Another political drama, that I inadvertently found myself in the thick of, was in the year 2005, in Kolkata. This was after the one I’ve narrated, among the varied experiences from my working life in my book “Existences” that I’m pasting below, that happened when I was with a top airline.
This incident I’m going to relate, happened after Durga Puja, when I was working for a reputed pan India jewellery brand. We had several ongoing marketing schemes at the time, reflected through billboards all over the city, also on every print and tv/film media channel. I had personally been on different Tv channels, both Bangla and Hindi, speaking and promoting our USP of the highest level of purity of gold in our jewellery, even demonstrating the same through random Karat metre readings, and of course promoting the brand in general.
I had landed at the Kolkata airport from an official trip to Bangalore, where the company has its headquarters. On the taxi ride home, intending to drop off my baggage and freshen up before going to office, as home was on the way, I received a call on my mobile from my office.
A senior staff, sounding quite agitated, abruptly told me, “ Ma’ am, the Park Street Police Station OC would like to talk to you.”
“What are you doing in the police station now?” I blurted, quite rattled, but there was only silence at the other end of the line.
“Madam, I’m from the Park Street Police Station,” the baritone stated, “I’m here at your office to inform you that a procession of 200-300 members of the “Gold Handicrafts Saviour Committee” (I loosely translated the Bangla name now) are currently marching with banners and shouting out aggressive slogans against you. They are all coming over here to meet you.”
“What? Meet me…but why…what for?” I said, then forcefully added, “Is this supposed to be a joke or what?”
“This is no joke ma’am. They claim that you have directly ‘kicked their stomachs’, by stifling their livelihood.”
“Sir, what are you talking about…” I retorted irritably. “What is this drama…what have I done to them…must be some mistake! But well, if they want to talk, I’m willing to listen to them.”
“We have obstructed the procession, marching all the way from Dharmatala at the Free School Street crossing…should we send the full force to you?”
I was pretty irritated by what I perceived as a provocative, mocking and condescending attitude, but in a calm voice I stated, “I’m on my way from the airport, and will be there in office in 20 minutes. Please bring only 3-4 of their representatives to my office and we can discuss.”
After the instruction, disconnecting my mobile in a rattled frame of mind, I immediately dialled my regional office, then the head of operations at the head office in Bangalore, and briskly narrated the weird position I was in. I was still having difficulty believing it myself, yet from both sides of the hierarchy, very calmly and with much faith I was told to go right ahead and meet the rebellious procession’s representatives to first figure out what they wanted from us. But though my seniors had immense faith in me, just as they had shown me since I joined the company and for which this has been my most gratifying work stint, even more than the airline, I was of course extremely nervous. The very idea of 200-300 people marching up to meet me in my office in Camac Street, even in the presence of my quite large team before Diwali and the police forces…it was a daunting thought to meet those whose livelihood I had apparently slashed!
But the meeting with the leaders, which was centred around our brands transparency of processes and candid assertions that was to soon change the culture of gold and jewellery buying in India, went off rather well and politely so, with 3-4 senior cops as intermediaries to every point, on my request. This political committee a wing of the ruling CPIM party then, wanted us to pull off all our TV, Print and Radio advertisements on our education on the need for transparency in the purity of gold purchased that happened to highlight the lack of transparency in the local production process, which was used to mixing a lot of alloys vis-à-vis our 22k or 18k pure jewellery. Also that our Diamonds came with certificates on the clarity, colour and size, which was exchangeable at appreciated prices like no other company did at that time.
It was after the police and the group left, after I had served them tea/coffee and our always used Chocolate Bourbon biscuits; that several TV channel crew dropped in without warning. Out of which two channels were supposedly specialists in sting operations, that I wasn’t aware of. They harassed me, throwing abrupt, ridiculous and provocative questions, leading me on with words and sentences to suit their planned narratives, while I tried to answer nonchalantly into one camera mouth piece shoved at my face after another. I began to feel like I was a suspect who was about to be media tried and put behind bars, as a cruel witch who had slashed people’s stomach/bread and grabbed their sustenance. I tried to be as calm as possible thinking that if I was honest and forthright these Tv journalists would treat my words with respect.
