Security guards are usually men. But things are a-changing with women now putting on the uniform and taking charge. Vaibhav Shastry meets two of them

M. Umavathi greets visitors with a polite smile as they enter the gate. The thin lady in a grey uniform is courteous as she stops a vehicle that wants to go in, asks the driver which house he wants to visit and makes a quick call to confirm his identity. Only then does she let the car through.

While her days are usually like this, uneventful, there have been occasions when she has had to encounter belligerence, arrogance, bullying and even threats. But Umavathi is unmoved. If someone does not have an identity proof they are firmly refused entrance.

Forty-year-old Umavathi is one of the two women security guards at Parsn Sesh Nestle on Nanjundapuram Road.

She confesses that becoming a security guard was not her first choice. “I had worked as an accountant in a private firm and had to quit due to the excessive time spent commuting,” she says. She wanted to find a job closer home, so she had more time for her family. But having studied only till class 12, options were limited. She bid her time for a year, with no luck, till one of her neighbours told her about a vacancy at the security agency.

Apprehensions

She was apprehensive, but she had to do something to make ends meet. Friends and well wishers also voiced their reservations about her opting for a ‘man’s job.’ She had her own fears. “I myself was worried as to how I would survive in a male-dominated service, and how big people would treat me. But a retired army colonel gave me the confidence. He trained us to match if not be more efficient than our male counterparts. He guided us and made sure we felt secure in our jobs. Umavathi has now completed five years as a security guard in Parsn, and her no-nonsense style has even the men vouching for her efficiency.

Her colleague, 32- two-year-old R. Chitra is a cheerful presence. She cycles to work at 7 a.m. and chats easily with the ladies she meets in the mornings.But things were not always this smooth for her. She remembers how a driver stalked her for several days.

“I was worried for my own safety. I eventually took the help of a friend, who worked in the police force, and they got the man and warned him of dire consequences,” she says. Chitra then decided she would handle things on her own. She took up the challenge of working as a security guard.

“While I had very little idea of what the job demanded, my supervising officer, a woman trained me. She taught me not to fear anybody. Watching how she dealt with visitors made me more confident over time. Now visitors are aware that they can’t mess with me,” she smiles.

A reasonable job

While the nature of their job is the same as the men, women security guards do have a few concessions.

“I work on eight-hour shifts and am exempted from night shifts. The last shift ends at seven in the evening, and this gives me enough time to go home, cook and spend time with my family,” says Chitra.

The managing committee of the gated community has been employing women as security guards for over a decade. “When we have police officers, army officers and other influential people who are women, why not security guards? When it comes to a gated community, women strike a better rapport with the female residents. They often show higher levels of dedication than some of their male counterparts, especially in cases where an urgent message needs to be passed on,” points out S. Sudarshan, secretary, Parsn Apex Committee.