TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS AND 11 WAYS TO IDENTIFY IF YOU ARE IN ONE

Relationships are all about love, trust, communication, respect with a healthy dose of compromise involved. A healthy relationship would be one that has these essentials invested in equal or near-equal levels from both the parties. An imbalance in any of these would make a relationship less healthy, but still workable if the parties involved are willing to rectify it. But a toxic relationship is a heavily skewed relationship where generally only one party is giving it all they’ve got, while the other uses the relationship as a tool of manipulation.

In the book and the movie ‘Gone Girl’, Amy, the seemingly perfect wife, was a murderous, manipulative, selfish person who fed on the unsurety and emotional immaturity of her husband. She first pins her own murder on Nick, then manipulates him into staying in the marriage because of her pregnancy. He agrees only because he’s afraid of facing criticism and exclusion from society.

This movie is an extreme as far as toxic relationships go; one would have to be blind not to see it. But how about the children’s classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’?

A poor and selfless girl, Belle, is abducted by the Beast, and then falls in love with him. Why? Because Stockholm Syndrome dictates so. The beautiful mansion housing talkative, conniving clocks, candlesticks, tea-pots and spoons, goad her to bear the angst, isolation and pressure from the Beast, who keeps her perfectly happy in all material matters except in the things that should matter.

While the overt message of the story is that love overcomes all flaws, love should not come at the cost of self-effacement or debasement. Toxicity can be a result of personality (Amy in Gone Girl) or circumstance (The Beast), but in both cases, the relationship becomes a blackhole that feeds on mistrust, lies, fear and subjugation, resulting in the demise of the relationship or the emotional mutilation of the vulnerable party.

Before you think – that sounds like my in-laws, make no mistake, toxic relationships are not limited to relationships where there is an intrinsic imbalance of power. They go beyond that into the realm of parenthood, family, friendships and professional relationships too.

Your clingy best friend, who absolutely needs to have you around for everything, no matter what your emergency, is using you as his emotional crutch. The boyfriend, who physically abuses you in private but tags you in all his love-poems on his Instagram profile, is bad news. Your PHD guide who drives you insane just to get a kick out of seeing you suffer is a Narcissist (please look up this term; Narcissists are the ultimate in toxic personalities). Blood relations, who manipulate you into being no more than a vehicle for their desires, are not family. In fact, after suffering three narcissists in my life from family alone, my definition of ‘family’ has changed. In many cases, family is a veil that hides all kinds of misdemeanours and manipulative behaviour, but that is a discussion for another article.

Realizing that you are in a toxic relationship is the first step towards making a better relationship because you are willing to admit that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. These pointers may help you confirm your suspicion:

