*NEW* Recent blog entries

May 16, 2008

Hijab and hooker heels

OR Shit fry for a white guy…

I swear to Jesus or Sai Baba or whomever you may please that this bloody blog is allergic to happy posts. Even as I sat down to convert the notes I have been taking over the days into ‘Episode 1: Virgin Affairs’ – after the mandatory email checking, friend request ignoring and birthday walling – the calmness of my early morning was fucked by ‘a person’ sitting on the computer next to me. I am at a cyber café on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne and was quite happy with the holiday I’ve had so far and with the people of this city TILL ‘a person’ walked into the café, sat on the comp next to me and upon realizing he is sitting next to an Indian, has crossed himself at least six times since.

It’s funny because firstly, it has never happened to me before. Of course people have remembered God when around me or because of me --- bwahahaha – but that’s not usually because of my skin colour. (er, it's called putting the fear of God) Secondly, because I thought one is supposed to cleanse oneself after meeting an Indian, remembering God really doesn’t help, you know. Anyway, so the guy walks in --- (oh wow, he just left, perhaps typing in font size 18 WHILE he was staring into my monitor worked, maybe he will knife me or punch me in the face when I step out, maybe I should kick him in the groin first, NOT going down without a fight unless am shot in the head or something) – takes one look at me and goes, “E gad” and crosses himself. I am surprised at my reaction, since I simply looked away, stared into my monitor, smiled and started typing. Maybe I will hang a laptop around my neck and walk around.

That apart, I really have not felt much of any racist vibes… Maybe two days is not enough to feel it! (Am SUCH a cynic) People are friendly or at least helpful when you ask them for directions or some such thing. In both Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Melbourne, if I have caught another’s eye and smiled, people have smiled back… except for the Indians. In both cities, the Indians or those of Indian origin are the last people to smile at a stranger and first to look uncomfortable when spoken to. At least three people were horrified when I spoke to them in Hindi and pulled a really twangy Australian accent on me with an, “Excuse mai?” All three were women, who had been speaking Hindi (two of them had) just before I spoke to them and were in Indian outfits, one was also wearing chooda (red and white bangles that recently married Punjabi women wear). The first two times I apologized and switched back to English but the third time – the chooda chick – I couldn’t help but go, “Anywhooooo”, wink and walk away.

Both yesterday and today (Friday), I’ve come into the city with Partner at about 9 am. He leaves for work – he’s here on an official thing – and I roam around the city, checking cafes, looking at buildings, drinking loads of coffee (8 cups yesterday, determined to not have as many today), wondering why Melbourne women don’t wear more colours (maybe on the beach? But it’s cold…) and REALLY enjoying the fact that am getting a fair bit of nice-male-attention. No men stared/ checked out/ looked in Kuala Lumpur but a fair bit – both ‘white’ and non-white – have been doing so in Melbourne. It could be because I DO look the smallest creature walking on the roads – I mean there are other 5 feet tall/small women, but WHY do I look such a runt?! – or because I seem to be strolling while everyone else is pacing about. THAT’s one instant way of knowing who is NOT from Melbourne… People here pretty much run instead of walking. Maybe it’s a big city thing, or maybe it’s a city-with-train-network-thing. But even in Delhi (doesn’t have local trains) or Mumbai (has local trains), I’ve never seen people walk this fast. Or purposefully…

When I say nice-male-attention, it means that the blokes check you out but it’s not like in Delhi (or Indian cities) where they seem to strip you with their eyes (and sometimes you can even feel their disgusting paws on you). Here it’s more like a top-to-toe and quick look away if you catch them looking at you, or a longer thorough glance if they don’t know you know they are looking at you or a shy or cheeky smile if you catch them looking and look back. Hmm, however, majority of those who looked were tall boys. Perhaps they thought I was a midget… or perhaps because I look ‘man-handle-able’? (Tsks at self for being SUCH a cynic)

However – and I can’t say it enough – it is SUCH a relief, a huge, huge, relief to just walk around the roads of an unknown city without anyone whistling, without eyes boring into your back, your butt, your breasts, without walking through a throng of people crossing red lights wondering if someone is going to grab your tits. I don’t know the city, I don’t know streets and yet I feel very comfortable just walking or getting on a tram, asking people for directions or sitting alone outside cafeterias with a coffee and a cigarette and watching as the city wakes up. It is such a relief that even when a man looks at you or checks you out, he does not threaten. Of course there are some jackasses, but unlike India (or the Indian subcontinent) where we seem to produce them in masses, not everyone is a jackass. In fact the ONLY dudes who offend with their staring seem to be the Indian/ Pakistani boys here… (Sri Lankans don’t, they are way too cool)

Perhaps some will give the argument that since boys and girls here grow up watching each other on beaches and wearing short skirts or cleavage showing outfits, they are more used to such stuff and therefore don’t stare. (Between, the sari shows much more than jeans and a tee shirt does or with stockings on, you don’t see skin at all while there are no skin outfits worn under saris when our women show off their midriffs) But you know what, in Kuala Lumpur, MOST Malay women wear the hijab (almost like a burqa except that the face is not covered but the rest of the body is) and YET the Malay men do NOT stare. In fact girls in KL – Chinese majority that is –wore MUCH shorter dresses (and higher heels) than the girls in Melbourne (also since its winter here and was bloody warm in KL).

