Archive for the ‘Men’ Category

Ullash Group raised Rs 3 lakhs 65 thousand during the Uttarkhand floods

Ullash Group raised Rs 3 lakhs 65 thousand during the Uttarkhand floods

When war and natural disaster unfolds in front of us on the television, we often want to do something to make a difference in the lives of people who have been affected by these circumstances. A common way of doing it is to donate in cash or kind to organizations who are working on the ground in these disaster zones.

But there are people who go one step further to make a difference. This story is about them. These individuals from Dubai took the initiative to knock on doors and within weeks raised money or gathered clothes to help out people dealing with crisis in their respective home countries.

Their story is inspiring because it doesn’t take a lot to be in their shoes. Anyone can follow their footsteps, all one needs is the will to make a difference. I tell you who they are and what they did…

Who? Ullash Group, a group of Indian (Bengali) friends 

Why did you decide to take the initiative? After seeing the TV grabs of the floods in Uttarkhand we could not sit around and do nothing about it.

What did you collect? We collected Rs 365,000 (Dhs21,778).

How long did it take you to do the collection? One week.

How did you do your collection? We got in touch with friends and colleagues. Amal Banerjee, who is a member of our group, told his colleagues at Ducast Factory LLC about our initiative. Each and every person in that company donated a day’s salary and that helped to increase the collected amount in a big way.

What kind of response did you get? Everyone contributed within their means, no one said no.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? One of us personally handed over the money to Ramakrishna Mission in Kolkata, India. The oganisation is building homes to rehabilitate thousands in Uttarkhand.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of this? We are a group which is into regular weekend parties, adda (chat) sessions and cultural meets. The satisfaction was in the fact that we could use our friendship and respective relationships to help other people.

Salam Al Amir went over to people's places to collect cash and clothes

Salam Al Amir went over to people’s places to collect cash and clothes

 Who? Salam Al Amir, Journalist, Jordanian

Why did you decide to take the initiative? I know how cold it gets in Jordan during winter and the thought of Syrians, especially children, weathering it in refugee camps without adequate clothing kept disturbing me. I just thought I had to do something about it and wrote down my intention on my FB status.

What did you collect? Some people gave me cash in order to go shop for warm clothes others gave me blankets and warm clothes. The shops where I bought warm jackets, hats and socks (mainly for children) donated some stuff themselves and other shops gave me real good discounts when they came to know my purpose. In all I had around 10 huge bags filled to the brim.

How long did it take you to do the collection? Less than a week.

How did you do your collection? I went over to people’s homes and offices to pick up the stuff (clothes and money).

What kind of response did you get? It was good. But some of those who responded with much enthusiasm on FB didn’t even get back to me later to coordinate how I could pick up their donations.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? I was going to send it to a close friend in Jordan so that he could deliver it personally. But then I came to know that there are certain procedures and donations had to go through an organizing body. I chose to send them with the Big Heart Campaign, organised by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah. They are doing an amazing job.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of it? Frankly, I got very little satisfaction. I feel we should do a lot more but most often can’t because we are so bogged down by life’s responsibilities.

Nerry Toledo collected clothes and canned food for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Nerry Toledo collected clothes and canned food for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Who? Nerry Azores Toledo, PR Professional, Filipino

Why did you decide to take the initiative? Typhoon Haiyan left an estimated 4.4 million people homeless in the Philippines and I knew that somehow I had to do something to help in my own little way.

What did you collect? We managed to collect 12 boxes of clothing and goods combined.

How long did it take you to do the collection? It took two weeks.

Nerry couriered 12 boxes  full of clothes to Philippines

Nerry couriered 12 boxes full of clothes to Philippines

How did you do your collection? People back home needed basic things and I started talking to friends and colleagues if they could donate old clothes. I had some friends who were doing the same, so we joined hands and had a collection drive. Some generous people donated canned food even without knowing how I was going to ship it to the Philippines. Many people came over to my place to drop their stuff.

What kind of response did you get? It was an overwhelming response. I realized the world is full of kind-hearted, well-meaning people.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? During that time, the only way to send donation was through the courier. It was sent to a charity organization in the Philippines that was working on the ground. I also gave some of the collected items to people organizing similar drives from the Filipino community in Dubai so that they could ship it with their collected stuff.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of it? I sincerely strive to lead a purpose-driven life. In that way my life becomes meaningful.

Samah Hamza Junaid donated her kidney when she was 22

Samah Hamza Junaid donated her kidney when she was 24

I have known Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly, a media consultant based in Kolkata, for years and I have met Samah Hamza Junaid, a marketing and PR professional working in the hospitality industry in Dubai, through blogging. Both have done something in their life which many of us would laud but when it comes to doing it ourselves we might end up having second thoughts about it.

Samah, the daughter of a Bangladeshi mother and Palestinian father, donated her kidney to her ailing father when she was just 24. It’s been three years since then and Samah says: “Organ donation is beautiful and people need to do away with misconceptions and fear associated with it.” Samah has written about her entire experience in her blog A Day In The Life Of ME.

Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly has pledged all his organs

Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly has pledged all his organs

Shubhojit, on the other hand, has an altogether different reason for acquiring his donor card and says, “I wasn’t sure people were taking my after-death wish seriously, so I went ahead and made it clear that I am serious.”

Some cynics might say what is the big deal about donating your organs when you are dead? But I would say it is. Because when you are doing that, you are surmounting age-old superstitions and religious beliefs, not something everyone can easily do. That’s why Aishwarya Rai’s failed eye donation campaign in India is a sure pointer to how most people think and that is why so many people die every year waiting for a donor.

In my entire life Samah and Shubhojit are the only two people I know who have done something like this so I thought it would be inspiring to share their reasons and experiences…

“I still work out six times a week and my father has regained his health” -Samah

How did your father react when you told him you would give him your kidney?

His initial reaction was silence. I convinced him that I will be okay by showing him websites that educate people on the beauty and simplicity of organ donation and explain how it does not impair your lifestyle. But he was still worried. Then I asked him, ‘What would you do if you were in my place?’ He answered in a heartbeat that he wouldn’t think twice, given the same circumstances and he would give all he had if required. 

And people around you…what was their reaction?

People around me were shocked, some by the thought of a young girl putting her life at risk and some by the generosity and extent of my courage. Some people even made my parents feel guilty by asking them how they could accept my donation. I politely smiled at everyone, who volunteered to find a good donor so that I would not have to donate. They couldn’t find anyone. Today the same people (family/friends) praise me for my ‘courage’. Now that they see the normal and active lifestyle I am leading, I am pretty sure they are gradually putting all organ donation myths to rest.

