Tanu Shree Pareek On Being India’s First Woman Combat Officer In BSF And The Challenges Of Her Job
- IWB Post
- September 1, 2019
When Tanu Shree Pareek finally landed a coveted job in a leading MNC after finishing her engineering course, instead of feeling elated, she realised that it was never her calling. It dawned upon her that all this while she has been pursuing something that she was not passionate about and it was time to change it.
“I never wanted to work with machines—it’s too passive and impersonal. I wanted a job that was interactive. That’s when I decided to join the BSF and started prepping for it,” she said in a recent interaction with Femina.
Thus, at 22, freshly out of the college, Pareek started preparing for the UPSC exams. It was a huge shift and, of course, she had to face her share of challenges. “The year and a half after graduating and while prepping for the BSF was the most stressful. On one hand, I had let go of a secure job and stability, on the other I wanted to join the forces, which could be totally uncertain,” she recollects.
She adds, “I used to have this habit of starting things and never finishing them. My father used to get really annoyed with me for this. I played badminton at the state level, I was selected for a national camp, and I learned horse riding and judo, but I didn’t finish any of it. So I made it my life mantra to finish whatever I started, or never start anything at all.”
Eventually, Pareek’s hard work paid off and in 2016 she became the first woman combat officer in the BSF. “I wouldn’t say it’s an extraordinary feat. But even so, what I’ve observed is that a woman has to try harder and do better than her male colleagues just to prove herself. When one man achieves something, it’s usually considered that all men can do it. And if one woman can’t do something, it’s thought that all women can’t do it,” she says.
The only woman in her batch, Pareek knew this was a now or never chance and she had to seize it not just for herself but all the women who wish to follow her. She shares, “I consider it my privilege that I was able to give the men equal competition. I had a good equation with them, but like any other workplace, if you are a woman who is not as competitive, you’re considered a sister or a friend. Until the day you decide to perform well when you suddenly become a competitor.”
Speaking on the biggest challenges of her job, Pareek says, “I think it’s the lack of social interaction and isolation. We’re posted in places that have little or no mobile network. Sometimes, I also think about the life I could have had; some of my friends are in New York, some in London, and I think, what if… but then I remember that this is not what I wanted from my life. I could have had a life of comfort, but I didn’t want it.” Another challenge is that one can never make one’s own plans. “Life is very unpredictable. Within hours of getting our orders, we have to pack everything up and move. Sometimes, it gets so hectic that I forget where I am or what day it is.”
She is currently posted in Fazilka, Punjab, the drug hot spot of the country. Needless to say, it is a challenging area to navigate but Pareek is well aware of the social repercussions of the problem if its left to fester and is thus determined to fight it with all her might.
She says, “The problem is immense. Even if one drug packet is smuggled into the country, it has enormous social repercussions. Believe that you can do what you set your mind to. Don’t go to someone else and ask them what you’re good at; it’s like going to a stranger and asking what your favourite food is. You’re your best judge.”