An email from an American reader : “He then said… ‘..my wife is very sexy.'”

“Sometimes outsiders experience and see things differently than locals who have become so accustomed to it… “

Dear IHM,

Reading over one of your recent posts about the young woman who was harassed on the Delhi Metro and then blamed for instigating a fight really touched me. One of the most striking things, for me, was that one woman in the comments section mentioned that she felt relief and “uninhibited” when travelling in a woman’s compartment and around other women. Another commenter (a man) said he always felt “uninhibited” walking around in public and didn’t realize women always have to constantly be on their guard. If I may add one of my own personal experiences to this long list of troubling realities about women and public transport in India:

I’m only writing because something happened to me a few hours ago and I can’t seem to shake it from my mind. I was at CP in Delhi waiting to pick up my passport from a visa office located there. I am not from India. I am an American student studying women’s issues in Delhi. I speak okay Hindi and I have a very deep love and respect for India. I was quite obsessed with it for many years, but I am moving to SE Asia soon to explore other interests, though I think women’s issues will always be my abiding passion.

Anyway, I had just gotten my visa and I was very happy to have it in my hands. To me, getting a visa is almost like getting a new lease on life. A chance to explore new things, start over. I was really happy walking out of that building in CP. I flagged down an autorickshaw. Because I was in CP and because I look white (though I am only half-white), I knew he would charge an exorbitant rate. I told him he was crazy (in Hindi) and that eventually got him down to the correct price. I got into the auto.

It’s a peculiar thing about being a foreigner in Delhi. In some places (like say Malviya Nagar or Lajpat Nagar) I don’t have too much trouble with autos. These are not “tourist hotspots” so I usually get a price close to the local rate. When I go to places like CP, Khan Market, or Hauz Khas Village, however, I know I am going to be shafted. It’s just a fact of life. No one expects you to know the real price (because you aren’t Indian) and my Indian friends even complain they never get the ‘true’ price either. Anyway, I’m saying this because this afternoon I was in CP and did expect to be mistaken for a tourist even though I have lived in Delhi for several years.

So, when I got into the auto, he immediately asked if I was from America. I replied (in Hindi) that I was. I am very used to this sort of game now: autos who pick you up in tourist sections will assume you too are a tourist and thus you would naturally love to talk about where you’re from and talk to ‘real’ Indians. And so it was with this autowallah. (Autowallahs in local neighborhoods barely talk to you.) So the game began:

He asked which is better: India or US. I replied I like both. He asked what I liked about India. I said the food. He asked what else. I answered: the people.

Then, he asked the inevitable question they always ask: shaadi ho gyi? I replied ‘yes.’ I am actually not married but in a long-term relationship with an Indian-American, but I have found that saying ‘yes’ to this question makes them immediately back off. A married woman is not to be harassed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case with this driver. He asked when I got married. I said a year ago (I’ve rehearsed this story just for such occasions). He asked if I had children. I said ‘No, it’s only been one year.’

He started to talk about his family, which I liked. I really do like hearing about people’s families. He was from Bihar and had two sons and had been married for fourteen years. I said that was all very nice. He then said something along the lines of (in English) “Yes, my wife is very sexy.” I laughed awkwardly, feeling the direction of the conversation was taking a bad course. To move away from the topic of his wife’s sexiness, I asked if he was from a village in Bihar. He said yes, but his next question is “why don’t you and your husband try for children? Don’t you try?”

I laughed awkwardly again. “Yes, we try but we just don’t want children right now.” The more accurate answer would have been “my boyfriend and I are in the early stages of our career. We aren’t ready to have children yet.” But, I didn’t know how to say that in Hindi!

Next, I truly don’t know what happened. He started say a lot of things in Hindi that I couldn’t understand in a loud, moving autorickshaw on the street. It looked like he had asked me a question (I could see his face in the mirror; he kept turning it to get a better look at me) so I looked up at him politely. He said (in English): “In Delhi there is lots of sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.” I didn’t respond and just looked out the window. Once it became clear to him I wasn’t going to reply, he asked, “Do you like it?” “What?” I snapped. “Sex,” he answered.

I didn’t respond and removed my phone like I was about to call someone. He did not seem alarmed but luckily we were close to my flat and I was very anxious to leave him (I thought about not paying him, but then I knew he might want to follow me if that were the case). All the while, he was muttering “sex, sex, sex,” under his breath while looking back at me in the mirror.

I felt really weak, helpless and dirty. And yet, I had done nothing wrong. I hadn’t even wanted to talk on this ride. I had just gotten my visa and wanted to revel in the fact that I would be going somewhere new. I had been very happy. And here this man was asking about sex in a creepy and perverted way. I didn’t know him. It was none of his business if I liked sex or didn’t. This leads me to another assumption that some Indian men make about foreign women. They assume we are all obsessed with sex. Maybe it’s from all those bollywood music videos that show blonde women gyrating behind the hero, but for some reason it’s like men think we have one-night-stands with different men every night.

By this point I was very uncomfortable as he pulled into my neighborhood. I asked him to stop the auto. I would walk the extra block to my house. As I was pulling out my money, he asked: “Did you like me talking about sex? Did you like it?”

I replied: “No. It was very wrong.” (My Hindi gets worse with anger. I wanted to shout at him that he was very disrespectful, that you can’t treat any woman like that. Not even one you know. You need to wash your dirty mouth.) He put on a fake contrite expression, saying “sorry madam.” You could tell he was not sorry at all. He had got his fun today.

You may ask, why did I even talk to him in the first place? You’ve been in India long enough to know that autos are not the safest transport for women, especially at night. Simply don’t engage with them. The answer to that is, usually I DO NOT engage with them. But in tourist areas they always ask friendly questions about where you are from, etc, etc. In those instances, it seems rude not to answer. Sometimes, I have chosen not to answer such questions and they say something like, “Okay. I understand madam. You don’t like talking to real Indians. We are beneath you.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. I wouldn’t have chosen to move to India if I disliked the culture or the people. It’s only in the moments where such men feel they can treat you with disrespect and force their perverted nature on you that I dislike living here.

Many people have said on your blog, IHM, that women do not encounter any harassment when using public transport in the West. This is entirely true in my experience on the Boston, NYC, and Washington DC metro systems. (I have also lived in Taipei, Taiwan. Again, not a single instance of feeling uncomfortable.) Everyone minds their own business. Staring would be considered very rude. Even striking up a conversation would be a little odd. That may be because we are very individualistic in the West and don’t engage with people (I’m not in support of that) but it also has to do with basic respect of personal boundaries. That no one should be able to threaten you, make you uncomfortable, or make you feel dirty (a particular problem for women in cases of sexual harassment).

My experience in the auto this afternoon is not a lone event, unfortunately. I’ve received things like joking marriage proposals. Another auto asked whether I knew if he could be addicted to sex and would I help him with his problem? The worst was when an auto I was in pulled up on the side of the road and the driver started masturbating while staring at me in the mirror. I shouted at him to stop and get going or he wouldn’t get any money. Again, the same smirk and lack of remorse. Again, I am the one feeling dirty, as if I have done something wrong. [In case you care to know (even though it should not matter at all!) I dress very conservatively in Delhi. Today I was wearing a kurta, full jeans, and a dupatta]

I don’t know why I chose to write all this, IHM. I know as a foreign woman maybe my opinion carries less weight because, of course, I can leave India at anytime I want. I don’t have to stand to live in such a blatantly patriarchal country. My passport is my ticket out. But as an outsider (and sometimes outsiders experience and see things differently than locals who have become so accustomed to it) I can say that this is a truly horrible state of affairs. From you posts, it’s clear women don’t feel comfortable 1) riding scooters alone, 2) driving a car alone, 3) riding the metro in the general compartment, 4) riding buses, 5) riding in autos and 6) even walking alone. What is there left for women if even our feet fail us?

