“The girls these days are so aggressive. You should see some of the girls in my office. Sometimes even I get scared of them.” Ends with a laugh.
His words have stayed with you. And whenever you recount that meeting it seems as if we all were present too. That flat in Vasant Kunj, you emphasize Vasant Kunj as if it adds a new layer to the entire incident, the Delhi summer, you fresh out of college, and the man, not nearly as old as your father but old enough to be our uncle. Each of us has a distinct image of the man. The man who spoke these words nearly 15 years ago. Though each image reflects our distinct perspective on what these words meant. Over the years, and in part due to your constant retelling of the incident, the words have taken on varied meanings. Even your response to them attains greater depth with each passing day. Your silence; that legendary silence imbued with something so solid and grave that the only appropriate reaction seems to be discomfort followed by a strange feeling of foolishness and even shame. The silence that has been the undoing of many a formidable soul.
It isn’t the man but his words that have stayed with you and with us. And we often wonder about that. Did we find the words ‘girls’ and ‘aggressive’ in the same sentence offensive? Was it even offensive? What did it mean to a girl fresh out of college to be told about aggressive girls scaring middle aged men? Were you afraid that you weren’t aggressive enough? The last question comes up almost involuntarily for we all know only too well how vicious your silence can be. And so the recounting and the deconstructing carry on well into the night. Till the point when we couldn’t care less for middle aged men, aggressive girls and even words, their meanings and intent.
But when everyone rails against men, attitudes and words, I only watch you. And every time, at every retelling, I wonder about the other man in the room. The one we never discuss. The man who sat on the cane chair right next to you. The man well past his middle age, the man who is your father. And sometimes I wonder is it because he bore witness that these words have stayed with you. But more often than that I smile thinking about fathers who take their willful daughters to meet middle aged men scared of aggressive young girls.