'Aashiqui' of stalkers: What TERI chief RK Pachauri has learnt from Bollywood

Unless you were hit by a premature attack of an illness called good taste or had Indian parents who were utterly disdainful of cable television, chances are you didn't live through the nineties without being exposed the following song.

Here's a gist of what you have witnessed just now: 'WTF' explained in one Hindi song.

And no I am not talking about Madhu and girlfriends playing Poppins themed dress-up for a morning jog. I am talking about Ajay Devgn and his army of naagin dancers-cum-bikers raining on a group of women out jogging. What you just saw should ideally land a man in jail, preferably with boxed ears for long lasting effect.

But that was not what happened in the film, thanks to the man's emphatic claim that he is a 'premi, aashiq, awaara, pagal, majnu, deewana'. He goes on to win the girl. The Indian film industry for long has made stalking and the use of coercive tactics such as these seem like a credible way of pursuing women.

According to Bollywood, since the man in the above video claimed to be a 'lover' in various Hindi words, his being a lech was permissible. But as environmental activist and director general of TERI, RK Pachauri found out, that reasoning doesn't work all the time in the real world. Unfortunately, his case also reveals that it's a sentiment that doesn't seem restricted to 70 mm in the country at all times. If the frequency of incidents of sexual harassment is anything to go by in India, our films and a great number of men seem to agree on the fact that great creepiness makes way for great love eventually.

Aashiqui of stalkers: What TERI chief RK Pachauri has learnt from Bollywood

RK Pachauri. AFP.

The Daily Mail, has published a detailed report on the interaction between Pachauri and 29-year-old research associate who has sued him for sexual harassment. The several text messages and emails exchanged suggest that Pachauri was relentless in his pursuit of the woman, and had on one occasion embraced her and even tried to kiss her.

When the woman ticked him off saying that such behaviour would not be entertained, he played a miffed teenager complaining that an act spurred by 'love' has been misunderstood by the victim as a case of sexual misdemeanour.

"Please you are not to grab me and or kiss me," the complainant told Pachauri in a text.

To which Pachauri replied, "I wish you would see the difference between something tender and something tender and loving and something crass and vulgar. So I shall slink away and withdraw." 

It's a bit of a horrifying image, but you can almost picture Pachauri pouting and crying 'not fair'.

In another email Pachauri says, "I find it now very difficult to hug you. What haunts me are your words from the last time that I 'grabbed' your body. That would apply to someone who would want to molest you. I loved you in the soul, mind, heart..."

While you might be shocked at the audacity of a man, who has been asked to back off by a woman for sexual misbehaviour, Pachauri's defence will probably strike a chord with many in India.

In case of any dispute, arguments of both the parties deserve equal weightage. However, it's quite fascinating that Pachauri should insist that the woman shouldn't find his 'affections', well, creepy. The interactions reveal that Pachauri persisted in his pursuit of the woman, even when she politely told him off. Most of his messages show that he was convinced that his advances were not being reciprocated because the other person was not trying to understand that his intentions were 'pure'.

In fact, he even threatens to fast till the girl tells him that she is convinced that Pachauri 'loves' her. While Pachauri's messages are only evidence of bullying, the warped Indian idea of what constitutes as persuasion in a situation like this, might help Pachauri win a few supporters.

For example, when the anti-rape bill was being argued in the Parliament, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav had said that one clause in the law, criminalising stalking would be a buzz-kill for lovelorn youngsters. He had even asked, "Who among us have never followed girls?"

Pachauri's actions and argument embodies a gamut of ideas that thrive, quite subconsciously among the educated classes. While Indian films insist that a woman has to be won over by machismo, traditional social wisdom excludes women from various crucial issues which needs decision making. His actions follow a long, old Indian tradition of blatant disregard for a woman's choice in matters pertaining to her own life.

Another concern that arises from Pachauri's actions is the disregard that many Indian men have for a woman's ability to invoke or access law.

At a time when sexual harassment has hit the headlines, thrown Tarun Tejpal into jail and turned the heat on a former SC judge, it is shocking that an educated and informed individual like Pachauri probably thought that he could get away with stalking and harassing the woman.

It is frightening that a staggering number of men would have deep faith in a woman's fear of social stigma and hence assume that they won't make an ordeal like this public. Such audacity stems from an shrewd understanding of the limits to which women have themselves normalised sexual violence by setting an unspoken limit to what they can live with. It is true, reporting sexual violence is traumatic, defeating and tiring and it's a choice that is very tempting to skip.

Perhaps then, it is time to bust a few myths and change a few things. And the young TERI research associate has taken a firm step in the right direction.

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Updated Date: Feb 24, 2015 22:40:25 IST

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