Shrink's Views

ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

eros@ergon.con*: a conversational story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 6, 2010

Recently an Indian CEO was sacked from his company because of a complaint of sexual harassment. He maintains what they had been in a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. This story triggered me to think on these issues.

Here is a fictitious story in form of conversations bringing out few issues which might have relevance to sexual harassment. I am no expert in this field. Though I have heard of many stories on domestic violence I have not heard much on sexual harassment. What I know is limited to conversations I have had with friends, patients and co-passengers in trains. I call the story “eros@ergon.con”.

*******

“Have you heard of what is happening?…This is bullshit going on here in our company.”

“I know. I work in Vicky’s team. I also know the reasons for all this.”

“What exactly happened?”

“See, Rashmi joined our team six months ago.”

“Is she the one we saw in the theatre last month?”

“Yes. She is the one. Remember, she was there with her boy-friend.”

“I remember being introduced to him. Ramesh is his name. He is in the accounts department…Ok. So, what did she do?”

“She has not been doing well in the job. Vikram had to admonish her for her mistakes. She felt offended. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Vicky.”

“Oh my goodness! I heard about that complaint but did not know the background. Anyone who knows Vicky can vouch for his integrity. It is terrible for his name to be stained like this. I wonder how he and his wife have taken this.”

“Rashmi has been roaming around with Ramesh whenever she is off duty. Their relationship is secret. Ramesh’s parents would never agree for their marriage. She is probably stressed. This gets carried to work. Instead of accepting responsibility she has used her trump card to defame Vicky.”

“Vicky’s name would clear off after the enquiries, but what about the trauma he is undergoing. She loses nothing for filing such a complaint.”

“She should be sacked for raising wrong allegation, when Vicky is cleared.”

“Some of these girls are crooked and some are just sensitive idiots. Last year, I had a complaint against me.”

“YOU!”

“Yes. It was a tough season. Our team leader Mrs Johnson wanted us to finish a job within 24 hours. She announced this at the end of the working day. It meant that I would not be going home that night. Our friend Raju was admitted in the hospital and I was to go to relieve his wife Laxmi for few hours. I was so pissed off at such untimely deadline, I pointed my middle finger as Mrs Johnson left the room. I basically meant **** off.”

“I can understand.”

“You have seen Swathi in the party two weeks ago. Didn’t you?”

“Oh! Is she the girl, who was sipping coffee when we were gulping beer in the party?”

“Yup! The very same girl. She saw my gesture. She went to Mrs Johnson and complained of this offensive gesture the next day.”

“Oh my God! What happened?”

“Mrs Johnson came and congratulated our team for staying up the whole night to finish the work. She also said that if we had not completed the job then she might have had to send us home to…as she said that she pointed her middle finger.”

“Really? She is cool.”

“We all had a good laugh.”

“Except Swathi…Perhaps.”

“We have to be sensitive to people around us. It is very true, but what if someone does not fit into our culture at all. What can we do if a person is overly sensitive? Thankfully Mrs Johnson is cool. If she was another sensitive nut, I would have had it.”

“It is a pity that Swathi could interpret a sign of frustration as a sexual gesture. But I respect her. She is good at her work and has good character. She is not like Urvashi, who sleeps with the boss to get promotions. In fact she has to do such shit to even retain her job.”

“Isn’t it interesting that everybody knows that the CEO is sleeping with a staff and nobody batters an eye lid. Urvashi’s father is a professor of Sanskrit and Indian Culture. I cannot believe how a girl like Urvashi is born into his family.”

“Who knows one fine day Urvashi might file a case in the court against the big boss for sexual harassment? Ha ha ha”

“Yes! The world would believe it to be harassment too. Poor girl…what other option does she have in this male dominated society…She had to do it…She kept it secret for long because she was stuck with fear…etc.”

“Absolutely true. These are bullshit arguments in her favour. She made her choice. She is doing this to move ahead in the corporate ladder and nothing else. If she really has some emotions for him, then she would realize with time that the CEO is just using her. Rashmi sleeping with Ramesh hurts the company in an indirect manner. It does not affect others directly. Urvashi’s sleeping with the boss is a lot different. She is growing in the ladder bypassing many worthy people. This would hurt the company more. Don’t you think so?”

“Incompetence and physical beauty put a girl at risk of being solicited for sex in her work place by people who can cover her incompetence. If she is ambitious, she uses her beauty to bait men around her to cover for her lacunae. I really do not think this kind of thing can be called sexual harassment. It is happening with the choice of the woman.”

“Whenever there is less difference between two people and the difference that a senior can make to them is huge, favours including sexual would tilt the scales. You can take the entertainment or fashion industry for example. At least this is not so much pronounced in our technological industry.

“True. In fact, the ones who can be considered as harassed because of sex like this are people like Mrs Johnson, Vikram and us. We work hard and finish our projects but we are sidelined to make way for people like Urvashi.”

“Hmmm…That is right. It is OK. In the long run we will catch up. So long as we enjoy our work and our compensation, why bother about others? Anyway, I got to go buddy. Bye for now. I will catch up with you in the mall this weekend.”

“Ok. Bye. Take care.”

************

(Inside a sub-urban train)

“Hey! What is up man? You look sad.”

“Sure. I do. I have reasons for it.”

“Want to share? You could…if you want to?”

“I got fired today.”