All this does is conspire against the free movement of all women in India. Keeping them confined in the home and dependent on male relatives who are free to walk out of the house as they please. It’s daunting for me (as an American, who is used to driving my own car and walking around late at night) to live in such circumstances, but my respect for India remains. There’s so much good about this country that outweighs these dehumanizing experiences, but that doesn’t mean I like experiencing them in the first place.

* * *

I know I have the extra barrier of language that keeps me from fully expressing myself in cases of harassment like this. I just wanted to lend my perspective to show that misogyny has no limits. It’ll go after anyone it thinks is weak from a lone Indian girl walking home to a white woman.

A loyal American reader.

Related posts:

She started a fight between two men?

85 thoughts on “An email from an American reader : “He then said… ‘..my wife is very sexy.'”

  1. //but my respect for India remains//
    Lady, really, after reading your email, my respect for India has gone two notches down. It was already very close to the danger mark.
    And I was born here.

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  2. It was quite disgusting what you had to go through. And I also know how these autowallahs, bus wallahs etc behave with females of foreign origin. Well its not just the foreigners. Its the girls from north east who also have to face this in extremes. So many times I had a showdown with such kind of people whenever I heard/saw them misbehaving like this.

    And I have no clue how we can put some respect, courtesies in the minds of such lechers. Although you are going to go away soon but I would still request you to please note down the vehicle numbers of such miscreants and report them to police.

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  3. Not only firangi girls but most indian girls themselves are naive about rickshaw and taxiwallahs. I travel a lot for work in pubic transport so much so that I have telephone numbers of these rickshaw/taxiwallahs in my mobile.

    Q: If you want a prostitute, who do you ask?
    A: Get inside a rickshaw and ask him and he’ll take you there as he interacts with them on a regular basis

    Q: If you want charas, who do you ask?
    A: The riskshaw-wallah will take you directly to the dealer

    Most of these riskshaw-wallahs are shady characters yet good source of all sorts of information. This american women shouldn’t have acted friendly and cooperated in his interrogation in the first place. These are not good people. Don’t roll with the pigs if you cannot handle it.

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    • Let me quote from the email Anil, what do you think of this,

      “All this does is conspire against the free movement of all women in India. Keeping them confined in the home and dependent on male relatives who are free to walk out of the house as they please.”

      Do you realise how it affects everything a woman does? Get education, work, marry, divorce, stay single, travel, visit a doctor… ?
      Do you think auto rickshaw wallahs are the only ones who behave like this?

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      • You’re right. Discrimination(sexual and otherwise) of women is a general theme across the spectrum. I was simply saying that I had been interacting with rickshaw-wallahs for a long time closely and that most of them were not good people.

        I would personally like to know the reason why public india treats the women so rawly.

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        • Hi Anil,

          “I was simply saying that I had been interacting with rickshaw-wallahs for a long time closely and that most of them were not good people.”

          I’m not sure I can agree with blanket statements like that for a couple of reasons. I often travel to places where I tend to pick up the numbers of one or two auto-wallahs so that I can get around easily and as you say they are good sources of information (on topics other than where to meet sex workers and get charas as well!). So there are both good and bad people. My second and more pertinent point is that you are mistaken in believing that only a certain section of people- autowallahs for e.g.- behave like this. I have had middle-aged, middle/ upper middle class men in (so-called) nice South Delhi colonies grabbing their crotches in a suggestive manner and looking at me very pointedly while out early walking my dog. This was such a habit with one man and on repeated occasions that I eventually set my dog on him one day. So let’s not assume that it is easy to decide who the pigs are (and that might be an insult to pigs actually)!

          S

          S

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    • What does one do then, go back to the dark ages and sit at home all day long? Some people do not have access to their own mode of transportation (car, bike, bicycle, whatever) and so need to take public transport.

      You say ‘most of these rickshaw-wallahs are shady characters’. Is there some sort of test I can run before I get into a rickshaw to know if he is a shady character or not? Please do tell.

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  4. You should have taken the registration number of this auto, and reported the incident to the police. I hope such a thing does not happen again, but if it does, please do report it.

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    • Do you think reporting it to the police will do anything? Have you ever heard of a autowallah (or anybody, really) even questioned for doing what this man did, let alone arrested or convicted? Do you think the police in India can be trusted to see this incident as serious enough that it is worthy of any action? Do you think the police in India can be trusted not to blame this woman for inviting the harassment by her own behavior (why did you have to talk to the autowallah, you should not be traveling alone in autorickshaws especially as a white woman, etc etc)? Even if the police in this case do something as unique as take some action against this man, do you think this woman will not be harassed in exactly the same way again tomorrow by another man? That another million women won’t face the exact same thing from another million different men the very same day and the next and the next and the next?

      When the problem we are dealing with is so large and so pervasive, it is not only unhelpful but also harmful and disrespectful to tell the harassment victim “YOU should do X or Y or Z.” It is disingenuous to pretend as if this is a rare problem by saying “I hope such a thing does not happen again, but IF it does…” – you know it’s going to happen again in the very next hour if she takes another rickshaw or walks out into the streets.

      The respectful, useful, morally correct response to this situation starts with acknowledging how big the problem is, not telling the harassment victim what SHE should be doing better.

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      • hi Nandini,

        I totally agree with what you said. However, I would also like to point out the fact that unless we report or make a complain, and think that even the police is good for nothing than we definitely are not thinking straight. I understand its very difficult for common man to make the administration take some action, but then again if you don’t report the problem, you are not doing your bit/part of the duty. Reporting cases does help, even if police doesn’t take action for the initial complains, if they continue to receive the same pattern of complains they will definitely take action. I am not favoring the system, but going against it or not using the rights that we have been given under the law again amounts to encouraging the wrong people.

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  5. sadly, im not surprised. and i wouldn’t be surprised even if it was a university-educated, well-to-do, foreign-returned indian guy who chose to behave this way. im sorry!

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    • I agree too. The problem with the mindset/attitude is beyond boundaries of education, you can sadly not do much about it. On one hand there are men who objectify women and/or resort to character assassination (which does not need any reasons) and on the other hand, there are women who proudly display their “holier-than-thou”
      attitude. I feel the entire social system, in all classes, inadvertently supports and rather encourages this attitude and reporting etc. can do nothing to change the state of affairs. It makes me feel sad sometimes to think that, as a woman, I feel more safe in a country I was not born and raised in. Even the last time I was in India, I had an unpleasant experience. When people talk about how migrants feel in another country, I think, that in our country, we must first learn to treat our own people(which includes women) with respect first (which is not born out of fear).

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  6. I am shocked! Anyone reading your mail now would be cringing in embarrassment and wondering what can be said.
    Masturbating while watching in the mirror – *slow clap* to you. I would have eternally hated a country or city had that happened to me. I wonder how you can “still” focus on the positives.

    This is an incoherent comment – just wanted to say one thing – I like auto guys, even though I am from Chennai. All my conversations with them have been very informative – they have such a different POV on the economy – very clear cut and practical. It is truly pitiable that you have had such horrible horrible experiences with them. Your mail has been an eye-opener though. I will be more careful from now on too.

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    • I know I am going to start a controversial North-South debate here, but Delhi is one of the nastiest cities I know for women. It’s not just auto wallahs, even the regular men can be very shady.

      In Chennai, I know I am going to get fleeced by autos, but somehow that is preferable to this kind of terrible behavior.

