First Person: Why I tolerated violent behaviour from Aniruddha Banerjee and kept quiet

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By Tamanna Punjabi

Even as the #Metoo movement turns into a storm in Bollywood and elsewhere, with several women coming forward to talk about predators and sexual harassment, there are those who may have suffered violent behaviour from those they are in a relationship with — and kept quiet.

I am one such woman.

Drawing strength from all those who have been posting over the last few days, I want to stand up to Aniruddha Banerjee and tell him: You were wrong.

I dated Aniruddha (actor, writer, director known for ‘FilterCopy’ videos) for around two years in and after college. This is about one night when we went partying in Bombay in 2016. We were going back to my house late at night (around 2 am) and were having a verbal fight on the way about some problem which I can’t even clearly remember. He was very drunk and while we were trying to walk up the stairs to my flat, he was tugging sharply at my arm because he wanted me to speak with him.

My immediate reaction was that ‘Don’t create a scene, the neighbours will wake up. Let’s get home and speak’. While intoxicated, he didn’t see sense in what I was saying. Anyways, we went up to my flat and shut the door and the fight continued.

I wasn’t agreeing with his point of view and that wasn’t working with him at all. So, he held my arm extremely tightly channelising his anger by controlling my body. While I tried to wriggle out of his grip using my other free hand, it was impossible to do so.

I was begging him to let go because it was hurting me but I was speaking to deaf ears. At one point, the grip had tightened so much I was starting to black out. In fear of what he may do if I black out, I used my other hand to slap him across his face.

I assumed it’ll wake him up from what he was doing which it did. He was in shock. While I looked at my bruised arm with a blue coloured 3-4 inch ring because of the blood that had clotted there with his grip, he slapped me right back in anger. And immediately after he walked to my kitchen, picked up a knife and threatened to kill himself right there if I don’t apologise.

While I was 95% sure he wouldn’t kill himself and that these were empty threats, I couldn’t take that 5% chance. I apologised and begged him to let it all go, that life wasn’t worth ending for a trivial fight. That he was drunk and he would regret his actions but to no avail.

After a tussle where I was trying to yank the knife out of his hand, I managed to hide all the sharp objects in my house (knives, forks, scissors, etc) from him. Now that he had nothing better to do, I told him to get out of my house and go home because I couldn’t see him for another second. He left but didn’t go home. He sat in my building veranda on the ground floor for an hour in the hope that I would call him back.

On realising that I wouldn’t, he came back up and gave me shit about how I don’t care about his safety since he waited down in the middle of night and anything could have happened. At this point, I would like to tell you that love blinds most people, and colours our understanding of right and wrong in the weirdest manner, making us forgive the biggest blunders and shove the most appalling things under the carpet.

This is exactly what happened to me and I’m ashamed it did. He gave me a hug and that was all I needed to forgive this man who had just assaulted me physically and mentally.

We decided to let go and never speak of this incident to anyone. I chose to wear full sleeved shirts to office so no one would know or see what happened till it all faded away on its own. Love blinded me and how! For a few days after, I felt what I did was wrong, and I should not be tolerating this but one sweet message from him would make me believe that mistakes happen, and we have to adjust and learn to forgive people.

Today, I speak up. This was wrong, is wrong and will always be wrong. Today, he works as an actor, writer, director at FilterCopy and while the #MeToo movement is ongoing, Aniruddha Banerjee probably realised that he may have wronged me. And before I call him out or possibly ruin the image he has created before his 20k followers, he has messaged me to apologise – two years after this incident.

(Tamanna Punjabi works in the PR industry in Mumbai.) IANS

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