We celebrate our heroes, often the glamorous ones celebrated by the world at large. However, there are our everyday heroes, who go unnoticed and in this case, left the world. Salil Tripathi, the author and columnist for the Mint makes it a point to recognise one such hero. Salil writes about Gaurav Probir Pramanik, who died recently, but not before living a life bullied at the workplace for his effeminate mannerisms and having stood up for his gender calling out his perpetrators.
“Many Indians have fallen in love with people of their own gender since the beginning of time. The law criminalizing same-sex relationships was colonial Britain’s gift to India in the 19th century. They left, but the law remained, hardening societal attitudes towards such relationships. Puritanical elders forced many young men and women to marry people of the opposite sex against their orientation and will, ruining their lives. Some were routinely harassed by the police. Some died by suicide. And many found their schools or workplaces hostile. They simmered, swallowing daily humiliations and bullying, sometimes even beatings.
….From 2013 to 2016, he worked at Tech Mahindra, a leading Indian software company. Unknown to the senior management, he was subject to repeated harassment from a senior manager who criticized his ‘effeminate’ ways and made homophobic remarks. Gaurav stoically braved those barbs.”
When Indian courts legalised homosexuality, he took his fight to the perpetrator and social media in the most graceful way:
“Gaurav wrote to the manager: “This might come to you as a surprise… but… I had promised to write to you the day IPC Section 377 was scrapped and being a homosexual in a country as great as India was legal.” In a firm yet compassionate tone, he reminded the manager (a senior executive in the diversity and inclusion team, ironically) of a 2015 staff meeting where she ridiculed a colleague who had left the organization; he had cried, Gaurav said, and she wondered aloud if this was because of his sexual orientation.
“Do only gay men cry, and even if he was gay how would that be any problem for you until he let it affect his work?” Gaurav asked. He cited other pejorative terms the manager had used that many in the room found offensive, and showed these were not isolated occurrences.
As Gaurav did not receive a reply, he released snapshots of the email on social media. Top company officials reached out to him, calling his experience “disturbing”. Group chairperson Anand Mahindra wrote to him: “I can categorically assure you that we celebrate diversity in our workplace. Our code of conduct is explicit… fairness & dignity of the individual is enshrined in our core values. (We are) investigating these allegations, and appropriate action will follow.” A week later, the company announced: “The concerned employee has been separated from the employment of the company with immediate effect,” and reiterated the company’s condemnation of discrimination of any kind in the workplace.
Gaurav was surprised; he had not expected such a response. In standing up to bullying, he had set an example of courage. Tech Mahindra too showed that it meant what it said, by acting when it noticed something had gone wrong. Too often, companies get defensive and act stubborn. This one demonstrated to those within and outside the firm that it would uphold its standards.
…Social media is cacophonous and often vitriolic, where short-tempered ripostes pass for conversation. Gaurav showed it was possible to be kind and caring while holding up values that affirm equality and oppose bigotry.”

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