‘He held the back of my neck and pushed me down to his crotch’

An anony­mous fash­ion writer look­ing for work in Lon­don re­counts an evening from 2012 and a hu­mil­i­at­ing few min­utes in­side Suhel Seth’s Lon­don ho­tel suite

Mid Day - - CITY -

I WAS al­most through with my mas­ters de­gree from Lon­don’s Cen­tral Saint Martins, and hell­bent on seek­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence there. See­ing my ea­ger­ness, my fa­ther re­quested his em­ploy­ers, one of In­dia’s most prom­i­nent in­dus­trial fam­i­lies, to help with con­tacts. I was told to meet Suhel Seth.

Hav­ing worked in the fash­ion in­dus­try for close to a decade, I was aware of Suhel’s rep­u­ta­tion with the ladies. In fact, he had made a pass at me at a fash­ion week party ear­lier in New Delhi. Thank­fully, a col­league had res­cued me from the in­ter­ac­tion, and that was that.

I couldn’t get my­self to share my ap­pre­hen­sion with my fa­ther, and de­cided to meet Suhel. This was in Fe­bru­ary 2012. I told my­self that he wouldn’t dare act fresh with me again, con­sid­er­ing he knew I was com­ing via a ref­er­ence from a prom­i­nent fam­ily.

Suhel re­sponded to my in­tro­duc­tory email thus: ‘Dar­ling: Come to the Taj 51 Buck­ing­ham Gate re­cep­tion when you ar­rive this af­ter­noon at 3 pm. I will be wait­ing for you there... (sic)’ Fancy ad­dress, I thought, and de­cided to splurge 15 quid on a black cab. We had a quick chat at the ho­tel cof­fee shop where he hur­riedly rum­maged through my re­sume and pub­lished work, and spent the rest of the time in­quir­ing about what I wished to do here on, my ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing lived in Lon­don and whether I had a boyfriend. He had to fly off to New York the next day, but he as­sured me that we would meet again to dis­cuss work pos­si­bil­i­ties.

It was a pleas­ant in­ter­ac­tion, and I re­turned feel­ing a lit­tle in awe of this mav­er­ick, and less dis­cour­aged about my chances of find­ing work in Lon­don.

A few weeks later, we met again. But this time it was at a party he had thrown at a plush suite at the same ho­tel. He was to in­tro­duce me to the il­lus­tri­ous set and pos­si­bly get a ca­reer started in Lon­don. A per­sonal el­e­va­tor brought me to his door where he was stand­ing. He took me to the liv­ing room, sat me down and made en­quiries about my fam­ily.

The party started soon af­ter and was at­tended mostly by women. I felt com­fort­able. His rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a great host was bang on. With a glass of malt-on-the-rocks in hand, he per­son­ally at­tended to ev­ery guest, of­fer­ing them In­dian cui­sine and bub­bly. It was a good party brim­ming with con­ver­sa­tion and laugh­ter.

He then said he wished to give me a signed copy of his book, Get To the Top, and led me to an­other room. He sat by the edge of the bed, and sig­nalled me to sit, too. While he was talk­ing, he sud­denly pushed his tongue into my mouth. The stench of malt was over­pow­er­ing. I pushed him away. He held the back of my neck and pushed me down to his crotch. I stum­bled, but got back on my feet and mum­bled, ‘I can’t. I am go­ing to throw up’. I gath­ered my­self and walked out of the room. The eyes of the fe­male guests were on me, as if to say, we know what hap­pened in there.

I downed a glass of wa­ter, still hold­ing the signed copy of his book. I was alone, and in a coun­try that wasn’t home. I spent the next few weeks calm­ing my mind and heart. Strangely, he con­tin­ued to in­ter­act with me on mail and text about pos­si­ble work as­sign­ments. Nei­ther of us brought up that evening again. Un­til to­day.

Suhel re­sponded to my in­tro­duc­tory email thus: ‘Dar­ling: Come to the Taj 51 Buck­ing­ham Gate re­cep­tion when you ar­rive this af­ter­noon at 3 pm. I will be wait­ing for you there... (sic) Fancy ad­dress, I thought, and de­cided to splurge 15 quid on a black cab’

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