In the last few months under the lockdowns and pandemic, Christie Dias learned the axiom “survival of the fittest” and she did it the hard way. Having no fixed occupation, no opportunities to train teams or even play in any matches herself, she could have easily been dejected by the proposition of a jeopardized career.
But as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Not one to be dismayed by drawbacks and roadblocks in her way, Christie Dias decided to take her life back into her own hands and steer it towards hard work and grit rather than sit helplessly.
This 29-year old Christie Dias has broken all gender barriers and set new standards for herself, and many more young women in the state by taking up a male-dominated vocation such as Plumbing to become financially independent.
A resident of St. Cruz, she did her graduation from Pilar College. She then pursued her Diploma in Volleyball Coaching before finally pursuing her Bachelor of Physical Education or B.P.ED degree from the Aurangabad University. “Right from 4th standard, I was always very keen on sports. I converted from athletics to playing volleyball and played my first ever nationals when I was in 8th standard,” she said.
The last national she played was in 2018; due to the pandemic, all games and matches were canceled and she had to resort to staying at home. But the strong-willed lady who has previously played in the Lusofonia Games was not one to sit and watch her days pass her by. “I started hunting for a government job when the pandemic happened, but nowhere I was able to find anything,” she said.
That prompted her to take up this all-new skill. How did she learn it? She says it was thanks to a contractor of her acquaintance, named Subhash who supported her in this goal and taught her the basics of the trade. “We used to make a contract, and I used to observe his work, how he does it and in no time, I was able to do it as a professional myself.”
When asked if this is just something she has taken up for the time being, or whether it is a serious career option for her, she says proudly, “Now it is like a professional skill of mine and I see myself doing this even in the future.” Christie took some time to take a shine to it, sure but she seems to be very thrilled at learning this new skill and excelling at it.
When asked what prompted her to take up this vocation, she says, “I had to do this as I had no job, I was unable to find any good or decent government employment for myself”. When asked if she would continue her plumbing projects even if she secures a government job someday, the multi-tasker within her says promptly, “Yes, if I am allowed enough time to carry on with this vocation, then I will want to continue doing it.”
The unemployment situation in our country, and more so, in our state of Goa is especially dreadful. It is perhaps why we see more and more Goan youth either migrating out of the state or out of the country altogether to take up any jobs they can and make a living for themselves. But in the midst of that, we have an even more unique mindset and determination such as that of Christie.
She did not opt for the more mainstream options of relocating for the sake of livelihood. Instead, she very charismatically picked a field that was not only male-dominant but also one that is not considered a preferred option for building a career in, for most people.
When asked if she has any reservations about the fact that people often tend to look down upon such vocations, she says, “When I tell my qualifications to people, they often question why I am doing such a job despite being so educated but I think that this is all just a matter of mentality.”
Not one to allow others’ opinions to judge the course of her life, she believes in her abilities rather than hearsay. “I think business or any work we do depends on us and how we do our job, the profit and loss bit is completely in our hands so the argument of ‘less pay’ does not really bother me,” she adds with an inspiring conviction and surety in her voice.
But this new title has not marred her interests in sports in any way; “I have chosen (plumbing) as my legitimate career but I will not stop playing on the field. I will continue to participate in games once things are better,” she said. When asked about the sports-related aspirations she says that she still fosters the desire to become a volleyball coach as she already has a B.P.Ed Degree as well.
When asked about her opinions on the condition of sports promotion and attention given to sportspersons in Goa and India, she expresses some dismay. “I don’t think even 10% of the focus needed is being given to sports in our country and in our state at present.” Be it in terms of budgetary allocations or a general mentality of looking at sports as more than just a hobby, are both where India lacks miserably.
“A friend of mine who received her Volleyball Coaching Diploma from the National Institute of Sports (NIS) is also sitting at home without employment. If this is the condition of a graduate from one of the highest educational authorities in the field, then you can imagine how poor the situation really is,” she added.
She highlights keenly that it is futile to hide these shortfalls under the garb of the pandemic, saying that this is how it has always been in the case of sports. Further, making a bold statement she says, “It is very difficult to make something out of sheer talent and experience in this field. Only medals will get you nowhere, it all seems to fall in place much easily only when you have the right contacts and plenty of influence.
Beyond and beneath her inspiring story, lie several bitter truths about our society. Firstly, the fact that so many fields are traditionally male-dominant in our culture, plumbing being just one of them. Even for someone as determined as Christie, it wasn’t all smooth-sailing, her parents too were concerned about their daughter’s choice of profession and had their reservations about it. But Christie’s passion, skill, and drive finally managed to win them over.
In this sense, it is a humongous gender barrier that Christie has demolished with her self-confidence and resilience. “I have many people prejudge my abilities saying that since I am a girl, I will be unable to do the job well. Almost every client on seeing me for the first time invariably undermines my skill but as they see me at work, they are convinced that I know my trade well,” giggling at the change in people’s opinions, she adds, “at the end of it, they are so happy that they save my number and say they will prefer to come to me always in the future.”
Although she makes it seem easy, the job can be pretty challenging. Sometimes, her projects need her to get under structures or climb atop risky places and work in difficult positions, but always up for a good challenge, Christie is undeterred by these things. “I don’t just do the internal work but all the rough work of climbing, breaking, and am proficient in using all the different tools,” she said.
Secondly, her story unravels the issue of negligence of Sports as a legitimate career option and the all-pervading corruption and nepotism that the Indian system is ridden with. Whether it is films or sports, bureaucracy or politics, and nowadays, even educational institutions and corporate jobs, the right contacts make the path to success all the more short and easy.
As much as this story is inspiring, may it also be a wake-up call for all our leaders to realize how the youth are being pushed to the wall in the corrupt system. The fact that Christie had to pick up this skill by her own initiative and didn’t have enough options to train for it formally, also points to the lack of skill-driven training in our education system.
This is why we have thousands of young people in the country who have degrees piled on but alas, no jobs and also a dearth of such skills which will empower them to find employment and stay afloat. It is only reasonable that so many from our 20-30-year-old prime workforce are losing their faith in the system and opting to move out.
But even with all those options, Christie’s decision to stay comes as refreshing and endearing. Not only has she set an example by showing how to take control of our own lives and not let shortcomings in the system deflate our spirit, but also, her unprejudiced choice of profession has sent a message far-and-wide that flimsy standards of work, class, and dignity of labor are outdated, and must be discarded for good.