  1. Exhaustion: All relationships are hard work but toxic relationships leave you feeling enervated. No matter what you do or say, everything is rebutted, trampled upon, or never enough. You keep telling yourself, telling them, next time you’ll do better, but every single time leaves you feeling like you are on the losing side. There is a never-ending sense of loss and tiredness and your best is not good enough for them.
  • No Communication: No matter how many times you try to resolve an issue or even just talk about it, you face a wall. Every discussion becomes a fight. There is no reasoning with a toxic person because they are always right. They do not respond well to ‘no’s from you. In fact, you don’t have a right to say no to them. You either acquiesce to them or face the music.
  • Avoidance: Healthy relationships nourish you and you want to spend more time with such people. In a toxic relationship, you may appear willing to spend time but only because you have no other choice. Because the alternative is facing their wrath. This may happen because you have external, apart from internal pressure, to keep up pretences (like Nick in Gone Girl) or because you are trauma-bonded to the toxic person, by trying to appease them so that their ‘good behaviour’ phases last longer. But sub-consciously, you avoid that person. Being in the same space as them makes you fidgety and anxious, which is the next point.
  • Beware! Landmine: Being around them is like stepping into a field riddled with hidden landmines. You learn to keep your mouth shut, to do whatever they want you to do, to keep the anger and the fits at bay. You internalize behaviour patterns and responses that give you moments of peace even if it comes at the cost of your own humiliation. You begin to avoid everything and anyone who threatens to disturb this notional peace. Your relatives are coming over, who your spouse doesn’t like? You tell your relatives to come over when he’s not around and hide it from him. Your bestie is jealous of your new friend? You contrive ways to keep them apart. They keep bombarding you with passive-aggressiveness like snide comments, below-the-belt-jokes, your incapacities and faults are shoved in your face every day, but you take it all and don’t retort because you are in survival mode, and with an abuser, this is the only way you can survive. Eventually you give up trying to be who you were and try to be content in being who they want you to be, because it keeps the Hulk away.
  • Loneliness: Outwardly, you may seem like a team, but within the relationship, you feel bottomless loneliness. You feel isolated in your misery that no one else can see because you have been perpetuating the farce of a happy relationship. Narcissists are especially good at isolating their victims. They monitor who you interact with and what you talk about. Your previous relations may be denounced and you’ll be pushed to limit your interaction with them. You must be the perfect other half of the relationship at all times, but from the abuser himself, you’ll get no companionship because they are not in the relationship for your company. They are in it because they love wielding their power over you, which brings me to the next point.
  • Power-play: Ideal relationships have no imbalances of power but no relationship is ideal. A parent-child relationship is the best example of a skewed relationship. In some cases, even after attaining adulthood, parents may still manipulate a child because inherently parenthood forces a sense of inferiority in the child. The child, now an adult, always perceives the parent’s superiority as a part of a ‘normal family’ set-up.  In toxic relationships, the abuser has always an upper hand in the relationship, due to monetary, physical or intellectual superiority, or a better status in society, or family hierarchy, to name a few reasons. Conversely, the abuser may act like a harmless victim while propping you up as the big, bad wolf to coerce and shame you into doing their bidding. Over-possessiveness, over-jealousy, competition are all indications of an abuser’s need to control their victims.     
  • No Boundaries or Privacy:  There is no space for respect in a toxic relationship. You don’t have a voice, you don’t get to have opinions. You will be ‘advised’ which you must take and act on it. Your needs may be just barely met, but you will often be told how you should be grateful that they considered your needs. You may be allowed to do things you like to do, but your space, time and self-esteem does not exist for them. Many daughters-in-law in Asian cultures will admit that they feel like they are only earning their keep as in the marital home because their families are providing them essentials. A toxic person will claim all of your time and resources often giving you excuses like – “You aren’t working; you will do housework.” “Your money is my money because we are a couple, but my money is not your money.” “I get a say in your matters because I’m older than you and family, but you must hold your tongue.”
  • Gaslighting: The term means manipulating someone into questioning his or her own sanity. Even if you do voice your disapproval in how they treat you, you will be told you are ‘going insane’, ‘splitting hairs’, ‘can’t take a joke’, ‘too sensitive’ or something dismissive like that. Remember, a toxic person will NEVER agree to being wrong. If they do admit, they always seem to have a reason for it that you must excuse. “I acted that way because I had a shitty day at work.” “I have personal problems going on; have some shame.” “I never had a good family so I don’t know how to be a good person.” In the end, you will second-guess yourself and conclude that you were the one at fault for even bringing it up when they are going through so much.
  • Endless Sacrifices and Compromises:  You find yourself making time for all their needs, all their whims too. But when it comes to you, it comes out as, “This is the way I am”, “I’m too old to adjust”, “I don’t have time for this” or “I’m going through so much myself!” Victims often find that they expend all they have over the abuser and still not get them to even appreciate what they’ve done. Toxic people are blackholes with a never-ending appetite and you are their feed because you still cling on which makes them feel that they must be superior to you. Hence you must sacrifice, never they.
  1. Distrust: You think you must trust them in the relationship but your gut reaction is wariness and fear. In a healthy relationship, trust comes effortlessly, but in a toxic relationship you never willingly trust the abuser because subconsciously you know the cycle of trusting-breaking of trust.
  1. Abuse:  There should never be any room for unprovoked physical violence in any relationship but often, toxic relationships get physically abusive. If not physical, then there is always some sort of emotional manipulation or harassment involved. Stray incidents of superiority, narcissism, silent treatment and anger are there in every relationship. But if your relationship consists mostly of dark, depressing days, if you are constantly fearful for your life or sanity, and if you have depression or suicidal thoughts because of the abuser, get help immediately and please remember, there is nothing wrong in seeking out help.

No one deserves relationships that leave them feeling unloved, uncared for and incomplete but unfortunately, ours is not a perfect world. Now that you have identified that you may be in a toxic relationship, please work towards removing the imbalance. Communicate your feelings and your desires, talk, fight for the relationship, seek help and if everything else fails, leave as soon as you can.

A healthy relationship sets you free, helps you breathe, gives you space to grow.

It should never feel like a cage.

