Dealing with the constant stares here in India is taking an emotional toll on me. I had hoped it would stop by now, at least with the crowds I see on a regular basis. But alas, it continues. In fact, the longer I sit in one place, the more the crowd grows. It’s as if they go and get more people to see this unusual phenomenon; this white woman, alone. What a strange thing! So I have begun taking pictures of those that stare at me. I think I’ve broken it down to four types of stares.
1. Resentment: This seems to come mostly from the older group, maybe 50 plus. Perhaps they despise the influence of western ideals on their eastern values(?). I can’t be certain of course. It’s only a theory.
2. Lust: This tends to come from Indian men, age 20 to 40. I think perhaps they watch too much American porn or Sex in the City. I know that in general Indian women are far more reserved and have way less sexual partners in their lifetime than western women typically do. As a result, many Indian men seem to be under the impression that American (or western) women are easy and all we want is sex. Of course this probably comes from our movies, TV and music videos. All are very popular here.
3. Curiosity: This typically comes from the children. They look at me like a strange animal you might see in a zoo. They want to touch me and take pictures with me. It’s as if I am a source of entertainment. It’s very cute but sometimes overwhelming.
4. Amusement: This usually comes from adult women. I’ve heard them burst out in laughter as I walk by. It remains me of the lunch room in 6th grade. I’ve been sadly unsuccessful in my attempts to make female Indian friends. Perhaps they have the same bias of western woman and are talking about that very thing. Or perhaps they are entertained by my attire, hair or skin color. It is hard to know for sure.
In general, it’s exhausting and lately I’ve begun hiding out in my hotel room where I don’t have to deal with the constant staring. There are times when I have the overwhelming desire to yell “stop staring at me!” But I doubt that it would do any good and would probably just make them stare at me harder while wondering what my problem was. One thing is for sure, it has made me far more empathetic of those that are different; whether that be a dark-colored kid in an all white school, a person with a disability or someone transgendered. I hope you will remember this post next time and try not to stare at those that are different. Instead we should be considerate and compassionate. We should be tolerant and accepting. We should celebrate diversity.