I’ve had a brush with office life.
Of permeable office walls,
and whispering colleagues,
of blurring boundaries,
invading into personal territories
sitting neatly next to a heart to heart
of hierarchies drawn.
And at moments depart
of legitimised shirking
called the ‘senior-junior’ dynamic.
And credit misappropriation
of bosses unbothered
and absent receipts for human cost
of saying, ‘Yes, don’t worry’.
But worrying my last beating pulse about it
of sitting till the guards had to leave
and arriving before the locks were opened.
Of no acknowledgment
and selective consequence.
Of answering phone calls
at odd hours
and trying to be there
for people unknown.
Of subtle sexism in corridors
and concealed threats
ordering me to limit my identity.
Within contours I neither constructed nor asserted
of accidental touches
and fleeting assessments–
first, of my body
then, of my “willingness”.
First, of my assertiveness,
then of my skill.
As if my assessment as a professional
was hinged next to my vital statistics.
First, of being reminded my designation
then of being told to ‘keep quiet’.
If years make us senior
then is it my fault that I was born later?
If being a man makes us superior
then is it my fault that I was born a woman?
If being quiet makes me a good junior
then is it my fault that I refuse to keep quiet?
These moments broke me
as much as they made me.
But like the fading horizon,
my next boss too, cut me off
after I said, ‘Yes, and…’
With my pride as I conferred
my ego beaten, bruised and stirred
He responded selectively – and left me unheard.
Yet again, I stood up and said, ‘Thank you, sir.’
Tanessa Puri, a lawyer-poet, is an associate at the Chambers of KTS Tulsi, Senior Advocate and Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.