IF hooker heels and hijab can coexist in a country WITHOUT men molesting women on New Year’s and without staring or eve teasing, I say WE need to do something. HOW are the mothers bringing up the boys in these countries that makes them NOT stare? What are we doing wrong that makes generations of men in India into such personal space invading, boob-staring, butt-grabbing monsters? Please don’t give me rape and how it happens in other countries – it does and there’s no denying – but EVE TEASING is what am talking about. It’s different and it’s really rampant.

Anyway, this is getting longer and there is much to write but those will come in subsequent posts. It’s 11.20 am now and I wonder what I can do today till Partner gets free… I checked out the Melbourne aquarium yesterday and I don’t think many will be impressed when I say that I found the jellyfish more impressive than the sharks. But that’s me. Heading out for more coffee, more notes and trying to understand what makes this city tick and why it’s so difficult for Delhi to pick up tips from truly international, truly multicultural cities… And what might it take if at all we were to change our men.

PS: Of all things about India and home, I miss Golu Dawg, he is at a dog resort. IF I move to this city… I will have to find a home for him in Delhi. NOT going to think about it, makes me cry.

11 comments:

Silvara said...

hahah - should have told to watch out for the weirdos. you get them in every city :P

Mystique said...

yes we definitely need to do something.
and yeah i heard aus is kinda racist....

maxine said...

"sitting alone outside cafeterias with a coffee and a cigarette"
hmmm.

Just now I was told to change to an English sounding name and use it as "widely known as", so as to get response from potential employers.

Eve* aka jb said...

Maxine ---> English sounding name.,..hmm...wonder how the heck will i manage with "jhoomur", but i will and am sure of that. If aboriginal names can be accepted, Indians names will be too, or will see about it. Hang in there and am sure sooner or later you will get a job. Best of luck.

Mystique ---> I wouldnt really say that it's racist all over and in all sector...hell am sitting in a farm home in a true-blue Aussie home and no racism for as far as I can see. AS Silvara pointed out, there are weirdos everywhere. Also given the racist comments and attitudes Partner and me have faced in New Delhi, Australia seems to be a dream so far.

Silvara --> Would completely agree to weirdos being there in every city... and it was GREAT meeting you. Please do chill about making me pay etc. :) I had invited you out from what i remember. :P

Shantanu said...

Re: racist, I haven't encountered any such thing ever in my travel to other countries. However, as for the ogling/staring/leching on streets, coincidentally, I was just now making this very point to a friend. Having come back after another trip - this time to China - I couldn't help but wonder what turn of events made us the way we are now; I don't see this phenomenon in any of the East Asian countries or in the Western World. My theory is it all began with the Mughal invasions but that's a long story!

Never Mind!! said...

Oooh.thats too much info for one post but will say as much as I can.
1. I thgt you quit smoking :P (sorry I know its irritating to be asked)

2. I agree with guys being used to skin show all along and dont really stare unless you show up in bikinis other than on a beach. Also I guess dating and other kinds of interaction s between sexes is not as much of a taboo here and that significantly reduces the curiosity factor about the other sex.

3. YAY!! for jellyfish.

Have fun and post pictures (yeah I am a sucker for pics)

Steve said...

In any society structured like india, we have an intrinsic flaw. Do you know what that is? We look away, I'll tell you how. Take the case of reservation for women, even though I am an ardent feminist I oppose it, do you know why? The truth is that even if you introduce reservation for women and the MPs don't find a way to abuse that too, it still doesn't change a thing (it may also be due to the fact that I am for merit, and I don't believe in double standards). It doesn't teach people something called respect for the other half of humanity. By enacting reservation and hoping that the problem will magically disappear will not help at all, instead of reform they're looking away, this is the problem.

We need to change how people think, how they communicate, how they perceive the world in order to make a dent in the situation. This needs the complete and utter destruction of the patriarchal system in place in this country, there is no other way out, if we succeed in destroying this system then eve teasing, rapes and all the other symptoms will be dramatically reduced.

I don't know how one goes about doing this, but I think that one way to start would be to remove the current image prevailing in the minds of both the aggressor and the victim that women are weak. Most men I have met take advantage of women due to the fact that they thing that they're weak and can't do anything about it. So this is a place to start.

PS: Carry pepper spray or a taser gun; if you can't find a good product for the latter then I could always design one for you.

Face behind the mask said...

Btw you missing out on some awesome weather in ND !!

the mad momma said...

glad you're having fun Jb..but dude! you are missing some amazing weather and coffee on my terrace. get back soon!

Jesse said...

As a westerner who has lived in India for 2 years I can say that being here is an amazing invasion of personal space on a daily basis. Even as a dude I get OTHER GUYS staring at me all day long, whistling or calling at me as I pass and even trying to grab my hand or arm. I honestly feel like a zoo animal and I, too, wonder what is wrong with the male population in this country. If I was gay I'd be in heaven.

But it doesn't stop there. The other day a female friend of mine was wearing a skirt and the street kids (5/6 years old) were reaching up to grab her crotch! She was so shocked she almost didn't believe it was happening.

I really think there is so much sexual frustration and repression in this country that it directly causes all of these issues. It's my answer to why India is different.

Naina said...

I can only imagine the reason as being that of social and class inequality.People have no real point of interaction with others walking the streets alongside them.When there is no sense of community,like in Delhi, then none of the testosteroned up manimals think twice about grabbing women or being generally lascivious.Maybe when the Indian society hits some kind of a plateau where the differences are not so vast this problem will calm down,we all know it will never go away completely.Plus of course our police system sucks so no one ever feels like they would have to suffer for their behaviour.