Did you have to make any lifestyle changes after the donation?

There have been no lifestyle changes at all. I have always been very cautious about my health, eating the right kind of food and exercising six times a week. Having one kidney to do the job of both, I would say I am extra cautious now in terms of not slipping on my fitness goals. I still have my cheat days and over-indulge, but most days I maintain the same healthy lifestyle that I did, prior to the surgery. The only possible change would be getting annual health check-ups done to keep a tab on my numbers.

Samah with her father Faeq Hamza

Samah with her father Faeq Hamza

Thankfully I have not. Rather people say that I have earned a place in Heaven. However, I really think there is a lot more to achieve, correct and repent for in this world to make it there.

What is the greatest satisfaction you have got out of your donation?

The greatest satisfaction out of my donation would be my father’s smile, his energy and him brimming with health and guarding it as though he has something precious. Also, I have come out as a stronger person, nothing scares me anymore – needles, pins, tattoo, cuts, bleeding, pain. Also, it has taught me to be more compassionate. Initially what I did was just out of love for my father, but now the act has opened my eyes. If you can add years to someone’s life and God has given you that power, then why not? I admire, salute and respect people who go out of their way and donate to non-related patients.

Would you encourage others to donate?

Others should do it only if they are completely sure they can, have acquired enough knowledge about the process and are not scared about it. We can get over our fears at times and at times we can’t. That’s normal. But if you really want to contribute, don’t let anything hold you back, listen to your heart. What transpires is a beautiful miracle – a gift of life.

Would you pledge your organs for use after death?

I want to pledge my eyes. I would love to bring light into one person’s life.

“Apart from my organs, I have donated my body to medical science” – Shubhojit

What does it mean to have a donor card?

Having a donor card helps in making people aware of my wish to donate. It will also hopefully help in resolving any issues that people have after I die. I have also asked that my body be donated for medical science. That would help in reducing pollution and carbon footprint as there would be no need for cremation.

Many people talk about organ donation but never manage to take the step. What was your push?

I was worried that people might not realise the seriousness of my wish.

Shubhojit's donor card

Shubhojit’s donor card

What procedure did you have to go through in order to donate?

I have not donated as yet so I don’t know the procedure. For registering as a donor, I did it online.

So you are okay with donating your kidney if someone needs it now…

Absolutely. If someone really needs my kidney and I am a match I will not think twice before donating.

After your death how will one ensure that your organs reach the right people?

There are no right people or wrong people. I just hope that young people get it. My job is to donate and who gets it does not make me anxious because hopefully I will be happily dead then.

Why do you think people have a mind block about organ donation?

I think religion and the greed to go to Heaven are the two main reasons for which people do not donate. This is also one of the main reasons why most of the criminals and corrupt people are highly religious.

Do you know anyone who has done the same like you?

No. But, I hear of a lot of people looking forward to doing so, especially after they are a few pegs down. It is perhaps because we become nobler then than when sober.

What satisfaction did you get out of donating your organs?

I haven’t thought about this actually. I will be dead, remember!

Picture taken from internet

Picture taken from internet

At a time when Indian men are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this story comes as a breath of fresh air – reinforcing the fact that there are more good men in this world than bad. This story is about four men, who went out of their way to make a difference in a woman’s life.

This story takes off when a few months back my close friend from South Point School, Joydeep Sengupta, who works at CESC and lives in Kolkata, was running his last check on Facebook before he retired to bed. A status update drew his attention.

Joydeep Sengupta didn't have Samrajni's address. He just knew he had to stop her.

Joydeep Sengupta didn’t have Samrajni’s address. He just knew he had to stop her from committing suicide

From here I am penning the story in Joydeep’s own words:

“Her message on FB said she wanted to end her life that night”

10.30pm

I had joined a group of like-minded people on FB. Few I knew in this group, most I didn’t and some I had met at a get-together organised by the group. Now the status that was in front of me was written by a lady named Samrajni Sengupta, who belonged to the same group. The update on her Timeline said she wanted to end her life that night because she didn’t find life worth living. I was in shock. I had met her just once at the get-together and knew from a common friend that she was having some issues in her marriage. Beyond that I didn’t know anything.

Within seconds other people had seen the message too and we started talking in the group wall, although there was no way of reaching out to her because she had logged out.

“I didn’t know where she lived but I left home to find her”

11pm

Once I recovered from my shock, I decided that I could not sit back at home and do nothing about it. I had to try and stop her. People in our group could tell vaguely that she lived in Garia, located in the southern fringes of Kolkata, but beyond that no information was available. Another member of our group, Sourav Sarkar, who works as a crew member in Air India International and lives in Behala like me, wanted to join me too. We managed to hail a cab and left for Garia.

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

“We wandered aimlessly on the streets as the minutes ticked by

12am

Let alone an address, we didn’t even know a proper landmark near her house. We just had the belief that we had to stop her, somehow. Standing in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, we were not willing to give up hope. Nor were at least 30 people from our group, not only from Kolkata, but even the US and other parts of India, who were all logged in and were desperately trying to use their networks to find someone, who could give her address. Finally, Somnath Chowdhury, a law graduate, who lives in Baranagar, and belongs to our group, said that one day he was travelling with Samrajni in the bus and she pointed at an apartment building and told him it was her home. He vaguely remembered where it was and could guide us.

“Monali Sengupta woke up her husband and told him to help us out

1am

While Somnath was on the phone describing landmarks to us and we were trying to follow his directions, the exasperation was building up. We were really worried that we might have lost all the time in our search and wouldn’t be successful in our mission. On top of that there was nobody on the road to ask for directions and all the gates of the apartment buildings were locked.

Meanwhile, Monali Sengupta, mother of a one-year-old, who lives in the same area, was awake and was just browsing through FB when she chanced upon our exchanges on the wall. She didn’t know any of us, just saw a connection through a common friend, but she woke up her husband Sayan Sengupta and told him to call me. My number was on the wall by then. She felt that since her husband knew the area well, he might be able to help in the search. At 1am Sayan came down from his apartment and joined us but we failed to find the building despite his help and Somnath’s directions.

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

“Somnath travelled an hour to join us”

2am

After trying so hard I wasn’t ready to live with the fact that I wasn’t successful in reaching Samrajni. Both Saurav and Somnath agreed with me. That is why Somnath decided to come down from Baranagar – which is located in north Kolkata and is more than an hour’s journey from Garia – to join us. He was sure if he was in the area he would be able to recognize the apartment building.

