I like to believe that we all have a ‘krantikari’ in us, that undying spirit of rebellion against all forms of injustice. I wasn’t always a vocal person, but I did have a krantikari moment when I lead all my female co-workers in a ‘Quit Company’ movement at a post-production house in Delhi back in 2012.
It was a small company – a start-up in addition to their core business, and the creative department consisted of around 7-8 stereo-compositors (that’s who I was, converting 2D clips into 3D), and our Operational Manager (OM), a middle-aged guy with a sweet little family, judging by the picture he had at his work-desk. The girls outnumbered the guys in our team and we had a good time coming up with different ideas and experimenting together.
One day, I called in my ex-colleague for an interview because she really needed a job in Delhi. I knew she wasn’t suitable for this role, but I called her nevertheless, relying on my OM to reject her after the interview. But to my surprise, she got selected instantaneously. She was made to sit near the OM so that he could guide her and within a few days, I noticed that she was uncomfortable in the office. I chalked it up as a newcomer adjusting to the workplace and continued with my work. My OM spent quite a lot of time at her desk, guiding her in everything.
A week later, I was surprised when she told me that she was quitting. When I probed, I was shocked to find out that our OM, the sweet family guy, was harassing her. He kept his hand over her shoulder, leaned in to show her something on the monitor. Sometimes he kept his hand over hers on the mouse pretending to show her something. He called her up at odd hours saying that he was concerned about her safety in Delhi as she lived alone. His conversations had double meanings and made her very uncomfortable.
This made me furious and I wanted to punch my OM. The other girls began narrating similar experiences during their training period. Even now when they sat beside their male colleagues, the OM sometimes came up from behind and kept his hand on their shoulders, or stood quite near, invading their personal space. When I asked why they didn’t say anything earlier, I was saddened to hear their answers related to the job crunch in Delhi. They thought they were the only ones facing this, so they decided to be silent but more careful around him.
After a brief discussion, we decided to tell the truth to the higher authorities now with everyone’s support. I walked to the OM’s desk to confront him and was shocked to see him watching porn right in the office!
The OM turned around and didn’t have the courtesy to hide the porn video even though he knew I could clearly see his monitor. There wasn’t even a dash of shame on his face when he said, “Good that you are here. I wanted to propose a new project. What if we convert blue films into 3D? I am sure there is a huge market for them because of the 3D monitors nowadays. What’s your opinion?”
That was it! The last straw. I told him to shut up, stormed out of his office, collected all the female colleagues and went straight into the company owner’s cabin. After the showdown, the company owner shook his head sympathetically and said, “I’m so sorry for what you all had to face. This shouldn’t have happened. I have known the OM and his family for the last 15 years. This is shocking.”
“We won’t work under such a man, Sir. We will quit the company if you don’t fire him.”
After a few more meetings, where the OM denied all accusations, the company owner decided to accept our resignations and vowed to never keep any female employees in his company because he couldn’t fire the OM due to his long association with him. Can you imagine the audacity?!
I still regret not filing an official complaint against those two men who thought that workplace sexual harassment was alright and the only way to avoid it was not to have female workers in their company. But the silver lining of this episode is that all the women who quit that day found much better jobs elsewhere and are now soaring high in their career. As for me, I left that industry for good because the next day I got a job offer to be an Editor at a designing company in Delhi, a career switch that I was hoping for. And that’s how my journey as a professional writer began.
It is a crazy world out there. We never know what’s happening around us until we or someone close to us comes across such creeps. Let’s all keep a sharp eye for these things and do not hesitate to speak up for our fellow women. Let’s strive to make this world a safe place for everyone.