500 per month and stay with the lady who owns the parlour.
"I do odd jobs at her house and she gives me food in return. I almost manage to save my entire salary," she says. What is worrying Shubhi is not what will happen when her father learns about her job but about her attire.
"He will be fine with the job because I work only with ladies but when he sees me in jeans and T-shirt, which is the parlour uniform, he will blow his top. I am worried about dealing with the situation but my owner says she will talk to him," she explains.
Shubhi had come to Lucknow with a relative to study further after intermediate but she chose to get a job instead. Shubhi plans to continue her studies along with her job and wants to do master's in business administration one day.
Her parlour owner, Radhika Singh, says, "Girls like Shubhi are what modern day India is all about. They have faced the travails of life and want to cross over to a new world. They are willing to work for a new tomorrow and it is their positivity which is infectious." (IANS)