Pradita Kapahi, 2021. @praditachandola

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of signs of a toxic relationship. Remember that as times change, the definition of a toxic/abusive relationship changes too. These are helpful pointers that may assist you in identifying that you have a problematic relationship requiring immediate attention. This is not meant to replace medical/ psychological advice.

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – FINAL

Arvind Sikdar, Shaloween’s immediate boss had always been the best for everyone. And that was the reason why he continued to be rated high by all his staff members every time there was an evaluation in the company. He could understand the state of his young and most beloved staff member, Shaloween.

“Will you just shut up and sit down, Shalu?”, he said sternly, pretending to be angry. Shaloween didn’t say anything but simply rubbed her cold palms to each other taking a seat.

“It is not very important how this letter came to me… But why did you write this…? That is more important for me, Shalu. Now, let’s go out somewhere, that’s urgent”, he said sternly and without a second thought he stood and walked out of his cabin asking Shaloween to follow. She was shocked and confused seeing what Mr. Sikdar was trying to do and where he was asking her to go with him even though she was aware of his nature. He always does things in a very mysterious way but Shalu was hyper because of the letter which she wrote against Mr. Chandra which Mr. Sikdar put inside his coat pocket.

When Mr. Sikdar’s car stopped at Shalu’s apartment she looked at him with teary eyes. “Why have we come here, Sir? Have you thrown me out?”, she asked in desperation.

“Let’s get inside then I am telling you, Shalu. Have patience and you don’t need to shed your precious tears”, Mr. Sikdar replied to her, mocking her seeing the tears in her eyes.

When they settled down at her flat, Mr. Sikdar asked her, “Now explain what really happened between you and Mr. Chandra from the beginning till the end. I came here because I didn’t want to deal with these things in the presence of all others. Everyone would have come to the office by now.” He looked at his watch as he said that. Shaloween adjusted herself and explained everything that had been happening to and troubling her.

After almost two hours, Mr. Arvind Sikdar returned back to the company office and was greeted by his colleagues and two of those higher officials, Mr. Mahem and Mr. Chandra.

“You went for a morning walk or what, Mr. Sikdar? And where’s Shalu today?”, taunted Mr. Chandra as he asked looking at Mr. Arvind Sikdar. But as usual the composed gentleman, Mr. Sikdar replied, “No, Mr. Chandra, Shalu was in a deep trouble. She has high fever and as her guardian in this city, I took her to the hospital for a RTPCR test. It is better we forget her now and discuss about the final report, right Mr. Mahem?”

Mr. Arvind Sikdar’s words reverberated in that hall way with all others around and both the officials had nothing to say. They simply nodded their heads and walked inside the meeting room to finalize the report before they conclude their trip.

Two days after, in the morning when Shaloween walked inside the office hall, all others felt a chill in their spines seeing her. But at that moment, Mr. Arvind Sikdar walked out of his cabin with a smile, “Welcome Shalu, I am so happy you were tested negative and your fever is gone.” Both smiled understandably at each other, knowing well the reason of her staying away from office.

“By the way, I have something to announce, I was just waiting for Shalu to be back in the office”, Mr. Sikdar said looking at all as everyone attentively looked at him. “Shalloween had done a wonderful job and the two visiting officers approved all our reports, appreciated our reporting systems and our coordinated working styles. So we will have a party this afternoon.” Everyone in the room stood on their feet and cheered, congratulating Shaloween and Mr. Sikdar.

When Shalu went into the cabin of Mr. Sikdar later that day, his first question to her was, “Did you burn that letter you drafted against Mr. Chandra, Shalu?”

“Yes, I destroyed it immediately after you left the other day, Sir. And thank you so much for what you did for me. The drama you scripted taking advantage of the pandemic situation was exceptional.” Shalu said with her hands folded.

“Shalu”, he said as he asked her to take a seat. “I would have done that to anyone in your state. And you are like my daughter. Don’t you think as a father I would have anyway protected my daughter from such viruses?” Shaloween nodded.

“But you should have immediately told me about the first message you received. You should not have allowed him to play with your vulnerability. He was very manipulative but I am more protective of my own, my office, my staff and you.” Mr. Arvind Sikdar said with a gentle and satisfying smile on his face.

Shalloween literally allowed her vulnerability to go wrong but at the right time, she was well protected by this man. She could not have asked anything more after having a father-like boss and that was the reason why she had such high regards for him.

Everyone enjoyed the department party during the lunch time.

THE END

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – XII

The discovery of not finding the letter in her bag startled Shaloween. She emptied her bag, checked multiple times every quarter, every inch of the bag but it went futile. Her thoughts ran haphazardly to every nook and corner of the house and office where she possibly could have put or slipped the letter accidentally. Nothing seemed to help her out.

