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Arohi had first caught terror in the man’s eyes and then a sense of shame on being reprimanded in front of the crowd.
Arohi walked into her office, wiping the beads of sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand.
She was just about to sink into her chair. “Madam, Kiran saar wants to see you,” the attendant sneered, munching a chewing gum noisily.
It was just 6 months that Arohi had joined work after completing her B.E. She had signed a bond with the company for 2 years, and after that she aspired to pursue MBA in finance.
Everything seemed almost perfect at work except for her lecherous boss Kiran. She hated going into his cabin, but had no choice. She pulled up her kurta backwards, wrapped a thin stole around her shoulders, and tied her hair up into a messy bun.
She tapped at the door and entered his cabin like a rabbit entering a lion’s den.
“Good morning sir, you called for me?” she mumbled as he looked up and cast a quick glance at her covering every inch of her body from top to toe.
Arohi clenched her sweaty fist. She could hear her heart go ‘thud thud’ and felt everything go black around her.
“Come, take a seat. I must say pink suits your skin tone!” he complimented, his gaze resting on her chest. Arohi fidgeted in her seat, fixing her eyes on the table.
“I called to say your probationary period is over. You have picked up everything very well. If you have any query you can come to me. Any day… any time.” He stressed on the last two words running his tongue over his lips.
Just then his mobile buzzed and she sprinted out of his cabin quavering from head to toe.
Settling on her chair she wiped the tears of humiliation that had formed at the corner of her eyes. She clasped her sweaty hands together out of helplessness. She looked down to check if what she was wearing was appropriate. Her kurta was an XL size when she could actually fit into L, and the high Chinese collar covered her entire neck. It wasn’t revealing from any angle.
Tears tumbled from her eyes relentlessly. She clasped her sweaty hands together out of helplessness. Her head felt heavy and her shoulders drooped down as if accepting defeat.
“Amma, those boys loitering outside whistle at me, stare and sing songs as I pass them,” 12 year old Arohi had complained.
“Stop wearing frocks Arohi. You are growing up now. Wear cotton slacks and high collared t shirts. That will keep them away,” her mother had advised.
“Amma, I felt so dirty today. A guy tried to grope me in the bus!” 17 year old Arohi had sobbed.
“Why did you take the crowded bus? You stand in the front with the other ladies, don’t move towards the rear,” her mother had counselled.
Arohi had finally stopped confiding in her mother, as she made her feel that it was she who was always in the wrong. Arohi learnt it was easier to avoid sticky situations rather than confront them.
What had begun with compliments and ogling soon graduated to Kiran asking her out for dinner and sharing lewd jokes.
Arohi felt ill at ease. She couldn’t talk to her mother. She feared her mother would stop her from going to work.
Being an introvert she didn’t gel well with others, and so could not muster courage to speak out to the other ladies at work.
It was a routine that every Friday after work Arohi visited the market to take home fish for her dad.
As she stood lost in thoughts waiting for her turn to buy fish, her eyes fell on a guy who was leering at the fisherwoman whose saree pallu had slipped off her shoulders. Arohi felt a dirty feeling seep through her skin, and her palms became sweaty.
Within a fraction of a second she saw the fisherwoman stand up brandishing the fillet knife. Her red eyes widened and nostrils flared up. “You lecherous man! Lower your gaze! Now! Or I’ll gouge them out with this,” she thrust the big black knife forward. A crowd soon gathered .
The man’s face tuned ashen as though he had seen a ghost. Gathering his wits he scooted off and disappeared into the crowd.
Arohi had first caught terror in the man’s eyes and then a sense of shame on being reprimanded in front of the crowd. She was amazed at the way the woman had handled the situation.
The next moment the fisherwoman was busy filleting the fish giving two hoots to what had happened. Her attitude clearly said that she did not take even an ounce of responsibility for the man’s lewd behaviour. It was she who was wronged, and she had settled the matter then and there.
“Aaj Surmai sastha hai. Le lijiye madam,” (Today the seer fish is cheap. Buy it) she bellowed, bringing Arohi back to the present.
An engineer from an elite college had learnt a very important lesson that day from an unlettered fisherwoman. If her mother had taught her the same years ago, today Arohi would have been a totally different person. But it’s better late than never.
Arohi pulled out a sleeveless top and a well fitting skirt from the bottom of her cupboard. It had remained untouched for months. Though casual dressing was allowed on Saturdays, Arohi had never risked wearing it to office.
“Arohi, you forgot the stole,” her mother panted, running after her.
“I don’t need it today, amma,” Arohi walked out with the wind in her hair. The black clouds had dispersed and the sky was filled with pristine white, fluffy clouds.
A meeting with the HR team was arranged to discuss the changes they were planning to bring out for the forthcoming year.
Arohi leaned forward, resting her hands on the table, listening with rapt attention to the presentation, when she felt a hand grazing up her thighs. Without losing even a moment she jutted her elbow sharply into his chest.
“Ouccch,” he yelped with pain. Someone rushed to switch on the lights. Everyone present had a question mark on their faces.
Kiran had gone red in the face.
“This guy has been troubling me since the last 6 months. He tries to touch me at the slightest pretext. Day in and day out he sends me lewd messages. I have it all on my mobile. I feel totally disturbed. He made me feel dirty inside out. I want the management to take immediate action,” the lioness roared, widening her red eyes, getting out of breath with anger as Kiran’s pale face hung low.
“And you dare touch me again!” she thundered, thrusting her pointing finger before his face.
Kiran moved backwards. His eye lids moved rapidly with fear. He had not in the least expected this outburst that too from his timid, docile subordinate.
There was pin drop silence in the room. “It’s really very sad that a person at such a high post has been behaving like a rogue. Arohi, send me a mail with all the details. Mark a copy to the top management. We will ensure immediate action is taken against Mr Kiran,” barked the HR manager.
The attendant who had brought in tea looked at her in shock and quickly lowered his gaze. The tea cups rattled as his fingers quivered.
Arohi walked out of the conference room with her head held high. She felt as if a heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders.
From now on, it would neither be the dupatta, nor the stole, but the shrug of courage that she would wrap around her shoulders.
Image source: Zinkevych for Getty Images Pro Free for CanvaPro
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I am a home tutor cum home maker cum blogger. I enjoy reading and writing.
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