Thursday, January 16, 2014

Speaking Up, Again

This is a short piece I wrote for the Women's Network at work, recycled from an eight year old post.


I confess I'm at a loss when asked to write or talk about diversity in the workplace. I'm no program leader, neither am I an expert on the topic. There's realms of research done by professionals which prove out the benefits of having a diverse workforce, all just a Google search away. 

One topic that's close to my heart though, is about speaking up. We don't do it often enough, irrespective of gender. This could be due to cultural and social reasons with us living in an hierarchical society, but the impact remains the same. We don't really raise our hand and contribute our ideas when faced with challenges. Our solutions to problems tend to be one sided and linear, as the problem solvers wind up being the same kind of people most of the time. On the other hand, if we were to encourage diverse views from a heterogenous mix of contributors, the solutions turn out to be richer and long lasting. 

Speaking up is also about getting involved. Having the courage to challenge existing authority, or as you will see in the story below, standing up for what's right. What follows is a true story about someone who displayed a lot of courage and did the right thing. I've always found this inspirational, hope you will too.

There was this private bus which ferries doctors to and fro from their college in Hoskote. It stops near the Hope Farm in Whitefield, cuts through ITPL and then hits the Outer Ring Road. This bus was blocked by two drunks one evening near the Hope Farm junction. One of them got on board and started abusing the driver for driving through that area. Apparently, the drunk mistook the bus for a public transport vehicle.

The abuse turned violent when the drunk pushed the driver out of the bus and started hitting him with a thick, flat stone. Blood started pouring from the driver's head. The people in the bus looked on, unsure of what to do, not wanting to get involved. People on the road stood and stared, as they always do. 

A woman stepped out of the bus and ran towards the fight. She positioned herself between the drunk and the driver, stretched out an arm and said,"You will not touch him again". 

The drunk tightened his grip on the stone, said "I don't care for ladies. Step aside or I'll hit you too". The lady didn't reply, but kept her arm outstretched. The drunk moved around in a circle, trying to see if he could get closer. The woman moved with him, making sure the driver was protected. The drunk stopped short of hitting her, but tried a few lunges from time to time. The woman maintained her position, not saying a word, not budging an inch. 

This was the tableau when the cops arrived, ten minutes after the lady had intervened. The drunk tried to run away, but couldn't go far. The cops caught him, brought him close to the lady and asked her to identify him. She did. The cops hauled the drunk away and took the driver to a nearby hospital. The lady took her cellphone, called her husband and asked him to come get her home. 

Which is what I did.