This is conversation I've had a dozen times:
"You run your own business, you say?"
"Yes, that's right."
"You and your husband run the business?"
"No, I am not married."
"Oh, you run it with your father then?"
"No, he's in education."
"I see. But you have a backer, though? A businessman who supports the venture?"
"Nope. Just me, myself and I. See, I was working for Pepsico for four years in development when I realized there were no vending machines catering to the hundreds of office workers out there starving at 4 in the afternoon when you need a sugar and salt rush, right? So I saved my income and started this on my own."
"Oh, very good. And your brother, he's joined you too?"
"Nope. Just me, myself and I." An interesting point, but is there really an increase in violence against women or is there just - finally - an increase in women reporting it? Perhaps this is, however, the reason for the increasingly brutish and sinister violence against women? But maybe it is my fault. Maybe they're all right. Maybe I shouldn't have been a woman doing business on my own in India. Maybe it's too soon. Maybe this country isn't ready to treat women equally in the workplace? How can it be? Women are deemed inferior to men.
And yet we as a nation want to be a world super power?
Some days I'm full of pride at how much we've achieved - it's amazing such an overly populated and deeply diverse "country" functions half as well as it does. Other days I'm deeply disappointed by the opportunity that seems to be passing us by.
I heard a lecture once that suggested emerging India lagged behind China not because of China's railroading, authoritarian rule versus our immature, noisy democracy, but because we don't look after our number one natural resource: our population. We aren't educated properly or kept healthy and on top of that: more than half of our human resources aren't even used in the workforce: women are meant to stay at home. Even some of our most successful, business-friendly politicians echo this.
Anil. You are a good brother. You are. And you are a kind man, you are. But even you are part of the problem. You had no issue at all convincing Mom and Dad that I should study in Singapore instead of following you to an American university, because Singapore was nearer,
Even you questioned how wise it was to be approaching businesses on my own and practically barged your way into my company when you saw it was taking off.
But maybe I should have listened to you? Maybe your presence would have protected me from the men who resented my success? Such a simple idea and some girl was making money from it! They smiled to my face, but grumbled to my back; they took my business card and then told their friends I was coming on to them.
Not everyone. There are many good, honourable Indian men out there. But there are enough of the other kind to make me walk with a slouch, put on weight, wear the bare-minimum of make-up, and smile sparingly.