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Safety, Smells and Stares of India

by Globetrooper Lauren | 13 Responses
Safety, Smells and Stares of India

Everyone warns you to be cautious. To always have an eye on your things. To be aware of your surroundings. And to be especially wary of men (if you’re a woman).

But really, after a few days in Mumbai, I feel it’s not so different to South America, Africa, or even North America or Australia. Perhaps it’s because we’ve only been here a few days, maybe it’s because the pace has changed, or maybe people are just too sensitive and negative . I felt more ‘on edge’ in New York last week than I have here in India yet.

But there’s one big culture-shocking difference here; the staring.

Wherever I look, there’s a pair of eyes looking directly into mine. Not a threatening look, but a puzzled stare? I’m mastering the art of blocking out my peripheral vision, because 50 sets of eyes honing in on mine can be a little creepy. As I’m writing this, I’m balancing my (heavy) backpack with my feet, against the wall to block the direct stare of an Indian fellow in the opposite berth.

I caused quite a scene on the ferry in Mumbai when I offered to take a photo of a family. Afterwards, the mother wanted a photo of me with her shy toddler and kept yelling at and smacking the child to smile when she cried about standing next to some weird, blonde-headed alien. So if your teenager’s only ambition is to ‘become famous’, pack them off for a month in India for a taste of pop-star attention.

Dwarka girls

What posers! No, these girls in Dwarka made my day. They were so thrilled to get their photo taken, and then they came and pinched my cheeks after.

One thing that stops me running to buy a burka, is that a smile is almost always reciprocated. Indians like to receive attention as much as they give it, and many of them will have a thrill posing for the camera and even make you shoot another if they don’t like the first take. And the big plus, instead of expecting or asking for money (like South America), they will ask you where you’re from, where in India you’re travelling to, if you’re married, etc.

I’ve come across only a few beggars, contrary to the hyperbolic advice I was given before coming here that the whole population would be asking for money. But, everyone was correct on the smell front. In some areas it’s quite stinky. Sometimes a pleasant stink of rich coriander or fresh curry, but other times you’ll be punched in the schnoz by a foul, lingering pooey stench.

All part of the experience, I say.

Posted in GCIRC 2011, India | February 20th, 2011

13 Responses to Safety, Smells and Stares of India

  1. hahaha!! great post lauren

  2. Great post. I’m in India now, been here for four weeks, and yes the staring can be hard to handle. I know it’s not malicious but the people haven’t exactly been friendly with me here, making it harder to deal with.

    • Hi Chris,
      Whereabouts are you in India? Yes, I’m finding the stares particularly irritating now… I try not to think about it, and I know they don’t mean to be rude, but it takes a lot of effort when I’m having a bad day not to get upset/angry. Sometimes you just don’t want to be noticed.
      Most of the people I’ve met though have been quite friendly, perhaps it’s the area you are in? I’ve found the most friendly people are in areas where tourists rarely visit.

  3. Good summary. I just returned from a short stint in India where I traveled to Delhi, Agra, udaipur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Hyderabad. I find your comments to be quite accurate – especially me being a tall white blonde gal traveling solo!
    I got used to the staring pretty quickly, and had no problems with safety at all!

    • Hey Torrey. What did you think overall about India? Did you love it? Or just like it?

  4. Yes Indian men (me included) do have a problem of staring at women and if it is foreigner they stare as if they are from different planet

  5. Indians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, all stare. It’s called “bad manners”. The other reason is that all people in that wretched sub-continent suffer from a huge inferiority complex. They hate their brown skin and adore white/fair skin. If you have dark brown skin in Indian you are considered “untouchable”. Just look at the ads for skin whitening creams over there. It’s mind boggling. So they stare (especially the women) cos they are awestruck by your white skin, something they love to have but cannot, not even in 1000 years. The men stare due to sexual frustration. Every 20 minutes a woman/girl gets raped in India. Bombay and New Delhi are the rape centrals of the world. Only reason they smile is because you smile. Otherwise, when THEY stare at you and you look at them, it’s THEY who should smile first. But the sewer rats will not do it. Even that you have to do first. This entire subcontinent is a hellhole. Just to give your how overpopulated India is, if India had the same population density as the US, it should have only 112 million people, but they have over 11 times more. Just imagine your house which has only 5 rooms for 5 people and 2 bathrooms, having 55 people living in them. That is India. It’s the arsehole of planet Earth.

  6. Lauren, The stares are there for different reasons. Women stare at other women and even children when they find that they are wearing better clothes or jewellery or when they are from a higher socio economic class. The stare is an envy actually and when you smile back at them, they feel accepted and therefore, they smile back at you. They will not smile at you first for fear of being rejected for belonging to a lower socio economic class. You won’t find women of middle class or upper middle class staring at you. Now, the men stare at you because you’ve got boobs but that is also very regional. In certain states such as Gujarat, you won’t find as many men starting at you as in Uttar Pradesh or Delhi. But still, among Indian men, when they stare at other men or sometimes, even women, it’s for perceived higher socio economic status as well.
    *And don’t worry they don’t leave Indian women either! Women have been staring at me for wearing nice clothes since childhood and then men started staring when I became a teenager and it hasn’t stopped in my 30’s either. HTH.

  7. After living in europe for 2 decades, i started researching ‘Indians Stare’. The reason behind is the Indian culture of judgement & competitiveness.
    I’m a typical ‘indian looking man’ and am annoyed by the stares each time i visit the homeland. The truth is that in India ‘everyone stares at everyone’. A similar culture is in the middle east but its taken for granted and doesnt have such a population density.
    In spite of the diversity & progress India still has a backwards mentality and freedom to be different isn’t really there. This stands out in India because India otherwise is quite progressive

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