Tuesday, August 20, 2013

India: the Story You Never Want to Hear

This is a first for Wanderlust for Beginners, but I'm going to post excerpts and a link to an article written by someone else. In this case, it's from University of Chicago student Rose Chasm, and covers her experiences as a study abroad student for 3 months in India.

When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in India, I always face the same dilemma. How does one convey the contradiction....

“India was wonderful," I go with, "but extremely dangerous for women.” Part of me dreads the follow-up questions, and part of me hopes for more. I'm torn between believing in the efficacy of truth, and being wary of how much truth people want.

Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?

When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for forty-five minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?

Do I describe the lovely hotel in Goa when my strongest memory of it was lying hunched in a fetal position, holding a pair of scissors with the door bolted shut, while the staff member of the hotel who had tried to rape my roommate called me over and over, and breathing into the phone?

All of this is to say, Rose, you aren't alone.  I read some of the comments at the end of her iReport, and many of them call her a racist, a biggot, a hatemonger, etc.  In my opinion, these people fall into one of several categories.  Either (a) they have never been to India; (b) they are Indian; (c) they are men; or (d) they are women who are not white.  Because every white female I know who has been to India has faced similar things to what Nora faced, or what Rose faced. 

In a weird way, I love that country: I love its food, I love its history, I love its geography, and I even love some of its people.  But I can't go back, because far too many men there treat my wife like an object on display, or, even worse, like an object that is available for taking. 

You can find Rose's full post by clicking here.

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