35/100. As I crossed the age of 35, I noticed a lot of changes in the way I was – primarily in the way I reacted or did not react to things, events, people. Some of this happened naturally, some of it was hard-won…

One of the most important changes was my reaction to offensive, embedded mindsets and attitudes that would make themselves known inadvertently by supposedly educated people.

Earlier, I would try to reason, to argue, to engage in debate – only to get increasingly frustrated, sometimes to the point of tears. The last few years, i just note. Then, instead of involving the person in a conversation, I make my point of view known and step back and disengage. I observe instead – and try and figure out what might have led to this. And I file it away.

I am not talking of serious issues like sexual abuse or sex-selective foeticide or domestic violence. I am talking of little things – such as the way, in all the offices I have worked in, at least one of my male colleagues has felt entitled to make disparaging remarks about what a female colleague was wearing or the way she was looking. Now, you might say, if compliments are welcome, why not criticism? Well, just like get genuine compliments are welcome and not lascivious ones, similarly, a simple ‘ this does not suit you as much as that’ is acceptable while a wrinkling of the nose and a ‘you look so weird that I cannot work next to you today’ is not.

Once upon a time, my answer would have been – and was – “my job is not to increase the pulchritude quotient of the office.” Now, it is a simple – “Thank you. Consider this part of your training.” Yes – you read that right – training. Yes, it does mean that this was said to me recently by a young man who reports to me. Yes, he is barely in his early twenties. Yes, our office is informal. And yes, he says this to the other women on the team as well. Just like ten years ago, the other bachcha in the other office felt entitled to say.

Ten years ago, the objection was to me tying my hair in a ponytail – because I looked prettier apparently with open hair. Two days ago, the objection was to my gray hair and white sari. It apparently was my bounden duty to look ‘nice’.

So here it is. Gray hair tied in a ponytail. Worn with a white georgette saree. Standing up for my right to look ‘unpretty’. And my right to officially pull him up for this – after all, I am his first boss. My bounden duty to make sure he learns his job and what not to say to colleagues in his later jobs. No? 😊

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