'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.
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
(Names have been changed)