“At 2am Sayan took two unknown men home”

2.30am

Sayan didn’t want us to stand on the road and wait for Somnath, so he took us home. The fact that he did not know us at all, and that it was 2am, did not make any difference to him or his wife Monali. Sitting in their house, we all hoped and prayed together that we would be able to save Samrajni.

“We jumped over the wall of the apartment building to reach the watchman’s room”

3.30am

Somnath came and he managed to point out the building to us. We had no option but to jump over the wall in order to reach the watchman’s room. We woke him up and asked him if Samrajni Sengupta lived in the building. Initially he wasn’t sure who we were, but sensing our urgency and proper intent said he would take us to her apartment.

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

“We were not sure if we were too late”

4am

Samrajni’s father opened the door and was shocked to see the three of us – Saurav, Somnath and I standing there. We told him to call Samrajni without asking any further questions. He said she was sleeping with her door closed. I felt a knot in my stomach and a cold sweat. Were we too late? He knocked on her door and our heart was racing. She finally opened. We were almost jumping with joy seeing her alive. When we told her why we had come she just couldn’t believe it.

SAMRAJNI SENGUPTA tells her story:

“These guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew”

I was in severe depression due to the situation I was in and had developed a suicidal tendency. I started feeling that if I ended my life all my problems would come to an end. After writing on FB that I would end my life that night I had started making the preparations for doing so. My mother, who had been keeping a close watch on me, sensed my intent and insisted on sleeping with me that night. I remember I kept crying and my mother consoled me and tried to put sense into my head. She stroked my forehead till I fell asleep at around 4am. Then father woke us up.

I was so groggy I couldn’t understand why Joydeep, Sourav and Somnath had come. When they told me I felt like they had come like a new morning in my life. I had reached the lowest point of my self confidence and felt the world was full of horrible people and bad things kept happening to me all the time. Their efforts and those of all the people, who stayed glued to FB to make sure that I was safe, made me believe that there is good in this world.

I am a 38-year-old divorcee with a 12-year-old son, who studies in a good boarding school in Kolkata. I did not take any alimony from my husband because it hurt my pride. I met this other gentleman on Facebook, who is in his early 50s and he wanted to marry me. We had a registration marriage and soon he took me to Dubai, where he works and lives, on a resident visa. There my nightmare started. He lived in a 10X10 single room, expected me to do all the housework and he turned into a pervert and sadist the moment he came home from work. He beat me up at the slightest opportunity. Once he even broke my arm and took me to a doctor a month later when I was screaming in pain. He constantly threatened to kill me and if I raised my voice, his brutality increased. I didn’t know anyone in Dubai and I couldn’t figure out where I could go for help. I just wanted to escape from his clutches. So when he agreed to buy me tickets to see my parents I found my escape. When I did not return he kept calling me and harassing me over the phone and he even told my parents that they were actually doing “business” through me.

I was also facing acute financial woes and did not have enough money to file a divorce suit against him. I thought death would rescue me from this mess.

But these guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew. I have never thought of suicide after that night. I know no matter what, I will have to live for my son. Now I know these wonderful people are there to support me if I need them. I am not alone in my fight anymore.

sexual harassment3To give an insight into sexual harassment in the Indian media I got in touch with a number of my ex-colleagues, who are all currently well-placed in the industry to come forth with their views and personal experiences. Many said that they have never faced any kind of sexual harassment in the workplace, but have witnessed others facing it. Some men said that they have helped their female colleagues deal with harassment from the department boss and many said that they have faced harassment themselves. Some even said that certain senior people have tried to take advantage of their earlier professional relationship, long after they had stopped working together. Two ex-colleagues, one male and one female, said they have been harassed by their female bosses. A very senior male editor I was talking to yesterday told me in his entire career spanning almost 20 years, he has seen how men got transformed as they moved up the ladder and thought their higher posts also gave them the license to take their chances with women.

And while not everyone in this post has given their name, here it is then, all in their own words:

I told him he should not dare touch me again”- NUZHAT AZIZ 

In my 14 years of work experience as a journalist in Kolkata, Mumbai and now Pune, there have been several experiences which have left me disgusted and annoyed. And in most of the cases, I have managed to put an end to the harassment by putting my foot down; by putting it across very bluntly, that I do not like the advances and am uncomfortable with what is being said or done.

During my stint with a leading daily, I had to work closely with a journalist who was hired to head a business supplement. The journalist in question had a habit of touching me whenever we spoke. Whether we discussed stories or it was a casual chat, his hand would either touch mine, or he would put his arm over my shoulder or around my waist. I did feel uncomfortable on several occasions and I discussed it with my female colleague. 

One day we finished work and he asked me if I wanted to go to the club for some snacks. I agreed to go with him because I wanted to bring up this issue. While we waited for the drinks and snacks to arrive, he casually placed his hand over mine. I removed it and very sternly told him that I did not like anyone touching me. He was shocked and tried to defend himself. I repeated myself and took a cab home. The next day, he refused to talk to me and needless to add, he stopped assigning stories to me. I was perfectly fine with that.

There have been so many instances, where a male colleague has made a pass, cracked a sexist joke and commented on my vital statistics. All this is harassment. So if I were to write all of that, it would have to be compiled into a book. But I would definitely want to mention another incident, where this senior colleague would often send me text messages saying how hot he found me and later laugh it off as a joke. He would often tell us how he was in an open relationship with his wife.

He went on to hold a senior position with a foreign-based organisation. He continued messaging me with polite enquiries about my life and family and once in a while we would discuss about the media industry. In one such conversation he suggested I could get a senior position easily by sleeping around, because it was acceptable and everyone did pretty much the same. I was disgusted and offended and stopped responding to him. I unfriended him on Facebook. Sensing that I was upset, he later texted me saying that he did not mean such a thing and I was stupid enough to deduce something like that. I told him in as many words that I understood exactly what he meant and I was not keen to keep in touch.

My approach has always been take the bull by the horn, there are no two ways about it.

If I had not refused to get into the car with him he would have done something to me”- LM

There was this very senior editor, who was not only very talented, but also good looking and the no- nonsense types. We respected him immensely. When he handpicked me for a transfer to Mumbai I felt very proud and grateful. But after coming to Mumbai I lost touch with him. A few years later I bumped into him in my Mumbai office, we got talking and when he said he had nothing to do in Mumbai, I offered to take him out for dinner. We agreed to meet at a restaurant. He asked me to meet him at his hotel first. When I reached he asked me to go up his room. I wasn’t sure what to do but I went. We chatted in his room for sometime then left for the restaurant. It was a pleasant evening.

