Thus far India has been very different to anything I was expecting. The other travelers I’m meeting are hippy, fun and possibly have not been part of a judging society in years, and it’s very contagious. I’m already wearing hippy pants, sporting a chime anklet and wild hair – and I haven’t felt this liberated in ages.
But having said that, India is also strangely conservative, whereby knees and shoulders are to be covered up at all times. This is simply a suggestion – but as my friend, Olivia, was telling me about her bikini beach experience and having strange men walk up to me and take my photo, I’m starting to try blend in as much as possible. As I’m typing this I am aware that this seems an oxymoron given that the travelers wear hippy trousers and the locals wear regular jeans or saris.
Olivia’s beach story
On a very warm day in the beautiful seaside village of Varkala, Olivia decided to head down to the beach to catch some rays and a swim or four. While lying on the beach in her bikini a young Indian gentleman came and sat close to where she was sunbathing. Noticing a change in environment she looked up from her beach towel to find the so called gentleman with his penis in hand, masturbating to the sight of shoulders. When I heard the story I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Unfortunately though this incident is not unheard of and while walking along the beach the other day I was watching the Indians walking past bikini’ed tourist and the look on their faces was a mixture of shock and disgust (the actual emotion going on: woman feeling this is shocking behaviour and utterly appalled, men waiting to get ride of the horrified woman with them so that they can come try get action from unsuspecting tourist). It truly is a different culture out here, where woman are seen as property and men seem to be sex deprived. Now I’m not excusing this sort of behaviour, I just find it amusing that the relatively free western world has crept into the Indian society, making some men think that just because a western female bares some skin that it is an invitation to having their personal space invaded.
The really odd thing is that since I’ve started wearing more cloth than Madonna in Evita, my outlook has changed, I’m meeting more Indian females and actually feeling free. I do still miss the freedom of the day on the beach and am very excited for Thailand where I plan on bikini’ing it up for weeks.
Another thing that struck me out here is that I am as foreign to them as what they are to me. Often I’ll be walking around sightseeing and a local will walk up to me and ask if he could take a photo of me. Here I thought I was coming to look at the attractions, only to become the attraction. Not a day goes by where I’ll be walking and someone will walk up to me to shake my hand and ask “What is your good name, madam?”. Please don’t think I’m being big headed here – it happens to all the travelers. And just incase you were wondering – a good name is basically your first name. This question is then immediately followed by “Where are you from?”, “Are you married?” and “Student or worker?” – in exactly that order. Upon finding out I’m a CA, I often get my hand shook (pretty vigorously) followed by “oh very good, excellent!”
You will either love or hate India. I am yet to come across someone who sits on the fence about it. Luckily for me, I am falling madly and deeply in love with this country. I get she’s dirty, she’s poor, she’s pot-holed and weathered… But she’s colourful, entertaining, friendly, foreign and mind blowingly exciting.