I was all of 18 when my own cousin and his wife decided to morph my pictures, showing me in rather compromising positions to blackmail me and my family. While under normal circumstances, this could have broken a person, it made me stronger and cemented my relationship with my father.
My name is Shruti Chaturvedi (28), I’m a media marketing professional, and this is the story of my father, Haresh Chaturvedi (53), who made me fearless by refusing to be blackmailed with my morphed pictures.
My cousin, who defied his parents, ran away and got married, was staying in our home. My mother was his aunt and she felt the need to give them shelter until they could sort out their issues with the family. This was when we stayed in a two-bedroom house and there were already six of us residing there. They stayed with us for a couple of months and when my mother started talking about them either moving out or patching up with the family, they started to think of ways to stay put.
Thinking back, I was naïve – there was just one laptop in the house that we all used. My cousin and his wife were applying for jobs and they needed to use the laptop often. I never thought much of it. Like everyone else, I had pictures stored on the laptop of me and my friends, which was nothing to hide. They used the pictures in which I was with friends and morphed them.
My cousin’s wife was a computer engineer and perhaps working on the pictures came easy for her. She was also part of the dark web network and I later found out that whatever ‘finesse’ was added to the pictures was all courtesy of her skills. Even though I knew the pictures were completely fabricated, I looked at them for a while to understand what had hit me. They all looked so real. One who had no idea about Photoshop and DeepFake would easily be convinced that the pictures were real.
I have shared many tweets talking about my father – his whims, some valuable lessons he has taught me with his actions & many many instances of ‘how to father’. Compiling some of them here. If you’re father, especially of a girl, please do read. pic.twitter.com/iLlwLrBQXX
— Shruti Chaturvedi (@adhicutting) June 20, 2021
DeepFake is a technique that uses artificial intelligence to create convincing images, audio and video hoaxes. Ten years ago, when all this was happening, such things were not as rampant as today and yet the couple managed to pull it off.
It was a regular evening and we were all sitting down for dinner when my cousin came up to the dining table and handed a bunch of pictures to my parents. Their (couple) initial attitude was one of deep concern for me and when they saw that my parents were not reacting like they had wanted them to, they started to blackmail us. Even as I was trying to make sense of it all, they said that they wouldn’t leave the house ‘no matter what’. Now that they had these pictures, they would use it as leverage, if they were asked to leave and also asked for money.
My mother was furious when she saw the pictures, she assumed it to be true.
My father on the other hand, looked at my cousin and said, ‘So what if this happens to be my daughter?’ That threw my cousin and his wife off track, that was not the response that they were expecting. My father was clear in not giving in and not letting them get away with it either. My cousin then threatened to use these pictures as posters that he would stick everywhere and ‘destroy our reputation’.
But nothing impacted my father, who stood firm. He flung their backpacks out of the house and without mincing his words, asked my cousin and his wife to get out.
To all those men who walk around claiming to be feminists, I present my father, who without knowing what the word means, has been a feminist all through his life.
He has been this way since I was born 28 years ago.
We belong to a rather conservative UP family, and my birth was not one that was celebrated – what with me being a girl. There was immense pressure on my parents to have another child, preferably a male heir. In a bid to cut away from all the pressure, my father decided to not have any more kids. He went on to empower me in every way possible and has supported me all my decisions.
My relationship with my father is the envy of everyone who meets us. They often joke that when we are together, we are oblivious to everyone and everything around us. We can discuss any subject under the sun and never seem to tire of each other. It is a beautiful relationship and one that I cherish.
In wanting to make me independent he has taught me how to ride a bike and then, eventually, when we had the financial means to buy a car, he taught me to drive as well.
Finances, a topic that parents usually keep away from their children, was also discussed openly. I remember when I was 12, we had a desktop at home and my father would make the monthly budget plan on an Excel sheet. He spoke of how much money he had, what our expenses were for the month and the financial health of the family. Everything was discussed and that has shaped me to be the person I am today.
-Shruti Chaturvedi As Told To Vidya Raja
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)