She was very restless lest that letter finds some unwanted notice when things were on the verge of finding a solution. The regret was not about writing it but about unmindful, unintentional omission unfortunately. She decided to go back to office as her phone was also dead by then and without a spare charger that seemed to be a right decision to her. Was it just the charger that forced her to be out in the night in an attire which was a little bit more than that of pyjamas or something else? She brushed those thoughts back as she tied her hair in a ponytail and started the car.

It was around 9:45 PM that she reached her office. As she went to the building after parking another shock awaited her at the entrance. The guard refused to let her go inside for the reason – she forgot her ID at home in a rush to reach office and the night guard wasn’t familiar with her.

She pleaded with him for about fifteen minutes but the guard refused to budge. Heaving a heavy sigh in despair Shaloween was about to leave as she heard some commotion on the stairs. She turned to look in the direction of the sound and was a bit surprised to see Shekhar Chandra there at that hour of the time.

“Sir, you? Here? How? Why?” Shaloween spoke in broken words contemplating well her state of mind – puzzled. “Well that should be my question to you Shalu.. I mean Ms.Shaloween. Here at this hour, searching for something?” Shekhar asked in a rather not casual tone or at least that’s what Shaloween thought.

That questioner was for a moment bowled over by the question! With a small hiccup Shaloween gathered herself and said with a straight face, “I forgot my charger at the office desk and my phone is dead. Couldn’t have waited till morning and in a rush to reach here I forgot my ID at home, just messed up things”. Shaloween stood there feeling awkward at this meeting. Shekhar signalled the guard “aane do” and the guard did allow her inside.

Thanking Shekhar in a polite way she followed him. As silence ensued she chose to break it and asked “What are you doing here Sir?”

Shekhar cleared his throat, “Had some files to look at to ensure timely wrap up from here” and opened the door for Shaloween leading into the office. She took a paced stride towards her cabin and collected her charger as Shekhar fixed his gaze on her.

Shaloween checked her drawers thoroughly but couldn’t trace the letter. She stood at her desk running her fingers through her hair in utter desperation, thinking where it could have gone.

Shekar was watching her. And their gazes met quite dramatically. Shaloween felt uncomfortable and decided to leave the premise thinking I shall see it later.

“Did you find … the charger?”, there was an awkward pause in his words. “Yes and thanks” Shaloween answered in a decidedly less hassled tone.

What transpired at office remained with Shaloween all the way back to her home. It was almost thirty minutes past 11. She decided to hit the sack but the disturbed vibe came to haunt her again.

Next day as soon as she reached office she was summoned to Mr. Sikdar’s room. Her apprehensions were oscillating quite high.

“May I come in Sir?” she took the permission and entered and the first thing that caught her attention and blew her mind was the letter in her writing lying on the table.

“Shalu I need to talk to you about this”, Sikdar pointed towards the letter but before he could say anything Shaloween confronted, “how did you get this Sir?” She was an amalgamation of anger and anxiety at this moment.

Sikdar usually a composed and sorted person seemed to have dropped his fine judgement when he said, “this shouldn’t have been the way to deal. You simply can’t blame anyone and especially meddling with powerful people isn’t good for you. You are like my own daughter. Why…” And he was interrupted by Shaloween abruptly who by this moment had lost all her patience.

“Just one question – how did it land here?”

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – XI

That day things at office were normal. Shekar Chandra did not try to have any conversations outside of work with Shaloween. She was quite relieved. After long day at work, she returned home, made dinner and slipped to sleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. Shaloween woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. It was as if she got control over her life. She made her breakfast, had it along with coffee and later on headed to office.

Shaloween reached her cabin to find the office boy cleaning her desk.

Why are there so less people in office today?”, she asked him in a surprised tone

Madam, you came very early today. It is only 7.30“, he smiled.

She looked at the clock and he was right. She wondered how she never paid attention to what the time was. Now that she was so early, she went for a stroll in the park besides her office. It was a really nice park, and strangely she never even noticed it properly. She sat on the bench watching all the people over there. After an hour of so, she returned to her desk.

Today was the last day the officers are going to be in Shaloween’s office. Most of the work is completed and only the closing formalities were pending. It was post lunch. All the required people were in the meeting room apart from the officers. Everyone was waiting for them. Two officers walked in and they were late by almost an hour. Shekar Chandra was not to be seen. Mahem apologized for the delay. The team quickly finished all the presentations, details were furnished and the records were updated. The officers thanked the team for outstanding work. Mahem went round the table shook hands with everyone. When he approached Shaloween, he had an unpleasant look on this face. Shaloween disregarded those expressions.

