The Power Play: At Her Feet

A story of defeating toxicity.

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TNI Bureau: No matter who you are, or where you belong, your dreams will always follow you, like a wolf chasing its prey, slowly but cleverly. I was no different. As a child, I was often told that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. You see, life isn’t exactly like the movies, the ones with the money aren’t always a brat. People usually tend to think that since the richer section has the money their life is easy, this is exactly the point where most of the difficulties begin.

I was never the class topper, but I always had decent grades. Since a very young age I had narrowed my focus on art and literature, these two subjects gave me immense pleasure. Whenever I dealt with these two subjects in particular, it never felt like I was studying. So, I followed my passion and completed my graduation in English and masters in Advertising and Management. Then, I joined The Ray & Co. as a junior graphic designer.

Well, for the introduction, I am Ms. Indrakshi Ray. The company I used to work for is one of the biggest marketing agencies in Eastern India and belonged to my father. Thus, the silver spoon I had mentioned earlier. On joining the company I often got to hear, how lucky I was to have a secured job, with ample chances to make mistakes and “learn”. Honestly, I never wanted to join my dad’s company. I have pursued two courses which are very dear to me, and I have done this only because, these are the two things in life which has always led me to myself. I did want to design and help, I did want the freedom to make the designs for the marketing campaigns, but I wanted to earn it, instead of getting it as a favour from my dad, because at the end of the day, it is what matters is what I made out of my life, isn’t it?

So, after putting in substantial amount of thinking I had dropped my resignation letter at The Ray & co., and walked in at The Sanders Marketing Agency, about a year back. This is where my life changed, it almost took an 180° turn, and I landed up in a place where I never thought I could be. Life is indeed unpredictable. The past one year, had been nothing short of an adventure. My company wanted me to join their Chennai branch, so I had to make a quick shift from Kolkata to Chennai. After settling down, the real struggle began, to do every tiny bit on your own is never easy. After a long tiring day, I had to come back to an empty apartment, with a heavy workload. If I wanted a cup of coffee, in the middle of the night while working, that also I had to make for myself. There was no one to tell me that it is late and I should stop working and go to sleep.

My mother often said that girls are born with power and capabilities beyond their imagination, and trust me when I say, the way I had been juggling work, and home, it was indeed beyond my imagination. Some days I enjoyed the peace, quietness, and the “me” space, my apartment provided. It gave me such joy to call the place ‘my home’, to have had decorated each nook and corner with my own hands, was a dream come true! But, there were also days, when I wished my mother was there to give me a hug, to tell me that everything will be just fine, or perhaps just to give me her famous hot oil massage.

However, the major reason for most of my headaches for the past one year was my boss, Mr. Chowdhury. He made sure that I had to work twice as hard as the other employees, in particular the male employees. He made sure that I was loaded with work from the minute I stepped into the office, and kept the workload at its peak, until the end of the day. He also looked to the fact that I didn’t go home without a lot of work. It was like being at school all over again. I came back home with a bag full of homework, everyday and as a grown up, also stress. Even after being over burdened and almost crippled, I had never missed a deadline, and never failed to provide creative and unique content. However, when it was time to talk about promotion and decide on who was going to lead the graphic designing team for an upcoming project, I was left out of the list.

All my male colleagues got their promotion letter, and one of them was chosen to lead the team for a project, whose presentations and designs were made by me. This was outrageous and absolutely intolerable. Whenever I had tried to say anything to Mr. Chowdhury, about discrimination, I was often stopped by my colleagues, who chose to say, “You were born in a well-to-do family. You had everything you wanted very easily. This is real life, it is different from the safety your dad’s office provided. Stop being so whiny.” But, this was way more then I could take. So, I had confronted my Boss.

“… no no! You can’t speak to me like that. How dare you question my decision!”
“I am not asking any unnecessary questions, sir. I need to know what my fault is. Why people working way less efficiently are bagging the place, which I rightfully deserve.”
“So, now you are going to decide who deserves what.”
“No, sir. But, I have worked for this. I have seen the others’ work too And why just me, everybody in this office has seen. So, I very well know what I deserve. I think you are just discriminating and that is very unhealthy for a work place.”

“ Oh, please! Shut up. You are a girl, learn to be polite and learn to obey. That is exactly what your kind is born for. We need a smart face to lead the marketing team for the project. We can’t opt for weaklings like you. Can you prove yourself to be half as good as the selected one, Mr. Ankush?”

His words had me fuming with anger. I had no problem, doing all the work, and sometimes even extra work. However, I did have a big problem, when somebody, cuts me off the list just because I am a girl, which era are we living in?! Is it really the 21st century, or are we still in the 19th century. Without thinking much, I had answered,

“Yes. I can and I will prove myself to be way more worthy than the one who has been selected.”

“Ok, then, I challenge you to take part in a Game, where there will be three rounds. First, Word Power, to check your vocabulary and command over the English language. The second round will be Debate, the topic will be shared 30 mins before the event. This topic will check the logical understanding of your brain. It will also see how convincing you are. Last but not the least, will be the Physical Combat round, to check your strength and quick presence of mind. Are you ready for this?”

