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#MeToo The Smooch

About Soumyadipta Banerjee

Soumyadipta Banerjee is an Educator, Mentor, Public Speaker, Senior Journalist, Lecturer,Media Consultant. He is the Founder of bollywoodjournalist.com

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Being part of a college administration has its share of good and bad points. While most of my work can be clearly divided into good, bad and ugly — there are certain functions that I cannot classify into any one of them. It remains in a grey area that I haven’t been able to decipher in the last 10 years or so, since I have been interacting with my students.

This function is that of an agony aunt. It’s kind of a grey area and weighs heavily on my heart and soul. Every time a student walks into my cabin with tears in his or her eyes, the ensuing conversation starts nibbling at my heart.

I can see through their agony and there are numerous times when I feel utterly helpless because I can do nothing for them.

This is one such story of a student who passed out three years back. Anivash Tekchandani. I had taught him in class and I remember him to be a very naughty kid but full of life and enthusiasm. .

Avinash joined as an intern in a leading Product driven company and he was soon transferred to the social media team where he interacted with the General Manager (Marketing) of the company on a day-to-day basis.

His job included organising marketing campaigns across the social media pages of the company and bring all important customer queries and feedbacks to the general manager.

The General Manager met him every day, first thing in the morning for half an hour.

Pooja, the General Manager  was 33 and married to a man who was an activist-writer of sorts. They had a daughter together. Avinash was 23 and exactly 10 years younger than Pooja Mitra.

That evening, sitting in my office, Avinash bared his heart and soul.

“For the first two months, the meetings were usual and without any event. She kept on listening to me for five minutes and then politely asked me to leave. I could understand that she was not interested in what was happening on the social media pages because she was more concerned over her revenue targets.

However two months later, everything changed when she was taken off from the direct marketing team and was told to create a department called market development.

As it happened that only one person and one function was spared from the direct marketing team for her. And that was me. It basically meant that she had nobody else but me to work with.

She had a great challenge before her. If she could generate enough support for the marketing team then she would be able to get a huge promotion and if the department failed, then she stared at an opportunity to lose her job. Technically she was the only earning member of the family since her husband stayed at home, had a home loan on her shoulder and a school-going daughter.

Two days after the transfer, our first meeting lasted for one hour. Two months later, we were travelling across the company’s branches together, staying in the same hotels and sticking together for almost 10 hours in a 24-hour-day.

She started opening up more towards me.

She spoke about her husband and she confided in me about how she didn’t appreciate a nagging “housewife” like him and was planning to leave him soon. She had also started drinking in the evenings whenever we were out of station. I gave her company even though I never drank.”

I knew Avinash wouldn’t. He a fitness freak. He carried on.

“Three months later, as we were celebrating our “success” in an office party, she kissed me in a moment that I will cherish for life. It happened on the dance floor and she leaned towards me and nibbled at my lips as we danced. She was high and I immediately held her with both my arms to prevent her from falling.

We started having a full-fledged relationship even as we travelled more together.

Kissing became so routine that we weren’t even bothered about who were near us. We used to go pubbing whenever we went out of station.

One day, I got a call from the HR manager of the company early in the morning. I was asked to report to office immediately.

When I reached her office, I was shown a mobile video clip where both of us were kissing on the dance floor. It was 10-second mobile video where we were kissing for exactly five seconds. The video was shot from her back so my face was clearly visible. I was holding her from the back — one hand on her back and one hand on her waist to prevent her from falling. However, while looking at it, I realised that it can also be interpreted like I was forcibly pulling her towards myself because she had already lost her balance in the five-second clip.

The conversation with the HR went like this.

HR: Is this your photo?

Me: Yes.

HR: Are you kissing Ms. Pooja Mitra here?

Me: Yes.

HR: Is she high? And you don’t drink, right?

Me: Yes to both.

HR: Is she kissing you? Did she give her consent in this act?

Me: Yes.

The HR took out a mail : We are sorry. Read Pooja’s mail here, dated yesterday. She clearly told us that you were forcibly kissing her and not only that, you had forced yourself on her on numerous occasions. You took advantage of her when she was drunk. She has also written that she could never approach the Sexual Harassment Committee because she feared that she might be victim shamed.

The HR paused before she spoke again.

You are put on suspension, pending further enquiry by the Committee. Stay on, the next meeting will be with the Committee in one hour. Just sit inside the Conference Room, and you are not allowed to leave.”

The Committee found Avinash guilty and sacked him in one hour. He was blacklisted from the company and a police complaint was filed the same day by the company against him at a nearby police station. Since, there was an FIR lodged, the matter was referred to the local court.

As Avinash sat down and cried profusely in front of me, I looked at him in utter despair. I was helpless.

The court found Avinash not guilty, three years later. He was honourably discharged.

By then, he had lost his job, his dignity, his career and enthusiasm for work.

He was also a patient of acute depression.

 

*True Story; all names changed.

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