The next day he called me and asked me if I was free for dinner since he had another night in town. I didn’t think much of it especially since the previous night was really enjoyable, and hence agreed. He again asked me to meet him at his room when I reached the hotel. Once again I hesitated, but frankly, I was confused and went with the flow. This time I didn’t enjoy his company too much as he seemed to be a little tipsy. We had a light dinner and I said I had to leave because it was getting late. Very ‘casually’ he said, “you can stay back if you want.” I ignored this and just left after saying a polite goodbye.

A few months later he was in town again and called me, this time to his guest house. I was in two minds, but my gratitude for him made me decide to go. But when I reached, my instincts took over. He was already stark drunk and I refused to get inside his room. I told him we had to hurry to the restaurant because we had a reservation. Thankfully he listened. He had his chauffeur-driven company car. As soon as we entered the car, he grabbed my hand. My stomach did a somersault but I didn’t want to create a scene. My mind stopped working and I simply tried to make random conversation. All this while he was holding my hand and I was trying to withdraw it unsuccessfully. It might sound silly, but I just couldn’t think straight.  Thankfully we reached the restaurant quickly. By then he was a mess and was even unable to stand. I just managed to finish dinner and he did the most bizarre thing – he started rocking the table and in between looked at me with stoned and lustful eyes. I don’t know how I managed to get out of there without creating a scene.

I insisted I had to leave and finally walked out of the restaurant with him following me. Outside, he crossed all limits. As I called the driver to get the car, he tried to embrace me. I quickly wriggled out and stepped aside (once again trying not to create a scene). Thankfully, the driver arrived on time, and with his help, I practically shoved him inside the car.  I didn’t get in myself and I jumped into an auto rickshaw instead telling him I had to rush to another venue.

The way he was going I don’t know what would have happened if I had entered the car that night. I was actually his fan – as a junior reporter – but his behaviour was appalling. Probably, you may say I was at fault for going out with him thrice. But it did take me some time to realise that the Dr Jekyll I had known at work would turn into Mr Hyde after getting drunk.

It is possible to create a non-sexual atmosphere where predatory men are intimidated into decorum”- SURANJANA ROY BHATTACHARYA

I don’t recall a single instance of harassment, personally, between 1994-2008, the time I worked in India.

The only obnoxious person I have encountered was this person who was not my boss, but the editor of another department. Since in a newspaper office we mostly sit in an open office, you can see what’s going on in other departments. He would openly hit on the girls in that department. What struck me as brilliant was the way these women dealt with him. From a distance, it seemed to me that these young girls were capable of puncturing his ego, they patronised him and talked him down and kept him in line. I don’t know the actual dynamics, but that is what I perceived and sub consciously rejoiced.

What I am trying to say is that women can and do have ways to deal with men. I was 23 when I joined Indian Express, Bombay as a trainee. I worked night shifts with men who used to drink every night. Yet, not for a single night did I feel any discomfort. I have often thought why that was so, and the only explanation I found is – women can ‘de sex’ themselves and their environment. When you don’t recognise a man as the male of the species, when you don’t recognise his ‘aura’, that man will not have any power over you. I think it is possible for men and women to create a professional, non-sexual atmosphere where predatory men are intimidated into decorum.

My female editor would measure my derriere with her palm”- NAME WITHELD

Sexual harassment need not be physical or coming from a man. Women too can sometimes indulge in it. For example, my female editor would pass lewd comments on my derriere and offer to measure it with her palm to see if I have “put on weight”. In front of male colleagues, this would be thoroughly embarrassing. One night, on a team trip to a nearby resort, she dragged everyone out of their rooms to have a chill-out session. Then she announced to everyone: “X is not wearing a bra!” Her joke was so humiliating. Also, when I needed to take leave for a day because my then boyfriend was returning after a 4-month long trip from Europe, she said, in front of the whole department, “You can postpone your f****** by a day. I need you here at work.” Maybe it was my age that prompted her to say such stuff, thinking I was ‘too young to mind’ or it could be because she believed in the culture of ‘ragging juniors’, with or without realising she was crossing the line and humiliating me. But I mustered the courage to tell her one day that I felt insulted this way.

My friend was asked to perform oral sex”- SARAH SALVADORE

A friend of mine decided to leave journalism for good because of sexual harassment. As a young intern, when she approached her so-called ‘mentor’ to inquire about jobs, she was asked to perform an oral sexual act on him. She walked out immediately and decided to never step into any media house again. Today she is happily working in the literary field, “minus the creeps,” as she puts it.

The editor lost his job due to charges of sexual misdemeanor”- NAME WITHELD

I was working in a newspaper in Delhi and there was an editor and his entire team, who were extremely foul- mouthed in front of women.  I was just on “hi” and “hello” terms with him but still he tried to touch me on many occasions. I had left the organization by then but I heard he eventually lost his job due to charges of sexual misdemeanor.

Many editors have got away with their antics because they were smart, Tejpal acted foolishly”- MOHUA FERNANDES

This kind of sexual harassment is not new in media circles. But it is important to highlight this issue because these editors – who think nobody can touch them and that they can even get away with murder – need to realise that they cannot get away with it every time. They need to practice what they preach, not just support an issue because it makes good copy. Look at their double standards: they cry hoarse when a photojournalist is gangraped by criminals, but when a respected editor violates his employee’s body against her wish, they call it consensual. Many editors have got away with their antics because they were smart. Tejpal acted foolishly, so he got caught. Personally, I have never faced any such harassment. But it is common knowledge that women in the media – like in other fields too – use their sexuality to climb the career ladder. That’s why very often mediocre employees get phenomenal promotions and perks. Of course, everybody else in office knows why.

I couldn’t muster the courage to report my senior colleague”- NAME WITHELD

I had started out as a trainee some nine years back with a leading Kolkata-based media house. The first time it happened was when I was asked out for coffee, to which I went ahead willingly as just another evening out with a colleague I knew well and interacted freely, not realising that was only the beginning of the mental harassment I was to face for months to come.

Five minutes into the conversation, I realised there was something wrong in the way the conversation was going. When I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in anything that he wanted out of me, and that he was just another male colleague, he said, ‘But women don’t come out for coffee with just any male friend. If she does she is plain available and has been asking for it’.

