My #MeToo Media Man: Gautam Adhikari by Tara Kaushal

In 2006, Gautam Adhikari forcibly kissed me—tongue et al—in the DNA office when I was a 22-year-old interviewee and he was the 50+-year-old Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper.

Gautam Adhikari. Image courtesy: Center for American Progress

Gautam Adhikari. Image courtesy: Center for American Progress

I met Gautam Adhikari and his wife at a Christmas party at my parents’ friends’ home in 2005. As a 22-year-old writer, I was ecstatic to meet the Editor-in-Chief of DNA, and set out to impress him in our conversation before telling him (of course) that I’d like to write for his paper. Sufficiently impressed with my language and politics (I thought), he was very encouraging and asked me to meet him in his office sometime in January.

Now, let me tell you about the layout of the EiC’s cabin in the DNA office then. The cabin had large glass panels along its length, making it rather public. There was, however, a short passage between the door and the main space.  

When I arrived for my interview/meeting, I waited outside his cabin, by the table of his administrative assistant. He came outside to fetch me; after hellos and handshakes, I followed him in. As he closed the door behind me, he pushed me against the door and kissed me. On the lips. Tongue et al. His lips were as soft and plump and gross as the rest of his body that he ground against mine…

I shoved him off me. As I was taller and stronger than him, I could. “What are you doing?!” I asked, perplexed and angry. Even if I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship at that point (which I was), I wasn’t interested in this uncleji. This had come completely out of left field. I didn’t sign up for this!

“Oh, I couldn’t resist, you’re so beautiful,” he said. “I have a happy marriage, but every once in a while someone comes along and just makes me wild with desire…” (Or something to this effect; it was 12 years ago.)

He proceeded to take his chair; confused, I followed him and took the one opposite him. We spoke as though nothing had happened—well, he did, reverting to the encouraging mentor persona he had adopted at the party. I was very quiet. He said he would put me in touch with the editors of the beats relevant to my writing, and he did. Through them, I wrote some freelance pieces for DNA.

After the interview, I cried in the arms of my ex-boyfriend (now deceased), and told my bestie from childhood and media senior Abhimanyu Radhakrishan, among others. Then I got over it. (All these years later, it was Abhi who called to tell me to “check Twitter, Adhikari has been outed.”)

I never saw Gautam Adhikari again. I did keep in superficial touch via SMS until he left DNA… why wouldn’t I? I had paid my ‘dues’ with that assault, I thought I may as well reap the benefits of being in contact with the Most Important Person at the newspaper.

The accounts of Sandhya Menon and Sonora Jha who have accused Adhikari of sexual misconduct have such a familiar ring—the pushing on the bed, the forcing of kisses, the gross abuse of power. In his non-apology response, he denies the incidents entirely. I wonder whether he will deny mine too.

As I work on Why Indian Men Rape, I realise that, contrary to the Shakti Kapoor idea of rapists—‘the Other’, loutish men waiting in the bushes—it is upper-class predators that are most dangerous. As gender violence tends to follow class lines, they have access to women of their class and below. They are affluent and powerful, so get away with their crimes. And, if they affect being ‘woke’, boy, they are exponentially more dangerous, wolves in sheep’s clothing. These media men are all of the above.

In the absence and distrust of a due process, survivors of sexual assault have taken to naming and shaming their abusers in big and small ways. (I, for one, have been outing people from my ‘Others’ folder since 2013; LoSHA; etc.) But the question has been: what next?

In capitalistic society, here’s where organisations can play a major role—and, it appears that they have been quite responsive to the #MeToo moment in the Indian media. AIB has removed Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba; Prashant Jha has stepped down as HT’s Chief of Bureau; there are more heads left to roll, more pay packets to sever. But what will ever happen to Gautam Adhikari, who has long since retired from the media and lives in the distant US? Apart from some familial and social drama, will he face any tangible consequences? I sincerely hope so.

Read my experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Navroze Dhondy, founder of the advertising/marketing firm Creatigies Communications here.