All of the information was very difficult to take in at once. But, I had come way too far to just back off.
“I am ready. But, I have only one condition, I will be competing with you Mr. Chowdhury, and if I win you will pay for each and every humiliation that you have thrown at me. Are you ready for this?”

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“You just made this very difficult for yourself, girl. When I win this, you cannot even imagine, what is going to happen to you and your apparent career.”

The Word Power, and Debate was held right way. I had fortunately won both the rounds. To be honest, it wasn’t very difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed playing these two rounds, just like I used to do in my school days. During my school days, I was one of the best debater in my batch. I had won many inter-school competitions. So, the first two rounds were a smooth sail. However, I was most definitely worried about the Physical Combat round which was to be held the next day. For starters, I never had professional training in any physical activity. All I know is that I have somewhat quick reflexes and a brain which has proven to be smart quite a few number of times. That is all that I have in my bag for the last round.

As I walked into my office, today, all eyes were on me. Some were sympathetic stares, some were irritated stares, some just didn’t care, and some were jealous stares. However, I couldn’t find one comforting stare, or something even close. I don’t know what is ultimately going to happen, but I am not letting this go without a fight. Before lunch, everyone gathered on the terrace. In the centre of it was a big circle. Seriously! Wrestling. The ‘what if s’ were now hovering my mind. To be honest, I was a little bit scared. But, I knew I have to win this. At 1.00 pm Mr. Chowdhury and I entered the ring. The rules weren’t very rigid, rather they were very simple. There were three rounds of a minute each. At the end of each round the player who remained inside the ring, or the player who could successfully pin down the other player for 30 seconds, won. The moderator blew his whistle, and we stepped inside the ring. Beads of perspiration had already formed on my forehead. I was determined to win a game, that I was almost bound to lose.

After, the end of first round, Mr. Chowdhury won, by pinning me to the ground for 30 seconds. Everyone was cheering on him, and I could almost see the twinkle in his eye as if hurling some humiliation at me already. If the game went on like this, I would most certainly be the loser. The first game taught me one thing, he was way stronger than me physically, so, I can’t possible pin him down. The next option was to throw him out. If I plan my movements in my head a little bit, I could easily throw him out. So, my plan was pretty simple, don’t go near him, provoke him to come at you, when he chases you, move away as swiftly as you can, and tire him out as much as possible. There were two possibilities, either while coming at me, he by mistake steps out of the circle when I quickly move out of my spot, or by tiring him and pushing him to throw him out of the circle.

Both my plans actually worked. I made him tired and exhausted in Round 2 and finally pushed him out of the ring. It’s 1-1. He looked dejected, but his male ego still persisted. Round 3 began. I was more determined. This time, not just tricks, I wanted to use my physical power too. I pounced on him with a roar. He was scared. I punched him hard on face, kicked him in his shin and grabbed his hands. He was clueless. I twisted his arms, kicked him in his knees. He fell down. Once he was on the floor, I jumped on his chest and belly. He was in terrible pain, screamed. I had no mercy. I stood on him. My left foot on his neck, right foot on his chest. It was all over. I won the physical combat 2-1. And, the battle 3-0..

I was so happy and ecstatic, that I couldn’t stop smiling like a fool. But, now was the payback time. Mr. Chowdhury came and shook my hand congratulating me, and making me the leader of the group for the project, but, this wasn’t enough. After a year, all I get is something which was rightfully mine all along, and a congratulations? No way.

“Mr. Chowdhury, wait. You can’t leave just like that, after creating a havoc. You haven’t just insulted me, you have insulted every single woman who has been working with you for so long. Your masculinity is toxic and so are you. You don’t get to walk out. Kneel down.”

“What?! Do you even realize what you are saying?!”

“Yes, I do. I have won this for myself, and each and every woman employee over here. Kneel down before me, and all of us. Place your head at our feet. Just like the demon Mahishasura had to accept his defeat and bow down his head at Devi Durga’s feet, you have to do it too, because within every woman resides a Devi; an all powerful Shakti. Apologize for insulting us, for demeaning us, for keeping us away from what we deserve. Accept that I have the skillset and ability to be where I am. Do it. Right now. That is what I want, for winning this game.”

Everyone was stunned. One by one all the women employees came and stood behind me, as Mr. Chowdhury knelt down, and placed his head at my feet. He was evidently uncomfortable, but did it anyway. With a smile on my face, I picked his head using my feet while he looked with shame.

After a long pause, he said, “I apologize for thinking less of you. I agree that you have the capability to be where you are. I am sorry.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chowdhury. From next time do remember that you might bear the title of “boss”, but I have played against you and defeated you in every round, so you should know who is the real boss.” 

And, he just nodded, accepting my supremacy forever.  His ego and arrogance breathed their last at my feet 

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