All of 22, I did not know how to react, what to say. All I knew was I walked out on him in the next five minutes. From there on began the stream of messages, morning, day and night, all of which threatened to malign me in public, full of cuss words, etc…if I opened my mouth or dared say a word. I could see a change in attitude in some other colleagues too, a smirk here, a snigger there. On one or two occasions, I did think of having a heart-to-heart chat with the boss and ask him for help, but a mere 8-month-old trainee’s account would perhaps stand no chance against the hoity toity. No, I couldn’t muster enough courage and kept mum sharing my shattered frame of mind with only a set of very close friends.

I was victimised in every possible way, dubbed incapable, inefficient, my copies not good enough, as it had to be passed through that one ‘male colleague’s’ coterie of people. I realised the root of the problem stemmed from that coffee at Flury’s.

I got a better job and moved on. But therein died a chirpy, easy-going 22-year-old, and emerged from the ashes a no-nonsense girl.

Tejpal incident would shake up a lot of people”- MOYNA SEN

Initially I did feel that maybe the Tejpal thing was being blown out of proportions for reasons best known to the people involved, simply because this was nothing new to the media world. But I guess the harassment issue had become so rampant, it needed to be addressed as well. More often than not these skirmishes are brushed under the carpet as run-of-the-mill incidents. Therefore this would hopefully nudge people out of their complacency, given that both Tejpal and his Tehelka are in serious trouble. Talking of myself, I cannot recall of very serious harassment issues. There have been insinuations, but nothing that I could not control by putting up an intolerant front. But I have seen some of my colleagues facing it, snide comments about their physical assets or even being propositioned directly. Some have been shocked, others have retorted and some have actually responded positively.

I went to meet him in his hotel room many times”- NAME WITHELD

He was an editor I had idolized all my life. I was just 21 when I met him at an office party and was over the moon for all the attention he showered me. Finally when he asked me to meet him in his hotel room the next day I said yes. From then on I went to meet him many times and he gifted me books and ordered champagne and we had romantic chats sitting in the balcony. But one thing is for sure. I never used my proximity to him to get a better position at work.

However, I soon realised I was falling in love with him and he was married. I thought if I could not dissociate myself I would be heading for disaster. I told him so and he did not force me to continue, neither did he victimize me in the workplace for not continuing. I soon moved abroad and we never met after that. At that point I thought I was the only woman he really liked but later on I came to know I was just one of the many.

This is a follow up of my earlier post Sexual harassment in Indian media: The inside story (PART I)

 

 
 
 

sexual harassment

Our Editor-In-Chief was in town from Mumbai and he had thrown a party at a city disco in Kolkata, something he always did when he was down and something we all looked forward to. I was in a bit of a hurry to leave because of some pressing responsibility back home and when I went to say bye to him, he said, “Why are you leaving so early?” I gave my reasons. Then he said, “But there will be transfer.”

I froze. I thought now it’s happening to me too, another whimsical editor threatening me with transfer if I did not stay on and dance with him.

Looking at my anxious face he looked puzzled. “Why are you looking so worried? There will be transport to take you home.”

I heaved a sigh of relief – he meant transport then and not transfer. He was trying to be genuinely nice but I think I can’t be blamed for presuming what he said. From the day I joined the Indian media as a trainee journalist I have been fed stories of brilliant editors who were equally talented womanizers. Editors who would unleash their libido in the company corridors, on the office couch, in the lifts, at parties and on working tours. Some accounts sounded realistic, some grossly exaggerated, and some figments of imagination, but like mothers tell children fairy tales and tell them to be scared of the demons and the monsters, our seniors told us tales of predatory editors and our imagination went astray.

So much so that when I was a trainee journalist, all of us would huddle into one room and avoid the Editor-In- Chief, like the plague, every time he dropped into town. Why? Because he had a reputation with women, that walked into a room long before he did. We would even discuss what we would do if he asked one of us to visit him in his hotel room. (Apparently that was his way of making a pass at women journalists and that’s what once again our seniors had told us.) At that point our unanimous decision was: we would obviously leave the job immediately.

Nothing like that ever happened. He didn’t even give us a second look when he rebuked us at the department meetings for all the wrong headlines. Then he walked off in a huff to lunch with our immediate boss, the prettiest woman I have ever met.

So were the stories we heard about him true? I don’t know. Or was our pretty boss the buffer that kept him from turning his attention to us? I don’t know either. But this much I know that we quickly put aside our unwarranted fears. Years later I met a journalist, much senior to me, and I was telling her this story with a laugh, she startled me with her confession. She said she had actually gone to meet him in his hotel room while working as a trainee journalist. (Her account is in my post tomorrow.)

As I gained experience in journalism I realised editors do hit on women, more precisely take their chances with them. It is the most common thing in the newsroom. Some women reciprocate, often looking at it as a good opportunity to go up the ladder, some don’t. But what is incredible is the shockwaves that Tarun Tejpal is sending down the spine of the media people. Isn’t this something we have always known? What has Tejpal suddenly done that has shaken us all? Aren’t we used to discussing stories like this over coffee right there in the office cafeteria? Is it shocking now because this story has spilled over from the cafeteria to the common man’s sitting room?

There is a pattern to the whole thing. Most often the relationships are consensual and when it is not, the woman journalist handles it in her own way. When she can’t, she leaves the job. But sometimes she does complain. It is always dealt with “amicably” and yes, Vishakha (Judgement) is kept out of the door consciously. After it has been dealt with, the woman journalist inevitably finds it tough to carry on in the job and resigns. But I have also heard of editors losing their jobs because there had been too many complaints against them. Also, as a male ex-colleague said, he has seen a couple of cases of false charges. Whatever the situation, it is always an “internal issue”. The only person to have had the guts to move court and fight a case for 10 long years is journalist Rina Mukherji.

Journalist Rina Mukherji moved court against her employer and fought her case for 10 long years

Journalist Rina Mukherji moved court against her employer and fought her case for 10 long years

Personally I have faced harassment too. I have to admit that no one has ever made any overt suggestion but the subtle hints were enough and in one job I have even lost a promotion because I failed to keep the boss “happy”. I never complained to higher authorities because I always felt, apart from making the gossip mills go on an overdrive, it would do nothing for me. There was also the chance of being labeled “the girl who sc***** her boss’ happiness” and my chances of finding another job would have been remote, in an industry where “news” travels fast.

