The Curious Case Of The Judge And The Intern.
Disclaimer….Although this looks like a long post do bear with me and read on for the juicy parts come right near the end. Releasing for the first time on the Internet the secrets of the casting couch and candid confessions.
Every evening when i return home from work i switch on the TV to relax a bit before sleep. I mostly avoid watching news channels as they tend to be repetitive and loud- all of them dealing with the same “breaking news” issue and screaming people on TV is the last thing i want to watch after a stress filled day at work. Last night I accidentally switched over to an English news channel and as i passed over all the news channels in rapid succession they were all screaming and pontificating on the same issue- no, not about Salman Khans miraculous virginity- the news was about the complaint filed by the former intern of a retired judge who has accused him of sexually harassing her during the course of work. As I watched disinterestedly all the media persons were screaming about stringent punishment for the retired judge for rape which only proves that the talking heads on national media are poorly educated and cannot differentiate between workplace harassment, sexual harassment and rape- each one of which is a completely different issue.
Now, workplace harassment is one of the most commonest things we face (everyone faces) in employment- – it includes sadism, favoritism and outright abuse of power sometimes. And the thing about workplace harassment is you can take it on the chin, bitch about it and still continue to work there. But sexual harassment is an entirely different kind of fish. Any sane person’s first response to sexual harassment at work is to flee from there – career prospects notwithstanding. After all if you are intelligent and talented and believe in yourself- no single job is necessary for you to survive – you can always explore alternate options rather than submit passively to the worst kind of torture. No job is more important than individual dignity and self respect and sanctity of your own body.
But if you make the choice to continue in the job despite the harassment then it means only one thing – that you are willing to compromise for your career. No amount of bleating about it and complaining later on – in this case after more than two years- is going to change the fact that at the crunch time- you made the decision to put your career ahead of your dignity and opted to adjust rather than complain. To complain later on about rape- when you no longer need that persons help in your career – is an insult to all those honest women who put their self dignity above any temporary advantage in their careers and took a principled stand against harassment. Is an internship which is an unpaid, voluntary, not explicitly required part of a degree worth all the pawing and fondling for months together? I just don’t get it- maybe i am a different breed. But who am I to complain about the farce of it all? The media has decided that the girl is right to raise it now (after all these years) and the all-powerful media is never wrong is it? I just hope that real feminists who fight against real harassment do take note of this. Such selfish behavior is what spoils the entire fight for justice, doesn’t it?
The reason I am so worked up about this issue is I had an almost similar experience when I was a young stripling looking out for some off-college practical training. The medical profession in India is almost like the Sicilian mafia- you have to be born part of the family to belong. As a first generation entrant to the profession i found that the lack of pedigree/influence meant there were no takers for me even when i volunteered to work for free. Almost all of my course-mates had a family member (fathers) in the same profession and they just had to pick up a phone and make a call for their children to win internships. And as an outsider i had to depend on pure dumb luck to land one. And so when I heard about an opening with a famous lady surgeon in Anna Nagar, I promptly turned up (at the break of dawn- early bird gets and all that) to beg for an opportunity to train under her. The only time she showed any interest in my interview was when i mentioned that my hobby was dance and I was proficient in salsa and other Latin forms (remember- I told you this was in long bygone days).
Anyway after assisting her for a couple of days i had a weird experience on my third day at work. After the work day was over and all the patients sent home and i had cleaned up and got everything ready for the next day, my boss who i had assumed would have left for home by then came back inside the operatory and locking the door behind her she switched on the music system with a personal CD and then dimming the lights, started swaying and gyrating in front of me as if in a trance with her eyes closed and her body moving provocatively. As I stared flabbergasted and unsure how to react, she moved closer to me and said “you told me you were a dancer too, come dance with me” and she held out her arms to me.
Orders are orders and when your boss asks you to hop to it and dance you just dance with no qualms. But i had not bargained for such an intimate dance as my boss held me close to her and bumped and grinded her body with mine. Remember that I was barely out of my teens back then and I didn’t have much of a mental control over my raging hormones and so I should be excused for the immediate reaction of my body to this close intimacy with a female body. I was a raging bull in seconds and the fact that she was actively encouraging what was going on (responding equally) very nearly made me lose my control and only the sudden remembrance that this was a woman who was old enough to be my mother brought some much needed sanity to my hot blood. And in that moment of sudden clarity I thought through what this meant- I may be an unpaid servant but if I gave into her wishes I would just be her kept man – the equivalent of a male whore. That sobering thought cooled me off instantly and I hurriedly disengaged from the salsa embrace and protesting “Ma’m its very late, I will miss my last bus home” I ran away from there without a second glance- as if the devil was after me. I never went back to her after that- even though whenever i pass through Roundtana and look at the name board of her clinic i sometimes wonder which unfortunate guy is dancing to her tunes now.
To tell the truth- the casting couch is not really limited to the film industry. It is quite common in India- happens in every profession and to everyone- both female and male. It is sometimes considered as the fastest and easiest route to professional success and there are people (some few) who actively look forward to persons in power with a roving eye to notice them and then plan to utilize them as the much needed elevator while others take the stairs. Sometimes you can’t but wonder how far you would have come up in life professionally if you had not kept your zip locked up tightly. And at other times your pride re-asserts itself and you are glad you didn’t sleep with someone who tried to use you just because they were in a position to do so. And at such times you can look at yourself in the mirror with quiet pride- knowing the truth that you never compromised for anything.
Which is why i say that the time to protest sexual harassment is the very first time it happens and not years later. But if you keep quiet, accept things, finish your internship, get the internship certificate from the very same person, get recommendation letters from him to prestigious US universities, (as reported in the very same media) get free admission/fellowship/scholarship from US universities based on those strong recommendation letters obtained by keeping mum to the harassment and then after you have used up all he gave you and the old lecher had retired and is no longer of any benefit to you – to complain then after two or three years means that you are not really serious about it and never were. To use a well worn cliché- it’s not Cricket.
So what do you think? do you think the intern blameless? (Like the media does clearly -for you must have noticed that not a single media person has asked her about either the delay or those recommendation letters) Or do you think both of them are equally at fault? One for exploiting his power and the other for exploiting his weakness? And whoever is to blame do you think that all this hysterical media-lynching is justified? Doesn’t the national media have any other worthwhile issue- like the state of the nation, its economy, the Chinese aggression on the border to report? Why do they look for soft targets and beat a dead snake? Is this issue worth 24/7 coverage on ALL CHANNELS? Do let me know your thoughts.