Friday, January 13, 2006

Quick, sister, look the other way. There's a man coming!

Reading this post by Mridula about the cultural stereotyping of India, I was reminded of something I had been reading some time back on the Net. Had this written down somewhere, but had forgotten to post it. So here it is now:

Going through some tips for Western women travelling alone in India on this website, I realised with a sense of profound shock that I have lived out all these years in India in complete ignorance of my own country and its people. Some startling facts I have discovered about this ancient land where all can attain nirvana:

Indian women still practice sati

Indian women do not make eye contact with strangers

Indian women don’t even walk to the market-place alone, let alone travel to another city alone

Indian women always go around swathed in saris or garments that cover every inch of their bodies. Wearing things like sleeveless tops or shorts is punishable by law.

Indian women never, NEVER, smoke in public. In fact, the writer is inclined to believe none of them smoke at all

If faced with a problem on the rare solitary trip to the market-place, Indian women always pretend their husbands are in the next shop

Indian women are studiously ignored by other men when in the protection of a man. Shopkeepers, restaurant owners just avert their eyes and always speak to the man in charge

In India, and I quote: “…media saturation of the Clinton-Lewinsky trial, Hollywood movies and scantily clad models are the only source of foreign context and news.”

Indian women (the article makes no exceptions, so it must mean ALL Indian women) having their periods “cannot say their prayers or come in contact with men for fear of tainting others.”

And to think I actually had the temerity to look a man in the eye at the shop where I buy cigarettes. What a wanton, loose creature I am, what a cultural anomaly!


At January 13, 2006 7:00 PM, Anonymous AB said...

And here I was thinking you had given it up...I mean smoking of course;-) Ur fag partner here Bishakha has.

At January 14, 2006 12:18 AM, Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...


At January 14, 2006 12:57 AM, Blogger 4WD said...

You smoke ? chee chee. Loose morals you must have.

At January 15, 2006 11:37 AM, Blogger LAK said...


At January 16, 2006 12:46 PM, Anonymous Mridula said...

Ah! If you could give us the specific link on Journeywoman, I will like to see this offending piece.

At January 16, 2006 12:54 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Yeah can you give us the specific link, the link you have given takes one to a general page, dunno how to proceed from there.

Although yeah, none of this is new. We had all these American students at my university on a exchange programme, and each of them was actually given a handbook that said things like "do not talk to Indian women because its socially unacceptable for men and and women to mix freely". They were mightily surprised when they met us I must say!!

At January 16, 2006 3:29 PM, Blogger Bald Monkey said...

I personally feel that your reaction is knee jerk. I personally did go through the posts and points that you put talked of in your post, and I think that in many ways those posts are justified. You have misquoted some stuff. One of the posts say that bride burning and sati still exist. You have quoted it as -- women still practice sati. That bride burning and sati exist is the truth. About the smoking part, the made the post clearly mentions that 'apart from large cities' women never smoke in public. I would tend to think that is true.
In my humble opinion, this sharp reaction has come from you because you have tried to apply your own world's lifestyle to the posts and have found no relevance in them. The sad truth however is that the emancipated, liberated Indian woman is probably at a minuscle 2% of the population, and a liberated man probably at a lower number. (many pretend to be emancipated but they are not) The hard fact is that our country is a country of female foeticide, Roop Kanwars and dowry deaths. It is a country where the police advise women to wear more 'decent' clothes lest they be raped. We judge women in short skirts. Policemen beat up women in public parks because they were found kissing in public. In short, we are sexually frustrated and have no respect for women. It does feel bad when outsiders point out the truth, but the truth is the truth. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

At January 17, 2006 12:06 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

ab: She has? For the nth time. I can lay a bet she'll get back in less than a month's time.

4wd: pffft

Rest: These are impressions gathered from a number of articles on that site.

Bald monkey: It was a bit knee jerk, yes I admit. Maybe as fatuous as the impression they get os us from these guides. But you have to admit, none of the guides, from Lonely Planet to random ones on the Internet, even try to project a balanced view of India. Yes, i agree, we, the emancipated, 'Westernised' Indians are probably 2 pc of the population or less, but we do exist, don't we? But have you seen any guide even hinting at our existence? I haven't. And that's warped, I say. I refuse to admit that we are any less 'real India' than the most underdeveloped village. As Ron's comment will tell you, the social paradoxes of India are completely baffling to foreign tourists. And these guides don't even try to elucidate on this. That's what my rant was against.

At January 24, 2006 2:36 PM, Anonymous shuv said...

sorry to barge in without an invite..saw the site and except for the comments by Molly (about getting better treatment on wearing Indian clothes), every single one of those observations are true. there is such a thing as a 'national character' and thats the national character of india. it doesnt really matter whether 2% or even 15% are different. also..i am sceptical about people crowning themselves liberated and braod minded (generally speaking, nothing personal) the absence of a formal 'certification' to brand someone as 'liberated' one has to take these people at face value..digging deeper more often than not exposes a dirty underbelly.

At February 16, 2006 11:14 PM, Blogger satchisgod said...

In fact, the writer is inclined to believe none of them smoke at all
Poor ignorant writer...! Should be put on a donkey's back and driven off the civilisation just for this one only!

At February 28, 2006 5:06 AM, Anonymous Siddhartha said...

Isn't it good if girls don't smoke in public? I mean they relieve other innocent people out there from involuntary passive smoking, don't they? Ms. Bagchi I expected more sense from you.


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