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      • It is not a north-south debate Nishita, and I totally agree with you and Archana.
        I am not a tamilian, but I had liived there for sometime and occiasionally visit chennai. The auto-drivers might charge above normal rates but one won’t hear stories like the one mentioined in this post. What I have seen is in general women are respected more in public by people like auto-richshaw drivers, bus conductors etc. They say “vanga ma”, “ponga ma” etc compared to the neighboring state kerala about which people from Arundhathi Roy to Kamala Das have commented that it is the worst place for a woman to walk in public, you feel you are naked. I can vouch for that – I did my college over there.
        One can’t stereotype cities based on few incidents, but I have lived in 5-6 states in India ( all for a significant amount of time) and that plus discussions with girl friends I feel Chennai and Mumbai are relatively safer than Delhi or Kerala. Bangalore I feel is neither here nor there.

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        • I am so shocked i don’t understand what to say to this girl, apart from saying sorry for what one of my countrymen did. I am really sorry for what happened to you and thanks a lot for still respecting my country.
          But i would like to add that not everywhere women get such experience.
          I have stayed in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad and currently i am in Noida and i can feel the difference in the general attitude.
          In Noida, if i go out alone after 7 pm, my neighbours get a shock and advise me against venturing out alone after it’s dark. And i understand that there is some merit to their advise. I was even advised to remove my gold chain to avoid possible snatching (and yes, i have removed it). i don’t see women riding 2-wheeler here. i am told if a woman does ride a 2-wheeler she is harassed. All these atrocities are targeted towards women here, while men can go out after dark, can wear their chains and ride 2-wheelers. I am seriously worried about raising my little daughter in this place. How will i be able to tell her that she can achieve similar things that her male peers can, while she can’t even go out alone after 7 pm?
          In Ahmedabad, i have never had a bad experience with Autowalla rather had many good experiences. I’ll give 2 examples:
          -Once i took an auto from my neighbourhood, when i reached the destination, the autowaala and i both realized that both of us don’t have change and i was in a hurry. So he gave me my money back and said, whenever you are passing by give me money or else you may get late.
          -recently my mom forgot her purse in an auto. The guy came back to return the purse to her.
          Also in Ahmedabad, i could reach home at 2 in the night after Garba and still my parents or i won’t be worried about my safety. I have travelled by auto, scooty, bike and bus in ahmedabad (though not much by bus/auto as i had my scooty) and never had bad experience. (Autowalla charges more when they know you are new to the place but don’t misbehave)
          I worked on a few slum electrification programs and have driven myself to those slums also, but i was never harrased.
          Again, i am not saying that i never had a bad experience, but it was never from an Autowalla or any such person. So i would say, it’s wrong to say that a particular class of society is bad (as some of us are thinking).
          In Hyderabad also, i traveled a few times by auto/cab and never had bad experience. There also, i traveled back to home at 10-11 in night by bike alone and never had bad experience.
          But this lady’s experience makes me think that, as i am an “insider” here, i may not have had this kind of experience. We talk about racism in other countries, but is this not a kind of racism, where you treat a person differently because he/she from different nation or looks different?

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        • techie2mom,

          Thanks for reminding DG of her encounter in Ahmadabad. It was 1998 summer on her way back from Mumbai to Jaipur along with her mom in those deluxe buses she had to change buses in Ahmadabad. While alighting the bus 20 auto rickshaw drivers pounced on them and grabbed their suitcases. It was literally a mob scene. A guy grabbed her suitcase in order to free it she had to give him a kick and snatch her suitcase to go for another auto driver. Once this auto started that guy who got the knee ganged up with two more fellows and started chasing us. Mom started sweating so did the auto walla, DG was scared too but had to put up a brave face and ask the driver to just drive into the nearest police station, it is then they left us alone.

          DG’s mom was furious at her for she thought both could have been sexually assaulted. It was a very stressful experience. Did DG stop traveling alone, Nopes just stopped taking mom with her can’t deal with double stress.

          Yes, Gujarat is female friendly with all those midnight garbhas and backless chaniya cholis but it is equally unsafe for outsiders. Once men know you are unfamiliar with the place they think it is an easy game no matter what part of this country you are.
          Peace,
          Desi Girl

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        • I was not in DG’s situation and she is the best judge of the situation she has been in. If DG felt that the situation could have turned into sexual abuse then, the fear was definitely very real. I can understand that if your suitcase is being snatched then your 1st impulse is to kick the guy (i would have done the same).
          I am really sorry for what happened to DG.
          I am not sure about the place being equally unsafe for the outsider. As many of my female friends came to Ahmedabad for studies, from different states. They liked being in Ahmedabad, they liked that they can go out at night alone without worrying about their safety.
          Again, Ahmedabad is definitely not perfect. But i still find it better compared to where i am currently.
          But as i said in previous comment, the experience of this lady has got me really thinking about this insider-outsider thing….
          Peace,
          techie2mom

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      • Yes, I echo that wholeheartedly. Every visit to Delhi leaves me with unpleasant experiences of being stared at or muttered at while in a busy area.

        There’s just something very wrong with men in Delhi and their perverted obsession with sex.

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    • @Archana,

      This was a grown up man shagging. DG was visiting PU Chandigarh in 1999. She saw this 13-14yr old waving for a ride. She stopped and asked him hop on her scooter. They started talking, twice she felt light hands on her butt, she shrugged it off. She dropped the lad at some sector near PU and felt as if her kurta was torn when she turned around and saw it was wet sticky and was cut with some sharp object like blade or small scissors into strips.
      It was the most dirty feeling one can imagine, she drove to her friends’ hostel and could not muster courage to say what happened. Together we walked to a senior prof’s residence and there she told the lady what happened.
      Now if this 13-14 yr old grows up into manhood guess he did survive what do you expect from him?

      Days into this she was riding a bus to go to PU felt a hand on her shoulder gave a back slap bloody is nose and snatched a man’s eye glasses. This was a middle aged pig like creature from nearby government offices. DG yelled and made a scene and challenged if anyone could dare to get the specs back from her. Few men joined her in lamenting the situation and within ten minutes they started telling her the man has learned his lesson so she should give back his glasses for he has to go home. They had the courage to tell her what is she going to do with his glasses they are of no use to her. All of a sudden this pervert became a victim and all sympathies flowed his way and DG became this baddie.

      What about all those men who jerked off at the hostel walls in clear view?

      The whole system is rotten from top to bottom where do you start?
      Here are few who are making India proud abroad cashing their poor old man image.
      http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/indian-american-indicted-for-groping-sleeping-woman-on-flight-61283
      http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/open-forum/8506-man-jailed-molesting-sleeping-woman-plane.html
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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      • Ah Chandigarh ! They have a word there- ‘gehri’ which loosely translates to ‘cruising around’ in English. What it means, is packs of young men in cars, driving around, making a nuisance of themselves to girls.They even have a ‘gehri route’ which a takes you past the colleges with the ‘best sights’. In the name of gehri, girls get followed around,catcalled to, harrassed and molested.

        The worst part is that some residents of Chandigarh(supposedly a city of the rich and the educated) are actually ‘proud’ of this ‘harmless tradition’ and see it as ‘boys will be boys’ type of fun.

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      • If there was a Perversion Index like the Human Development Index, which country would climb to the top? Indian men are masters of the arts of leching, groping, whistling, hooting, muttering vile things under their breath, scratching their balls or holding them suggestively.

        The weirdest is the way Bangalore men stick their tongues out when they find a woman attractive. You look towards a man inadvertantly, and you see the tongue sticking out.

        What’s wrong with men in India?

