Ladybird Writes

Sexual harassment at the workplace can assume a myriad chilling and predatory forms. Siliguri-based Independent journalist Anuradha Sharma describes the decade-long stalking and telephonic abuse that she was subjected to by her senior.

MeToo logo by Manjula PI have been very closely following the #metoo conversations going on in social media. One hell of a triggering experience it has been. Just so many women, bearing the scars that I’d been trying to hide all this while. Hugely triggered, but I still didn’t feel like sharing anything. I had nothing new to add, and I had deadlines to meet.

But then the phone rang, and everything came flooding back. And I had to write this. I write without taking names because it does not matter who the abusers are; what matters is what they did. I only want to tell you about the hundred and ninety-ninth way one can get sexually harassed by work seniors.

It was some time in 2008, the year I shifted to Kolkata, that I first got a call asking for Ladybird. Initially, it was just one or two, and then the frequency of daily calls increased. They came at all times of the day, especially in the night. So, I saved the numbers as X, X1, X2, X3 to know not to receive them when they came. They wanted to speak to Ladybird which, or who, I wasn’t.

Then one night, a caller asked me: “Rate kya hai (what is your rate)?”. I was on night shift, busy making pages. “Kis cheez ka (for what?)” I asked back mechanically, and while I tried to make sense of the conversation, something kicked me in the guts.

The next morning, I began calling these numbers one by one. Most did not take my calls. The first one who answered asked to call later— “now, I am with family”—but on being pressed with a stern, no-nonsense voice told me where he got the number. “The toilet at Haldiram’s restaurant. But I brought it to the notice of the management and asked it to remove it from there,” he said. Others spoke of tea shops, a sleeper coach of an express train, public toilets and so on. Someone had scribbled my number, alongside ‘LADYBIRD’.

All these guys had been calling me fantasising about sex with Ladybird. Whoa!

Read the full story here.