A 35-year-old woman from Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur district has been breaking the stereotypes by becoming India's first woman bouncer, a profession that men primarily dominate.
Mehrunnisa Shaukat Ali works at Social, a popular cafe in Delhi's Hauz Khas Village and provides security at personal events and to celebrities, including Bollywood actors. She is an expert in breaking up bar fights, uncovering illegal drugs, and keeping an eye out for the safety of women customers.
"My father had disconnected electricity so that we could not study. He said that we would run away and marry men of our choice if we studied. But my mother fought with the people of our village to allow us to attend school, after seeing two of my sisters who had been married off in their teenage suffer terribly," NDTV quoted Mehrunnisa as saying.
She, like her sisters, would have been married off at the age of 12, but as fate would have it, she caught typhoid and was bedridden. After her illness, she was determined to work towards improving her life's prospects.
Wanted To Become Police Officer
Second, of four sisters, Mehrunnisa always wanted to become a police officer and enrolled herself as an NCC cadet. She worked on her fitness and learnt karate, hoping to land a job in the police. She heard about an opening for a female bouncer in the national capital and applied for it. Now, she earns well as a professional bouncer. But it was not an easy journey.
Mehrunnisa joined this line in 2003 when she was in Class 11.
"Initially, women in this field were called as security guards while men were called as bouncers. But I opposed this bias strongly and demanded to be given the duties just like other bouncers that involved maintaining discipline at events, handling spats and providing security to celebrities," she said.
The 35-year-old was put to many tests before she could get the designation of a bouncer.
"I remember I was so determined to be not limited to a security guard's job outside a concert where Sonu Nigam was performing. I had to break a few rules to get near the stage where male bouncers were working. I did a terrific job handling the crowd, and my employer saw how comfortable women felt because of my presence. After a few more events, I was tested for handling the crowd. I became a bouncer and they stopped calling me security guard," she added.
Breaking The Gender Bias
It was tough for her to explain to her family about her work as they also thought that being a bouncer was not what women should be doing. Also, because her job demands late nights, her family faced taunts from the neighbours. But Mehrunnisa never lacked the courage to set her bar high and push herself towards the aim that defines her life of breaking stereotypes.
Mehrunnisa, who will get married to a man of her choice in 2023, has been helping in the education and upbringing of three children of her younger sister, who was married off when she was a teenager.
Becoming a bouncer is also a matter of respect for her. She said that she feels proud of her work and encourages other women to join the field. She now runs her own company Mardani Bouncer And Dolphin Security Service Private Limited, along with two partners. Over 2,500 boys and girls have been employed through her security service.