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  7. regardless of what origin you are, this was a very disgusting incident!!! this could have easily happened to any Indian but I guess people are in misconception that foreigners are too liberal which is really sad and speaks a lot about our own narrow-mindedness and this is a belief held by many educated people also leave alone those illiterate humans. and, I am really sorry that you had to share space with such a perverted mind. they don’t respect Indian women either and I have seen this habit mostly in North. in South, at least even the auto wallahs are respectable!! I think it to be the biggest advantage since I have moved to Hyderabad, I get to travel in peace without being constantly on guard from prying hands and sick looks.

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  8. Dear email writer, I am so sorry you had to endure this; and I am very, very glad you are safe. Here is an incident with an INDIAN girl.

    While in Bangalore, The Husband and I worked in the same office premises – so obviously we left for work together on most days in our car. A bridge was under construction resulting in hideous traffic snarls on the main route – so we often took a devious, albeit traffic-free route. THis route was empty for the best part of the way, even desolate at some places. On one morning, in a desolate spot, we found a knot of people. On spotting our car, a gentleman ran forward and stopped the car. Needless to say, we both were very tense.

    From the knot emerged a girl – one of her leg was in a cast, and she walked with the help of crutches. She turned out to be an employee of the company where I worked, and she requested for a lift. As she sat in the car, some rural women who were a part of the crowd came to our car, and one of the women told me – ‘Ask her to call the police; let her wait here…or he will do the same thing to someone else’ in Kannada. I turned to the girl and translated (she knew only Hindi) – and I told her whatever is the problem, The Husband and I will definitely wait with her. But she was in a right state of panic and kept pleading ‘go! go! go!’ So we left. I caught a glimpse of an autodriver being thrashed.

    Once the girl calmed down, this is what she narrated. Like thousands of youngsters, she too came to Bangalore for her IT career. She stayed alone in a flat. She used to take the office transportation, but because of her fractured leg, she was working on flexible time for a while. It meant she had to take her own transport if she missed the regular office shuttles. On that day, she hired the auto right in front of her flat. He set the metre. Half way through, the driver said he will charge double fare because ‘I won’t get a fare on the return trip’. This girl argued and asked him to stop the auto. That set him off – he swerved the auto into a deserted road and kept yelling ‘I’ll teach you a lesson’. This girl did not know what to do – there is no one on the road, her leg is broken, the driver is a maniac. SHe started screaming her head off. This continued for nearly 15 minutes. THe auto finally hit the road on which we were travelling. This road, though desolate, has a couple of shops and houses. I think people heard her screams, and luckily a crowd gathered and stopped the auto.

    I told this girl we should have called the cops and waited. This is what she said – and I did not have an answer – There is no guarantee that the cops will take a written complaint; especially since she did not speak the local language. Yes, cops do have a bias – they see these incidents as trivial, and sometimes, if people dont speak the local language, they are harassed even more. She was also very scared about the fact that the auto driver KNEW where she stayed – and he might come back with a gang to harm her. Poor thing she was so shaken. But I knew what she said was true. I knew in my bones that getting the cops involved would be more of a punishment to the girl. I just thought ‘okay the driver received his thrashing…lets forget it’. It is wrong, this support of a mob punishment – but it is a reflection of our poor opinion and lack of trust in our police and legal system.

    Indeed when I narrated the incident to a few friends, some of them said the girl should never have argued with the auto driver, and that she should have just agreed for the increased fare – ‘Another 200 rupees extra – why go through all this fuss.’ Of course I burst an artery on hearing this. I asked one of the guys who supported this opinion if he would have paid extra. ‘No way!’ he drawled, and described anatomically where all he would have kicked the driver. ‘So why is it wrong if this girl, like you, refused to pay the extra fare?’ I asked. ‘It is different for girls yaar. She knows she is vulnerable …as if you will go and voluntarily put your hand inside a snake-pit’ was the reply.

    So when you say, “I know as a foreign woman maybe my opinion carries less weight because, of course, I can leave India at anytime I want” …NOT AT ALL dear girl. Your opinion matters A LOT because you are a WOMAN who faced this disgusting behaviour. Besides ALL your observations are true.

    As a woman, the burden of avoiding being a victim of crime rests on the woman it seems – EVEN IF the potential victim HAS NO WAY of predicting behaviour of potential perpetrators. If indeed you became the victim of a crime, then everyone points out several factors (all harmless, mind you) associated with the VICTIM that contributed to the crime. It is a twisted logic that I can never get my head around. This is the logic employed by one and all – including law enforcing agencies. Until and unless this changes, we cannot hope for safe streets.

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    • Sumana, you have diagnosed the problem perfectly! This is the fear we all carry when we step out of our comfort zones, and the only reason is that we are women in a flawed society.

      If there had been some way to give you more thumbs ups, I would gladly have.

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  9. First things first. American culture is different from India’s While small talk is a way of life in America, in India, if anyone just starts talking about their families, it is a danger signal. I understand a foreigner is most eager to understand the culture, but indulging in small talk with rickshaw drivers is not getting them anywhere. Till today, I have never met an auto driver who just wanted to chat to pass the time, They either rapidly deteriorate into sleaze or they simply do their job and drive.

    Having said that, it is a shame that one has to behave stern and silent to fend off these guys, but considering your options, you might be wise to do just that. It is stupid to indulge in small talk with with people who are most definitely NOT friendly. You just come across as an easy target with your easy going ways.

    Before anyone jumps on me, I think the primary importance is to be given to this girl’s safety and then we can worry about the state of this country’s male population. I am pretty sure she can survive without talking to auto drivers. It is not the same as needing a male relative to escort you home, which is a major lifestyle bother.

    Good luck. Be street smart!

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  10. This is sad, here in the West, very rarely ( and I mean once every few years) we here such abuse taking place, but I can’t imagine what the women have to endure in India. Surely there must be some sort of action group or police complaint those individuals who do this?

    How is a society supposed to survive when women are treated inhumane and outright disrespected?

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  11. I am really ashamed of our country when I read this email from the American Lady. while I disagree that most autowallas are like this, it is these instances which tarnish the names of the good ones. The only problem I see is the thought process of the people in our country. To keep their ancient thoughts alive, the movies deliver conservative messages and ideas that women are solely sex objects.

    I have moved to the UK and would really never want to live in India again where I have faced the real bad harassment from men in public places. I really love my country and would like to return in 10 years and do something meaningful for the country. sometimes In my mind I think, in 10 years I would be older and probably would not attract as much attention as I did in my younger days. But it is shameful that we have to think of such issues just to live in our own country!

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  12. I think one reason for such behavior is the way we treat foreigners as exotic creatures. We don’t see someone from another country as a guest for all our talk of ‘atithi devo bhava’. A lot of us think they are either above us (fawning over them) or below us (fleecing/harassing them). Porn contributes a lot to this phenomenon – the image of the western woman who is a slut/whore/asking for it/loose/whatever – both mainstream cinema and porn feed us this image. I don’t have ready solutions, we cannot talk to such people and get them to change.

    Depending on the situation, to guarantee our safety, evasion is better than direct confrontation. Call them ‘bhaisaab’ to begin with. Any inappropriate comments, bring in the brother/father sentiment – “You look like my brother, would you be okay if someone spoke to your sister like this?” Crass as it is, it is possibly the only language they might understand. Cell phones – excuse yourselves and call someone you trust. Tell them you are in an auto. Tell them exactly where you are, exactly where you are going, Make it seem casual but loud enough for the guy to hear.

    one thing that I wish would happen in big Indian cities is the regulation of autos, like cabs in NYC. So that if there’s a misadventure there is a number on the cab that I can call.

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    • @Nitya,
      …bring in the brother/father sentiment… if someone spoke to your sister like this?…
      This is the whole problem establishing fictitious consanguinity thus the MF/SF cuss words are hurled by men at each other.