And what would I have complained about, that my boss asks me out for a drink every day? What’s wrong with that? Because I didn’t go, I didn’t get a promotion. Come on, you are not good enough. My boss wants to walk into every party with me. Why, can’t a boss go to a party with a colleague? He often insists on having dinner from my plate at the party. Umm…what does that have to do with sexual harassment?

So in the end I have handled it my own way by sometimes wriggling out of a situation, by putting my foot down or by taking the help of supportive colleagues. In this regard I have to admit that it’s because of sensitive colleagues and some nice, caring, supportive senior people and editors (both men and women) women journalists are thriving in the industry. I remember there was an editor who was not even my boss but whenever I travelled with him in the office car, late in the night, he would step out of the car when I reached home. He stood in front of the gate till I had stepped in and locked it behind me. He got back to the car only after ensuring I was safe.

Sadly these amazing people will never make the headlines for all the good reasons, the Tejpals will. But instead of resorting to Tejpal-bashing (that his closest friends from the circuit are doing and behaving as if they never knew this side of him) and expressing well-rehearsed “shock” and “disbelief” at a fellow journalist’s folly, shouldn’t they be taking a closer look at their own lifts? You never know what’s lurking there.

(I have spoken to 10 journalists, all of whom are currently holding senior positions in different organizations. They have jotted down their personal experiences of sexual harassment which I have published in Part II.)

Check another post about Indian media:

At 23 when I joined journalism no one told me…

A very interesting take on Tehelka.Check it out

The Greatbong Blog & Podcast

Being a very filmy person (but you already knew that I suppose), my ideal of a reporter was the character played by Sekhar Suman in “Tridev” whose murder, while doing investigative journalism piece on the dangerous Bhujang, let loose a sequence of spectacular events, that included but was not limited to Sunny Deol looking at the camera and saying, in a deadpan voice, “Ek aur sipahi desh ke liye shaheed ho gaye”.

In real life, the only people who came close to that khadi-clad, jhola-carrying ideal were the guys at Tehelka. Or that’s the way I saw things when they did the match-fixing sting, blowing the lid off the conspiracy of silence in a most spectacular way. And if that was not enough, then went up against the might of the NDA government and in the process was almost finished off by them.

This was brave stuff. They wrote their pieces…

View original post 1,267 more words

rape 45_2

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland. The psychiatrist, who got his undergraduate medical degree from NRS Medical College, Kolkata, is passionate about women’s issues. While discussing the recent rise in violence against women in India, Dr Gangopadhyay very patiently answered all the questions that I had. In this post I am sharing my interview with him, where Dr Gangopadhyay not only talks about the current situation in India and the way forward but also shares very interesting information with us. Here goes:

Q: What is the psychology of rape?

A: There is nothing which can be branded as typical of a rapist and no particular traits that can help us isolate rapists. Rape is the most extreme form of sexual violence. We all have inherent capacities to be violent but various inhibitions such as social norms, education, environment, religion and cultural attributes modify the primal instincts. However, in certain circumstances we all are capable of presenting with violence, which can be most often manifested in the context of domestic violence.

Offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence are more likely to commit rape

What can be stated with certainty is that offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence such as exhibitionism or indecent assaults are more likely to engage in the commission of rape. Moreover, research indicates that the presence of disinhibiting factors (In psychology disinhibition is a lack of restraint manifested in several ways, including disregard for social conventions and poor risk assessment) such as alcohol, illicit drugs and anger have been noted to be associated with extreme acts of violence such as rape.

People with no criminal history commit marital rape

However, in my view, it is quite possible for somebody with no criminal history, in absence of disinhibiting factors to engage in such heinous behaviour which is probably most pronounced in the context of “marital rape”.

Q: Apart from incarceration can psychological counselling be used as a means to reform rapists?

A: Custodial sentences only act as a form of punishment and are a punitive measure. They are not effective in changing the behaviour of offenders including sexual offenders.

In the UK there are psychological programmes for rapists in prisons

In the UK, an individual who has been convicted of serious sexual offences, including rape, would need to compulsorily participate in psychological programs in prison which are delivered by Forensic Psychologists within the Criminal Justice Services. These programs would often address issues such as victim empathy, anger management, impact of misusing illicit drugs and alcohol and would be delivered through various means such as role-plays, group discussions and individual therapy.

Anti-libidinal medications are also used for therapy

Recently, there has also been an interest in the use of anti-libidinal medications i.e. medications which reduce sex-drive, in the management of sexual offenders.

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Q: Why do you think there is a rise in violent crimes against women in India?

A: There can be several reasons for this:

We are getting to know because of greater media coverage

Firstly I should comment that what we are seeing as a rise might be due to more effective media coverage and greater awareness of the general public, particularly women, regarding the absolute non-acceptance of such criminal behaviour.

Sexual violence is not the norm anymore

Women are more convinced now as individuals that any kind of violence against them which includes sexual violence is “not the norm” and this then leads to a greater chance for women who have experienced violence to be open about it and report it to the criminal justice system.

The skewed sex ratio in India is also to blame

The second reason probably is the high male to female Sex ratio in India. Sex ratio is expressed as the number of women per thousand men in a given population at a given time. The high sex ratio in India can be attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for male heirs. This affects future marriage patterns and fertility patterns and causes unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners. Except Kerala and Puducherry all other states and union territories in India have a negative sex ratio i.e. less than 1000 women for every 1000 men, with Haryana faring the worst among states (877 women per 1000 men in 2011) and Delhi near the bottom for Union territories (866 women per 1000 men in 2011). This might explain to some extent the high incidence of sexually violent crimes in these areas.

Q: What steps can be taken in India to handle the current situation?  

A: Firstly there has to be an absolute political will to tackle this which has to go beyond narrow party interests. Secondly, I believe that there is enough legislation in India to protect women and prosecute offenders. What is lacking is effective enforcement of these legislations due to various factors such as shortage of resources, corruption and political (and various other) interferences on the public protection and prosecution systems (Police & Courts). This has to change.

India should stop projecting women as commodity

I also consider that mass entertainment media such as advertisements and films have been sometimes guilty of projecting women as a commodity whose only goal in life is to appear beautiful and obediently serve the men folk whether as a daughter, sister or wife. Such projections only nourish a derogatory view towards women which can be manifested in thoughts such as it is permissible to use force including sexual violence towards women.

The notion that women attract the attention of rapists by their behaviour and clothing should be attacked aggressively 

Finally, though unfortunate, it is still widely considered in India that a woman who is dressed seductively is more likely to be sexually violated because she is almost inviting it. This notion has to be attacked aggressively through various perspectives such as education, media, politics and it has to be spelt out clearly that whatever way a woman chooses to behave or dress, it does not give any individual any right to violate her privacy.