“Oh I see. Any reasons?”

“See, I am a laboratory technician in a college lab. I am in love with a final year student in the college. The college management feels that if they fire me they would send a strong signal to discourage romantic love inside the college.”

“Don’t mind this…Did you do something?”

“No…Nothing that you might imagine. We have not even touched each other. We know each other for the past three years. There was some Chemistry between us. We learnt more about each other over coffee. I proposed to her three months ago. She accepted. We have planned to get married after her graduation, which is two months from now…and now…I am unemployed.”

“What the hell is this? There is no complaint, no problem in your work or her studies, just arbitrary dismissal for being decently involved in love though there are marriage plans. This is surprising.”

“I am not surprised. Last month my friend gave a love letter to a colleague proposing to marry her. He got dismissed for this itself. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment.”

“Oh my God! This is ridiculous. I cannot stand this. Where do I go? Is there an escape from this kind of persecution? Looks like anyone can harass a man. A day will come when men file cases against men saying the boss is sexually harassing them. I have developed a phobia. I am going to leave working for a company. I will not start a company too, where I might have to employ people. I have to try my hand at politics. That is a safe place, where no one talks about even about the culpable ones. It is a place where the daring can brazen and the phobic can hide.”

“I don’t get you.”

“You don’t have to get me. Even I don’t get me. May be I need to consult my friends in NIMHANS $, Benguluru.”

*********

*

“Eros” in Greek means Romantic love

“Ergon” in Greek means Work

“Con” means

1. on the negative side

2. to trick; involve in abuse of confidence

$

NIMHANS- National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences ; a premier psychiatric facility in India

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5 Responses to “eros@ergon.con*: a conversational story”

  1. Ron said

    Good one!!!

  2. bhakar.ganta said

    Yuu mean the thorn gets hurt no matter whether the Leaf falls or not.I feel non-NIMHANS freaks,like Crick-Vicky like MSD, should wear the Central Fidelity guard, whether they play or not, as long as you are in the non-level playing field.

  3. RR said

    Read three times!! 🙂

    When read first felt like a movie script or gossip column. 😛

    Second time made me to think about the women´s emotional health in public places.

    When read for the third time , got bit doubts too

    especially when read that somebody was showing an “offensive” gesture putting woman in doubt and then talking what would they do if somebody is not fitting into their “culture”!!.

    Making me to ask a question in return,

    Who taught that woman that raising middle fingure towards her is an offensive gesture towards her!? Is she alone responsible for her oversensitiveness?

    Anyway thinking

    What if the workers were given an impression that there is no gender difference at work place!?

    What if the workers were given assurance that woman is not treated as a sex object?

    What if the company/coworkers did help in times of stresses and gave importance to the persons along with the work?

    What if the company made efforts to have good understanding among the co workers and cared their mental health?

    Need to doubt the moral values of the workers who are talking about a co-worker sleeping with their boss for career benefits!! Are they not too part of it as they are thinking not to put their jobs/promotions in risk by protesting the immoral things going on in their work place?

    Who is responsible for the troubles? Individuals or the society itself who induce to think in such ways and encourage the wrong doers silently?

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thanks RR for reading this thrice. Maybe even I have not read this thrice! I have munched on these concepts though. Let me answer you one by one.

      You have asked “Who taught that woman that raising middle fingure towards her is an offensive gesture towards her!?”
      No one need to teach it. We learn it along the way through the college education. We choose not to use such gestures or such words, even to vent our frustrations because of our cultural and moral backgrounds.

      “Is she alone responsible for her oversensitiveness?”
      I do not know if she is responsible for her oversensitiveness. She surely would have to bear consequences of what she does because of her oversensitiveness just as much as she would lead to consequences on others because of oversensitiveness. I assume we are using the word ‘oversensitiveness’ with a negative connotation, where it means being sensitive to one’s own culture and reacting through it and not understanding expressions of ones from other culture/sub-culture.

      I appreciate your thoughts when you raise these questions “What if the workers were given an impression that there is no gender difference at work place!? What if the workers were given assurance that woman is not treated as a sex object? What if the company/co-workers did help in times of stresses and gave importance to the persons along with the work? What if the company made efforts to have good understanding among the co workers and cared their mental health?”
      That would be indeed great if a company were to respect women and practice it. I do not think there would be a time when gender differences do not come up at workplace. The differences that exist are not necessarily bad. In many aspects their company tries to protect women’s rights, so much so that men can become scapegoats because they are men. Their sexual appetite is assumed, when a woman complains. Doesn’ it?

      Why do you doubt the morality of the workers who were discussing Urvashi’s behaivior? They never did any adulterous thing like her or their boss. You say they should risk losing their promotions/job by protesting immoral things going on at workplace. Please read my post on whistle blowers. By the way they are to protest actions against company policy or law. They cannot protest someone’s private behaviour. How can they? Is not bringing out private life of a person into public a breach on their right to individual freedom?
      I do not condone Urvashi or her boss. Both are equally responsible for wrong actions. I do not think these guys who were chatting had the authority to deal with it. May be there can be mechanisms to bring out this kind of things. I do not think they have been immoral in their silence.
      It is always the individual who should be judged. An individual’s behaviour can be related to social and cultural values. This does not absolve the individual of the responsibility of his/her actions. I do not think a liberal society can be blamed for sins/illegal acts of an individual.

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