Sunday, September 09, 2007

Return of the Original Chauvinist

Chupulu. Stares. When I first read this poem as a part of the prescribed texts for my paper on Indian Writing, it didn't sound spectacular or even forceful. Among the more illustrius names like Kamala Suriya (erstwhile Das) and A.K Ramanujam, this comparitively little known Telugu poet talking about the offensive stares she fights every day, seemed just ordinary.

Not now. It's been a month that I moved to Hyderabad (Secunderabad, if you are a sucker for details). I now understand, perfectly, what that poem was all about. Now that I've walked on the streets, and travelled on the buses of Hyderabad, I know what it is to be stared at, rather, stared down at. "Being stripped with your eyes" is not a hyperbole anymore.

Hyderabad is considered one of the safest cities in India. It really is. My seniors tell me that they can go out partying, can return drunk at insane hours in the night, and not fear a thing. I've not heard horror stories of molestation, of people trying to feel you up in a crowded bus. They just stare. A stare that is much more than just lecherous. Girls here, need to learn to be demure. Or be just the responsible working homemaker types-who wake up at crack of the dawn, prepare breakfast and lunch for the entire household, runs to office, finishes her respectable 9-6 job, comes back to cook and clean some more. And at the end of the month, dutifully give their salary to their husband/father.

A bunch of girls going for a movie, in a non-multiplex: not good. A bunch of girls going out for lunch, and actually ORDERING their food, even with guys sitting with them: bad. Two girls going alone to pick up another at Secunderabad railway station, and THEN refusing a coolie, and carrying the luggage between them instead: BLASPHEMY.

It's not criminal. To stare. It's annoying, to be stared at. And it makes your blood boil. Chauvinism at its best. "Women are better of two steps away from the stove" attitude. The worst is, there is little you can do to fight, except stare back. Afterall, you cannot put a person in jail for just looking.

And it is not just the men. Women are equally bad. No their stares are not lecherous, but more accusatory, "the don't-you-know-your-proper-place" kind of look. I have not made up my mind about which is worse.

Me and Vidi were on our way to Hi-tech city. I had no change with me for the bus, so at the Secunderabad bus station we walked into the magazine shop. There was a lady at the counter, and a man who I presumed was her husband, standing on the other side of the counter. I asked for Reader's Digest, she looked at the man, who shakes his head. "Reader's Digest nahi hai ma" she says. "The Week"? Look, head shakes, a negetive. "India Today?" Same drill. Exasperated, I looked at the man directly and asked, "Outlook hai kya?" He offers Outlook Money, which I didn't want. So our enterprising business woman offers, "Femina, Women's Era, Graha Shobha saab hai, woh kuch lejao!"
I just blinked. And shook my head in exasperation and walked away with Vidi giving me cheeky "why-are-you-surprised" look. And their stares followed us all the way.

15 comments:

lash said...

hey raam..blasphemous post !!!! :)

Tsu said...

women want to be stared at dont want to stared at.. I understand but then these are such contradictions for one species. I guess we have to stop bothering what other people think or whether they stare the problem arises only when the person, guy ure going out with or ure frnd starts this shit.. move on!!! away from his stares. thats about all u and I can do. cause there are other things that are much more imp than be bothered abot a guy/lady who thinks we are out of our ktichen!!!

Id it is said...

Women against women crimes are perhaps the worst! How can one woman not feel for another especially in a world that has been male-dominated since the dawn of 'man'kind; it was bad enough knowing 'Eve' was born out of a rib of Adam and owes her existence to Adam's boredom and loneliness. However, she does have to carry the heavier burden of nurturing the seed for a full nine months so that the species thrives!

Thanks for a reality check on 'Hydrabad' the home of Sania Mirza; a place I was told is is 'must see'!
Interesting post.

crumbs said...

@ lash

Nevermind!!

@ tsu

its not bout what other people think. its the constant feeling of being under the microscope, that erks me to no end. you would not understand till you are in the middle of it. when we went to a restaurent here, the waiters all started acting weirdly, they gave use the wrong order, were very slow, would not respond when we call, and generally just messed up. Why?? Because there were some 8 girls, and I guess just about 5 guys in the table, and the order was given by the girls and not the guys. what attitude is that??!!

@ id

I guess among all the incidents that I mentioned, the one that got me the most annoyed was that women asking me to buy a Femina. Annoying does not even begin to describe it.
That's why I said about your Sania Mirza post, that even while that girl has quite a lot of spunk, it's pathetic the way some people react to that...almost like they expect her to play tennis in a burkha :-/

Even in Hyderabad there are plenty of women, muslim and non-muslim who work, who are achievers in their own right. The pain is the attitude of the average guy on the street

Jayasankar Peethambaran said...

Hmm, don't get it. Wat is chauvinistic 'bout women's magazines.

Crimson Feet said...

oh how i relate to this!! being stared/ogled/letched at!! not healthy!

being a guy, i never understood untill i faced myself!! and just wrote this yesterday ..."memoirs of an eve-teased adam" ...read it if u have the time!!

ego clashes are a different thing.. times are changing...i for one have ALWAYS been gender biased... i am biased towards the fairer sex !

D said...

LOL....I t8...women find it interesting...when I stare at them with 'litreally stripping' looks....will be cautious...and abt the magazine incident...aren't you thinkig too much?

crumbs said...

@ jayasankar peethambaran

nothing is chauvinistic about women's magazines, the unstated assumption that women's magazines are all we should read, is.

@ crimson feet

i did read it :)
perhaps we should recommend long hair once a lifetime to all guys, might be a good exercise in making them understand how annoying it is.

@ d
"women find it interesting...when I stare at them with 'literally stripping' looks"
whoever gave you that idea?? I'm not denying that women are nice to look at, or that we don't look at guys, or that we don't want ANY guy to look us at all...
it's not so much about the guy, it is the way they look...respect the fact that not many girls, want you to throw I-want-to-jump-into-bed-with-you kind of looks.
and about the magazine incident, if you were in hyderabad, and if you were a girl, you'd probably not say that I was thinking too much. the assumption that there are a certauin things that a girl should be interested in, and certain things that should not concern her, is not just annoying, it is also wrong. and no, it is not thinking too much

claytonia vices said...

Going by what I have heard, you are in the stare capital of India...

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

hey..
i lost your number.. was tryin to call you yesterday (i got real drunk LOL).
do something!

crumbs said...

@ claytonia vices
sigh! yeah. you could say that.

@ tooOthless wonder

and what's with the extra o in the name??lost another tooth??

and i'll give u a ring...as soon as i down my bottle of absolute vodka :P

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

dang, youre drunk already..
absolut-ly. what's wit hthe extra e?

Me Thinks.. said...

I like the way you have written this one..Its simple and to the point..

I hate the stares too, I stare back and they dont know where to look! Just stare back with anger and they wouldn know what to do..
Right into their eyes...

crumbs said...

@ tooOthless with an extra o

what's that again???

@ MT

What you do is what everyone does. But they are smarter now too. Staring back does not really do anything to them, some are stupid enogh to take that as encouragement. Beat them up is a far more satisfying option :D

but yeah....

blindfolded said...

Delhi won't treat you this way..

Delhi allows you your intellect, your freedom to dress, dress up, be Bindaas... but will treat you like public property.. though I can't figure which one is better.. Be in your place and be safe or be anywhere, drink whatever, wear anything as long as you belong to all men to touch/stare at catcall etc

How do we repair this nation?