Q: There is violence against women in UK and there is violence in India too but in what way are these two places different?

A: There are a few separate issues that we need to consider. Firstly, UK and India belong to two different socio-economic categories. With respect to violence against women, the important relevant differences would be in literacy levels and a more effective, well-resourced public protection system (Police & Courts) who are relatively free from political influence.

In UK there is greater social acceptance of a victim

Secondly, there is greater social acceptance of a victim who has been subject to sexual violence. This then facilitates the reporting of such incidents. There is also an understanding that a woman is free to choose what she wears but that does not give any man a right to behave in an inappropriate manner.

Convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either

However, convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either and often prosecution is abandoned owing to lack of evidence in spite of access to better Forensic facilities.

Support and rehabilitation of victims is necessary

Finally, there are a lot of agencies (Government and NGO’s) who provide support and rehabilitation for victims of sexual offences and their families in the UK, which might be a development need for India.

(Dr Partha Gangopadhyay trained in Psychiatry in London and then undertook further training in Forensic Psychiatry in Scotland for four years. His work involves looking after people who have a mental disorder but who have also committed a crime i.e. mentally disordered offenders (MDO). His research interests lie in Medical Education, specifically assessment for undergraduate medical students. His other interest is Medical Ethics & Law in which he is pursuing a Masters.)

The South Point High School building

The South Point High School building

Since last night I have been trying to remember names of films or books where a girl and a boy are childhood besties. Films like Parinda, Parineeta, Slumdog Millionaire came to my mind along with Chetan Bhagat’s book Revolution 2020. Then I thought of the same direction all the stories take – best friends fall in love as adults.

But is this the direction every close man-woman friendship takes? Not at all! And I am sure all my friends from South Point School would vehemently agree with me on this.

You might wonder what makes me or my school mates so easily answer this question that has been a point of debate for centuries. As students of Kolkata’s first co-educational school established in 1954, which went on to become the world’s largest school in 1984 (and stayed so till 1992) in the Guinness Book of World Records, we can talk about this with conviction because we have all experienced this.

I will start with an example. A few years back I had gone to Pizza Hut on Camac Street, after work with one of my best pals from school. One of his neighbours told his mother that he was spotted with a girl at Pizza Hut. Aunty became quite excited hoping he had found a new girl friend. She asked her neighbour to describe the girl. When she did aunty was disappointed. “Oh that’s Amrita. They are best friends and can’t ever be anything else,” she had said matter-of-factly. We still laugh about this incident but on a more serious note this shows that it was not only us who believed in our friendship, our parents also did.

Our school group enjoying Durga Puja 1990 at Triangular Park, Kolkata (Pix taken from Arpita Mukherjee Mitra's FB albums)

Our school group enjoying Durga Puja 1990 at Triangular Park, Kolkata (Pix taken from Arpita Mukherjee Mitra’s FB albums)

Growing up together, sitting next to each other in class, sharing tiffin, playtime and non-stop chatter, there were times we never realized that we were of the opposite sex. As teenagers when we became more aware of our bodies and our differences most often that did not make a difference in the friendship. I have had at least a dozen close friends, who are boys and who never fell for me or me for them. We have moved on from school, to college to careers to marriage, but even today we continue to be great friends.

Only last October we reconnected on Facebook and decided to meet during Durga Puja in front of an electronics showroom called Anandamela on Gariahat, a place where we used to meet during Puja while in Class IX and X, way back in 1989-90. When I reached Anandamela I realized I was the only girl and there were 9 boys, more precisely men. But I did not feel uncomfortable for a moment. And as the day unfolded and we picked up the threads of our past, weaving it onto the tapestry of our present life, over endless adda (chat), it felt like the years had not gone by. We were the same Class IX kids, not spouses, parents or career people, we were just great friends. We didn’t talk about who’s achieved what, who’s got which car or a new posh address or a recent holiday abroad – we just talked of school.

A recent re-union of the our South Point batch in Kolkata (Pix by Sanjoy Saha taken from our FB Group page)

A recent re-union of our South Point batch in Kolkata (Pix by Sanjoy Saha taken from our FB Group page)

I guess this is what makes our friendship so unique – the comfort level we felt with the boys. This is not to say love did not happen. It was not uncommon to see a small note tucked in your notebook, a card with a heart sign on your birthday or someone loitering a bit too often in front of your class. But there was something cute about these advances too. One didn’t feel harassed or stalked. If a girl said no boys accepted with dignity or vice versa.

When love blossomed what was amazing was the seriousness with which some of them pursued that love. Most had the earnestness to carry forward a school romance to marriage (some romances, of course, petered out in school itself). Sometimes when I see the photographs of a few of my classmates, who have married, on Facebook, it brings a smile to my face thinking of their accomplishment. As a friend of mine, who has married a classmate, told me recently, “We are still great friends. We are equals in the relationship sharing household chores and parenting duties.”

I guess this explains the crux of friendship in South Point School. We were always equals in every way. Our school was also a great leveler in the sense we had friends belonging to every kind of financial background. We learned to love people for who they are, not for what they have.

Today South Pointers are spread all over the world but I am sure there is one thing they all believe in,  a man and a woman can be great friends – all their life, no matter what Parinda and Parineeta say.

That’s a relationship we all cherish.

Happy Friendship Day !

Bengali actor Bobby Chakraborty

Bengali actor Bobby Chakraborty

Actor Bobby Chakraborty is not someone who would say anything just for effects. If he says something, he believes in it and if he believes in it he practises it. That is why his brainchild, the project titled I Am The King of My Mind, has gained so much momentum among school students in Kolkata, India. The project aims at telling young people the consequences of addiction and how one doesn’t need to drink or smoke to enjoy life.

For more: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-05-30/kolkata/39627920_1_addiction-exxon-mobil-actor-bobby-chakraborty

When Bobby is not shooting at the studio chances are you will catch him at some school, somewhere in West Bengal, interacting with young people. His pet project regularly takes him to the most well-known educational institutions of Kolkata, like the Heritage School and La Martinere School, and also to the numerous schools located in the interiors of rural Bengal and the Sundarbans.

Check Bobby’s Facebbok Page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/313095188790160/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g6QylXwSkg&sns=fb

Bobby with children at a school

Bobby with children at a school

Bobby posing with local kids at Sunderban

Bobby posing with local kids at Sunderban

There is one more thing that Bobby believes in too – that is equal opportunities and respect for women.