Team, thank you once again. We are going to be around for few more days in this office with regards to something that popped up. We can catch up for lunch some day“, saying this Mahem walked out of the room. There was cheer and a round of applause in the room. Everyone was delighted.

Shaloween returned home. She was in a cheerful mood that all of this is over. She spent some time with Bhaskar. She took him for an evening walk, on the way she had a Burrito. The weather was pleasant, the stars were clearly visible. She gazed at the moon while Bhaskar was playing. After a long time she had a relaxed evening. The higher official visit has taken away lot of her lone time.

She lay on the bed with Bhaskar on her side. She was browsing on her phone. She deleted all the messages she got from Chandra. She so wanted to delete his number too but just left it so. The charge on her phone was almost as low as 5%. She was looking for her charger in the bag and could not find it. She searched again and it wasn’t there. That is when she recollected that she left the charger on her desk. She put the phone on charge before she went to the park in the morning and later on forgot about it. It was not just the charger that was missing from her bag, but the letter she drafted for ICC too….

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – X

Next morning as Shaloween put her alarm on snooze, still wanting to catch up those last 10-15 mins of sleep, she heard her phone ring. It can only be her mom to call her at 6 am, she picked up and lazily said – “Good Morning ma, I hope all is good with you.”


“Hi Shaloween” came a male voice from the other end.


She woke up straight on her bed and looked at the phone in utter surprise. It was Shekhar Chandra. She was at loss of words and just managed to utter “Hello…. Sir?”


“Listen I am sorry for what I did. I am feeling quite ashamed. You are right, this is indeed harassment. I am not entitled to behave this way with you. Please understand that my intentions were not wrong. I genuinely like you and would like to be a part of your life. However, if this is not something that you want – I will go away and not bother you again.” Said Chandra apologetically.


Shaloween was shocked. She didn’t expect this turn of action. She was almost prepared to shout out a few nasty words at him but he is really apologizing.


“Ok”, totally at the loss of words, she could only say this.


“So, are we good with each other now? Let us just keep our conversation professional from now on. I promise that I won’t come in your personal way now unless you want me to. If ever you change your mind and want to come into my life – you have my number. I would really love that.” Said Shekhar Chandra in a flirtiest tone.


“Sir, I hope you are not going to let any of this have an impact on my work. I have really worked hard in this project and I was thinking that you might just push all my due credit down the drain. I really hope that you won’t do this.” Said Shaloween a bit doubtful.


There was silence at the other end.

“Shalu, I am not that kind of a person. I feel hurt that you thought that I would stoop down to this level.” Said Shekhar in a low voice.


“I am sorry Sir. I hardly know you, I can only judge by little interactions that we have had.”


“Didn’t I tell you earlier – you like to judge me, isn’t it? Well, let us meet in a few hours at office.” Shekhar said without letting her complete the sentence.


He hung the phone. No goodbyes.

That felt really weird. Shaloween opened the letter she had composed for ICC. She read it multiple times and felt guilty about it. “Did I judge the guy wrongly? Maybe he is genuine person wanting to be my friend and I just… anyway. I am glad that all this over, hopefully it would be a normal day at work. I am tired of having these eventful days now.”


Was this episode of her life really over? 

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – IX

Shaloween locked her mobile screen, gathered herself and went on ahead to Mr. Sikdar’s chamber. She handed over the data and excused herself out. It was almost lunch time. She dropped a text to her superior and took a half day leave citing health issues and left for home.

Her head was throbbing. She quickly ate the lunch that she had packed on her way and lied down on the couch unable to get the happenings of the last few days out of her mind.

The ring of her mobile startled her. She opened her eyes only to realise that she had dozed off and it was almost evening.

Shaloween picked up her phone, read Shekhar Chandra’s message again and took the bold step of texting back.

“This is downright harassment. I have told you I am not interested in having to do anything with you outside the office. Please leave me alone. You are my officer, and I have to report to you in the office; other than that, I don’t need this from you. Please focus your sexual energy elsewhere.”

She pressed the send button and went to take a late-night stroll in her lane to clear her head. She played with the dog walking along with her and played fetch with him with wood. The dog followed her home, and she placed a bowl of milk and break in front of him in a plastic container. The dog lapped it up, and Shaloween watched him, enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

The dog slept at the foot of her bed and left her around the following day till she boarded the metro to go to work. She laughed at him as he wagged his tail in goodbye and decided to adopt that dog. She named him Bhaskar.

