I wonder he didn’t fall off his bike. He had stopped it an abrupt motion, and his pillion rider was also falling over in excitement. It didn’t matter that the two of them had on civil clothes and were riding an expensive-looking bike. It was not beneath them to gawk at the foreign girl walking on the pavement – shamelessly, if you please.
The two guys ran their eyes all over her, and, as she hurried past them, burst into guffaws and would-be cool jokes. They had met a foreigner that morning, thank you very much. A foreigner wearing jeans and a tee and carrying a bag of vegetables was naturally a bizarre sight, because, hey, Indian girls don’t do that!
And this is the kind of mentality with which India wants to attract tourists from around the globe.
Koregaon Park in Pune is a big draw for foreign tourists. There’s the Osho Aashram in here, several yoga and meditation centres, sprawling parks, and gazillions of bars and nightclubs. It is the kind of place our tourism ministry advertises when they try to draw people to India and help them ‘achieve nirvaana’. This is also one of the main reasons certain people from around town flock to Koregaon Park – ‘to watch the birds’. These people are akin to the crowd that goes traipsing to Goa to ‘see foreign girls in bikinis’ and drink cheap beer. When night falls, they lurk around in shadowy corners, gawk at women, and contribute generously to India’s perception of a country unsafe for women, tourists, and especially, tourists who are women.
The problem of gawking, unfortunately, is not just restricted to creeps. I have often felt uncomfortable and watched as random people find nothing wrong with checking you out (from top to bottom), bumping into you, and using public transport as an opportunity to grope. The problem only gets magnified when these people encounter exotic, fair-skinned women. There is little regard for personal space, privacy or even civility, and there is a standard response whenever you complain – “We have a high population. What do you expect?”
I wonder when we will stop citing population as the root of all our problems, and, conveniently, just leaving it there.
Picture via indiamike.com