Updated: Dec 16, 2019
I love my gym. It is my happy place. I’m one of those people that will make time almost every day to go – whether it’s for 20, 40 or 60 minutes. Since I go at more or less the same time every day, over the years, most faces have become familiar to me. I smile, but rarely stop to chat, finish my work out and get to work. The last thing I wanted was a disruption to this routine.
And yet I filed a complaint under POSH against the gym and shared it on social media as well. I won’t go into the details of the case here as they are reproduced at the end of this / available publicly. There were some people that believed that I did this in anger, out of helplessness, or because I had a vendetta against the gym for their indifference. Others suggested that I just move gyms, or not make a fuss unless someone actually touched me.
I’d like to explain that none of these was my motivation or option. My motivation was my obligation – I thought that if I, as an educated, liberated woman could not speak up for myself and my sisters, then the status quo could only continue. I am also a wellness coach and strongly encourage young people, men, and yes, women, to get fit, to exercise. I am also a law graduate, with an understanding of the POSH act. I’d like to clarify that none of these is essential for any employee of a company to speak up and demand that the management comply with POSH, as it mandated under the law, for any company with 10 employees or more. This will ensure that workplaces become safer for women, and for men, I hope.
We talk so much of our fundamental rights under the Constitution. Do we ever stopped to think about our duties? Our duties as citizens, as parents, as professionals, as members of our community? I felt I was also setting an example for my children and the students I work with.
I knew that speaking out would mean my stepping out of my comfort zone. I knew that there would be a cost to pay for calling out the perpetrators. I knew that this could mean the disruption of my ‘happy place’. But in my experience, I’ve learnt that the fear of repercussions is, most times, greater than any consequence that actually follows. And I knew that the price for not speaking up would be far, far greater.
I’ll quote a poem that was created by a German pastor – it was a confession about the cowardice and inaction of the upper middle class, of the intellectuals, of the clergy, during the Holocaust.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Lastly, I will add that I have always believed that action is the best antidote to despair. India is a country that was able to leapfrog several steps in the development of a nation. We went directly mobile without even setting up a landline network. Farmers can today check the weather and crop prices on their phones. Surely then, we can leapfrog the trappings of patriarchy and outdated attitudes of our parents’ generation. But that requires action – on each of our parts. We cannot assume that our duty is done once we pay our taxes (if indeed we do that). Each of us has a duty to do what we can. Helping even one other person is better than helping none at all. And if we do nothing, when they do come for us – all we can do is blame Modi!
This is a response to my decision to file a complaint against the gym chain I am a member of, as a result of their inaction in the face of complaints of lewd behaviour of members and staff of the gym towards women. Excerpts of this post are featured on rainmaker.com