If a popular stranger agrees with every word you utter, you should be worried!
With the social media breaking in to frenzy attributing to a recent case about sexual harassment in workplace (though the allegations remain yet to be proven) I feel, the subject itself, was a can worms waiting to be opened. Let’s face it, being women, we simply have no choice but to be approached by all kinds of men looking for certain ‘incentives’ in our workplaces or otherwise and we have hardened ourselves to that fact that this is the way it is going to be because this is the way it has been! Their ways may be overt, in-the-face-annoying or subtle, owing to the varying levels of ‘sophistication’ of the individual in question but the subtext remains the same…and why just workplaces, were women travelling by themselves not considered soft targets for male intrusion, I wouldn’t have dedicated an entire recollection on the subject!
INT. AIRPORT/PLANE. IRRELEVANT!
For a woman, it is as easy to ward off unwanted attention from someone unacquainted to her but how do you stay unruffled from someone you know exists but are not acquainted with, especially when you have a majority of hyperactive onlookers heaving in his vicinity but he decides to ignore them all and prefers to close in on you? If only the airlines that provide a choice between Business and Economy would provide the same for ‘whether you wish to be disturbed by an over-friendly stranger or not’! Well, as the planes queuing up on the runway took off one by one, I finally felt the engines of our aircraft roaring and whirring like a newborn wailing with all the strength he can gather! In the backdrop of the setting sun, the plane rose from the grounds to disappear into a thicket of clouds – a perfect shot to describe many a moment from a typical Bollywood flick that come tugging at one’s heartstrings. Our Bangalore bound flight had just settled itself in the company of cottony clouds still soaring to meet the required altitude while the seat belt sign still remained switched on. What seemed like the giant roar of the engines commissioned to tear through the skies not too long ago now looked like a docile duckling merrily wading through the uninhibited sky space occasionally getting swayed in the breeze.
It was in moments like these when I heard people’s laptops being revived and over-active kids jumping into action that I would tell myself to snooze a little longer so that the bout of dizziness I would experience during take-offs could slip away sooner. I had opened the tray table to cushion my head, deciding to close my eyes once again when through the corners of my peepers, I spotted a facial towel held in a stranger’s hand moving speedily, aiming to land in my lap! My entire frame bounced sideways to decipher the situation. Wasn’t he the same bloke who was beaming like a lighthouse back at the airport? Especially, when the women began to speak in hushed tones wherever he passed by? I wondered what must he be doing here or rather, what was I doing seated next to him? Frankly, neither did he look any less of a commoner nor did I seem awestruck by his seemingly celebrated persona! I accepted the towel from his hand, a gesture that decided the fate of my siesta for my co-passenger was looking for ways ‘interesting’ ways to initiate a conversation. No offence but once airborne, I simply love to sleep and wake up to a thud, so much for the touch-down moment!
After exchanging courtesies, the vacuum that filled the air was again replaced with ho-hums about the weather (the easiest conversation-starter ever) being the best somewhere in the north of England. Since I hadn’t visited, I plainly nodded hoping he’d take the cue but looks like there’s a reason why some people do not give up easily! The ‘seasoned’ ones as we know them! He was under the most definite impression that I would jump in my seat hearing about his upcoming Spring/Summer collection that was taking him to Bangalore for the ‘…….Fashion Week’. As happens with women when discussing couture, a part of me did loosen up and I brushed my initial reluctance aside to converse about people and the cultures inspiring him to keep inventing, reviving older traditions and whipping up new collections for the ramp every now and then. I made it a point to carefully state that I am more a lover of textiles than trends! After all, nothing comes in the way of delicate and demure chanderis on a breezy summer evening. After all, it is the timeless appeal of our Indian fabrics and weaving techniques that have gracefully weathered the onslaught western influences. Though am equally in love with denims, willowy summer dresses and the appetizing LBDs, by the end of the day, I do have my bias in place! I could see he was listening intently, tapping the rims of his spectacles. Finally he gave his verdict on the greatness of our Indian weaves. How gharchola, banarasi or kanjeevaram weaves could be converted into western dresses but those inexplicably elaborate satin gowns couldn’t be indianized with the same finesse. Whoever heard of lycra or spandex in saris unless you traded your creatives with your eccentricities and saved a flowery speech for media bytes! Hold on, instead of retaining his previous stance, why did he choose to agree with me? Hmm…if a popular stranger agrees with every word you utter, you should be worried!
By the time the dinner was served, he had had a fair understanding of what a Technical Consultant did for a living and how Chandigarh, her hometown, was one of the most beautiful cities of the country! We spoke of Rumpy’s dhodha – the most authentic version of dhodha I have tasted so far, endless orders of the best tasting indianised-Chinese from Chow Choppe, how Sukhna Lake forms the most frequented spot of every health aficionado, tourist and a small-townie newly-wed couple alike. And of course, the inevitable, the city’s damsels! I was watching this man getting bamboozled by the winsomeness of les femmes fatales of my city – there are very few times men speak from their hearts, watch them admire a woman for her beauty and you’ll know what I mean! 😉
Like the rest of the passengers, we too, moved on to desserts and coffee. The conversation that was sweetened by indulging in sneak-peeks into each others’ lives, maneuvered towards rocky plains as he seemed to over-familiarize himself with the nitty-gritty of my life – work hours, the evenings after work, beach Vs mountains, plum Vs peach, weekend plans er, this Saturday night’s plans, dinner or a few “after-dinner-laughs” maybe?! I chose to don my rare ice-maiden self but my insides were cringing at his miserable advances! Deep down, I wondered just what made his flamboyant self think that he could sweet-talk me into a date? I seriously wondered why is it so difficult for men to be nice to women without hoping for any kind of ‘incentives’? Looks like he simply refused to acknowledge anything beyond his own voice! And obviously, I should have nodded in agreement to return the favor! Honestly, I was only looking forward to some decent conversation to kill time, exchange pleasantries and walk my way out after we landed.
Women sure can look innocent but that’s that! Sensing that his carefully-constructed conversation had no taker in me, he shifted gears to talk about technology (!), fancy gizmos and while trying to whatsapp me his business card (I am a celebrity – switching off phones during the flight is uhh.. for the commoners!) I wondered what makes people of a seemingly higher ground think they can pick-a-chick by throwing in a certain twang to their heavily accented lingos?
Well, the announcement for landing was made. Cabin lights switched off as the seat belt sign was shining green once again. I was glad that the flight was coming to an end as I prepared myself to be woken up by a thud. Guess the thought of a good nap didn’t elude me this time around! With the tray table closed, I leaned against the window, my peepers shut pretending to have hit the perpetual dreamland already! As the plane began its descent, marked by the quintessential stillness in the air jamming my ears, it reminded me of Vin Diesel saying,
~ Being a male is a matter of birth; being a man a matter of age; but being a gentleman is matter of choice. ~
Do you know any remedies to cut down on this self-obsession except an obvious kick in the butt? The journey ended and so did what had reduced to a mindless banter. Well, recently, I noticed I still had the number and hadn’t cared to delete it, until now!