They still ask my wife, “Could your husband get a job?” My daughter also has to answer to her new college friends as to where her father works! My neighbours look at me with mixed emotions as they don’t see me leaving home at 10 a.m. and return by 5 in the evening, as any other 40-year-old office going person.
Also, many of my friends and their families discuss me behind my back, having no clue as to what do I do! My mother, brother and sister too, off and on, have to turn into a crucified Christ when visited by relatives and well-wishers who unfailingly inquire, “What is Neeraj doing now?”
At a function recently, one of my friends shyly confided how shocked he was to see a notice appearing in the largest circulated newspaper The Times of India, by my employers The Press Trust of India Ltd. (PTI), about my dismissal from the news agency, so much so that he didn’t have the guts to contact me out of pain. Another schoolmate also shared as to how he was encountered by some school group members whether they needed to collect funds to support my family.
All these (just) because I stood up over a decade ago to raise some valid concerns that agitated me both as a person and as a representative of a trade union connected to my company PTI that stands next to Indian Parliament. It was early 2003 when I was terminated from service, which order I contested in the labour court which, in early 2011, held that the actions of my company were both illegal and unjustified.
I should have been jubilant as the court ordered my reinstatement with continuity of service and full back wages. Indeed, that was an emotional moment for me and for all those who believed in me but I could feel that no one was actually happy as all had the same feeling that those at the helms in my company would not let me join my duties at any cost. That was the moment when I expected my superiors to help re-shape my career, family and life but my management preferred an appeal in a higher court, thereby further denying me what is mine.
All this while, as I struggled to live and tried my best to maintain peace both in my company and family, many deserted me switching sides and even moving on. Prospects of the colleagues and union members who stood rock solid were also hampered, so that they could surrender to the vested interests.
I believe there’s a bogey of handful persons whose enduring selfish partnership is preventing me to perform in a manner God wants me to. But then, should it silence my voice? I have faced some terrible times. I have faced adjournments in the Delhi High Court where my case is pending; and where I say, smilingly, after every hearing, “I’m obliged, Your Honour”.
I can’t let the passing days dull my memories of what happened with me or what all is going on, still. I, in fact, consider myself as one among the fortunate who raise their voice and stand for individuals at risk, anywhere. This is what I strive toward every day and will continue to. This, I think, is a fitting tribute to my father who left me when I needed him most.