      Unless women are thought of as human beings deserving respect and equal right to be in the public space this nonsense is not going to stop. Once you bring in the mother/sister father/brother terminology you limit the parameters to women related to me are goddesses worthy of my reverence and those unrelated are whores.

      Porn itself is gender degrading process and product not accessible to all sexist men in all corners of this country. Yet they subscribe to extreme sexism since the times of Kamasutra why? Because in a phallus centric culture women are treated as objects and means to serve the male needs and lust.

      Even when auto rickshaws are regulated and registered like NYC Cab rapes are committed because of ingrained misogyny. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-12-14/delhi/30515306_1_cab-driver-radio-cab-mehrauli-farmhouse
      It is high time we started demanding accountability from each one who claims to be a human. Quick and severe punishment for harassers and women and their supporters coming out in greater number to challenge misogyny is the only solution I see.

      Peace,
      Deai Girl

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  13. Women having to deal with this kind of behavior on a daily basis, just learn to cope with it.
    They ignore it or pretend they dont have a clue. And that is sad, when you feel dirty for something someone else is doing. Standing up and taking a stance against this kind of behavior and laws against it, is the the only solution. Unfortunately you had to bear the brunt of this totally unacceptable and uncivilized act. As a reverse case, a mixed indian origin woman, when I moved to the US as a teenager, I never had to deal with this and that to me was such a breath of fresh air. I felt like a free soul. Everytime I visit India (its been 8 years now) I cringe, My american husband cringes, people stare at me and the hubs like we stepped out of an alien spaceship.
    I find having a child by my side, helps somewhat. Not to say things like this dont happen here, but they are not a daily occurence, I dont have to mentally gear myself to walk out of my home and check what I am wearing and see if it is acceptable to people I dont even know. It is so bad, that my american husband, told me to only wear slawar kameezes in India. He ventured out by himself to buy “chappals”: and got solicited by a rickshaw driver who asked him if he was Tom cruise and then proceeded to say he’s got lots of sexy women he can visit, who’ll do anything he wants.
    He came home sans chappals and feeling dirty too and this is after he told the guy to “F*** off.
    People in India think Western people are ok with slutty talk. But then they do that to their own people too.

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    • Ariana, my sympathies. It’s dificult to reoritent yourself to Indian realities after spending longs years in the West.

      “People in India think Western people are ok with slutty talk. But then they do that to their own people too.”

      Not Indian people, but Indian men. I don’t think Indian women harrass white men the way Indian men harrass white women.

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  14. FROM THE EMAIL WRITER:
    Hi IHM,

    Thanks so much for posting my story. I’ve been following some of the comments and while many of them are great, some seem to be focusing too much on the “nature” (for lack of a better word) of autowallahs. I hadn’t meant for my story to be a condemnation of all auto-wallahs. I’ve had a full range of experiences with them during my years in India. I have traveled everywhere from Punjab to Kerala in them. They are great sources of information about where to eat, are great at asking for directions, etc. My story is not about autowallahs. It’s about women facing harassment on public transport (which an autorickshaw is). I wanted my story to be seen in the light of all the other recent stories you have posted about: the men who can stop their bikes on the side of the road to answer a cellphone; the teenage girl who was terrified walking the streets in the evening; the woman on the Delhi Metro this week.

    It’s a pattern that I am trying to point out. Almost all forms of public transportation have unfair risks for women in India. THAT is the issue at hand. It keeps women out of public spaces and thus when some crude men encounter women in what they consider “their” space, their behavior is at best disrespectful and at worst dangerous.

    And I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m naive about autos. Again, I’ve lived here for several years. 9 times of 10 I have no problems whatsoever with auto drivers. I tell them where I need to go and then keep silent. It’s only in a few instances (like the one I wrote about) that have caused me problems. By the way, during the worst incident (the one where the driver began masturbating while staring at me) I had said absolutely NOTHING. I had told him where to go and was playing solitaire on my phone when he pulled over the auto. It has nothing to do with how I acted and everything to do with his sick mindset. It’s about misogyny and you can face it anywhere (auto, bus, metro, walking alone, etc). I just wanted to add my perspective to this very important conversation about the safety of women in public spaces.

    Thanks!

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  15. Welcome to India.

    Here the autorickshaw-wallah starts masturbating before a girl just ‘cuz he has no scruples to worry about and she is ‘loose and available and of a certain kind’ in his mind. An outfit, a certain behaviour or a gesture, a certain kind of smile, a certain posture, a certain gait…all and more goes towards determining how loose a girl is and the extent to which his conscience will allow him to go.

    If you are white skinned (doesn’t matter which part of the world you’re from)…remember you’ve exposed yourself to a pair of x-ray machines when you’re talking to an Indian man (doesn’t matter what he rides). You are stripped naked to your bones, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, or how demure you may act or how much knowledge, respect you hold for him and his country.
    Half-way through your conversation with him…he has already made out with you in the creases of his mind.. Mind it, you only get access to such incredible information if the man happens to be an auto-rickshawallah and decides to jerk off right in front of you. All other times, that information remains buried…like all the goodness this nation boasts of.

    We are very careful of what class we belong to…n behave only according to what our class permits us. As you climb up the ladder of classes…you might find you were better off at the bottom. At least you could see the filth and be careful and take precautions there.

    Sexual frustration, deprivation, starvation is the key to most crimes that we get to see and talk about yet we are the second most populated nation. Our men only get to see naked or bikini clad women on tv, films, and videos. In real life, many don’t even get to see the face of the woman they lie with…!

    Be safe, be aware and bless your soul for you are making a choice to see only the good and believe me there is plenty. Once you can get a man to see and think beyond ‘your body’, that’s where his goodness starts and sincerely it can be quite illimitable – like the depth of an ocean. Its a task. Best of luck.

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    • I visit a yoga centre near Coimbatore several time a year.

      Occasionally, there are groups of first-timers who visit the ashram for a short period of time.

      I can tell the difference between a new male medidator and a seasoned one based on how they look at women.

      A seasoned male medidator gives a passing glance to women and averts his gaze. I’ve never seen even a flicker of lust in their eyes.

      New medidators/visitors to the yoga centre visually devour the non-Indian female medidators. They sit in the cafeteria, staring unblinkingly at white-skinned women.

      It makes me wonder if meditation is the only way Indian men can grow to respect women as fellow beings.

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    • //Sexual frustration, deprivation, starvation is the key to most crimes that we get to see and talk about yet we are the second most populated nation. Our men only get to see naked or bikini clad women on tv, films, and videos. In real life, many don’t even get to see the face of the woman they lie with…!//

      True!

      And instead of looking at the cause for this sexual frustration/deprivation we focus on naked/bikini clad women on TV and think it is the western influence that is spoiling them!

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  16. Thank you Nitya, Archana and Nandini for your frank feedback.
    I sincerely apologise to the American Reader, to IHM and to both of you and to all other readers who have been offended by my comment.

    I will make no attempt to defend myself.

    IHM, I will be obliged if all my comments on this blog post are deleted except this one.

    Sometimes I can be wrong and I am grateful to Nitya, Archana and Nandini for being forthright in their criticism of my comment.

    I assure the American Reader that I fully empathise with her.
    I am sorry for the word “interesting” in my first comment.
    Nitya is right. The choice of that word was wrong and unfortunate.
    I now see why the thumbs went down.

    Regards
    GV

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  17. What a sorry state of situation this is for the entire India…….do we all need a wake up call on Satyamev Jayate for every freaking thing now – what not to eat, how much to drink, not to slap our women and what not to say to a women??
    Un-Real!!

