Men In My Life
It was barely a few days into my nursery class, part of the Delhi University campus – where my mother taught at a college, and we lived nearby in Rajendra Nagar at the time, that one evening I returned home to announce: “I will not go to school anymore.”
When repeatedly quizzed by my mother, who was rather puzzled, all I could blurt with the firmness of a three year old is: “I do not like the school, so I will not go to this school anymore.”
The next morning, my mother could not cajole, pressurise, or even physically compel me to get ready for school, much to her amazement.
Though by now, she knew how stubborn I could be as I had recently chucked a maroon knitted tunic out of the bedroom window because I did not like it. This was while she had gone for a bath, laying the dress out on the bed, to get me to wear it after she was ready herself. When she asked me where the dress was, I had calmly announced: “I have thrown it outside. As I do not like it and don’t want to wear it again,” and I even informed her on her angrily probing, that: “I saw a poor lady pick it up and walk off into the park in front.”
Mother in exasperation, my father lived in Calcutta then running his printing press there, marched me downstairs to our family doctor, an elderly Sardarji, Dr. Khanna, who was also our landlord. He had incidentally nicknamed me Tinku recently, as I was rather little he thought. Dr. Khanna advised my mother to spank me, and well she did do that rather well.
But now my refusing to go to school was quite another thing altogether. Mother was just contemplating going to Dr. Khanna to seek his advice on how to deal with me, when another Sardarji pulled up his white ambassador taxi in front of the house. This elderly Sardarji, drove a pool car for children to and from our homes to the nursery. On hearing the loud honking of the car, Ma dragged me down by hand and told the Sardarji that I was refusing to go to school. She sought his opinion on why that might be the case. She was to learn to her amazement and amusement – that angered me, that I was the only girl in the car packed back and front with boys, whom she now noticed.
“These wicked boys, pull her cheek, pinch her bottom and even tickle her, pull her hair.” Sardarji admitted after my mother’s repeated quizzing, while I held her hand, but refused to look at my bullies in the car who were grinning at me.
My mother and the Sardarji came to the firm conclusion that I would only sit in front beside the Sardarji from the day after. He was to ensure the boys did not bully me. Thereafter, I did not complain about going to school, as the little men did not dare trouble me again.
It was in the year 1997, a woman of 25 now, that I was to once again feel troubled by a group of men – all about 2-4 years younger than me then. This was, when at the airline I worked for and was barely into my second year, I was handed charge of an all new twenty-four hour reservations and ticketing office also the CIP/VIP handling cell, and a team about 15 that comprised of just one woman other than me. This office was isolated and in the annexe building of the Calcutta airport. Now need I explain to you, how much of a cake walk it might not have been, to get these rather smart young men, just out of St. Xavier’s college, to take me seriously as their boss and to perform? Well, those were some of the most trying moments of my life, but I think I fared rather well and we actually had fun going ahead. But I’d like you to imagine the circumstances to understand how tightly squeezed into a vial I felt by the teams dripping male charms, till I evoked so much smoke from my guts that their fizz settled down.
Since then, over the years, I have had several large teams of men and became pretty adept at reining in youthful male charms, to put to good work.
Now in the December of 2015, just last week, as a woman of 44, once again I felt intimidated all over again, as I did at age 3 and 25, by this deluge of men chasing me with FB messages, after I decided to make my profile more inclusive. I was so rattled by it, and even now am trying to calm my nerves, as the messages continue from those other than those I’ve been blocking all week now. But what troubles me also is my own reaction to this unwarranted trouble, after two decades of working in the public space where I’ve never been spared many a male smirk. Is it that I’m still carrying the male ghosts of my childhood when I was bullied by those little men in the car? I’m writing this now, ready to brace your amusement even, in publically burying the ghosts of my 3 and 25 year’s old fear of men that somehow tends to erupt now and again. 🙂 This is in spite of my usual bravado – or why would I have been trusted upon as a beginner, and numerous times after, with these teams of men to train and manage singlehandedly…Well I’m just trying to motivate myself here with the recall of being fearless. Hope on posting this, I’m relieved of my skeletons, and a brave woman emerges who no man can ever rattle again! 🙂