Full disclosure: Vikram Kilpady was an employee at Newslaundry and was asked to leave after our Internal Complaints Committee found him guilty of sexual harassment at the workplace.
The year was 2005. Vikram Kilpady, the desk head of Tehelka, invited me home. It was the day after the weekly edition had been put to bed. It was a light day for everyone with just an editorial meeting scheduled to ideate for the next edition.
Vikram said he had invited a few others from the office too. He gave me directions to his house and even drew me a little map. When I reached his house I realised I was the only one there. He offered to make tea (since I don’t drink) and when I said I will have it when the others come in, he announced that no one else was coming. That unnerved me a little. To distract me, he decided to show me his books and music.
I was hoping his journalist-wife would be back soon but just then, he started talking about her—how things were not good between them, how his marriage had not been consummated even after a year (or more), and how much he liked me.
I started fiddling with my phone and was thinking of an excuse to get out when he pulled me towards him and forced himself on me. I resisted. He turned violent—pulled my hair, grabbed my wrists, held me against a wall and then pushed me on the bed. My attempts to break free failed. I started crying. He let me go.
That’s the closest I have come to being raped.
I couldn’t make eye contact with Vikram when I walked into the office the next day. He stared at me shamelessly, lowering the rim of his eyeglasses, as was his style, asking me to join him for a cup of tea. I refused.
He then pulled up a chair near me pretending to help me with the edits and—to my horror—asked me to visit him again.
This became a daily routine, Vikram becoming insistent with each passing day. He would scribble a time and leave it on my desk or write it down on the page that he was clearing. When I ignored him, he started phoning and texting me. Once I ran out of office and he caught me on the landing of the staircase—pleading, demanding that I meet him.
Soon he started delaying my pages, asking me to re-edit sections, or shuffle the articles, or help clear other pages—making sure I stay back late. He would then pull up a chair near my desk pretending to clear other pages, stealing glances at me and making me uncomfortable.
I started fearing Vikram and hated going to the office. I started calling in sick often. And then the panic attacks started. My sister, with whom I was staying at the time, thought the trigger was work-related stress. There was no one I could confide in.
Little changed over a month or so. He would swing between being cute, giving me the lovey-dovey looks, to being threatening.
I decided to fall sick and disappeared for over two weeks. When I returned, I reported the matter to the editor-in-charge, who was helpful. Once when Vikram was calling me, as he didn’t see me around, the editor answered the phone for me and told him that I was with him and he should stop bothering me.
Vikram changed his strategy. He started finding fault with my work. I knew it was time to quit even though I did not have a job in hand.
A month later I got married and Vikram decided to show up at the venue – even though I hadn’t invited him. I froze when I saw him. He was having the last laugh.
Last week I sent him a message on Facebook, that he was on my #MeToo list.
He wrote back saying: “The last time we were at Tehelka, I was told to not attempt any contact with you, which direction I have completely kept to.” (Not entirely true, as he sent me a request on Facebook two years ago).
I was wrong to imagine he would apologise for his behaviour.
“What about the damage you inflicted? I hope you remember…” I asked him.
Vikram sent back a long, neatly-worded reply: “I am very sorry to hear you suffered damage from my acquaintance with you.”
I feel molested all over again. Thank you, Vikram.
(Newslaundry reached out to Vikram Kilpady via his personal email address and Whatsapp for comment. The story will be updated with his response.)