Jyotsna Swaroop Naik

As Interviewed By: Ambika Chauhan, March 19, 2015

Jyotsna Swaroop Naik: In Her Own Words

This incident that I am talking about happened when I was 21 years old, quite a few years back in about 1987. I moved from a smaller city called Lucknow to New Delhi as I did not like the cultural fabric of a small town. I was fresh out of college, and I moved to a bigger city . I was alone, and looking for a small accommodation to start my life there. I went around looking for a small place, and nobody, absolutely nobody was willing to give me accommodation simply because I was a young, unmarried girl.

Finally, I found this one person who agreed to give me the house, and I was overjoyed. Only to later realize that he was trying to grind his own ax, and take advantage of the situation I was in. He in fact wanted to give me the house because he could make money from me. And this became amply clear when he asked me for a whole lot of black money to give me that house. And he made it clear later on when he said “that either you give me the money, or get out.”

Since I was in dire need of it, I took the house. Later when the lease expired, he wanted much more of that black money from me which I was unable to give, and I realized that I had to fight the case, which went on for nine years. I fought the case in sessions court, then High court and even till Supreme court.

During these nine years, he could not give the house to anybody else and he could not make that extra money from me, and at the end of that nine years also the court gave me another six months to vacate the house. During those nine years he could not keep another tenant and get any black money. So, for me, justice was done. But all this injustice that i went through, it impacted me, my life, my environment, my work space, my living space… even my finances! And this made me realize that what all, girls go through.

This impacted my life tremendously. After I won the case at Supreme court, it gave me a lot of confidence and made me realize that “all is never lost”. Even if he was being nasty, the court did give me justice. And if I stand up for my rights, I am bound to win.

Yes, I did get support from family during this difficult time. My mother really helped me. My father had saved money for my marriage. I asked her for that money so I can pay for the advance and she did give me that money.

I don’t recall any incident of myself being treated differently on the basis of gender, caste or religion, I am a Hindu by religion, which is the majority in India. Caste also, I come from a upper caste. So those were not the areas where I felt being treated differently. Even otherwise, I didn't feel anything very overtly, but as I was growing up, I would notice things like -- ‘you can not go out late at night’ or ‘You can not wear this kind of dress’ or ‘you can’t drink.’

Girls are respected in society in India as long as they behave within certain acceptable parameters.. If they are obedient, nice girls, they are respected and loved, but if they try to get independent like I was, then it was not seen with good eyes.

At work, I did not face any bias situation except that the employees would listen better if the order or command was coming from a male boss.
People from my office, my co-workers, especially men came forward to help me out.

During these times, while I was facing challenges to find a decent accommodation for myself, India was led by a woman Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. That's the dichotomy of the whole thing - you have a woman Prime Minister, and then all this was happening. Since then, India has evolved over years. Thanks to women! The change has happened, but it is in women only. The men have not changed. But they will be compelled to, if the women change.

This incident has made me realize how women were treated in that time of my life. I feel that the society is made up of a man and a women like two pillars, and if you are rolling out these types of injustices to girls, it is bound to affect the social fabric.