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  18. I’m amazed that after this incident you can still speak nicely about india🙂 usually when we go outside our own even a perceived injustice seems like a big thing, you have a real open mind and a brave spirit .
    You did nothing wrong, i don’t know what else you could have said or done, apart from complaining about the auto fellow – but i don’t know what result that would have got. there are a few policemen who will take the auto-wallah to task but unless the pun ishment is harsh and somethng that will hit him hard or open his eyes to the injustice of his behavior there is no use.

    i don’t want to say Delhi is unsafe, but from all i hear and have experienced i do feel safer in mumbai and chennai. maybe because mumbai is home. i have never taken public transport in delhi, however i have always felt uncomfortable even in a rented taxi/driver , the last time i did that the driver was acting strange and i freaked.

    Basically we as a society do NOT repect women. why i don’t know . even though i feel mumbai is safer there have been numerous occasions where i have gone out and our driver has caught up with me and always told me ‘ didi auto/taxi kyu , sirf ph karo, mai pick up karoon na’ even in broad daylight ???? my husband hates it when i take auto or cab etc., doesn’t say anything but hints that i ALWAYS HAVE car and driver at my disposal.. when i tell him there are a million women subject to the leaches and idiots stares and gropes daily he says, ” i don’t stare or grope, i will kill my sons if they do it, i will warn everyone in my employ to treat women with respect but i cannot control what a million men do and what a million women are subject to. if there is something specific tell me and i’ll do it. but pl use our car and driver and save me the stress ”
    sometimes i get angry with his response and yell but i also don’t know how else to help improve the situation.
    sad, so sad that we cannot have our god given basic right of being treated as normal human beings…
    i do try and fight back, call out the harasser.. but so far no change. like a broken record i can only say , we need to raise our sons right ( we meaning every parent – rich or poor) , publicise that harasement is a crime, put up hoardings and teach our girls to not be QUIET .

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  19. Though it isnt me who did something like this to you, I am so sorry you had to experience this kind of behaviour in the country of my birth. I wish I had a magic wand to make such people disappear into eternity.

    “Many people have said on your blog, IHM, that women do not encounter any harassment when using public transport in the West. This is entirely true in my experience on the Boston, NYC, and Washington DC metro systems. …….(snipped for brevity) That may be because we are very individualistic in the West and don’t engage with people (I’m not in support of that) but it also has to do with basic respect of personal boundaries…….”
    —I agree with this completely when it comes to the cities in the US(I havent been around to other cities yet)…While you do not support the unengaging individualism of the people the US, I have come to appreciate it, cause coming from India, I was a complete misfit for not wanting to talk to people who had no business talking or asking me questions I didnt want to answer. I was annoyed at the total lack of privacy(the thought that everyone falls in the “Friend” category and there is nothing called Stranger or Acquaintance, is totally over-rated) being the reserved person I am.

    On being charged more than the meter is something I have had to fight about while I was in India and now when I return for visits…so the method I use is-1. I keep change in different denominations and calculate the Rs/Km and hand them exact change, if I dont have change, I go to the nearest store get change and then get into the auto.2. I also keep track of the Nearest police station in every place I go and always take the rickshaw to the police station and then walk from there to where-ever it is that I want to go..3.If its not a feasible thing, then I note down the name and number of the authorickshaw, the time I got off of it and the place I got off and dial a random number and ask for the DCP(district commissioner of police)….this is not because I believe that the Police or the law will help me in any manner but because I want to threaten the driver with the Idea that I know someone HIGH up with Clout in the Police department. Yes! as ashamed as I am for the general corruption of the Law Enforcement and the People taking advantage of Clout…I look at getting the Thorn out with the Thorn in such instances cause On Principle – I am not parting with my hard earned money(I worked just as hard for it as any Man did therefore will not value it any less than He does) because of this Idiot. 4. If I am too tired or not in a mood to fight, I just give the guy what he asks and walk away. I wish I didnt have to do so much preparation just to travel around on public transport…but given no other way, I survive with these methods. I have to survive, just on principle, I cant let the Idiots win.

    You hit the Nail on the head with – “it’s clear women don’t feel comfortable 1) riding scooters alone, 2) driving a car alone, 3) riding the metro in the general compartment, 4) riding buses, 5) riding in autos and 6) even walking alone. What is there left for women if even our feet fail us?
    All this does is conspire against the free movement of all women in India. Keeping them confined in the home and dependent on male relatives who are free to walk out of the house as they please. ”
    This is something I hope every person will understand and see…You cant move a society forward when you keep its population in fear, never discovering or living up to their potential. Thank you for still having good things to say about my country, while I am having trouble respecting/appreciating the ways of its disrespectful men and spineless people, though like you I love many things about it, still want to be/go there for the lovely people I know there.

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  20. Generally for Indian women it’s the other way around when we travel abroad. It is then we taste the “real” freedom and realize that things CAN be better!

    Sexual harassment is shamefully rampant on Indian streets. I don’t think there is even an iota of FEAR, remorse or guilt in these perpetrators. I don’t think they even waste a single second of their day thinking how the victim felt. Neither are they afraid of getting caught. They see an opportunity and just go for it. Like with masturbating! Come on! One has to be pretty damn sure that they’ll not get caught to be doing something like that.

    But surprisingly, auto drivers in Bangalore are well behaved. Yes, sometimes they harass for more money, but otherwise they are generally helpful.
    Nevertheless, I am always wary of certain things. Like, I will not ride an auto late at night, I am always(always!) on guard when I am alone, I always keep my dupatta ready(not tied around my neck) so that I can pull it out easily and strangle them if need be! I don’t know why I am so ready, or if it even makes sense, but I just am! And it is sad that things are this way.

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    • I lived in HSR Layout some years ago was driving back from work. It was elevenish and I was easing the car over a nasty speed bump barely 150 metres from my house.

      The window was rolled down and I turned sideways; only to see that an auto-wallah was climbing over the hump at the same time.

      Perhaps he thought that I was challenging him by looking at him — the next thing I know he was driving me off the road.

      “Don’t you have eyes?” I yelled at him in Kannada and pulled over to park outside my house (we only had basement parking for one car).

      I unlocked the front door took a few steps in and heard a loud thud. I ran outside and saw that a stone had been thrown at the rear window of the car, causing it to crack.

      The auto was still parked across the road. Blind with fury, I ran towards it, saw in a flash that he was maturbating and turned to run into the house.

      He reached out, and smeared my arm like cattle-ranchers brand cattle they own.

      I was so shocked I just watched as he sped away.

      So yes, Bangalore is no better, especially at night.

      There’s no shortage of perverted and angry men in India, whichever city you live in.

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      • I stand corrected! Sorry for your disgusting and horrible experience!
        Guess they are just opportunists who are way too sure they’ll not get caught..

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  21. From my personal experience I would say that sexual harassment and loutish behavior in India is pretty much a North Indian thing. Something is F***d up with the North Indian male. When I lived in Delhi I faced constant harassment from men and yes even teen boys. Every day it would be something or the other, ranging from lewd comments to unwanted touching. That was the era where DTC buses were the main mode of transportation,(most people could not afford cars). I traveled to many places throughout the country related to my work and never (not once) faced any problems in the south or Bombay, Pune or Calcutta. I am not saying that this type of behavior is non-existent in the south or in the eastern part of the country, but my friends from other regions have told me that the constant, pervasive harassment seen Delhi, UP, Haryana and Bihar is simply not there in other regions. I’ll leave it for some psychologist to enlighten us as to why the North Indian male is such a barbarian.

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  22. Sighhh…Yet another instance of shameless sexual harassment in public…I hate this feeling of getting disgusted by my country and my gender again and again and again…This is such a deeprooted and widespread problem in our country (whichever state we go to) that it is difficult to know where and how to begin addressing it.

