>Alok Nath raped and violated me 20 years ago, but norm was to stay silent, writer-producer Vinta Nanda

Alok Nath raped and violated me 20 years ago, but norm was to stay silent, writer-producer Vinta Nanda

TV producer-writer Vinta Nanda on 8th October, adding to the long list of women who faced sexual abuse at workplace, accused her co-worker “the most Sanskaari person in the film and TV industry” of rape and sexual assault in a Facebook status. In a detailed interview to Firstpost, Nanda confirmed that she was talking about Alok Nath. Here are details of the incident which happened at least 20 years ago as shared on Nanda’s Facebook page.

In a long and powerful interview, Nanda recalled the toxic sexist environment which was rampant in the television industry around the time this incident with Alok Nath happened. The norm was to stay silent and normalize this behavior, she said. Nanda spoke about her mental trauma, which she claims forced her to drink irresponsibly and dabble in drugs up until 2008, and how she finally found her voice back, as a writer, with social media.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Rampant sexism in the TV industry in the ’90s, and why Vinta Nanda chose to speak out

The reason why I wrote my story yesterday was because I felt that moment ofnow or never“. This moment never came to me in the ’90s. Because there was no such #MeToo movement, or gender discourse being talked about. The kind of accepted environment at the time was that this is the norm. If something happened to you, you kept quiet. We were making a very feminist show (Tara) which even today is ahead of its time for television, so right from the first episode onwards, since the women were the story tellers and were in charge, the men were in discomfort and the male stars were uncomfortable, but that was the norm back then. Big male stars didn’t work in female-driven stories.

 

It was, therefore, never an option to speak about my incident. I didn’t imagine this would happen to me to begin with and there was no option to speak about it. The few people who I spoke to — friends and colleagues — would always ask me to forget about it and move on. This is as recent as last year when I spoke to a friend about it, and she also turned around and said, “Why do you keep bringing it up? It’s the past. Forgot about it.”

 

Yesterday (8 October) I asked my mother if I can go public with my story. I wanted to. But she asked me ‘why I want to rake up the past, that so much drama will unfold, you’ll go back and forth, and he will give his point of view, then you will. Ho gayi baat, forget it,’ she said. My mother also wants to believe nothing happened.”

 

“Another reason why I felt like burying my story back then is that I realized I was an independent woman, very well-educated, I was economically and financially successful and I was writing this show that was so feminist, but this incident happened with me nonetheless. To even admit to that fact was very tough. I was brought up to do whatever I liked, I would roam around all day or night, since I had my own wheels, I could smoke openly and I came from a background where I was told to be independent and make my own choices. I used to love to go out and have a good time, and we were anyway known to be women who were “too forward”. So within that space, the thinking was that “she asked for it” or “why was she even drinking”. For the longest time, I accused myself and wondered if I asked for it. Why did I drink? It became like that. Ever since then, I don’t drink unless I’m with trusted friends. All that boldness of my own also came down post the incident.”

THE TRAUMA OF SILENCE

“I wrote that status because I felt very guilty of not opening up. On one hand I would say, “yes women should speak out” since I am a feminist — but then I would wonder what I’m rallying about, keeping my story so buried inside. If I’m not coming out in the open, who am I to say that young girls should speak?’

 

“Also, what is the trauma of silence? I wanted to talk about what silence does to you. What it did to me. Because so many people told me to stay silent, forget what happened and move on. And I did that. I even went back to this man that was the extent of normalization. It was after this incident that I quit my job, because I wondered what I was doing with my life. And that’s when the real trauma began. Staying silent really broke me down. The couple of time I tried to go back to work, I would start crying in meetings and have nervous breakdowns in the middle of the office. A lot of people used to wonder what happened to me. So I stopped going to work, because there wasn’t even an environment for mental health back then. I became abnormal, because if I saw a man I would take a step back. It had become very awkward. I started feeling awkward about everything.”

 

“As a writer, I was processing everything that was happening and I told myself that I had to be “normal” and I had to stop being nervous. In the process, I had a tryst with drugs. A very good friend of mine asked me to try some drugs to feel better, and I did so that I could be normal with people, especially with men. I wasn’t able to relate with a man after the incident. The drugs helped me dance, sing, maybe even make love to a man. Otherwise I couldn’t do it. So that went on for a while but it became a vicious circle.”

 

“I wrote a piece about my incident for the French magazine L’Officiel sometime in 2003-2004. I had not named Alok Nath in the piece, but it got printed and people knew who I was talking about. Post that, I became worse because people, now, knew what had happened and whom I was referring to. So getting work was next to impossible.

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