I do not know which is worse, a nightmare with monsters under the bed and witches with twisted feet, or your most irrational fears all jumbled up in a single scenario: Failure of career, loss of loved ones and eventually dying by Alzheimer’s.
But here is the thing about nightmares; you wake up and take three breaths and you slowly start coming back to reality. You can ground yourself by remembering that what you saw was not real.
But then comes the third category. When you see your past catching up with you, over and over again. Drama serial Dunk has triggered for me those kinds of nightmares.
I was supposed to write this weeks ago, but I did not know where to begin. I was still struggling with the triggering concept of harassment when they decided to throw in another trigger; suicide.
When Fahad Mustafa advertised his drama serial, he mentioned that five percent of cases of workplace harassment are false accusations and it is important to highlight those stories. I was pissed, of course. But I did, somehow, believed that people will take this drama for what it is, a sorry attempt to gain ratings. How naïve of me.
But then this happened. in my household, I heard these words being said: ‘Please change the channel. I do not like this drama. They are maligning an innocent teacher. How can a teacher ever harass a student? Anyone with common sense can see that these allegations must be unreal...’
I went upstairs quietly after that and stared at my reflection in the mirror for a long time.
The story of the drama is based upon real events. A teacher did commit suicide because of false allegations. Five percent cases, yes. When I bring up that percentage, I am told that I am delusional. Ali Zafar and Johnny Depp’s very dear and earned-by-hard-work reputation was ruined by women maligning them. So, this five percent needs to be addressed.
And what about that 95 percent? 95 percent of people do not even have a voice. Who takes in the harassment through their pores and lets it live deep under the skin until the last breath?
Those girls from that prestigious school who were being harassed by their teachers, what about them? No FIR was claimed. They were fired with a letter that made it seem like the firing was a hurtful tragedy. No mention of their heinous act.
And what about the teacher who groped me in his office while telling me that I am really pretty and if I tell this to anyone, I will fail my examination of that year. As a person who already has a troubled history with abuse, I froze under his touch. I could not move. I could not cry for help. I could not shed a tear from my eye because I just could not function.
Fortunately, someone came into the office and I ran away from there, leaving my bag behind. I have told this story to one friend to date. And that too because I ran into her and I was bawling like a baby. I begged her to get my stuff from his office. I kept my mouth shut for years after the event.
I am opening it up now because I am getting better at dealing with the trauma. And because I know I am not alone.
A dear friend was manipulated into joining a very famous doctor’s clinic as an intern. She was going through an ugly divorce at that time, and the professor found it as a perfect opportunity to squeeze her shoulders from behind while helping her examine patients. Kissing her forehead as a goodbye and then offering to drive her home was his favorite way to show ‘affection.’ She cannot let a middle-aged doctor of the opposite gender touch her now, even if her life depended on it.
I am not making this up. None of it. These things happen. More often than you would like to believe. And we stay quiet. Because we do not know what to say. We freeze. We are scared. We are reminded of our honour. And also, because we know we will be blamed.
‘What were you wearing?
‘Did you lead him on? No? Are you sure?
‘Why didn’t you defend yourself?’
‘No girl has ever complained about him before. And he has worked with many.’
‘Men will be men.’
Normalizing this behaviour then leads to men feeling entitled to other people’s bodies. And rapes happen then on motorways. And even then, we come up with comments like:
‘Why did she choose motorway?’
‘Why was she driving alone?’
‘Why did she not check the fuel before leaving?’
‘She left to see her parents without her husband’s consent. That has consequences, you know.’
I do not see how Ali Zafar’s career suffered. I still see him making songs and earning tons of money. But what I do see is a small girl in the mirror, who is still scared of naming the professor because it makes her feel ashamed. Because she has been blaming herself for too long and she cannot survive the idea of people blaming her too.
So yes, for every 10 allegations of harassment, 1 is based on lies. But for the love of God, pay attention to the 9 women (and men, mind you!) who are going through a deep ‘dunk’ into guilt, shame, fear, and denial daily.
Please and thank you.