My #MeToo Media Man: Navroze Dhondy by Tara Kaushal

Adding another name to #MeToo #MeTooIndia media list: Navroze Dhondy, founder of the advertising/marketing firm Creatigies Communications that works with the Indian Super League.

Navroze Dhondy. Image courtesy: Instagram

Navroze Dhondy. Image courtesy: Instagram

I had published this account about being sexually harassed by a powerful media man in iDiva in 2015. Today, I tell you that the man was Navroze Dhondy.

It was my experiences at the hands of men across classes—from the gropers on DTC busses to workplace predators like him and former DNA Editor-in-Chief Gautam Adhikari—and the awareness that (almost) ALL women have encountered sexual violence that led me to research and write Why Indian Men Rape.

“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”—Kyle Stephens to Larry Nassar. We’re coming for you, predators.

Sleazy Slobbery Boss Men by Tara Kaushal

June 2015: Training the spotlight on everyday sexism in the work environment.

He is a noted Delhi-based advertising and marketing guru, and we’d connected when I was the editor of a magazine. Sometime in 2010, I met him for coffee one afternoon, for banal shoptalk they call ‘networking’. After, he’d come to Mumbai as often as I’d go to Delhi, and, after years of “we must catch up the next time you’re in town”, he called during the summer of 2013 to say he was going to be in Mumbai for a day. “Let’s meet?”

He had meetings in South Bombay all day, and would return to his hotel, close to the airport and my home, only in the evening. I proposed dinner at one of the many lovely places in the vicinity; he chose the coffee shop at his hotel.

He kept getting delayed (happens—media, Mumbai, traffic, life), and it was rather late when I reached his hotel. The coffee shop was now closed, and I told him so when he emerged from the lift—“The other restaurants in the hotel are still open,” I said.

“Oh, doesn’t matter, we were going to my room anyway,” he replied.

Umm, were we? I realised it had been the plan all along; the coffee shop was close to the lift that led to his room. My antenna went up—that little superpower instinct kicked in. I seized him up—I’m a big fit girl in my 30s, I’d be able to take on this 50-year-old if it really came down to it.

In his room, now on guard, I strategically chose the big single chair, not the two-seat sofa—placing him across the coffee table and myself closer to the door. He tried to break up this arrangement several times during the evening—“Come, let’s read the menu together”; “You’re so far, I can barely see your face”. Strike 2.

We talked about this and that… and then, he started talking about sex. Look, I’m no prude. I write about gender and sexuality, and it’s a subject that fascinates me. I’m also very tuned to the difference between talking about sexuality and talking about sex. Strike 3.

And then, on one of his trips to the bar table behind my chair, he reached over and started fondling my neck. “Stoppit!” I repeated a couple of times, craning away until he did… And strike 4! I was out of my chair and out of the door, and drove home shaken into the loving arms of the husband and some friends who were over for drinks.

I never did confront him, but blocked him from all channels of communication. Often since (in classic victim self-blame) I’ve wondered whether I’d given him mixed signals—and the answer is no, I hadn’t, ever. This was no more than symptomatic of a misogynistic work environment replete with casual sexism, signs of which we encounter every day.

“How come clients only want to meet us female models for evening drinks to ‘discuss work’, and are perfectly happy meeting the guys for a quick chat in their offices?” a friend said to me once. In my previous workplace, every successful female colleague was rumoured to have been sleeping with the boss (myself included). Reprimanded by a female superior? Must be her time of the month. Insidious little parts of a much bigger puzzle.

So today, as heads roll at Greenpeace India for the perpetration as well as mishandling of the sexual harassment of a former employee, I can’t help a bittersweet smile. Small steps for women, big leaps for womankind.

An edited version of this article appeared on iDiva in June 2015. Watch my interview of 'The Greenpeace Girl' Sonam Mittal here.

October 2018: In light of #MeToo #MeTooIndia #TimesUp, I reveal that the man I am talking about in this post is Navroze Dhondy, founder of the advertising/marketing firm Creatigies Communications that works with the Indian Super League.