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I think I might love India…

12 Nov

I really noticed how used to India we had become when we landed in Mumbai on our way to Goa.

Many of the people who come to Goa are Euro-trash tourists, Liverpool blue collars and Israelis looking for fun and sun. We however, were on a mission to take a break, to spend some time near the beach and cruise on scooters having fun. We decided to come to Baga and spend a week swimming, sunning and scootering…then travel the rest of Goa before heading back to Puducherry.

We had a layover in Mumbai, before we ended up in Panjim, Goa. This is where I realized we were used to India…and well, we had won our right of passage. The people, the madness, the confusion, the late planes, the endless waiting…it just didn’t phase us. This is how it just is…this is India. But the contrast- between our acceptance and ability to look the other way, and the new comers was very tangible.

The tourists were impatient, they ACTUALLY waited in lines or at least thought there were lines (and when, of course, Indians *and two white tourists* cut in front of them…they threatened to complain!) I remember we were like that way, way, way back (sigh…) but no more. We know there are no lines, when you want something just push to the front and step on the toes of the person next to you to make it. We know that NO plane (ours was 2 hours late) or bus (a 2 hour ride really means closer to 4 1/2 hours) or train (only had 1 on time in all these months- “the inconvenience is most regretted”) will be on time in India- there is no such thing as time in India, and there will never be. We know that they will scan, search and struggle with Anthony at every airport and securtiy check in India, but let me walk through everything (I am the one carrying everything illegal ;)- less they frisk and harass (hand over mouth here) a woman. Just being in India is a struggle, but we…we have made it through initiation- and won!!

I am a Salwar wearing, chaos loving, Dosa eating, water drinking tourist and I love it. Give me a 100% pure-veg thali any day!!! Lime soda please, sweet with a little salt. Watch the back of my salwar as I ghetto scooter it out of here sister- honking to make the cow move just avoiding your pan spit. This is India.

So we are in this little beach town, (called the freak zone because it is nothing like anything else in India. If you never went anywhere else but here, you would have no idea what India is really like) settled into a great place called Alidia Beach Cottages, cruising on our ghetto scooter (it doesn’t have side mirrors like all the others, but it has brakes- that’s not bad!!) just feeling groovy. Then I gasp… there are whities everywhere!!!

They are waddling down the road, wearing next to nothing (I would rather they didn’t…I just don’t need to see that- it’s never the good looking ones you know, just the old and fat) and badly sunburned. They look confused, dazed and otherwise annoyed. Sure! Of course! It’s 38C and 98% humidity and it’s dusty, dirty and crazy- why in the world are you walking in the sun during the middle of the day? The old English Raj saying “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the middle of the day” really fits. We are out, but that is because we have a deluxe ghetto bike and we are free. Besides, we are heading either to shade or the water- it’s crazy to be in the sun in the middle of the day!

It’s fun to cruise and laugh, playing with the traffic just like everyone else, honking like mad. We understand how traffic works and we play with them. But we notice something, something that is not playing and definitely not laughing…the whities! They are signaling to turn and no one is responding the right way!! Ha, Ha!! Honking is a national past-time in India. But it really means pass me in India, not a signal to indicate rudeness. So what else is there to do, but pass? So we zip by, others zip by and the whities get mad!! So they honk (to say hey, that’s not nice)…but you know…that means pass me!! So everyone does and we all honk back which means thank you, and they become more impatient and angry. Silly! You know “Horn OK Please” or “Sound Horn OK Please” means let me know you are there, pass me and then honk when you do pass. Well India IS Horn Please in every way. So people pass, when the whities honk and then the whites want to turn! They stop in the road (honk!) turn on the turn signal (pass me) and wait. No one stops everyone passes and the whities honk. Of course! Put your arm out and just go if you want to turn. No, don’t stop in the road- just go. “But there is a car coming!!” Go faster! Flustered whities everywhere and not knowing what to do!!!! Funnier than hell. Which leads me to another topic- whities on the beach.

Now, I am no prude. I love to be naked and I do it all I can but I also respect culture and have to live here and be a white woman in India. Yes, I am wearing a “bathing costume” in India, on the beach. I know that is not totally respectable, but it is a fairly modest costume and I am going to specified beach areas for tourists, and there are other Indian families vacationing in various forms of similar dress, so I figure it’s just fine. No issues, this IS a beach resort. Sure, there are plenty of Salwars walking around, but not in the 1K or so radius of beach in our area. But that’s not the issue- here’s my issue- please don’t go topless.

Come on ladies, how freaking stupid can you be? You are in a 3rd world country, dominated by religion and social modesty, where you won’t even get frisked at an airport for fear of immodesty and you are going topless? Shit. See here’s the issue- you show up here 2 weeks a year, do your thing and then go home. You don’t care what happens to other women nor about the ramifications of your actions towards other women, especially western women. I do. I am the one (and other fellow traveling women) who want to immerse themselves in culture, who want to learn, who want to show respect. We are the ones (because we are white) the conservative Indian men see as the breast bearing whores (trust me, they have cousins all over the country who will hear and see on their phones pictures and stories about your ta ta’s and tell others etc.), which is the exact thing they expect from an MTV or Eurotrash gal. Why? Why do you do it? Here’s the thing… I just can’t cry a tear for you.

