Wrote, deleted, rewrote, backspaced and finally could gather the emotions together to be able to write it down. “Sexually harassed, troubled and compelled to resign from my position (Amita Ghose, Correspondent, Calcutta Times)” read my complaint letter. Several communications to the authority was made by me and I still can’t find the answer to WHY AND HOW a repeat offender continues to enjoy his status and power?
I think can go on for about 4 lakhs words to explain how I felt, what I actually went through, how horrid it was to face abuse, attempt to physical assault by the other women in the presence of the so-called editor in his cabin itself, how it felt to be treated like a furniture in office for long six months, how hard it was to remain unemployed for 8 months, how terrible it was to face the passionate journalist just turned into a sleeping pill addict every morning in the mirror – but I think I should not. Rather, ‘Mudde pe aatein hain’.
As I mentioned earlier I was severely harassed and bullied by Editor Calcutta Times Satadru Ojha and his female clan which had (still have maybe) three women actively and others passively. Before I get into any detail I must mention, who this Ojha and his girls are. Ojha is a repeat offender of “alleged” sexual abuse and workplace harassment. Quite a confident man by talks because obviously, he has a team of women to support and hide all his sins.
Many mistakes of mine at Cal Times: I could not ‘please Ojha’. I could not be below average to please his female clan as well. Ojha’s late night calls were addressed with only professionalism. His lame sexist, lewd jokes were hardly entertained by me. Also, I could not be cool enough to entertain Ojha by accompanying him to various places.
And the biggest mistake that I committed at Calcutta Times was to fall in love with a freelance photographer. Yes, it was my biggest mistake. Afterall Ojha is used to having all the women at his service how could I ignore his calls and mushy talks and fall for a mere temporary employee? So, not only my career and life was crushed but also this innocent man who happened to like me. Situations were created in a way so that either of us was forced to quit and exactly what happened. My boyfriend had to quit. Ojha might not be very happy to know that we are still together and plan to be together FOREVER.
As I may fall short of words to explain the despair and agony. The torture that I went through. To enlighten you with what had actually happened in a very crisp manner I, here, am sharing my complaint letter to the sexual harassment cell of BCCL.
Here I wish to tell you all that happened to me and how I was forced to put in my papers. After several sleepless nights, bottles of finished sleeping pills and a lot of anger and pain, here I decide, I should write this. Though I am leaving I don’t want another girl to go through this hell again. I was not only harassed but was pushed into the shallowness of depression. I was publicly abused, humiliated and assaulted causing me unbearable mental agony that affected my health. This is a vicious cycle of sexual harassment at the workplace by the boss aided and abetted by the women who form a part of his coterie. Thanks to Manager, Calcutta Times, Satadru Ojha and his female brigade including Z**** **n, S*******a M*********r, R**** G***** and others (who played active roles on and off).
I had been working as a correspondent with Calcutta Times (Joined Delhi Times as a Trainee reporter in Early 2015 and had taken a transfer later in the same year in December due to my father’s prolonged illness). I hereby seek your little attention and request you to give this letter a 7/8 minutes read to know how a group of bullies have been bullying new comers in Calcutta Times and making their lives difficult and leaves scratches in their hearts forever. These culprits and their deeds should be known all across the bosses and editions.
The initial three months:
My initial days in CT were not bad at all. I was given many opportunities by Mr Ojha and was allowed to explore work opportunities in any and every possible fields. Things were all right, until I started getting midnight calls from Mr Ojha asking “Kono chaap nei toh? Kono Osubidhe hochche na to? Life e sob kichu thik ache? Tumi amake bolte paro’ (Asking me if there’s anything wrong in my personal life and seeking some inside news as well as extending a hand of help). I was surprised as my manager calling me up in the midnight did not seem a normal thing. I did tell about this to a few friends and colleagues in DT. None here, as I was just a few days old and didn’t know how should I react and to whom. So, I decided to avoid.
That day onwards I would often be complimented on my dress, red lipstick, hair cut and looks. I again avoided him (here and further him would mean Mr Ojha only) and kept on doing that. But even that didn’t help. The next thing I was asked by my manager in his cabin on a working day during working hours was ‘So, mod tod khao to?’ (Do you drink alcohol?) I replied saying, “I have given up on it. Don’t wish to continue” and left. Then comes another day when he wishes to take me out on a drink! I said I had work and avoided again. He understood that everything in life is not that available, as others were.
