There's a new predator in town. He's slick, he's smarmy, he's a shark in a suit. Like Dick Whittington, he comes to the city seeking much fame and fortune, he tightens his Hindi belt, and looks out at Mumbai like it's Manhattan. Indeed, he has found his Promised Land, his playground.
In the new Bombay, he finds success, no investment required of his own, except a sharp mind and the belief that 'Con banega crorepati.' He has a view of women, not quite voyeuristic, but still morally venal.
He's a metrosexual with disdain for retro-sexual ways. No casting couch for him. This is not the seventies, where the desperate starlet gives in to the producer's wishes in a darkened back room His sleaze is sophisticated. He hires women of substance. But, they are window-dressing, arm candy. He's has that X factor, he also has a XXX mind. His start-up business, he feels, entitles him to start up chats with any woman in his employ.
To this misogynist, there is no Miss, Mrs or Ms. All women are equal, all potential prey. He walks a fine line when he 'line maro-es'. He interprets 'empowering women' as power over them. He's not a have-not. He's a have, who must have more.
He's the Don Quixote without the chivalry, only the chauvinism. He's polite at first, flatters her with flowers. She's touched without being touched, till stage two. Then, she gets the message because the compliments become quite common.
And, one day, someone from the past speaks up, accusing him of misconduct, and she begins to understand the game. This gives her courage; she can't take it anymore. She herself tentatively exposes him.
He threatens her with dire consequences for tittle-tattling on him. He has no guilt, instead feels strongly that she lacks gratitude. The numbers begin to increase, as more women emerge from the 'safe' anonymity of the virtual world. He feels victimised, enraged — he didn't rape in a bus or an abandoned mill, he didn't molest in an elevator, all he did was call her 'sexy'. Okay, there was the odd 'stroke', but he was upfront,' he merely praised, there was no pawing.
Obviously he is trolled. He enjoys it. Only really big celebrities get trolled. He's confident the law is on his side. Public memory is short, and no one will remember the women who spoke up. There will be the odd FIR but it will be no more than a footnote, an FYI after the book he's been commissioned to write gets published, the web series, about his fictionalised self will be released.
He hopes that his acts will soon be a vanishing hashtag, and he can return to business as usual. There's no proof, no witnesses, no real harm done. Or is there? Is there a niggling question in his head — Has he been rebranded 'Skirt Chaser'? Does he need to disappear for a while? In the new Bombay, can the predator move effortlessly to
his next victim? Or, will some taint remain?
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org