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Me Too ???

October 11, 2018

Close on the heels of Sabarimala and Section 497 (or 597?) comes the ‘Me Too India.’

Hopefully Twitter will also see some actual ‘casting couch’ successfuls in ‘Me too’ campaign.

While genuine cases merit sympathy, the lapse of considerable time and lack of evidence may still make the stories sound incredible.

For one thing, I will never trust a word coming from Chinmaye (our Chennai bit).

Me too – every Indian girl/woman could have something to say on that. From school age till every single strand in her hair turns grey.

Sometimes, it could be casual flirting with our unspoken approval.

Sometimes, it could be going overboard with the men.

Sometimes, it could be psychological harassment. In India I guess, mostly we had this emotional torture. Before rape started scoring big time.

Every bus ride to school/college came with ‘brushes’ and ‘touches’ and ‘squeezes’ and ‘pinches.’ Women cannot travel in public transport in the country without this basic ‘Me too’ conditioning by our men. Then, road side romeos. Cycle chase to typing institutes. One even used to dash his cycle with mine in school days – accidentally of course! Friends’ fathers’ fatherly pats! Friends’ brothers love letters ! But every little Indian girl/teenager develops an intuition somehow to stay off predators. As a motherless girl, I have had this acute sense of intuition/instinct that was my best defence.

Then there are those that leave a mark in our memories that may be worth the #metoo …

My ‘Me too’ moments happened at work (serious stuff to me then, for record’s sake ). I was posted in an all-male department as a 22 year old. Surrounded by 31 men. Guys reading ‘Debonair’ in front of me with pages and central spreads (of nudes) wide open was the worst harassment I faced in younger age. Happened for more than an year, 2-3 years actually. I told my friends about it but not my family. Told my husband after marriage but he laughed it off saying ‘boys will be boys!!’ Never found that offensive! To my shock, whenever he would drop/pick me up in his bike, my male colleagues chatted him up!!! I did ask my husband whether he would dare reading ‘Debonair’ in front of women. He said ‘no’ thankfully! So I can’t figure out men!

Unforgettable one is, when I asked for ‘white fluid’ innocently – to correct my typo when in probation. Manual typewriter was still around in those days. Only in 1993 did i get an electronic one. The whole department burst out in guffaws. Cannot forget, will never forget in my life. Can’t believe I cried my heart out in private for that. If it happens now, i would tear the bastards to pieces. Adult jokes from 10-5 routine. Never reported to manager. Not out of fear but out of embarrassment. Without a doubt, i have felt extremely disturbed in those long months, years but at the same time, I also never felt unsafe or insecure among the same men.

Six bachelors to whom I never spoke a word before I got married, fearing the others teasing. Respect showed when every single one of them turned out for my wedding reception and stayed on for 3 hours almost. Some came for muhurat also.

Scene changed with my marriage. And of course motherhood. No more their adult jokes hurt me – I learned to ignore. They did not change. I changed my outlook.

Motherhood revealed to me the other side of men: frequent trips to restroom in pregnancy; soaking kurta and even dupatta when i joined work 4 months after delivery (until my son turned 1) … For the first time I found the same men looking away, averting their eyes from me.  Those were scooter days. I had starting issues sometimes. The same guys kick started my two-wheeler in evenings and parked it for me in the mornings. Now I was confused.

It is not a bad idea or sin to be a spinster. But Indian men atleast, learnt better about women through mothers i guess. They are not comfortable around unmarried girls. However, this is only my personal assumption and conclusion that can’t be generalized.

Despite the jokes and Debonair, i finally found that my department guys were pretty decent in real life, they had happy families, they respected women in their own way. Some of them had working women for wives. I also understood that I had disturbed the equilibrium of a department that had been all-male for 2-3 years.

Met them after years recently, they can’t believe I have a son in his twenties now! He was born when I worked with them! I am sure they remain(ed) blissfully unaware how much they used to distress me when I was single and amidst them .. i bet they have/had no clue! Male psychology? They move on, but things just bury themselves in women’s psyche and don’t simply budge.

May be that’s why ‘Me too’ India is seeing late-reportings a lot. The men may have long forgotten! Women won’t !. Without a doubt, the men wouldn’t have felt guilty then, would not admit offence if I am to confront them in the present.

Over 27 years later yeah if you ask me now, I am not sure whether it was harassment then I faced. Did I over-react? Time dulls things… I guess i may have faced harassment but the other face of the same men makes me think twice today when it comes to judging them. Corporate atmosphere in India has undergone a sea change ever since. As I left , my workplace got cent percent computerized even before 1997… things have never been the same again….



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