#MeToo: Time to get over guilt, shame and address the issue: Model Kawaljit Singh
New Delhi : He will be remembered for starting #MeToo movement in the Indian fashion industry and giving voice to those who remained quiet all these years.
Model Kawaljit Singh Anand says his fight is not just about one person and a specific industry, and he feels this is the right time to get over the fear, shame and guilt associated with such incidents and to speak up as part of the #MeToo movement.
"The starting point is when we acknowledge that a problem exists," Anand told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
He says he is overwhelmed by the support from the industry after he shared that designer Vijay Arora tried to touch him inappropriately, and resisting that resulted in a loss of job.
Anand last month narrated his ordeal via a Facebook post. He wrote: "In 2006, a Delhi-based designer told the panel openly when I went for the Lakme India Fashion Week audition that neither he will use me for his show nor let any of his other friends use me for theirs, so what's the point having my name in the final list.
"The name of the designer is Vijay Arora and two of the panelists who are also big names in fashion told me this. They both will read this and if they allow, I can take their names as I know their intent was to do a fair job but they were under pressure, he said. Vijay has denied the charge.
He said all this happened because "I had pushed him away when he was trying to touch me inappropriately outside a party venue and while I was walking away angrily, he told me categorically that he will make sure I never do any of the fashion weeks."
He said the support from within and outside the industry would not have happened a few years ago. "If anyone spoke, the voices would get lost," he said.
"When I shared my words, I had no expectation as no other guy had spoken earlier. To my surprise, besides the calls and messages, a lot of people acknowledged that the problem exists and supported me," he said.
The Grasim Mr India 2001 runner-up and Mr India World 2007, has worked with the country's ace choreographers like Marc Robinson, Achala Sachdev, Anu Ahuja and also worked in "Nannu Nanna Kanasu", a Kannada film directed and produced by four-time National Award-winning actor Prakash Raj.
Talking about #MeToo, he says that the time is right to speak up.
"I think the time is right in the wake of #MeToo and the way it has taken off in the last one month is worth appreciating. People are addressing the issue and talking about it, getting over the shame and guilt associated with such kind of issue," he said.
But why does the industry wait for a #MeToo movement to talk about such issues?
"People reacted earlier in their own capacity. Now time has changed and people are ready to speak. Honestly speaking, if I had put out my story two years back, I don't know if many people would have heard my story. In the industry, people are aware of it but outside of it, nobody acknowledges such things happen to men. Now as a society, we are ready to talk," he said.
So after the movement, does he see a change for all the aspiring models?
"I would like the change to happen. I had taken a sabbatical in August 2017 and do not see myself resuming anytime soon as now I am exploring another avenue professionally. But I want this to change at personal level. Yes, overnight change doesn't happen but I think those who are in power should take up the responsibility. Address the issue, speak up and try to make a change," he said.
(Nivedita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)