Zoya Agarwal and Uorfi Javed are polar opposites – Captain Zoya, 37, is a Senior Commander with Air India and made history while flying the Boeing 777 over the North Pole with an all-women crew. The inaugural flight from San Francisco to Benguluru was one of the world’s longest non-stop air routes. Captain Zoya became the first female to achieve this feat and was congratulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with countless others. Zoya describes herself as ‘driven’ and frequently posts videos to her 555k followers on Instagram. “Í am Generation Equality,” she says, urging women (“Future dreamers”) to create their own destiny like she did when as an eight-year-old from a “lesser privileged background”, she would climb to the terrace of her modest home and gaze at the stars, determined to achieve her ambition to fly. At 23, she became the youngest female pilot in India. Zoya is a devout Hindu and has been observing Navratri since Grade 4. She readily gives credit to her parents for supporting her ambitions and encouraging her.
I definitely want to be flown by the gorgeous Zoya some day.
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Owning it up in style
Uorfi Javed, 25, is an equally fascinating woman, whose daily appearances on social media platforms are breathlessly awaited by her 4.1 million followers, who can’t get enough of this spunky, petite package regularly dissed by critics calling her names like, “Besharamo ki Rajkumari”. Uorfi who grew up in Lucknow, before running away from an allegedly abusive father, has not had it easy, with two sisters and a mother to support during her days of struggle as a model and television actor. All that changed dramatically when Uorfi decided to dress daringly in public, often turning up in nothing more than strategically placed leaves, beads, shells, bicycle chains, coir cones, cane baskets, cellophane sheets and other unusual materials covering her modesty. When an outraged neta demanded action against her for “roaming the streets of Mumbai and exhibiting her body,” an undettered Uorfi shot back: “What are the obscenity laws in India?” No arrest was made.
The same film industry folks who mocked her ‘lack of taste’ were sharply reminded of their own double standards with Uorfi taunting, “I work hard for my money. Star kids wearing whatever they want is tasteful?” Known to hit back savagely at detractors, “Uorfi the Barfi” is in a strong position to do so after being ‘elevated’ in Bollywood’s pecking order by top designers opting for Uorfi as their muse. From posing on sidewalks for the paps, she is now on the red carpet with the very people who shunned her. Speaking of money, Uorfi is very clear about her objectives when she equates power with money and candidly admits she wants to make scads of it. Her reported net worth varies from Rs 8 crore to a staggering 170 crore. It is said she owns multiple properties – all these impressive assets on the strength of her “social media influencer” status.
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A new breed of Indian women
So what do these two women have in common? A lot, actually. They represent a new breed of Indian women – audacious, gutsy, ambitious and out there. Both have made it on their own and emerged victorious. Uorfi says she does not believe in religion, which is just as well since it is Muslim social media accounts who constantly spew hatred on her for “insulting Islamic values”. As single women leading high profile lives, both are vulnerable when it comes to personal safety. Despite the challenges of having to deal with society’s barbs, Zoya and Uorfi are inspiring examples of what is possible for today’s young women armed with unshakeable self-belief, determination and the readiness to work hard.
Zoya who describes herself as a “public figure” has been felicitated across the world for her path-breaking achievements – she has found a permanent place in aviation history. Uorfi has just about launched herself boldly and unapologetically as someone who (un)dresses in public out of choice. She cheekily declared, “This b***h is here to stay!” And slay!
Çhoice — that all-important six-letter word is available to every woman in the world. But not everyone gets to leverage it.
While Captain Zoya has successfully flown through snow blizzards, Uorfi has had to deal with blizzards of a different kind. Braving storms is not new to either of them, neither is survival. Clearly, both have awesome coping mechanisms in place, which guarantee a soft landing even after heavy turbulence. These are women who have got to where they have by focusing on their core strengths in highly competitive environments. Rough weather? Check. Clouds on the horizon? Check.
If Zoya’s motivational videos can make a huge difference to other women, Uorfi’s dare-to-bare reels will in their own way free those who shy away from expressing themselves through what they wear or don’t wear. A major shift has taken place and shaken society. You don’t have to get into the cockpit of a B777 to fly high – you only need to look within and trust yourself.
The author is a columnist, social commentator, journalist and opinion-shaper. She has written 25 books. She tweets @DeShobhaa. Views are personal.