16 October, 2017

Me too.

It's the day before Diwali and my Facebook is filled with 'Me too'. An awakening for all of us about how many around us have been assaulted, be it verbally or physically.

Well, me too. Yes, me too. And I'm typing this because seeing so many people say 'Me too' has actually given me the courage to say it out loud as well. But just saying me too won't do.

It happened to me when I was working in Hyderabad for Google. I was living with 5 roommates in a 3 bedroom apartment. It began with the landlord giving me phone calls in the middle of the night. He would call and sound drunk and slurry and then talk in Telugu. Step one, I changed my number. It began happening to another room mate of mine. One Saturday evening, he visited the house in the context of collecting rent and stood there for a while. That's when we decided we all had to move.

End of the first year in Google, I moved in with another friend to a 2 bedroom apartment. The landlords were senior citizens and the house was silent and peaceful. Four months into this house, my friend has taken a trip to Bombay for a weekend. My 67 year old landlord knocked on my door and asked me if I had had dinner. Well after all the niceties were exchanged, he handed me a bunch of CDs saying I could watch Hindi movies while I was bored. I thanked him and shut the door. After a few hours I decided to watch one of those movies on my laptop and opened them. To my shock they were all X rated porn movies. In my head the only calculation that was happening was 'how can a 67 year old man who has just married off his daughter do something like this?' It was way close to midnight for me to leave the house. Also I was too scared the bugger would notice me leaving. So I decided to stay in and leave at the break of dawn. Meanwhile, I searched inside the house for any kind of hidden cameras in both my roomates's bathroom and mine. None to my relief but not entirely relieved till I leave the house.

Hardly slept, I left the house with a suitcase enough for a week to a friend's house. She lived with her father and I knew I was safe there. Come Monday, I reported this to a very friendly HR person at Google and the house was blacklisted for any Google employees to stay further. Brokers who led employees to this house were all called and warned and the HR handled it well. We moved again. This time to a building that had loads of Googlers so we had familiar faces around all the time.

This incident has me shook to the core even now. Other incidents on trains, roads and buses I have handled on the spot by either chasing the guys away or screaming for attention. But a 67 year old man shook the core of my inner strength that day.

I've had conversations with people about many things but I haven't had the courage to talk about this to anyone except the HR person and my husband who was my then best friend.

It's important to speak out. It's important to face it. It's important to deal with it. It's important to share. It's important to understand.

I have in my life the best of gentlemen in family and friends. Gentlemen who know how to treat a woman right and to respect her for who she is. The same reciprocation applies. The men I know open doors for women and also allow me to open doors for them. They always ask me to sit in the last chair and will oblige to take it if I insisted. Treat other's how you would like to be treated. Be it a man or a woman. I'm thankful for the men in my life who make everything great. But because of men like these sleezeballs, I choose to be a feminist.

Today, I've killed the demon that has been eating inside me for 8 years. Indeed a Diwali. Speak out.

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