It was a slow day in office. It was Friday. Normally I would have looked forward to the weekend, but because I dont have any plans nowadays-it seemed bland. I was in a workaholic mode ever since my boss had come back from the USA. So much of the work which had been lying around since a week needed to be finalized now. And on top of that I was sleep deprived and frustrated.
Anyways, after getting a back massage from the spa nearby in the break hour-I happily nibbled on my salad. My colleague and I had a normal chat. She complained how dead and unsociable the office was and I smiled and said that this was the factor which made me like it in the first place. After lunch, we had a short brainstorming session with our boss who had to leave for a meeting. The creepy dude who acted and looked like a Tamil Bollywood villain was back. He was the brother of the owners office(which we were renting for free as a non profit), wore jet-black sunglasses indoors. Smoked the strongest nicotine cigarettes I had ever smelled and ordered people around. Our first dislike with this dude started when he paid for my lunch without asking me. It was not a courteous move or a display of chivalry. He had said in the most sexist, demeaning voice, “Aap Kahan upna lunch dengi?Main dedeta hoon(How will you pay your lunch?I will do it). I was pissed and elated at the same time. Not paying for lunch meant less money spent but then what the fuck was this tone? Anyways, my colleague insisted it was not okay, and we immediately complained to our ED and Boss on the office group (our boss was abroad because of a family emergency). They said they have told that person to not have any further interaction with us, although he couldn’t be kicked out because the reception was co-owned by both the parties and he was the brother of the owner’s office after all. We were like okay, and other than being bothered by his strong cigarettes’ smell-he didnt rankle us.
Yesterday he came back again. This time our Boss was in the office but had to leave for a meeting. This time the Creepy Dude (lets just call him that) was not alone. He was here with a younger man who looked quite young( must be in his late 20’s). As soon as our Boss left, I had the doors of the reception closed for privacy. Through the crack in the glass door I saw how he noticed that. I ignored his hideous face and went back to work. I had to work on a report for our donors. But suddenly his voice had magnified to a 3x volume. He was demanding the price of a van for a trip up North and bragging about being able to afford it even though it was very pricey.
Then the younger guy started bragging about having vodka at Marriot Hotel and losing his senses. I smirked at my colleague, I had never heard a more attention seeking display of testosterone- money and cars. Their entire past conversation had been about this. At some point I phased out but something caught my attention. They were using the feminine noun but not for cars-for people. “Once you are done with them, you should not really bother to take them somewhere. Just get rid of them”. My first reaction was to snort. Were they talking about their girlfriends. Who would date these ugly assholes? But then I started realizing the conversation was about sex workers. They were talking about hiring them, how to not impregnate them and get rid of them easily. How women were just sex objects who should be disposed once you are done with them. My eyes had widened at this point, why were they talking about fucking women in this crass manner knowing fully well that two young women were sitting right next to them. I know the locker room talk exists. I know most men talk about women as sex objects behind their back-but at least not in front of them???What was this shameless and blatant assertion of masculinity by a middle aged man towards two young women?
At some point my colleague could not take it anymore. She had goosebumps on her arm. She wanted to leave immediately. Our cars weren’t here but I thought of going to the mart instead. We peeked into our male colleague’s cubicle. He was ensconced safely in the chaardeewari (four walls) with his headphones in his ears. Either he was too busy in his music to notice or he did not care or he did not know what to do. He was quite a sheltered person in my opinion and I had no clue what I would expect from him in this situation.
We walked outside the office. The Creepy Dude had gotten up. He gazed at me from his jet back glasses and I felt myself squirm. His glasses were so dark, I would never know if he X rayed my body every time he saw me.
As we walked out, I realized I was not as affected by it as my friend seemed to be. She said how she cannot discuss this with friends or family because they might freak out. She also said that she had never encountered such crass talk before. I was slightly nonplussed. Of course you dont discuss such things with your family as a brown girl, but why not with friends? What sort of friendship has takalluf in it? I told her that I will definitely discuss this with my sister and my friend. Although I have only one or two friends, I am comfortable discussing whatever comes to my mind with them. And I was not shocked or surprised like she was. I had heard my van driver talk about the girls he dropped on a daily basis like he considered them hookers or something-just because they had boyfriends. I had heard my cousins explain to my brother on the night of his wedding, “How he was the King and had to deflower his wife”. It was a disgusting sight. Was that all marriage meant to men? A sexual conquest. As if this is not enough, we have surely heard dear Trump talking about grabbing women by the pussy. I was not at all shocked by the demeanor of the Creepy dude. Infact, it was still less crass than what I had heard at a local podcast which played a voice recording from an incel group. But the audacity of talking like this right next to women seemed deliberate and too disgusting to digest.
We concluded that we will complain about it to our Boss. And also to our ED-who was a woman. He had to stop interacting with us and sharing any space with us. Amidst all of this, it dawned on me that the greatest tragedy of the gender binary was exactly this. One had sex and the other received sex. One was the reproducer while the other discarded their seed into them. One was commodity while the other colonized. At the end of the day, this is the whole point of masculinity and femininity. And this is why any relationship or person who wanted to defy this dichotomy was punished. My gender studies professors had tried to drill this into me but it was only now that it made sense in my brain.
And the greatest tragedy was that they have reduced sex to a conquest. Taken out all spirituality from it. And it is the white man who did it. And now after coming up with floofy terms and terminologies of inclusion, they are trying to tell us how barbaric and conservative we are yet again. Khair, that is a conversation for another day.