Later in 2016
Then things got even worse. Reason? He heard that I have become good friends with a freelance photographer from the team itself. So, he blatantly called me in his cabin and with a straight face he said, “You know initially I thought it wasn’t for real. But then let me tell you, you should not go around with him. You and he (the freelance photographer friend) are poles apart -financially as well as socially.” I replied saying, “It is my personal life and I don’t wish to discuss this here”. This had done enough damage as I expected.
My stories started getting rejected. I was stopped being called in meetings. But what happened with my friend was the worst. There were directives from him to not send me and him on the same assignment. Also Mr Ojha stopped giving my friend assignments. My friend who was once the most favoured photographer in the team, was suddenly not getting a single assignment. My friend eventually gave up and left the team. For Mr Ojha it was definitely a winning stroke.
He started creating several miscommunications between team-mates
I was called in a meeting and told by Mr Ojha that I being a reporter should not work on pages unless and until there is huge staff crunch. I followed the instruction religiously. On a Sunday (Otherwise a lighter day, workwise), I was asked by XXXX XXX and XXXX XXXXXX (Desk people, team heads on a Sunday) , I with no objection followed their instruction. The next day, Ojha calls me up and thrashes me left and right for working on a page. As I told I was asked to work on it he learnt that and hung up. The next morning I hear, XXXX and XXXX have been rebuked and told that I have complained against them. And another similar situation was created after a month between XXXX and I. that time I approached him, like the previous time and wanted the matters to get resolved. But he denied. It was clear by then that he wanted to tamper my position as a team player in the team. And he successfully did so.
Mr Ojha and his female brigade
I fail to understand the functioning of this team. So, before getting into further detail I would like to introduce the core trouble making bullies’ group in the department consisting XXXX, XXXXXXX, XXXXXX – these three have been working together for more than 10 years now. I was in no time the biggest threat to this group because I could not please Satadru Ojha. Thus they started chasing me in a herd.
Also, I was not so cool to be a part of the team I guess. I could not understand how they functioned. There are women who would walk into boss’s cabin, spending hours after hours in chit chatting and what we heard was loud laughter, FOR HOURS! Or another colleague of mine would dance in boss’s cabin to show the signature pose of a recently released item number. Or another would do burpees and Zumba in the office work floor. And all of it during the work hours. Before firing the edition. No wonder why CT fires the edition latest.
My appraisal clearly reflected that I could not impress my Boss!
I was stopped being called into meetings (Would be called in story meetings very rarely) by Boss. Most of the story idea meetings would take place on days when I am not there. Even after giving the most number of page 1 stories through out, my appraisal letter’s numbers and bonus amount was the least in the team and was something that I myself was ashamed of. Anyone would.
WHAT WAS MY FAULT? Is the only way a woman can survive in this organisation if she ‘pleases’ her boss? I am writing this mail to you because I don’t want anyone else to go through it again. If no one can answer, then take a suggestion from me, IF YOU HAVE DAUGHTERS, SISTERS, WIVES AT HOME, WHO WISH TO JOIN JOURNALISM, WHO SPEAK THEIR MINDS, ARE HONEST AND DIGNIFIED, THEN DON’T SEND THEM HERE. NEVER. THEY WILL ALSO END UP HAVING SEVERAL SLEEPING PILLS EVERY NIGHT.
Yours truly and faithfully,
A reporter who has worked through her day offs only to earn humiliation, depression and mental illness, Amita Ghose, ph- XXXXXXXXXX
(Please note: I was asked for various proofs, records and then was discarded. The AMAZING HR who was also a female flew down from Mumbai to Kolkata and left without even releasing a single statement of lightest rebuke to those who abused and assaulted me. Oh, she was rather busy going out with Ojha and his female clan over lunch. However, seeing the absolute reluctance I felt even more vulnerable and had to leave for good).
eNewsroom has carried the unedited version of the author, to keep the essence of her agony intact. If TOI wishes to share its version, we will carry it too.