Below is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, “Entwined Lives” – to be released in Jaunaury/February 2018. Please click on the photo of the book’s working cover (unfinished) to read the synopsis/blurb to understand the context of the excerpt.
I’m sharing this now, right after reading Salma Hayek’s story in this link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/13/opinion/contributors/salma-hayek-harvey-weinstein.html?smid=fb-share
“But why do so many of us, as female artists, have to go to war to tell our stories when we have so much to offer? Why do we have to fight tooth and nail to maintain our dignity? I think it is because we, as women, have been devalued artistically to an indecent state, to the point where the film industry stopped making an effort to find out what female audiences wanted to see and what stories we wanted to tell.” – Salma Hayek.
Chapter 17 Power Is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
Once on the stretch that led to the MRC Nagar main road, Sujata was relieved the traffic was still not heavy. She continued to drive with the car’s windows down, craving fresh air after the raging turmoil she had felt in the chilled luxury hotel room. Going over the events that had just transpired, Sujata wondered if there was anything she could have done differently, to prevent this revolting fiasco. After much thought, she concluded that there wasn’t, except for not going to his room alone, even if it was on business.
Whether it is sexual harassment, rape, or attempted rape, they are all about asserting power that demeans and threatens the victim’s self-worth and crushes their soul. It then leaves the mere ghost of the victim’s former self, to deal with the world’s accusatory fingers, and frail attempts to nail the culprit. This explained Sujata’s attempt at normalcy of behaviour in public, even after the atrocious outbreak.
Often, one will come across a man in power, chasing a woman whom he thinks he can win over with his seasoned charms, but if not, he will resort to persuasion and bullying. Such men cannot take ‘no’ for an answer, as it hurts their fragile egos. They have usually got all they’ve desired in life, and are used to having their way with women too often. And thus, they do not understand that when a woman says ‘no’ … she means so. A man who then stoops to sexually harass and bully doesn’t realise an unresponsive woman is not flattered by his interest, neither will she succumb however powerful or affluent he may be. She might be ashamed, humiliated by his undue attention. It takes moral strength and the nerves of steel to ward off a man with immense social power, more so if he is her superior at work or even her husband’s. A woman then cannot even easily talk about her predator to anyone, as she is blamed for how she looks or dresses, and might have acted to allure him.
Then even the law will ask a woman for physical proof of having been sexually harassed, which is more humiliating in recounting, let alone proving. Thus women, often in saving their dignity from further abuse, after already having had it crushed, tend to be quiet on the matter. How would they go about proving it, and who would believe them, they fear. Their well-meaning friends and families too will advise them not to take on such a powerful and socially respected man. Thus, Sujata was afraid no one would believe her! To make matters worse, in her case, she was not even sure if she could relate this incident to her husband, for fear he might blame her instead and make her feel cheap. How could she relate this to her parents or sister either? They would surely say it was her fault for going to the man’s room, knowing how he bragged of his escapades with women. Little would they understand that she had never imagined being the victim of a much older family friend she had known since her youth.
Sujata went over the last two meetings, when she had met him along with Anand. There was no way of telling he would turn out this way. She cursed herself repeatedly now for going up to his room. But this could have happened at any other place—in her office or his. You cannot be suspicious of the world at large, of all men all the time, Sujata judiciously concluded. Yet she was convinced that such issues need to be dealt with severely when they do arise, in an attempt to reduce the sureness and guts of such people. She would talk to him firmly. It’s just that she would first allow herself to heal from the blow and the resulting emotional fragility before doing so.
PS: To read the vividly sketched circumstances, the story, that leads to the end of the chapter in the excerpt I shared above, and more such intense stories in the lives of working women with aspirations, please get your copy of “Entwined Lives.” 🙂
An excerpt from the NewYourker link above…”Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women,” she wrote”:
In Entwined Lives, this is also precisely what I tried to project, responsibly, on a topic that’s usually not discussed, leave alone owned up to, in the supposedly conservative psyche of the metropolitan Indian.
Quoting from this article again: “Critics see the high rates of casual sex as an “epidemic” of sorts that is taking over society as a whole. Hookup culture, we hear, is demeaning women and wreaking havoc on our ability to establish stable, fulfilling relationships.”