When the Indian men circle your chaise lounge, walk by you at least 20 times, laugh and point, bring other men to stare at you and make life hell- you get annoyed. Oh boo-hoo! How dare they harass your toplessness and not just leave you alone, how RUDE! You live in this isolated non-India (trust me, Baga is NOT India) for a week or two and go home, and that’s the extent of your understanding of India. You know- this isn’t the West and this isn’t home. Things are different, no matter how similar they seem (Goa tourism has worked hard at that- making you think you were in Ibiza.) I would love to take you any day to any city or village and show you what it is really like in India. What it is like to just be a white woman, and discuss the attitudes and viewpoints of conservative Indian men. Then, when you ask me “where does this come from?” I will point to you and say “girlfriend, it’s you.” Take your top off all you want- I do- but not on the beaches in India. Show some respect for the other women, both Western and Eastern- who have to tolerate the ramifications.

More to come on the list I have of idiosyncrasies of Indian life…like leaving the sticker on all mirrors and bathroom fixtures. No matter the class of hotel, inn, guest house etc. there is always a sticker. Why? We take them off…are we breaking the law?

Stay Tuned!!

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Being a Western Woman in India…

25 Oct

So I have never posted to this blog, it’s kind of Anthony’s project and I leave him to it. It’s good to have projects, keeps people occupied and out of trouble. Well, the time has come to speak out- or rather rant about a major issue here in India. Being a white, Western woman in a land dominated by small, (I’m 6ft. and most men tower out at 5.6ft) mostly uneducated men.

Why is it that men who are holding hands, groping each other, etc. can stare at me, laugh at me, go out of their way to try to bump into me (yes, Anthony is right next to me) and otherwise harass me? In my country, in my world, this would never be considered acceptable. Oh sure, people are made fun of and all of that, but this is different. This is public harassment in a form I have never seen, and more than that- it is totally socially acceptable.

In this ancient society that is trying so hard to step up to the 21st century, staring and gawking are totally the norm and nothing is thought of in publicly harassing people. NOW, this I know is not just left for me- I have had so many conversations with white Western women from late teens to late 30’s who have just hit the end of being able to deal with this issue, feel harassed, bothered, unsafe or otherwise tired of the whole thing. The only place in India that I have been, where both other women and I felt safe was in the hill stations. Starting in Darjeeling and going upwards, the harassment abated and the jeering stares disappeared.

Harassment was replaced with curious stares, questions, smiles and fair conversation. At no time did I feel harassed and insulted- usually I was met with smiles, nice conversations and earnest questions. The harassment that I am referring to has been exclusive to the low lands of India.

Most of this behavior has been explained as the boys/men here only see sex coming out of the West and assume this is what all Western women are about. Oh shit, please. This is a society that allows boys/men to do what they want, when they want, rule with abandon and not give two craps about anything or anyone around. I have seen little boys hit their mothers, scream and yell and otherwise display behavior that made both Anthony and myself drop our jaws. With the “gut and a strut” fathers just standing there, smoking and otherwise not doing a damn thing. That’s just the way it is. In fact, some of the worst harassment I have encountered is by little boys being egged on by older men around them. The favorite is to come up, of course holding hands and groping each other (this will be discussed in a later post…sigh) and they stare. Then they try to get closer and closer, and they try to touch. Now mind you, the whole time Anthony is standing right next to me staring them down. I try to do the same, even saying something-but see, I don’t count! So whatever I do or say is ignored. But they won’t even look at Anthony. They won’t get near him, but they will circle around until he just about jumps them, then they saunter away playing kissy face with each other, pants hiked up under the armpit, belt wrapped 3 times around their waists laughing as loudly as possible. So this happens 6-7 times a day at least. Take that with the glaring stares, trying to touch or bump, and a lady just has enough.

I had a super conversation with a few women from Seattle, WA regarding this issue. They were young, in college, cute and all. Studying in Delhi for a few months and then touring India, (why didn’t I do this in college? There was more to do than get loaded? hmmm…) anyway, they had a few things to say also. We compared notes, and we vented. It was great!! I told them about the fantastic book “Holy Cow!” by Sarah MacDonald (just about this very issue) and they ran out and bought it, we spoke some more and laughed over the next few days. The thing we all agreed on was that we just didn’t understand this lust and lurking that these men do. I know they don’t get laid, they have the social maturity of a 5 year old (especially toward the opposite sex) and they are ignorant about so many things in the world. But come on.

I have not in any circumstance been met with this behavior by educated Indian men. I have had fantastic times with educated, intellectual Indian men. Call it respect even!! They know there is something outside of their world and have seen more… I appreciate it greatly. Hands shaken, eye contact, business cards exchanged. All very kind. Now come on, I know that they are looking- but it’s not the same. I am not ranting about looks, I am ranting about all out harassment.

So if anyone knows how to say “Get Fucked” in Hindi, or “Go fuck yourself” or “If you actually had sex instead of fantasizing about me then you might feel better” Please let me know. I really need to say something.