gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my
postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies' hostel. Other girls
were pursuing research in different departments of Science.
I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in
computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the
US. I had not thought of taking up a job in India.
One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex,
I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement
notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors).
It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, hardworking and
with an excellent academic background, etc.
At the bottom was a small line: "Lady candidates need not apply."
I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up
against gender discrimination.
Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had
done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers. Little
did I know then that in real life academic excellence is not enough to be
After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the
topmost person in Telco's management about the injustice the company was
perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a
problem: I did not know who headed Telco.
I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the
Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant
Moolgaokar was the company's chairman then). I took the card, addressed it
to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.
"The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started
the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel,
chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared for higher education
in India since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the
Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised
how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender."