Saturday, April 12, 2008

ladies (said in a low creepy voices that fits in perfectly at a dive bar)

Once the march is over, I'll probably be leaving Mumbai. I wanted to see if it might be a place that I make my home for awhile and I learned it wasn't. There's a number of reasons but one looms above the rest: the treatment of women and interaction with them.

I watch how much annoying and unwanted attention Tessa receives walking down the street and it makes me pretty angry. I'm heartened by the fact that I've never seen someone so good at shooting down obnoxious guys. If you have a video of it, you can do a slow motion replay to pinpoint the exact moment when she stabs a needle or knife (depending on the situation) into his inflated ego bubble. She spends her days on Bollywood sets but still hasn't had one date that I know of although we haven't spoke much since I started this march. She even has a guy or two who call a few times a day even though she has never picked up the phone since the first time they talked. In her words, no one has been normal enough.

And on my side, my best friends tend to be girls: Emily Ku who made an awesome stenciled shirt with both our faces on it that I'm wearing now, Wenjay who I'm trying to get out of NYC to join me here so I have a monkey to entertain me on this march and Leanne the Scottish lesbian on the march who I call my wife for our mutual convenience. Upon hearing of that arrangement, Brett Burkholder said that must make her a Lexbian. Anyway, in Mumbai, I have yet to make friends with any girl. There always seems to be a reluctance or conservatism that makes the friendship awkward, even among the university kids I have met. Since part of this life journey is to find a place to raise my kids (although I think my mom will send me a bomb in a care package if I try to raise them outside Lancaster County), I'm going to move on from Mumbai to find a place where guys and girls can interact more normally.

That's what I love about being around the Tibetans and the few short weeks I have spent with Nepalis. Everybody laughs and plays with each other. With an emphasis on touch, you can walk hand in hand with a monk for a few miles of marching while you talk or put your arm around a girl designated as a sister. The "sister" concept is one I'm just starting to discover and greatly admire. Once you have spent enough time with a girl and became close friends, you just naturally start referring to each other as brother and sister. It stresses the platonic love and caring between the two of you.

It also means you protect her when needed such as an incident a few days ago that still makes me clench my hands in fists of rage. Actually, as I think back on it, I don't want to go into details because it gets me worked up and unsettled for awhile afterwards. Short version: Walking with my sister Maryala, the Polish girl most beloved by the monks for trying to learn the Tibetan language and being a friend to all. A guy pulled over and offered a lift and we said no thank you and then ignored him as he annoying persistent. He tried a few more times and finally "accidentally" and quite deliberately rolled his hand over her breast. There's nothing that can get me more worked up than violating a woman or child in that kind of way. I went to hit him before she got in the way and reminded me "peace march." I still pushed him down a hill and yelled for awhile with tears of rage in my eye. He finally retreated to his car and I felt like a little bitch for not punching the hell out of him and then throwing his car keys into a field. Instead, as I walked by his car window, I did the only thing I could. I grabbed an orange off his dashboard and threw the peelings back in his car at him. We agreed the orange tasted like victory.

The few people on the march who heard about the incident agreed that I was right not to him him although I'm not sure at all. Leanne had the most interesting angle on it. That man took power away from Maryala by doing that but I would taking power from her too because I would be defending her as the big strong man because she can't defend herself. It's a man who takes and a man who fights back. She's just the pawn in between them. Clay, the warm guitar playing hippy from California, suggested the best response: hold the guy down and have all 150 monks come back and spend an hour praying for him. That does sound like an exquisite form of torture.

All of this being said, India is still a great place to travel even as a single woman. Most people don't leave the normal tourist routes and the danger there tends to be massive price increases for stupid trinkets. You are even safer when you live a little family neighborhood like ours. It just means more attention because no other Westerners live there. The physical incidents are rare because for every grabby asshole, there's one hundred who would be glad to beat any guy who besmirches a woman like that. However, for me personally, I don't think it's a place I could live. I think I might move to Kathmandu next and spend my mornings teaching english for room and board so I can spend my afternoons writing and exploring. If I could live anywhere, it'd be in a free Lhasa (the capitol of Tibet) but we'll see what happens on that front.

A comment from the ever-present anonymous:
It's funny since you have been known on more than one occasion to violate women and treat them like objects. Ironic.

She (I assume) is dead right. I regret to say I don't even know who this might be. There's a number of options. However, I would like to state that if there's anything I could go back and change in my life, it would be my treatment and attitude towards women in college. I did some really shitty things that make me shudder now. As I reread this paragraph, I realize how patronizing it sounds but it's the truth.


Anonymous said...

It's funny that the country you would like to leave because of the general treatment of women is called India. By the way, this is Mike. I have been silently stalking you for months on this blog.

Anonymous said...

It's funny since you have been known on more than one occasion to violate women and treat them like objects. Ironic.

.x said...

I'm flattered but which Mike?

And to anon #2, I'll add your comment to the post because you're right.

Anonymous said...

Anon. #1 is Mike. That is all you need to know. And you should KNOW what I mean. India??? How quickly you forget when you are lollygagging about with monks in Kathmandu or El Dorado or where ever the hell you are. Also, this is Mike. And I mentioned something about "India". Don't make me leave my cryptic bubble.

Asti said...

Although I didn't know you in college (and that sounds like a good thing :)) there is nothing like a guy storming out out the house, pulling on his boots with no socks to defend my honour when I was disrespected at the public loos.