She reached the office and headed straight for her office. At lunch, she saw Chandra eating with Mahem, Singh and Sikdar in the cafeteria as she sipped a Coke with her meal. Chandra gave her a tight-lipped, stoic expression.

She ran her palm on her hair to show she was wearing her hair in a tight bun. The message was clear, ‘She was not interested in his advances and was ready to take a stand.’

Later, as she left the cafeteria, she saw Chandra say something to the other officers, which made the trio look her way with a distasteful expression. Her heart sank as she made her way back to her office.

She knew Chandra would get back to her, but he didn’t know that she was prepared. She took a clean sheet of paper and wrote a letter to the internal complaints committee (ICC) about harassment, abuse of power and a hostile work environment. She worded the letter strongly, signed it and placed it in an envelope, placing it in her bag.

She was resolute, one more inappropriate message, one more instance of office politics or one more incident of power abuse, and she will make Chandra pay.

VULNERABILITY GONE WRONG – VIII

Shaloween kept tossing and turning in bed for a long time before she finally fell asleep.

She woke feeling a bit relaxed yet quite disturbed. She looked at the Cuckoo-clock that hung on the wall in her hall. It was 7 A.M. – a little late than her usual waking time. However, she didn’t mind much. Just after she had finished her morning prayers, her phone rang. As she picked up the phone from the table to answer the call, she was perplexed to see the name of the caller. Shekhar Chandra it was!

A few seconds went by with the mobile still ringing in her hand before she took the call.

“Hello . . . Good morning, Sir”

“Very good morning . . . I hope you are awake or did I disturb your sleep?”, came the voice from the other end.

“I’m awake, Sir”, said Shaloween politely.

“That’s good! I need you to work out certain things before I reach office today. I will mail the details to the official email id so that you can access them”, said Shekhar Chandra as he went on to explain the nitty-gritties of the work before hanging up.

The urgency of work soon took over Shaloween as she rushed into her household chores in an attempt to leave home early that day.

“Shiva, I need piping hot ginger tea today . . . a lot of work . . . and my mind is in shambles”, she said to the office boy as she opened the door to her chamber.

“By the way, for how many days have the supervising officers been deputed to our office . . . any idea?”, she asked a seeming-to-know-all type subordinate who had just come in.

“They’ll be here for a couple of days more, probably. Earthquake assessment is almost over and with not much damage, there isn’t really a lot that they have to do here”, came the reply.

“C’mon, just focus on work Shaloween! Shed off your baggages . . . you have to perform for your office . . . Shekhar Chandra would leave . . . your work will stay . . . don’t let anything bother you”, Shaloween pepped herself as she started working.

It was a sultry day and with the air conditioning not working, Shaloween was sweating profusely as she worked. With no one in her chamber, she let her hair hang loose to the left side so as to let some breeze from the ceiling fan pass through the damp hair roots. She was so engrossed in work that she got startled when the door to her chamber was thrown wide open and in walked Shekhar Chandra.

She fumbled a “Good morning” as she hurriedly fixed her hair before he would get a chance to look at her properly.

“Is the report ready?”, asked Chandra matter-of-factly.

“Almost done, Sir”, replied Shaloween.

“Well, then I’ll wait in Mr. Sikdar’s room till you are done with it”, said Shekhar as he left the room with a bang of the door without much expression.

Shaloween heaved a sigh of relief. Alone in her room, she could focus better. The events of the last few days had been extremely unsettling for her.

“What do men think – single women are easily available for their perversions? Being single doesn’t make a woman an easy game for men to entertain themselves with. Doesn’t this fellow feel remorseful behaving the way he does? Huhh!!”, she had thought a while back in between the work.

Interactions with Shekhar Chandra had been purely official that morning. She thought to herself victoriously, “probably this fellow has realised that he cannot get his way through to me!”

It took two more hours for Shaloween to complete the task. She got up from her chair to show the report to Sikdar, Mahem and Chandra carrying her mobile and the pen drive with the data.

Walking her way along the corridor, she flipped open her mobile to view the unread messages. She hadn’t got the time to check any messages since the time she turned up to work that day.

“You look gorgeous with your hair open. I hope you won’t disappoint me!”

“Not again!”, yelped Shaloween in her mind as she stopped short of her steps, feeling weak in her legs.

That was a message from Shekhar Chandra.