Entry of lady officers in the Indian Administrative Service had started immediately after promulgation of our Constitution in 1950. However, their ability to control and take work from men (their subordinates and the male dominated public) was almost invariably doubted by everybody - more so by women. This opinion was so strong that in the Indian Police Service their entry was banned by the government on the ground that they were not suited to perform tough police duties and there was great risk involved in facing the criminals.
In the same competitive examination of the year 1962 in which I was selected in the I.P.S., one Miss Gulati had higher score than mine. She was also gifted with more athletic body than mine. Despite her ardent requests to government for being taken into I.P.S., she was not taken and had to contend with another central service.
After completion of Foundational Course at National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie I had come home (in a village in the interior). Nobody had ever been to Mussoorie and everybody was curiously enquiring about my life there. When I told that there were also some girls under training who were going to become Collectors, my mother was shocked beyond belief (partly because of the unbelievable thought of a lady heading a district and, I suspect, mainly because of the apprehension of my having got entangled with one of them); and my Bhabhi was so amused that she had given out an uncontrolled ‘phik’ from her mouth. The thought of a lady heading a district was simply hilarious among the village people. Later I learnt that in the services also the women officers were generally butt of a joke or of lustful insinuations among male officers. How deep existed this bias, had become clear to me during foundational course itself.
Mr. Jha, former Director of National Academy of Administration had come there ostensibly to deliver a lecture and enlighten us from his experiences of long and glorious career in the I.C.S. I write ostensibly because I had found that such lectures were also arranged to provide paid opportunity to the officers friendly to the Director to have some nice time in the cool climes of the hills. Since Mr. Jha belonged to U.P. cadre, some of us who were allotted to U.P. cadre had been asked to meet him informally later in the evening. As I, along with others, entered his suite of the guest house of the Academy and greeted him, I noticed that he had an impressive personage with a deep voice and great command over spoken English. Moreover, like a high-bred British officer, he was taking puffs of a cigar in aristocratic style, whose fragrance filled the room as well as my nostrils.
During those good old days smoking cigar was indicative of high breeding; cigarette smoking was more popular among lower rung officers. Incidentally, there were some interesting but honorable exceptions also to this rule. Sir Harcourt Butler, who became Governor of United Provinces had turned to smoking Hukkah and also dressed like Nawabs because he was enamored of Nawabi culture. He had become so Nawabized in his life style that people had fondly started calling him Nawab Butler. Coming back to the main story Mr. Jha looked like a typical British. Like the wont of any other Indian, on seeing his British manners, I presumed him to be a very broad-minded gentleman.
Mr. Jha took command of entire conversation immediately after we took our seat. He appeared to enjoy talking - which he did dexterously and fluently with only such breaks as enhanced the effect - as much as he enjoyed smoking his cigar, which also he did with great effect. I do not remember how he brought the conversation on lady officers and narrated following anecdote about his experience with a lady I.A.S. officer.
“One day when I was Chief Secretary of U.P., Miss Mittal, who had been working in the Secretariat as Dy. Secretary for quite a long period, presented herself in my office with tearful eyes and started complaining that many I.A.S. officers junior to her had been posted as District Magistrates, but she had not been given the posting even during the recent reshuffling. I looked at her face deeply and moved as much by her complaining eyes as by her seniority, told her that soon she would get a district charge. Then I posted her as District Magistrate, Nainital, because it was considered to be a problem-free district.
As the ill luck would have it, an unending agitation commenced in Nainital soon after her taking the charge. When this agitation appeared to be on the brink of turning violent, I visited Nainital. Miss Mittal came to meet me at the Nainital Club, where I was staying. She appeared to be totally helpless and hopeless while narrating the stubbornness of the agitators, and became so agitated that tears started welling into her eyes. I looked at her deeply and told consolingly,
‘Miss Mittal, why do you worry when you possess the most potent weapon?’
She uttered in astonishment, ‘Sir’?
‘Whenever a crowd starts getting violent, you should stand on a high ground before it and with a sorrowful face start shedding tears. I assure you they will all melt away in no time’, was my advice.