Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 28 September 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

'Verbal' meaning Vs. 'hidden' meaning

As a literature student I was always advised by my teacher to give more emphasis to the metaphorical meaning than to the literal sense when studying masterpieces of world literature.

Sometimes it is not so easy to get at the meaning, you have to read and re-read the text! Just as great poet and critic T. S. Eliot said " The reader has to be the mid wife and take the child to birth.It is by no means the business of the writer to make itself plain."

That is fine if it is all about literary criticism! But that is not the case always, say working girls. The 'great writers' are the pot bellied, vulgar men who happen to be their colleagues unfortunately , and it is obvious who the readers are!

"Almost every word they utter has a double meaning and they are targetted at women. I think that my office is the worst of all." says Nuwangi who works at a private bank in Colombo." Those pot-bellied, middle aged, ugly men wait till they get their turn to pass remarks on girls. When we are there they will talk of 'something' else in an obscene manner, but it is obvious that such remarks are referred at us." she fumes.As she says such men think so high of themselves." After making remarks I see them throwing glances at girls victoriously as if they had committed a heroic deed.!" It is a pity that they think so, as they are the " feeble " of all.She rates them on par with "Peeping Toms" and all types of sex perverts!

Dileepa talks of her friend whose name is "Prabodi." She often gets phone calls when she is at her office and the receiver is invariably picked up by her male colleagues. When the caller asks "Is Prabodi there?", the usual answer is "Yeah, habai kisima prabodayak naha". After passing the receiver to Prabodhi they would continue with their vulgar jokes. Dileepa says if she was Prabodi she would not tolerate such types of behaviour from her male colleagues. "It is all because Prabodi does not seem to object. At times she too joins with those obnoxious men in their verbal attack against herself! What a world!"

It is a well known thing that certain women do enjoy such bawdy remarks made about them, and sometimes they would join the menfolk with glee when they pass comments on another female colleague. "Ironically such women do not know that same type of remarks are made about them in their absence!" says Mrs. Dassanayaka, a middled aged assistant manager in a reputed company in Kandy.

Sachitha, a computer operator in a government department says that men assume that women like it. Some men feel that such jokes show how 'manly' they are, though it really shows how feeble they are as men!

"There are girls who do raise their objections whenever such remarks are made at them or at their female colleagues. Some girls of course would retort in a 'similar' language that would rattle the entire department ." So Sachitha believes that if all the girls could oppose to such type of verbal violence against women rather than entertaining them, male colleagues would dare not try to continue it."

Banking officer Mrs. Indrani Ramanayaka, who is just about reaching her retirement age says she hardly hear people enjoying innocent jokes as yesteryear. "Sex" is the sole theme. "Whatever they say , it has a completely different meaning than what I could grasp. So we are the "tube lights." The societies have become so commercialized and it seems that men can no longer think of women as human beings, but only as sex objects". she grins.

But Sajith, an accountant in an advertising firm in Colombo tells me that I don't know of embarrassing situations men undergo in offices because of garrulous women. "You are biased if you do not write about our woes." he says.

Women are experts at cracking bawdy jokes and in passing dirty remarks than men says Sajith who recalls how the 'bunch of nasty girls' in his office verbally 'harassed' him for nearly two hours on a day when all his male colleagues were out!

With all this in mind I rang up a medical doctor and a well known author Priyanga De Zoysa who told me that it all depends on how you interpret it. "You cannot not communicate." You cannot stay without communication. People normally communicate to get a sense of well being, to feel good."

As Dr. De Zoysa says sometimes men do not realise how much such bawdy jokes hurt women " Men and women are two different species. So the male way of communicating and interpreting words are different from those of females. Though women get hurt ,for men those are trivial matters and may not be intentional." Also by nature they tend to talk about sex almost all the time. But women are different." Anyway he cautioned that if such type of behaviour is persistent and becomes noticeable acutely, it is obvious that the person's mind has deviated from the normal. "But it could be remedied."

"Ultimately what we all wish for are happiness and harmony. So such type of issues could be sorted out simply by discussion. We know in offices there are get-togethers where both females and males get a chance to associate with each other in a friendly manner.

You should make full use of such occasions. Females can pass a general remark about such bawdy jokes and how much they dislike them and how they get hurt by such jokes. We should always look for an amicable settlement" said a laughing Dr.De Zoysa who vowed that he is by no means biased!

(Names have been changed)



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