    There is a line in an old tamil song that says “Unless the robber reforms himself, robbery cannot be eliminated”. From the fact that people are still getting robbed left and right, one assumes that this was not a short term plan. As a lot of commenters have pointed out, the root cause of sexual harrasment is a basic lack of respect towards women by the harassers. They do not consider women as human beings with feelings and rights, or if they do, they just don’t care. However, if we are waiting for the harassers to get reformed or for them to get a more mature understanding of women, we are in for a pretty long wait.

    I’m more concerned by a different aspect of the matter. As someone pointed out a few posts ago, sexual harassment is not a crime of passion, it’s a crime of opportunity. The sexual predators prey on women that they consider to be vulnerable. In this context, one dimly understands that sexual harassment of women in lonely spots happens because women are physically vulnerable there and we can put in policies to deal with it. In the US, security guards regularly patrol private properties and parking lots during off-peak hours, cops patrol back alleys and side streets, neighbourhood watches are setup to keep suburban neighbourhoods safe. Based on the effectiveness of these methods (and others), we can see if we can implement them in our country to make lonely spots less vulnerable for women.

    But what makes a predator think that a woman is vulnerable on a crowded bus or train or in an auto on the streets where they are sorrounded by scores of people everywhere? The reason of course, is the apathy of the general public (of which I’m also a part), the “it’s not happening to me or mine, so why should I care?” attitude…that’s what’s very infuriating. This apathy in fact reinforces the predator’s belief that he is not doing anything wrong by harassing a woman…”If all these people are silent, what I’m doing can’t be all that bad, can it?”. This is the bigger problem.

    Yes, we’ll need to educate people about actively recognizing women as equals and sensitize them to women’s rights and feelings. This will ensure that lesser number of people grow up to be predators tomorrow. This is necessary from a long term perspective to actually address the root cause of sexual harassment.

    But, in the short term, we need the non-predator part of the population to actually recognize this as a really, really serious issue and start confronting the predators wherever they encounter sexual harassment. If the public becomes more confrontational, a lot of these harassment incidents can be stopped before they begin.

    For this to happen, there needs to be multiple awareness campaigns (like Satyameva Jayate) through various media again and again to kick the public’s ass out of it’s stupor. There needs to be an information overload on our society that clearly states that sexual harassment in any way, shape or form is not acceptable. It should specify the consequences of sexual harassment on the victim and the dangers of remaining silent when some such incident is taking place in the vicinity. Awareness campaigns have had mixed success in the past. In issues like female infanticide, family planning or rainwater harvesting, the government backed awareness campaigns have had reasonable success in TN. In issues like dowry, however, it hasn’t made much of a difference. However I feel it will help in this case to convey the seriousness of this issue to the public and to get them to react.

    Apart from awareness campaigns, the police also have to play a part. I realize going to your average cop won’t achieve much as they will usually not do much except to make the victim feel violated again. However, there can be police posts set up (in different localities in all major cities) that are explicitly dedicated to handling sexual harassment complaints . They should be staffed with people who are trained and sensitized to deal with sexual harassment incidents. They should also be readily accessible to the general public.

    Also, the US (supposedly) has air marshals (in mufti) in all domestic flights to subdue suspected terrorists before any such incidents take place. Similarly we can also look at having trained cops in mufti traveling in our public transportation to handle sexual harassment incidents as and when they occur. Now obviously, not all buses or trains can be staffed with such cops. They would have to be utilized randomly. However, if such a policy is implemented and announced to the general public, I believe it could have a two-pronged effect. 1. The possibility of cops being on the bus could serve as a deterrent to the predators and 2. if any such incidents do occur, the possibility of cops being on the bus could give other people the necessary courage to confront the predators.

    I realize that none of these are fool proof suggestions. Some of them may also be impractical in our country. However, something has to be done. Any other ideas are also welcome. Sunitha Krishnan (an anti-trafficking activist from Hyderabad) was raped when she was younger. She has mentioned that what has affected her most about the incident was not so much the trauma of the rape (enormous as it was) but the total indifference of the people sorrounding her to the trauma. This indifference is the curse of our society. Without a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment by our government and in our society, this problem will only worsen and will never go away.

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    • Harrassment against women is a symbol of a larger malaise. Women are not seen as full citizens by the police or the government, who consider them to be second-class citizens if they are thought to be anything at all.

      Indian society views women as passive creatures who deliberately lead men astray.
      That’s why the Indian public is apathetic to harrassment and rape. The woman ALWAYS asks for it.

      So most Indians think of women in sub-human terms. Women are not people whose experiences matter. They are just tools and objects that exist to entertain and to serve men.

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  23. I think these sort of incidents occur because the auto drivers are unfamiliar with what foreigners actually are. We have so many scientific topics in our curriculum but very few which teach us how to behave and interact with people.I personally feel that people from smaller towns and villages are better than the ones from urban areas as far as socializing with people of the same gender is concerned and also these people are seldom introvert unlike some from the cities. Off-course the issue at hand is a different case altogether but i think that parents,teachers,elders all have to fulfill their responsibilities in order to make this society a better one for people who are prone to harassment and therefore i feel that we must try and copy the model that the folks in the smaller towns have adopted in case of people from the same gender and allow people from to interact freely in case of two different genders as well. I don’t know how exactly these people become such good pals but the amount of freedom they get to interact with people from the same gender is astonishing and bewildering because this freedom vanishes when people from two different genders try to interact. People need to be acquainted with different cultures and assistance from those already acquainted( i.e. the teachers and other educated people) is very crucial. I don’t know why some people are ashamed of their own country,culture and people.I think a country is a part of every citizen, so i cannot imagine how some people here can be ashamed of their country. In fact i think we should be proud of country no matter what some less acquainted do,no matter what others complain of. There is always margin for improvement and we as citizens must try and correct problems or at least suggest solutions and not be ashamed of our own country. Meanwhile Americans abuse Indian students, Australians actually kill Indians but its not the fault of the respective country, is it?. I am ashamed of those who are of ashamed of their own countries, there can be no bigger betrayal than to actually be ashamed of their own country. But again, if something is wrong then it needs to be corrected and not be ashamed of because its my own body,my own soul isn’t it?.

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    • Sushobh, I think what makes us feel ashamed of our country is that we accept females harassment as a way of life. A female getting harassed is the norm, not the exception. A female has to take extra efforts every single day in order to avoid getting harassed. I am sure there must have been people in America who must have felt ashamed of their country for slavery/seggregation before the civil war. But Americans abusing American students or Australians killing Indian students is not the norm. Indians there do not have to take extra efforts every day to avoid abuse/murder.That’s why the people committing crimes are being blamed as opposed to the system/country.

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  24. Throughout the narrative there was one thing that particularly struck me. I am appalled that you are providing so many explanations for why you were harassed…or atleast looking at all possibilities where you can be blamed. Like what clothes you were wearing, why you got into auto late night and all that.

    Looks like you have been in India long enough to hear enough victim-blaming.😐

    Listen sweetheart, you got into an auto wanting to reach home. Unfortunately you ran into a jerk. I don’t see any reason to blame you. Period.

    I agree with what Amit said. It’s a wonder you still manage to love and respect this country.

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    • Very valid point Ashwathy- exactly what occured to me as well. There shouldn’t be any need to justify what one is wearing etc.

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  25. @ pk – “From my personal experience I would say that sexual harassment and loutish behavior in India is pretty much a North Indian thing. Something is F***d up with the North Indian male.”
    This has been what I have observed as well. The North Indians are an unique breed of Indians altogether, culturally closer to the Taliban than Asia (personal observation, no offence intended).
     
