Yesterday I realized just how uncomfortable I feel here as a young girl traveling alone. After planning out a trip to Rajasthan to see tigers and Jaipur, I went to buy a ticket to see a Bollywood movie, Agneepath, but there weren’t any shows until 7:30 pm so I decided to spend the rest of the day exploring South Delhi. At first, I was listening to some great tunes on my ipod and walking around with some pep in my step, but as it got darker and darker, I felt myself getting more and more uncomfortable. I was in a park with a bunch of families watching the sun set when I noticed that as the families were leaving young men were coming to the park. A couple of them just stood in front of me and stared for a good half an hour. Once I saw the last family leave, I left too, hurrying back to the theater. I waited outside, reading for another half an hour and again got harassed by some more young men. I even left the movie early at 10 pm to get home on the metro, which has a lovely ladies only car, so that I wouldn’t have to take a taxi with a man home.
Now all of this is coming from the girl who will take the New York subway home alone at 3 in the morning, walk to her apartment in DC alone after a night out, meet up with people in Gulu after dark without a male escort, and not freak out when a Ugandan man chases her down the streets in Kampala. This is the girl who does not get scared being alone out and about at night in cities, and even when she does get uncomfortable, she usually just dismisses it.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m alone without any fellow travelers or adults (even though technically I am one) or if India is just a bit different. I feel like men here are incredibly aggressive, and there seems to be A LOT of sexual tension here. It’s like when they stare, you literally feel them undressing you. Like, yesterday, I was waiting for a metro with one woman and five men and all of them just stared and inched closer for the ten minutes we had to wait. Believe me, I want to be understanding. I want to just dismiss it as the fact that I’m not only white but ghostly pale and I have red hair, but it’s really really bothering me. It just feels like there is a lack of respect, that I am a thing to be stared at not a person. It’s one thing if they stare because they are surprised to see such a white person versus checking me out, and I definitely feel like I can tell the difference. AHHHHHHH! It just makes me so mad!!
In other news, the Bollywood movie was great! I didn’t understand a word of it, because it was all in Hindi, but I am now obsessed. On one side, I sat next to a big Indian woman on one side who had probably seen the movie multiple times and kept singing along to the songs and, on the other side, I sat beside a man who was eating nachos and every five minutes he would make this really weird spitting noise like he was spitting out all of his chips. Both took over the armrests.
Oh, and before I forget, what has been really surprising to me is the lack of beggars I have seen here in comparison to Uganda and Rwanda. Only yesterday, did a couple of kids follow me around asking for money. One was an incredibly small girl. At first I refused to give her anything, because I know that they don’t actually get to keep the money, and I obviously don’t want to support that kind of criminal network. But I also didn’t give her the leftover food I had in my bag because I wanted to save it for later. I realized then, if I am going to donate tons of money to UNICEF to help feed kids suffering from famine in Somalia, it would be so contradictory of me not to give this girl my food. So I spent ten minutes trying to find her, and when I finally did, she snatched the food out of my hands so quickly that it surprised me.
Anyways, today I take my first Indian train to Varanasi, which I think is like the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. I’ve heard it’s really really cool and incredibly relaxing, which will be nice after Delhi. All in all, I’m pretty excited to leave here. Then 5 or so days there and then another overnight train to Agra to meet Kels!!!