About Me (2)
General Stuff (9)
New York (3)
People I've Met (6)
Preparations and Inspiration (3)
Lurking Around on Travel Sites
In My Own Bed
Pray For It
Seattle and Interesting Uses of Pyrex
Heading to Seattle
Weekend Out of Hippyville
The $330 Trip to the Oregon Country Fair
July 4th, 2004
More Books I've Read
Why Are These People Talking to Me?
There And Back Again
I Wanted To End It All
Summing Up the Gobi
October 18, 2003
How Claudia and I look at India is totally, literally different: she looks down, and I look at.
Today is the first time that difference has hit me. We were walking down Kolkata's Chittaranjan Ave., a massive thoroughfare with tons and tons of people. One of the routines we've established, is that I always walk either behind Claudia, or beside and a little behind her. It seemed to divert a little, ahem, unwanted attention (though if I got 10 rupees from every guy who eyed her up and down, I could easily travel for another year).
As we walk, Claudia looks down. As a woman, she said, making eye contact with Indian men isn't a good idea. She explained to me that one of the ways a man in India can identify, say, a Hindu prostitute, is that if he stares at her, she stares back. If Claudia looks a man in the eye here he isn't necessarily going to think she's a hooker, but there will be an unconscious - or, yes, maybe conscious - association as he stares back at this Western girl. So she looks down when she walks.
I tend to look people in the eye. Not always; it's a habit that I don't have to break here. Usually, I catch the eye of people who are eyeing up her. (Guy moment: Ladies, we always know when a man is looking at you. It's a bit of telepathy we have going on; maybe it's some sort of protective instinct, but we always know.)
Here in India, it's even easier to tell. You don't need an instinct: Staring is not a taboo here as it is in the States. Men passing by us today - and especially a traffic cop who gave himself slow whiplash as we crossed a street - did nothing but elevator-eye her. I would usually broadcast a quick look - another bit of guy telepathy - "Oy jackass, don't look at my wife like that!" (She isn't mind you, but still).
Call it a chauvanistic society. Call me protective. It is, and I am. Do the stares bother me? A little. Claudia's always gotten looks (though she never believes me); here it's just more blatant. Does my eye contact and little mental message stop the stares? No. My hope is that they discourage a progression from casual eye-up to a quick bout of "oh, let's see if I can pinch the white girl's ass."
What bothers me most, is knowing that Claudia looks down because she shouldn't risk looking people in the eye while just walking down a street. She has to pull more defensive diligence than I could ever know. If someone approaches me, after all, at the worst they're after my money. If someone approaches Claudia, yeah, they could be after her money... or a quick grope... or, hell, why not both?
If someone actually did grope Claudia, she'd knock them flat. I probably wouldn't have to make a move - I doubt I'd even have time to. She can fight, but she shouldn't look up. So I look on, and she watches the feet of India go by.
Posted by Ant on October 18, 2003 04:41 AM