The recent gruesome murder of Rasila Raju, an Infosys employee, in Infosys Pune campus brought back the ugly memories of an incident that happened with me eight years ago. I am enraged, shocked and saddened by her death and as a woman who has worked with Infosys for more than 2 years, I somehow feel connected with her. More so, because almost like Rasila, I was also stalked by a man in office premises.
It was in early 2009 when I worked with IBM as a Business Analyst at their Noida office. I had recently shifted to Noida and worked with Bharti Airtel project. I was pleased with my job profile that required me to work from 9 am to 5 pm.
We had a pantry room on our floor where I used to get cups of coffee from the vending machine and fill my water bottle from the water cooler.
All went well until I noticed a facility boy staring at me and sometimes smiling at me. (Facility department is the housekeeping department that takes care of cleaning, pantry and other related stuff).
Initially I thought of him as a kind boy who was sincere in his duties. Once I went to the pantry to fill my water bottle. The water cooler wasn’t working and there were many bottles in the queue. This particular boy offered to fill my bottle and said he would get it filled and bring to my desk. I agreed. Within 20 minutes, he got my bottle and I thanked him with a smile.
Since that day I noticed he took extra interest in and around my cubicle.
I believe in the sixth sense that we women possess and my sixth sense was trying to guard me against him. His presence now made me uncomfortable and I somehow knew he wasn’t the kind and sincere facility boy I initially thought of him to be.
I grew cautious of his presence and if I found him sitting alone in the pantry room, I would return to my desk without entering the pantry. Basically, I avoided any kind of contact with him. Since he was only a facility boy (and not a colleague or someone I HAD to interact with), I didn’t bother much about it, until something dramatic happened.
One evening as I was leaving office, a facility woman met me near the pantry room and gestured me to follow her around the corner. I did. What she said to me there sent chills down my spine.
‘There is a boy in the facility department who likes you and wants to marry you. He says he will go to Kolkata to learn a special black magic trick that will help him in getting married to you’, she said.
I asked her, ‘who is he?’
She was reluctant to divulge his identity but after repeated assurances from me of her safety, she described him and I at once knew she was talking about the same man who used to stare at me.
It was Friday evening so I heard her and left the whole thing at that. I discussed it with friends and room mate and they all suggested me to ignore it.
‘Black magic? Thats so weird. Forget about it’ – this is what most of the people around me had to say.
But I wasn’t ready to ignore it.
On Monday morning, I contacted the head of the facility department as the first thing upon reaching office. I told him the entire case. Initially, he didn’t believe it but after I insisted that I had noticed him staring at me, he agreed to call upon that facility boy.
During the discussion I also learnt that the woman who had revealed all this information to me had left the job. The past Friday was her last working day. I was also told that the woman and this facility man had had an altercation with each other on something and he had complained against her.
Now things had started to make sense to me. The woman had gathered the courage to tell me about that man only because it was her last day and she didn’t fear losing her job anymore.
The facility boy was now in front of me. The head rebuked him and asked him to apologize to me for his indecent behavior. The boy did as asked.
I didn’t want an apology from him but the boy started to apologize profusely repeating that he could never say such a thing and that there was no way he would talk like this about a woman. He also begged mercy citing his family, wife and children.
I demanded termination of his job but the head intervened and transferred him to another floor. He changed the duty hours of this facility boy and asked him to never be seen on my floor.
The facility boy left and the head of the department turned to me and asked me to be a little considerate.
‘This is the first time someone has complained against him. He is otherwise a sincere man and he has a family to look after so please let it go. If it happens again, let me know and I will sack him.’
I agreed and let the matter go. That day onwards, I never saw that facility boy on my floor. I did spot him once or twice in the office premises but never on my floor. With time I forgot about the whole thing and after a month or so I quit the job.
In the last eight years, this incident hardly surfaced up in memory until I read about Rasila.
Reading about her death made me realize that it could have been me!
So easily I had put my life at risk when I agreed to let go of that facility boy who was conspiring to ‘get’ me.
So easily I had let the facility head decide about my safety in the office premises.
So easily I had believed everyone involved and let them decide how to deal with the matter.
Finally, so easily I had believed that my company was being protective towards me while in reality it all was in the favor of that stalker!
While I didn’t think of all this then, Rasila’s death made me realize the danger zone I had been in.
I have worked with IT companies for more than 5 years including Infosys, Accenture and IBM. I went to office numerous times on Saturdays and Sundays when the entire floors were deserted and I was not the only woman but also the only person on an entire floor!
Honestly, I didn’t always go there for work. Mostly I went to complete personal tasks of downloading some material or to Skype with family or to simply pass some time in an AC room when staying in PGs became unbearable.
There were times when I was one of the few left in the office premises either after work or on late night shifts. There were times when I worked alone in a cabin amidst construction of a new building next to my building thus making the whole setting risky.
It doesn’t matter whether my manager flooded me with work and I had to report to office on Sat/Sun or whether I went on my own.
What matters is that there were times when I was in a situation Rasila Raju was in on this unfortunate Sunday.
What matters is that instead of Rasila Raju, it could have been me or any of the women who work in such offices where facility boys or security guards have easy or open access to cubicles.
Now the question is – what can be done? How do we ensure safety of women and everyone else?
I don’t know. I wish we had clear answers to such questions.
What I do know is that women should never give up.
All the working women, if you ever encounter any stalker please bring it up to the management and do not let them go easy on him like I did. Demand his termination immediately.
If you are not working and being stalked – talk to your family and report it to the police.
DO NOT fall for the begging sessions these men resort to.
DO NOT underestimate the power of your sixth sense. If you feel something fishy around you, report it.
DO NOT let it go thinking its a one-time event.
I know I didn’t take a strict action when I was put in such a situation but that is why I am able to make these suggestions now because I have been there.
Dear Rasila, my heart bleeds for you because I could have been you on a lonely Sunday. We all could have been.
Finally, do not forget to read this Mini Guide To Women’s Safety: 9 Critical Safety Rules For Women