The Flip Side

Many years ago, when I was even younger, even more naive than I am today, I met an elderly gentlemen through the dance industry. He seemed kind and helpful… He knew of, and idolised, my grandfather and affectionately called me his natuni (granddaughter). He was influential, well known, well read, polite and warm… it didn’t seem like I had any reason to suspect him of anything. He insisted on organising a show for me and I, a young dancer, dying to jump at any opportunity and overwhelmed by the generosity, flew to another city to be able to dance there.

That was the first time someone taught me not to trust blindly.

In the years that followed, I have, on several occasions, met men who have toed the line of respectful social behaviour. As dancers performing in varied venues - temples, auditoriums, outdoor festivals, even corporate events - we rarely have a lot of control over who is watching and photographing us. Suddenly, with social media so easily accessible, it is increasingly easy to find a dancer on Facebook, add her, send her long messages at odd hours of the night and make up endless excuses to chat with her.

Not too long ago, I received a Facebook message describing my “natural eroticism” and the “curves” of my body, barely five minutes after I got off stage. This man, who easily looked old enough to be my father, must have been looking me up online while I was still on stage. Another caught me alone outside my greenroom to tell me how he feels I should line the inside of my blouse differently because “cameras aren’t forgiving”. Another still, walked into our green room (through the vaguely translucent black curtains instead of doors the festival had organised) and started taking pictures of the three dancers there, with neither permission nor explanation. In college, I had a male professor make comments about how I could dance for them when he was bored and look me up and down saying how nice it is to dance and maintain my body. I cannot count how many men have asked for my phone number feigning interest in a performance and have proceeded to annoy the hell out of me with photos, forwards and attempts at small talk on Whatsapp.

Why am I discussing this? Because this “adjust-madi” thing is beginning to get to me. If you know a dancer, ask her about this. I can guarantee she has a story or two and that she has found ways to anticipate, predict and handle these situations, because she has to. Just like girl musicians, businesswomen, waitresses, airhostesses, and basically any woman on the planet has to. And that just pisses me off. This shouldn’t be the sort of thing that we learn to live with.

The sad part is that the people who should be reading this, aren’t going to. I don’t know men like this, thank God. But I thought writing about it might be a step up from fuming.

The next time you watch a woman artist on stage, and you hear/see/feel someone being a jerk about her, maybe point out that she works hard to be good at what she does, and deserves respect.

Because hey, maybe every human being deserves to be treated with respect?