“With determination, no obstacle is too great for a woman to surmount, especially if she has her family behind her like a rock.” Thrissur district collector T V Anupama doesn’t think twice before answering the query about overcoming the many challenges that dot her path.
Having earned the reputation of being a fearless decision-maker right from the start of her career, the young officer is a household name in Kerala for all the right reasons.
From cracking down on food adulteration in the state - a move that quickly spread into an awareness campaign through social media ever since - to taking on a state cabinet minister who had encroached on government property, Anupama has proved time and again that she takes being a civil servant seriously.
My mother is my role model
Anupama gives credit to her mother for instilling determination and ambition in her. “My father passed away when I was in class 11. She focused all her energies on guiding us through our schooling and higher studies.
She was a government servant and had all the travails of a middle class life to take care of. But she made sure she spent time with us in the evenings.
She instilled in us the desire to be independent in life. It is from her that I learned to face challenges fearlessly. She also taught me that it is possible to balance work and life.
A satisfying job is crucial to your happiness
The young civil servant says she would urge girls and boys to work towards building the careers they dream about right from school days. “If you want to live life on your own terms, you will also need to have a secure career.
But you need to work towards achieving this goal by building on your academic records and making the right choices during higher studies,” she says. The other important factor that makes the most impact on your life is having a supportive spouse, says Anupama.
She says that youngsters these days have much more options to choose from when it comes to academics. “What makes all the difference in life is how wisely use the opportunities that come your way,” she says.
Work-life balance an elusive ideal
Striking the right balance between work and life is often a difficult ideal to achieve, says Anupama. She adds that it is one of the most common dilemmas people face these days. “Ideally, it is good to be employed because it gives you the financial stability to be your own person.
And, it is possible to a large extend to find time for family despite all the responsibilities of your job. The trick is in putting the effort to find the time. Having said this, I am often bogged down by official commitments which eat away from the time I should spend with family.
This can be difficult to handle, and might often leave you sad. In my case, I had made up my mind on earning a job while I was still in school. Civil Services came into the picture much later.
So I wouldn’t say I was prepared for the compromise on family time, but then not all postings within the service entail a super busy schedule. Sometimes, it can be comparatively relaxed.”
Malayali girls a lucky lot
“While travelling all over the country as a student and later as a professional, I have noticed how girls are discriminated against in many parts of India even now,” says Anupama.
Girls still don’t have access to basic education in a lot of places, let alone higher studies. But Kerala is way ahead in terms of giving girls equal opportunities. Our girls have much greater freedom to make their choices about life which is quite positive.
I think Malayali girls are luckier compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country.
The spike in violence against women is a big concern
The number of parents who call up to share their concerns about sending children away from home for higher studies is on the rise, confides Anupama. “How do we console them, isn’t it true that our girls are increasingly at risk everywhere in society?
We want to believe we are advancing like never before in all walks of life. But the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous space for women. I think it’s one of the biggest ironies of our time that while women are moving ahead in terms of education and independence, they are also becoming victims of violence and abuse more than ever.
Anupama says that she likes to look at challenges as part and parcel of life, both personal and professional. “There’s hardly anything unique about the challenges I face, it’s quite like everyone else’s. Instead of fearing the challenges life throws at you, I like to take them head on.
At every step, I give a lot of thought about the problem at hand and try to arrive at the best decision I can take at that point. That way, there’s little room for regret about the decision and its consequences. We do have healthy discussions in the family which helps me gain clarity and stay composed. I see the support of my family as a big advantage.
Every day brings hope and despair
The land grab case against former transport minister Thomas Chandy, had trained the media attention on Anupama, who was then posted as Alappuzha disctrict collector. Her reports on illegal land encroachment by Chandy’s resort in Alappuzha had forced the minister to resign from the cabinet.
Her bold steps were much discussed by the public and the media and she earned a lot of appreciation as well as brickbats for taking on a politician in power. But Anupama says that her work in Social Justice Department has given her a lot more satisfaction than any other.
The stint often revealed the extent of work that remains to be done before social justice percolates to the lowest rungs. Some days were of despair - when rehabilitation proves to be of little help in saving a woman from the social ostracism she faces despite being the victim.
Some days brought hope, like those on which she met the young Nirbhaya Shelter Home occupant who is fighting the odds to secure a degree in law. “Such days do inspire me to keep working towards the goals I set for myself,” says Anupama.
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