Monday, August 23, 2010

Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast....!

This appeared as a Guest Column in the Economic Times on Sunday....

This is crazy. I have known the guy forever. He is a neighbour and a journo (of sorts).We ran into each other last week and he paid me a compliment. A very innocuous, mechanical compliment. The kind that is generally insincere and trotted out on auto pilot mode. Huuuuuggge mistake!Or so he now thinks. Why? Because I joked about the compliment and teased him about the political incorrectness of his gesture. Be careful what you say to women these days, I warned the guy. It could amount to sexual harassment. I also called him a sexist pig and told him to be extra cautious before making such personal remarks in future. His face turned ashen. He swiftly gulped down his drink and fled. I didn’t give it another thought… till I received an abject and very formal apology via a text message the next morning. Obviously, the poor man had spent a sleepless night going over our conversation and wondering where and how he’d goofed up . His message went something like this : “Sorry if I crossed my boundary of friendship. My intended compliment to you was misunderstood.Won’t happen again.Apologies.” Huh??I was just joking! That’s when the absurdity of the whole thing hit me.Something weird is going on. It was time to ask: were we both victims of a super sensitive new mood which is creating some really idiotic social problems? Can men and women ever go back to being unselfconscious and relaxed in one another’s company? At least, socially if not officially? Or are we carrying things a bit too far? Can we not indulge in some harmless, silly flirting without involving the cops and reading the riot act? Are women over reacting? Behaving in an annoyingly paranoid fashion each time they find themselves at the receiving end of male attention – verbal and\or nonverbal? And why are we assuming poor men don’t feel equally oppressed when the tables are turned? What’s the point of being a cutie or a hottie in such a hostile and suspicious environment?
This is not to trivialize the issue. But the heat is getting to everybody. Can we just lighten up a bit? Sexual harassment , real , perceived or wildly exaggerated, has become a real pain in the butt. Nobody knows how to deal with it. It is this era’s single most irritating and vexing social disease. With the number of career women world wide going up significantly,we can expect a spate of cases to keep hitting the courts. But given the current ambiguities surrounding the definition of what exactly constitutes ‘harassment’, perhaps we need to examine the dynamics of the problem in a cultural context. We, in India, are blindly following the American \European model and trying to implement it locally. Not a smart move, in a nation that has lived with countless paradoxes over centuries. Just as the Western brand of militant Feminism failed to take off on our shores ( eventually, we evolved our own, far more superior version ), I fear we are making the same mistake with the sexual harassment interpretation. As a society, we detest rules. Anarchic and impossibly individualistic as we are, we resent abiding by someone else’s charter. Try telling a Babu in Dilli that it is morally and legally wrong to discriminate against women working in his daftar, and chances are the man just won’t get it. He isn’t pretending – he is too bewildered to understand. Gender discrimination doesn’t disappear all that rapidly because of a few high profile law suits and dismissals.Of course, the Babu expects the women in his office to do ‘womanly’ things , like make chai-paani. Just as coaches of the women’s hockey teams expected female athletes to wash and iron their clothes while on tour. This is a reflection of how our men are raised, the way they treat their mothers, sisters, wives at home. Like I pointed out earlier – it’s a deeply ingrained conditioned response that may take more than legislation to resolve in real terms.
The acid test, according to me, involves just one thing – exploitation. Period. If a man or woman uses his or her position at the work place to take advantage of an individual, then that constitutes harassment and must be dealt with strictly. The grey area is the more worrying one. For example : What exactly is ‘consensual flirtation’? Who decides? How is the Laxman- Rekha drawn, and by whom? Should we just use our common sense to figure out fuzzy stuff of this kind rather than go by some foreign rule book?Let’s face it, in our heart of hearts we bloody well know when someone is ‘harassing’ us. You don’t need to hone up on the fine print in the office manual to figure out the difference between a friendly, complimentary remark and a hard core come on or threat. Men and women in urban India are capable of getting the difference. Being hit on is being hit on. A lecherous pat is just that. Touchy,feely conduct is not on. Crude jokes, sexual innuendos cannot be passed off as humour. Sexual favours – sought or offered – must be recognized for what they are – bargaining chips.Stalking in any form or medium ( sms, emails, social networking sites) should be reported and actioned. Molestation, or even an attempt? Call the cops! File charges. These are givens. Other than that, can we just go back to being nice to one another? And stop looking for sexual predators lurking in the shadows?Not every colleague \boss is a sex demon.There are regular people out there who aren’t vamps and villains out to screw the world.Come on, everyone. Use a little desi buddhi. Agreed, the time for a thorough clean up was long overdue. It is finally here. Yes, there will be some fall guys… maybe a few fall gals, as well. Too bad , Coach Kaushik - your timing was so damn off!
Happy Onam! And Happy Raksha Bandhan in advance. Let the good times roll......


anamika said...

