Sunday, July 10, 2011

who is this union minister?


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Pervy Politician need to get his act together

Sunetra Choudhury | Sunday, July 10, 2011
How is it that I’ve been a working woman for the last 12 years, that I am a post-graduate from a reasonably good college, that I have journalistically handled stories about sexual harassment quite frequently, yet I’m unable to identify it clearly as it happens?
Let me just recount the events of the past week to help you understand. I’d been chasing a politician for an interview which he was avoiding. It wasn’t really a big, exclusive interview. He’d spoken to a rival channel and made wild allegations, and my editor wanted me to interview him as well. Dogged as we are, I landed at his place after he’d dodged my calls for 24 hours. I patiently sat with my cameraman while his flak catchers told me how busy “sir” had been all this while. “Sure, I just need five minutes,” I said.
“So, you’ve managed to track me down,” he announced as we entered his study, accompanied by his young, female assistant. “But, sir, isn’t this the first time you named him?” I asked. “Well, you know, if you were to share a bed with me, then at night I’d be grinding my teeth and saying his name as well.”
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Now, unlike many other journalists, I am not on back-slapping terms with any politician, least of all this one. I had heard that this one liked the ladies, but had never experienced his glad eye. I don’t know whether I was too focussed on getting my interview, or whether I was so relieved that I wouldn’t have to hear my editor banging on about not getting it, that I actually laughed at this comment, noticing in the midst of this giggle, that my colleague’s eyebrows had touched his receding hairline. I got my interview and was also regaled by the pervy politician’s other stories — how he would go to an unsavoury politician’s party because he got lots of women to show their legs and cleavage, how some woman danced the kamasutra dance for him and other lascivious tales.
“You should have told him,” said my older, wiser colleague, “You should have said — is that what you say when you’re sharing your bed with your wife? Do you think he would have the balls to say this to a male reporter?” Suddenly, from being an empowered woman of the world, I had just become a victim. I didn’t even have the nerve to tell my colleague about the nervous laughter I had delivered instead of the tongue lashing the perve deserved. Maybe, a part of me just dismissed it as the mindless utterings of a foolish old man who was as helpless about it as he was about gas. Maybe, I was too shocked or not clever enough for a comeback, or maybe it had just happened too many times to all of us and we can’t be bothered with confrontation anymore. It was just easier to ignore it.
Isn’t that why my colleague was stalked with text messages from a cabinet minister and still felt hesitant to complain? Isn’t that why a few years ago, when I was told by another source in between a story that it was the right biological time for me to have a child, I let it pass as acceptable conversation? Do you think I could have handled it assertively and yet not let it have disrupted my work? You tell me, I don’t know. I just hope that Mr Pervy Politician and his brigade reads this piece and is bright enough to figure out that I’m outing all of them. They should desist the next time, though, it’s unlikely they’ll only get a giggle.
Sunetra Choudhury is an anchor/reporter for NDTV and is author of the election travelogue Braking News 

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