“When I interact with students I also talk to them about gender equality and respect for the fairer sex. In today’s society where there is so much violence against women this is particularly relevant,” says Bobby.

When I asked Bobby to write his views for my blog the actor took out time from him busy schedule and sent his views to my inbox within a day.

This is what he wrote:

I have always believed in peaceful co-existence of man and woman. That is how nature has made us. But some men, with their so-called physical superiority, have always been trying to foolishly prove themselves superior to women. Physical violence and rape has been the tool for such men for centuries.

Patriarchy is to blame

A woman is probably the hardest worker in the family, but her job is thankless. Most often children do not learn to value the work that women do and they are taught that men, often the bread winners, are all important. So the male child does not learn to respect the women in his family. And he carries this attitude forward to his future interactions with women – as friends, girlfriends, wives and eventually prey.

Men feel insecure around competent women

Educated and competent women are claiming the same recognition as men and more often than not giving them stiff competition at work. This is creating a sense of insecurity and the false male ego is bruised. That’s when men are resorting to violence against women to prove they are the ones in power. This trend is most dangerous.

Alcohol is often the reason for such crimes

It is said alcohol often brings out the Devil in you. And that is so true. People often end up doing things under the spell of alcohol that they would not otherwise do in a normal state. Rapists are usually dead drunk.

I hope and wish my crusade against alcohol will help in making future generations more sensible and sensitised about women.

Bobby at a candlelight vigil in Kolkata in June, protesting violence against women

Bobby at a candlelight vigil in Kolkata in June, protesting violence against women

But right now as responsible men it is within our capacity to make an immediate impact and make the environment safer for women. With the following examples I say what can be done:

1.           You are not a Superman but you can call for help

If you see a woman is harassed by some men and if you feel getting into the situation might be dangerous for you, call for help.

I will give you an example of what I did once. It was around 8.30pm and I was taking a walk on Marine Drive in Mumbai and enjoying the drizzle when I saw a gang of around eight-10 guys harassing a girl. I knew if I tried to intervene they would overpower me. So I ran in the opposite direction and alerted the traffic police on duty who in turn alerted the mobile van. Within no time the van came and rescued the girl.

2.           Put your foot down if you see a man trying to get fresh with a woman, be it on public transport or at a party

Women are most often strong enough to deal with these situations but it is our duty to let them know we are always there to lend them a helping hand.

I have seen drunk men often make advances at women at parties. A civilized talk with the drunkard might help but if that does not work then security should be called in. There have been instances when I have been threatened with dire consequences after they have been thrown out of the party. But men who use alcohol as a license to misbehave are usually cowards. So you can be sure that threat will always be empty.

3.           Stand up for your co-workers

In the workplace too there have been situations when I found out that a co-actor was being sexually harassed by someone. The first thing I did was to draw the producer or the director’s attention. If that does not work it can always be taken up with, in my case Artists’ Forum, in other cases the supreme authority at the workplace.

4.           Always remember REAL men respect women

If you are a real man then you will learn to respect every woman in your life – from your mother to the woman you are travelling with in a public bus to the maid, who is working in your house. This way you will learn to respect yourself. When you have self respect you have everything.

(Bobby has recently starred in National Award winning filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s hindi film Station which is part of the series Thrayadashi.)

equality2

Can men be feminists? My answer is yes, absolutely! And in the last one year that I have been blogging on women’s issues I have heard myriad men’s voices and views that have enriched my own thoughts and perceptions. That is why I decided to run a series where men would give an insight into gender equality and violence against women. Like charity begins at home I believe feminism begins at home too. And for me it truly begins at home because of all the fierce feminist men I have met in my life, I guess I have been living with the fiercest one so far, since I tied the knot with him 12 years back.

I start off this series with my husband Jaydip Sengupta’s views that he’s penned down himself. Here goes…

It’s a given men and women are equal

I have often wondered if being a feminist makes me any less of a man. I have looked up the definition of the word feminism and it roughly means a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.

I have never felt the need to be part of any such movement, or to appreciate the burning of bras. Instead I have tried to figure out why it needs to be established that women are equal to men. I mean, shouldn’t that be a given, something that need not be reiterated time and again? Yeah sure, men are better at certain things but then women are better at most other things.

 Now, that’s a fact men have been unable to accept. History or for that matter mythology hasn’t been kind to our women folk and it hasn’t helped that they were written by us men folk. Women were worshipped, but in reality all they got to do was service to ‘mankind’. So now, when they work as many hours as their male counterparts and for extra measure cook, keep the house in order, bring up the children and do everything else necessary to keep the family going, they are still expected to continue that service. Why, may I ask?

There should be a code of conduct for men

It all seems hypocritical to me but I am not surprised. When I see and hear wise men in our country preach about how women should behave instead of how men should not, it somehow tells me that we have only been paying lip service to gender equality all these years. The instances of molestation and rape have come out of homes and into the streets, but really, are only the men to blame here?

equality

Women should alter their own beliefs

For generations, women have been conditioned to play the weaker sex. Most seem to revel in their subservient role, especially at home and it’s a state of being they have found difficult to shrug off elsewhere as well. Maybe it is part of their defence mechanism. Do you really have to be physically stronger to stand your ground and retaliate when needed?

I know that’s easy for me to say as a man, but how many times have I seen this role-play. Who convinced them that they can only be feminine if they are soft-spoken, gentle and hence ladylike, whatever that means.

I still remember an incident during my college days. I used to travel by local train and one day as I was making my way to the platform, I saw the sister of a school senior being followed by a group of boys, who, I could make out from the distance, were saying something to her.

Even before I had the chance to hurry up and see what was going on, I heard her voice boom around the platform, “Don’t you guys have mothers or sisters at home? Is this how you behave with them as well?” Of course, they scurried away pretty intimidated. The girl in question didn’t lose an iota of femininity by making herself heard.

I applaud the girl at Howrah station

That was 20 years back. The situation has definitely worsened for women since then. The incident that happened at Howrah station recently didn’t shock me in the least.

Check here: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-24/mumbai/40771008_1_howrah-station-tv-anchor-subrata

What, however, gives me hope is the way the girl hit back.  To me women’s empowerment is not about having separate seats in metros, buses and trains; it’s about behaving like an equal and when needed putting men in their place. And that again is something I am sure they can do as well as anything they put their minds into.

–         Jaydip Sengupta is a sports journalist, husband and father