    The Amerikan’s anecdotes remind me of one with a Hindi auto driver during my early days in Delhi, when I was getting back to my place from a house party at one of my NE friends. I am a man, so I have no been harassed and molested per se. But on the way back home, after the customary “Where are you from”, followed by “Oh, Assam! The tea land…blah blah”, the conversation somehow drifted to sexual topics, when the driver commented how lucky I was to be born in a culture where women are ‘free’ (or so he judged, from his observations of the guests living the party). This was followed by his sob story about how his wife is under sexed and how, unlike us ‘lucky’ fellows, he never saw a woman naked in real life (along with a quite detailed description of his marital life).
     
    When I didn’t respond to this uncomfortable conversation, except the occasional hum, he went on to offer me not to charge any fare, if I let him into one of those parties (in the hope of hooking up with one of those ‘chinkies’, as he calls them). It was a rather unique and disconcerting experience, as a male. I can only imagine what women go through.
     
    Is it something about the food they eat?

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  26. I was chatting with a friend the other day, and we were discussing why people didn’t move back to India (she lives in the US and I live in Dubai). THIS is why. No matter how much more money you make… no matter the number of choices you have and the number of hired help you can afford in India as compared to other places… you will have to face a society that behaves like this with women. From auto-wallahs to ministers… the mentality that women are just sexual objects, that they are beneath men and don’t deserve to be treated as an equal human being…

    It’s like she said… ” if women knew how it was outside India, and if they had a choice… loads more would move out and never return.”

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  27. I don’t think it’s so much foreign women in India being harassed sexually by low-lifes as just women in India being harassed sexually by low-lifes – and it’s not restricted to, or common to, any cities in particular, or even to men from a certain social level. I’ve been pushed, prodded, groped and generally felt up by men from every walk of life when I’ve taken public transport… whether that’s been in Delhi, Madras, Bangalore, Cochin or Hyderabad (i’ve been in all those cities). I used to think it was my fault, that I was a low-life magnet in some way – but now I know that it’s not just me and never was.

    It doesn’t matter how you dress, and the only thing that’s ever worked (mostly) is raising a hue and cry right then and there. When I was younger (early teens to 20s) I was too embarrassed and scared to say/do anything, but eventually I realised that if anyone was going to be embarrassed or ashamed, it should be the molester, not the molested. That’s when the worm turned, as they say.

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    • Please. Kerala tries very hard to reach the top spot on the leaderboard. And this is coming from a malayali who has experienced such behavior first hand. The people in general are as horrible as the place itself is beautiful.

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  28. IHM,

    I think your blog is prejudiced and very highly opinionated. I am a working Indian woman, and have been riding a scooter/driving a car for several years, so have you , I bet !

    We have all experienced what you say in your blog, at one point or the other, but not in the magnitude you seem to point out. Your blog makes people feel that India is a very unsafe country, and not worth living in. I would never agree .. I have lived in Canada and US, and the ways I have felt unsafe there is a way bigger than the (so called) lack of safety in India. Point out issues in a balanced way, but not in this highly opinionated, prejudiced and misguided way.

    After 3 years, am back to reading your blog, and it leaves me with the same distaste that I felt 3 years ago.

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    • //We have all experienced what you say in your blog, at one point or the other, but not in the magnitude you seem to point out. //

      Nearly all of us experience some form of harassment, nearly every time we step into public transport or public spaces. We take precaution, we carry pepper spray or safety pins; we watch what we wear, we watch how we walk, talk, laugh, where we go, when we go, who we go with, and we still face some form of blatant or subtle sexual harassment. Many of us avoid using public transport and many of us choose our jobs keeping safety in mind. Those who look vulnerable or those who look like ‘outsiders’ or those who look like they may not be able to fight back seem to have a more difficult time. Most of us don’t want to rely on the police to keep us safe. It has become our habit to be careful and most of us have generally accepted that although we pay our taxes, the public spaces are not safe for us.

      Why does a condemnation of this situation leave you with distaste?

      You may like to take a look at these two links, there are many more available.

      1. India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women, says the recent Trust Law Women Poll… The top three countries deemed to be most dangerous by the poll are Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan – affected by political and social uncertainties.

      Link: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article3613702.ece?homepage=true

      2. The Thomas Reuters Foundation survey says that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in …

      Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexism_in_India

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    • I respectfully disagree with you AV. If you are already willing to admit that “we have all experienced what you are saying in your blog” but not at the same magnitude, do you mean that the experiences written about on this blog aren’t so bad or that they aren’t so frequent? I think it is best to perhaps step back and look at the condition of women in this country from a big-picture perspective. Are you (as one individual) going to experience sexual harassment everyday? Maybe not. Are you (as one individual) going to experience extreme cases of sexual harassment or violence? Maybe not. But does the female population as a whole experience both high frequency and high severity of sexual harassment or violence every day? Absolutely yes. And I suggest you read IHM’s links to bring home this point.

      You do have a point that it’s not right to extrapolate from the stories on one blog that the entire country is dangerous and unsafe for women. But it is also wrong to extrapolate from one person’s experience (yours) that the problem isn’t so real or isn’t so threatening as people think. Try telling that to some of the people who have posted their stories here. Would you tell them that their experience wasn’t such big a deal? That they are over-reacting? Make them feel worse about what happened to them? I think you wouldn’t. So, how can you fault IHM for bringing much needed light to the issue of women’s safety in India? Of course it’s supposed to leave a bad taste in your mouth! But it’s not IHM’s blog that should be leaving that taste but the situation of women in India.

      Also, I’m actually really curious: How have you felt unsafe in a bigger way in US and Canada? I’m very interested to know about this as it seems like a rare opinion.

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  29. Hey i am an Indian and i feel ashamed to see that people in India are treating the foreignors like this. But you know the thing is that peole from small yowns think that people from america only think about sex, havig babies and getting divorced. Maybe it is because of the hollywood movies. I am talking about the uneducated indians.men in india look at foreignors and pretty tall girls and they think that ithey would be good in bed because that is what is shown in the movie. The mentalty of men in india is like this only. I was abused as a child beause i used love playing football and cricket. Non of the girls wanted to play with the boys. So the boys thought that i am confortable doing anything. Boys in india are not taught how to respect and behave in front of a girl. And honestly saying i hate myself for being born in such a contry.

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  30. Pingback: Of fear and being terrorized.. | Every drop of a pin and every sneeze gets written about, how else can I keep this going ??

  31. This has happened to me too many times to repeat.

    My foolproof method of operation now in autos is to immediately take out my phone and pretend that I’m talking to someone, even though I might just be listening to music. I wholeheartedly agree that this might be taking it too far, but I’ve realised that I’d rather cut out any chance of getting into what might be a dirty conversation. Also, most drivers understand then that you can contact someone immediately if required, and back off.

    Many, many drivers have been very sweet, interesting, and kind, but there are still too many who masturbate and try to use words like ‘fucking’ and ‘sex’ just to get a reaction. There was one particularly frightening incident where the auto driver kept looking at me in the mirror and licking his lips.

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  32. Pingback: Plain-clothed police officers, warning signboards, cancellation of permits, helplines: SC directs States to take serious steps to curb Street Sexual Harassment. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  33. I am an Indian woman, living in Mumbai – and the situation is just as bad.
    I was out one night with my friends (it was around 9.30 pm) and we were headed toward a popular pizza joint for dinner.
    We got out of the cab and began walking toward the restaurant (we were 4 girls and 5 guys). We girls were walking a little ahead, when we spotted a group of disgusting men giving us creepy looks – they looked ready to attack us. Luckily, they then spotted the guys walking a few steps behind, and scurried away. All this hap

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