It is a mystery why people in position take women for granted. I have often experienced men happily married for long/ newly married/having a steady girl approaching women working under them or in any way they consider to be below them for a date. When I first joined office I was young and my colleagues were young too. My colleagues were mostly of the opposite sex and I found them to be equally fresh in mind and innocent in their approach. My office boss was married with children and oh so sober. I never felt there could be any other approach from him than what was official. I remained blissfully unaware of the ugly side of working under a male boss and in a predominantly male surrounding..
My next job was after a four year gap. I was four year older and approaching thirty at the time I took up my second working life which continues till date. At that stage of my life I was going through a rough patch and it had a toll on both my mental and physical appearance. I was totally insecure and washed out. And I started facing undesirable male attention. Undesirable , because these people belonged to the management and they never took me as their equal and yet they would try to be too friendly but only in the sly. They would ask me for lunch but request me to keep it as a secret. I felt trapped and suffocated amongst them. I cried ‘foul’ and approached my immediate office boss who gave me the biggest shock in my life. I considered him to be a gentleman and he sure turned out to be one and vehemently condemned such behaviour but in the same breath advised me to keep mum about confiding in him. He was too scared for his own job. My colleagues were also of no help but I got help and support from the most unexpected corner ; that is from the top. When I approached the person at the helm of affairs in our office at Kolkata I was pleasantly surprised to find a gentleman and a savior in him. He never doubted my integrity and my character , as most of my male bosses and colleagues had done before and after.' Why should she be approached, there must be some invitation from her side' etc.etc... I was so thankful to God and so relieved to find that there were still some people you could safely call a “Perfect Gentleman”. I admired him and developed a secret crush on him for the rest one year , during which period he remained at the top, his being a honourory post.
My latest encounter was with an office manager, younger to me in years. A happily married young man, very courteous and otherwise pleasant. The new Manager was quite attractive and quite young but a little overbearing. Any way I hate to be dominated and I tried to be at my ease. While taking notes I would look up feeling his eyes on me a little too insistent and I would look back hard, I would find him too near behind my back to be comfortable while helping take out a file from the closet. But I could not be sure as otherwise he was very courteous, he had dropped me home on a few occasions we had to remain at the office late but what happened that day was like a thunderbolt. I went to bring a file from his chamber and I felt his eyes on me, I looked up and saw him giving me a slow and deliberate wink. I stood routed to the ground, not believing my eyes, and then turned back in disgust almost running out of the room. Once seated in my place I took some time to compose myself. My colleague Abhoy (name changed) asked me ‘ what is it? And I said he winked at me, slow and steady. But who asked A. And he laughed when I named the manager. Well he likes you it seems- said A 'but this is not the proper way to express ..' he added. What should I do now, I could not take this insult lying down, must protest, how cunning how obnoxious , how demeaning . Next time I went to his room to take notes he behaved normal as if nothing has happened making it quite clear that he was a habitual flirt. But why should he pick on me, is she a flirt, am I cheap? I brooded over it the whole day and the day after telling nothing to anybody. After two days of mental agony I , determined to make a protest, even if belated, went to his chamber . He looked up from the file that he was studying and looked at me. It seemed he sensed what was coming. I mustered all the courage I had and blurted out
“Why did you wink at me the other day?” The next few minutes were nightmare I wanted to forget. He stood up from the chair, towering over me and shouted
“Winked? How dare you tell lies. I have never done any such thing in my life. What is behind your mind Mrs. xxx? Have you gone mad. I warn you to be very careful in future. I won’t let go …. making accusation…. , get out of my room at once, I say.”
I came out of his room drenched with humiliation and anger, an utter fool.. Once outside i realised everybody was looking at me, they have obviously heard the Manager shout. I looked at them and said –
“You must have heard what he said but I will tell you what happened. The day before yesterday he winked at me slow and steady like I have never seen before, quite simply like telling me ‘I Want to …. You.’ I came to protest , won’t you support me and ask him to apologize” my heart sank even before my appeal fell flat, I saw most of them looking down.
Mainak. A relatively new incumbent, said
“But Mrs xxx, how do we know you are telling the truth. We have seen him dropping you home quite a few times. If he was that type why did you allow him. You have never said anything about him. How do we believe he has become a lecher all on a sudden and how do we know that you have not led him on?
How typically mean & foolish – I felt like slapping him.
“Sxxxi”, said Jibanda,” you must have been mistaken”
“How can any one be mistaken on such a matter Jibanda!” I wailed.
I looked at others but every body avoided my eyes. I could not believe my ears, these men are my colleagues, we have worked together for almost 25 years now. The manager has joined for 10 months only and still they are not to take my words against his. How can it be possible! And I even quarreled with my husband for these spineless creatures. I believed they were my friends. I regretted all my association with them, all their togetherness, friendship seemed loathsome to me. What a fool was I , believing that we were like minded!, what a stupendous error of judgment on my part to have faith in them.
What would I do , where do I stand, now that I had been befooled by the Manager, betrayed by my colleagues, should I fight for justice and make him apologize - if only there was an inbuilt camera- I thought. The manager was a coward and not man enough to be bothered about and my colleagues were a herd of sheep and I will have to accept the situation as it is and go on taking notes from this beast and go on mixing with mycolleagues as before but I will never be the same with my colleagues. What a situation to be in – but should I have remained silent? Could I have respected myself if I did? Not all my humiliation could have made mr remain silent, even if it happened twice in my life.
I decided I should write about it………
(Names and designations changed for obvious reasons)