By Nisha Susan
Perhaps a part of me is still fond of you and that is why we are having this conversation.
You say you are surprised you are being accused of sexual harassment. It’s true that on some days I remember what you looked like when you were 20 and feel a pang. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is war and I will have to deal with seeing some of my male friends fall. Because long before this war was declared women were falling from, what they call, friendly fire in American war movies. Killed by a friend.
Our male friends have been killing us a long while but in the evenings after the conch shell was blown, we met to eat and drink and yes, sometimes we even cooked. Sometimes even you cooked and were praised for it.
I should have known. This is petty but it is an excellent predictor, I’ve come to realise.
1. You never laughed at the jokes any women near you made. You alone had to be the one who sent ripples of wit and sexual frisson into the crowd.
2. You could never ever see a woman blowing candles out on a birthday cake without yelling blowjob, blowjob.
3. When I told you about the really excellent idea a young fellow I met at a party had told me, because of which I was filled with excitement about how this would fix our project, but you got up and said, “How is he in bed? That’s what matters.”
4. The women you were excited by seemed to get younger and younger. And you never wanted any of your friends to meet them.
5. You walked up to your women friends who were organisers of events and said, “I see you have managed to make sure that there are no good-looking girls here.”
6. You thought that MBA tshirt (Married but Available) was funny.
7. Every time I expressed my admiration of that strapping actress with the gorgeous face, one of you said, she looks like her father in drag. Another time you said, “She reminds me of the Haryanvi saying, tu itni sundar hai toh tera bhai kaisa hoga?” Perhaps you liked only women who looked breakable perhaps you had an inkling and were afraid that some woman would turn around and give a good go at breaking you.
8. When that story made the rounds that you told someone that you had cheated on your girlfriend but got her a cool job to make her go away quietly. You knew that forever and more she would be the one who only got the cool job as compensation for your wandering penis but what did that matter?
9. You liked to call and text women at 11 pm. Sure, it was often not sexual or romantic but why was it the interns and the junior staff?
10. Every time women talked about the sexual harassment law you started talking about how the law misses nuance, humour, innocence, natural rhythms of the man-woman relationship. Like we women haven’t been screwed with natural rhythms.
11. Every time women talked about sexual harassment you stretched back in your chair and said something about how you knew that in this particular case the victim is a little bit crazy, you know, and made your pinch-of-salt face.
12. Every time women talked about sexual harassment, eventually you’d tell that story about how you felt your woman boss from that time was coming on to you.
13. That one time you talked about how worried you were that employers in India were going to stop hiring women.
14. When you commented every morning about my clothes and told me that I need to improve my wardrobe to get ahead in life.
15. When I noticed that the only kind of feminists you like are the ones your mother’s age.
16. When you said that sometimes you wonder whether we really need feminism in India because our mothers are such strong figures.
17. When you confided that #MeToo has made you anxious about going to work because ‘nowadays anything can be misconstrued’.
18. When you tried to pit the woman who worked with you for ten years against the younger woman who worked with you for six months as if it was a joke.
19. You continuously told ‘scary chick’ jokes about that woman in your office who didn’t seem to be a big fan of yours. Jokes that made her sound off in the head.
20. Actually, why is it that all the women involved with you go off their heads a little bit?
Perhaps a part of me is still fond of you. But you know, we are having this conversation only in my head.