But suddenly I began to feel I was being framed as the questions began to get personal, like they needed to throw my flesh to the waiting audiences on that evening’s prime time, who would bare me and then pounce on every inch of my unsuspecting plight for their quota of entertainment.
But I realised this, only after a senior staff, who had been trying to signal to me for a while actually sternly blurted out to me, “Ma’am please DO NOT say anything more…these are sting operation channels and are just trying to provoke and heckle you. You are Live!”
I just froze, shut up, turning my back involuntarily, frightened and humiliated by the immensely disrespectful attitude – like I was a thief, a bank robber, a suspect who would soon be arrested!
The first thought that came to my mind as I was shutting myself out from these crocodiles trying to get more of my flesh, was the gaping and shocked face of my father…he was always so proud when I came on television! But this, in case he chanced upon it, would destroy him, before he knew what was going on…
What was I paying for…escalation in TRP of the channels our company never advertised in…an innocent looking chorni is great entertainment! 🙄😜
This is an absolutely true story!
PS: The incident that inspired me to write and share this now, is in this link – https://www.facebook.com/422992421102114/posts/3182154418519220/?extid=JN0jtd52PpLBcwqR&d=n
Below are the three facebook posts that preceded the above one today…
Watching Kangana Ranaut’s real life ‘panga’/rebellion on TV, with the political bullies, this true story from my book ‘Existences’ came to mind. Though I’m not one to ever trouble Trouble like her, in fact far from it; I’ve always had Trouble troubling me. 🤔
Sharing an excerpt from my true story, “Stand Up to Bullying”. The first photo from 1998, depicts me at the precise place and around the time of this incident. The photo in the car, also from the same time illustrates all the threats to smash me and my car on the way or blow it up in the airport parking. I used to park right in front of the parking ticket counter to ensure someone didn’t tamper with it.
I’m hoping that you see that fact is stranger than fiction!
Shocked, or am I… that BMC has carried out it’s threat, by actually demolishing Kangana Ranaut’s Mumbai office. I have had my reservations on Kangana’s constant outspokenness, with all my experiences, now that I’m way older, but this act, also of them now charging her on drugs usage, has actually made me so livid as to mentally become her defender now! The likes of Sanjay Raut and his petty goons do not require much psychoanalysis to figure out. Neither the Shiv Sena’s history of crude aggression any justification. Yet I didn’t imagine this crass behaviour from a government in power!
In this true incident I narrate in my story
here, I had been similarly threatened – that they would pull down my office totally, because I dared defy them. But then better sense had prevailed, perhaps because I would not have been alone, as this was my company’s office which at the time had enormous clout to pull them down for destruction to their property, even if I was to be destroyed for life personally.
I do not usually comment on politics even if I’m quite well versed, but on patriarchy and women’s empowerment that comprises a lot of my written work via my five books, I must.
I’ve lived the fear, which is still so real in my mind, ref the two previous posts…and cannot help thinking that if Kangana Ranaut didn’t get and land in Mumbai with Y category security, wouldn’t they have aimed the guns on her person, rather than her home and office?
The Mumbai govt. by their uncontrollable rage and demolition of her office and home, actually justified the privilege given to her that everyone was challenging so vociferously. Yet we women, especially the so called intellectual female opinion makers of Bollywood who were ‘smashing patriarchy’ all day yesterday for Rhea Chakroborty who is after all an accused if not proven so, do not recognise this vendetta as patriarchy more than political. ☹️
The fragile male ego cannot handle a bold and powerful female personality and will go to any length to crush her spirit completely. That’s the inherent male chauvinistic streak that many still try desperately to camouflage.
The likes of Sanjay Raut and his petty goons, do not require much psychoanalysis to figure out. Neither the Shiv Sena’s history of crude aggression, and goondaism needs any justification. Yet I didn’t imagine this crass behaviour from a government in power!
What irked me more last night, was Rajdeep Sardesai’s stupid questions on Kangana, his reasoning in defending Rhea and his uncontrollable smirks …🤨
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