Saturday, Oct 01, 2022

Man Enters Lift With Girl. Discuss

The situation. The scenarios. The choices.

The Situation: Man enters lift with Girl, at a resort hotel. Man forces intimacies upon Girl. She protests, reminding him that she's his employee at a well-regarded news magazine and his daughter's best friend. He persists until Girl finally runs out. Traumatized and furious, she consults her friends. In the meantime, there's an exchange of text messages between Man and Girl in which he refers to the incident in veiled terms.

Scenario One: She leaves the resort immediately, citing ill-health. Once work resumes, she confronts Man. He claims total memory loss. However, in view of her very obvious distress and his own text messages, he agrees to give her a generous severance package and excellent character references in exchange for her silence.

Girl's friends insist she must go to court. She decides however, that this will only cause terrible harm to her best friend, besides exposing herself to the corrosive scrutiny of India's conservative society. A month later, Girl has a great new job and gets on with her life though she is no longer friendly with the family.

Scenario Two: Girl crawls back to her room and cries herself to sleep. But the next morning, she sees events in a different light. What he did was creepy, sure, but they were both somewhat tipsy after a whole day escorting celebrity guests. 

Yes, she reports on women's rights and in particular on sexual assaults. But in this case, Man had been foolhardy and offensive, but not violent or abusive. Everyone slips up sometime. Maybe this was his time. Maybe she even led him on just a teensy bit. So she decides to do nothing. Her friends are infuriated. They insist that she owes it to all other women, to force Man to face up to his crimes. He should be exposed as a dirty lecher and be pushed off his high moral perch. Girl shrugs and says, "Yeah. Whatever. Not my scene." And moves on.

Scenario Three: Girl spends the whole night carefully considering her choices. Man has a reputation to protect. She could make life hell for him, if she went public with this story. Does she want to, though? Not really. The next day, she tells her friends that she can no longer remember anything of what had happened the previous evening.

When Man repeats his advances, she doesn't resist. They enter a brief dalliance though they both realise the age difference doesn't favour him. The affair ends on amicable terms.

Scenario Four: Along with her friends, Girl decides to plot Man's downfall. The lack of evidence means that she really needs him to attack her at least one more time. The next day, when they're both sober, they enter the infamous lift again and he makes a second attempt.

Girl turns on her cellphone's video-camera but Man grabs it instead. He accuses Girl of trying to entrap him. Everyone is aghast. Girl is sacked at once and vanishes in disgrace.

Scenario Five: The next day, still very angry and confused, Girl nevertheless goes about her duties at the venue. She wants to prove that she's a hard-working professional journalist but later in the day Man forces her into the lift again. She repulses his advances. Unable to contain her anguish, she tells his daughter, leading eventually to a media melt-down that persists to this day.

Cartoonist and playwright Manjula Padmanabhan is the author most recently of Three Virgins and Other Stories, Zubaan books