Reading your post reminded me one incident today..There was ahuge rush and suddenly I heard "Chattaak"..A girl slapped an old man who was trying to taking advantage of the rush and playing with her..

Women liberation ..lolz

best part every body clapped :))

RAJ47 said...

Hi Shobhaa,
Happy Onam and Happy Raksha Bandhan to you and all the readers.
That journo neighbour of yours must be waiting at your door with a Rakhi and gifts. Atleast tomorrow you wont be able to call it sexual harassment.
But I feel jealousy was the root cause for your overreaction. Who can dare harass you sexually? That too someone from the journalistic world? Some boy on Delhi airport may still try and only a try it will be, but some educated guy? Naaah!
There is a strong relationship between jealousy and aggression. You know it better.
But again, you are always magnanimous to forgive and forget. And this article is a great way to express the overreaction.
In today's India only women can sing the song "Tu cheez badi hai mast mast" loudly in public. Or else you will here everybody clap!

AbhiLaSH RuHeLa said...

feeling so sad about ur neighbour..hahaha

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krunal said...

as for your theory of female oppression. i am going to prove it wrong.

read this

*Aham* said...

kaushik should be renamed HOW SIC! there is a problem when the heart stops feeling and leaves the job to the hand. It is not about feminism, it is about power and the misuse of it.

The world is full of Nichhhad Lechers like HOW SIC!.

I look forward to a day, where the lakshman rekha would be drawn by no lakshman but Sita herself ... to keep the paapi purushs at bay.

though, i speak in a tone that sounds feminist. it is not always men who are the nathkhat and halkhat... I know of several havvratt auratlog who have taken advantage of men... the ekta kapoor brand of Vamps also exist in real life.

some people are just too sex starved i guess.. and Sex is a great misdemeanor, the more they miss the more they get meaner.

even the piety of relationships is restricted to bollywood. I remember the days when in collage, we had this huge drama over "making rakhi sisters" of strangers. I personally know of people who are an example of "Din Mein Bhaiyaa Raat Ko Saiyaa"

Sidhusaaheb said...

"...the Babu expects the women in his office to do ‘womanly’ things , like make chai-paani."

When was the last time you visited a government office where all that the women among gazetted officers did was to "make chai-paani"?

"...can we just go back to being nice to one another?"

Very unlikely, at least until really stringent penalties against women who make false allegations against men are introduced into the laws against sexual harassment.

BTW, if I remember correctly, Indian laws provide no relief to a man being sexually harassed by a woman.

sonal said...

grt post Shobhaji, as always u are so bang on, i just love it!!yeah, go and get the men!! and shud they misbehave,demolish them.I love your spirit and your attitude, beneath all your seriousness and valid concerns!U hand across opinions with such style and panache, thats its just impossible to refute u or dissent!We just have to agree!!
As for Krunal, he keeps popping up with such incessant regularity
that he has become an ulcer!
Just want to say to those who commented and want takes all kinds to make this world, thr will be women who will get breast implants for more male attention,[that doesnt mean they wanna get raped, and if men cannot control their urges, they are not better than animals!] For every rape registered, there will be hundreds of cases of rape, molestation and harassment which will go unnoticed and are quitely pushed under the carpet!There will be hundreds of atrocities such as domestic violence, abuse which will be committed against women!Do women invite such violence against them, then it must be a crime to be a woman, to be a sexual being, to being vulnerable!
Men want sex, but sex turns their head and they lose their power to think straight.They resent this power bestowed in women and hence commit crimes against women.
By the way some stupid bloke talked about sexual harassment by women!!I would say its very rare going by the statistics and the ratio would be a laughable matter!

sonal said...

By the way Deji, i love whr this article was positioned,in the Economic Times!!U sure have made a dent in male bastions!!way to go girl!!

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