Being female and other Issues

I am a twenty-five year old woman living in Mumbai and I would be lying if I said that I have never wished I was not at least in any of these three categories: Young. Female. Indian.

I think when you put these three qualifications together, the concoction that emerges is often difficult to digest. It’s a crime to be these things actually. Why you ask me? Well let me show you what I was staring at last night as I waited in line at Mumbai Central Station to buy a local train Ticket:

Board on Mumbai Central Station Ticketing Counter
Board on Mumbai Central Station Ticketing Counter

Call me crazy but I get offended for being put into the same category as “Elders” and “Differently- Abled”. Reservations in India are a social, political, economic and religious issue and I am not saying I am completely against it but I would like to think that if you want to separate ticket lines according to gender, can you please do it without making women look like weaklings! Whatever happened to chivalry right!

That’s the least of my concerns in this particular issue by the way.

Let me explain my latest crimes.

Crime #1

Young. Female. Indian. And having the audacity to travel the city in Public Transport.

Each time I have to walk through a crowded place, be it a railway station or a bus stop of just any godamn by lane in the city, unless I hold my elbows up like a ninja, I will be groped at least once. (Then there are the days that I score hat tricks *rolls eyes*) I like Ninjas and everything, but sometimes I forget to hold it up and guess what scientific discovery that lead to? An unwanted squeeze of the boob in female humans is equivalent to an unpleasant electric shock in animals.

Crime #2

Young. Female. Indian. And being stupid enough to go out for dinner AFTER DARK.

I was out for dinner and drinks with my female best friend a few weeks ago and was being stared not stared actually, but as at the receiving end of a desperate attempt to convert human vision into X-ray by this not so gentleman on the next table. He walked past our table in slow motion each time he visited the loo and I felt caught in a really bad Matrix type situation. I ignored it for a nit because I just did not want to create a scene and was looking for a peaceful evening out with my friend but after a point I felt so uncomfortable that I mentioned it to my friend. She tactfully tried to block his view by siting in the way and what followed was a sad yet funny head-tilting competition where everyone lost. I lost my sense of comfort, he lost his balance and my friend lost her temper. Eventually after what seemed like too long, he left only to be followed by my pissed off friend who wanted to confront him outside. She asked him what his problem was and he responded by shoving her. Thankfully, his friends intervened and I dragged my friend back in before things got too out of hand. Moral of the story: #beingfemale and being in a bar without a male is a combination you can try only at your own risk. The epilogue to the story was when his friend comes to apologize to our table and explains that his friend just broke off his engagement and is in a “bad place” right now.

Whatever.

Crime #3

Young. Female. Indian. And putting up a decent profile picture on Social Networking sites.

It was New Years Eve and I was dressed up for a party. So I did what needed to be done. Clicked pictures of my friends and I. That’s all ok until I decided to put up one of the pictures where I happened to look decent. At least three of my very well meaning but chauvinistic male friends “advised ” me to take it down because I was looking “too attractive”. (This was the subtlest yet most annoying sexist experience I’ve had including when a waiter at a restaurant told me that I did not need two cokes like I ordered and helpfully changed my order to one WITHOUT MY PERMISSION) Also, the pictures led to at least five ‘acquaintances’ sending me messages that were basically pitiful Indian versions of pick-up lines. Apparently “I have a boyfriend” isn’t a convincing form of rejection these days.

Crime #4

Young. Female. Indian. And having a terrible morning where you drop hot tea and all your belongings on the railway platform.

It was one of those early winter mornings where nothing went right. I was sleepy and still exhausted from the previous days work and was running extremely late when my award-winning clumsiness gene kicked in and I dropped a piping hot cup of tea and all my belongings on the ground at the railway station. I was so upset, I could have burst into tears. After I picked up all my belongings and the broken pieces of my dignity and walked on, a young pink boy comes to ask me for my number.

If looks could kill, I would be under trial for murder right now.

Damn you Hollywood movies and socially dysfunctional Indian males.

Crime #5

Young. Female. Indian. And being financially self-sufficient a.k.a selfish bitch.

I work and as a pleasant side effect at the beginning of each month a tidy amount appears in my bank account. Theoretically, this is the plan since K.G. You should be independent, beta said all my condescending relatives as they patted me on my ponytails. And then, you actually do become independent. Move out of your parents house. Feed, clothe and shelter yourself without asking for help. BIG MISTAKE. Apparently, as I read somewhere being self-sufficient is a huge turn off for men. So basically even though you earn money and can afford to do all things that you wish to, you’ve got to pretend that you don’t.

That explains why buying something sets off this automated guilt trip in my head (my parents must have installed it in my brain when I was asleep) which plays on and on most days leads me to give in and pretend I can’t.

A good woman should always need a man.

Everything else is a crime.

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23 thoughts on “Being female and other Issues

  1. Trust me, if you were “Young. Male. Indian.”, you would’ve been facing a whole new set of problems, which are no less troublesome than these.

    Besides, if you’re attractive, you’ll attract attention (by definition). It is not really limited to females.

    A lot of your problems might disappear if you just stop caring about how other people judge you, and if you stop judging others. (For example, the waiter might not have been sexist, but a random well-wisher who would’ve done the same to a male customer.)

    As for the reservation system, I don’t think it is a disrespect towards women. In fact, the way you wrote it — Call me crazy but I get offended for being put into the same category as “Elders” and “Differently- Abled” — is disrespectful towards elders and handicaps. Reservation is made on the assumption that an average woman would have trouble dealing with the hardship of the general group and hence is put in the ‘special’ group. If you feel you don’t need such a reservation, just join the general group. Remember, it is “general” and not “male”.

    1. I am pretty sure I have never seen a waiter correct a male customer. I guess when you are female you notice these things. Males do have their own set of problems which I don’t pretend to understand because I am definitely not male so I wont belittle their issues without experiencing them 🙂
      Anyway, Thanks a lot for reading and leaving your opinion. Always interesting to know what the opposite gender thinks. 🙂

  2. That’s so sad…….to be part of a people that still refuse to respect women, for the most part. As a Nigerian I can say some females in the North can relate; I am therefore blessed to be born in the South and educated. The undertones are still there and economics means a lot of women don’t believe they can be something without a man (be he married, single or in between as long as he’s richer than the ladies); this makes it hard for those who can and are holding their own because everyone still treats you like you can’t.

    1. I have read something about this in Chimamanda Adichie’s novels Half of a Yellow Sun and more recently in Americanah. It is interesting but quite sad.

  3. “Apparently, as I read somewhere being self-sufficient is a huge turn off for men. So basically even though you earn money and can afford to do all things that you wish to, you’ve got to pretend that you don’t.” Unfortunately this mindset is becoming a trend in the USA as part of a machismo movement. The other issues happen in other parts of the world, too. Maybe not as extreme as groping, but sexual harrassment in the forms of cat calling and whistling happen a lot in Western cities also. Brussels, London, Paris to name a few.

    1. Yes I have read about it at many places which is why I feel that more and more women should talk openly about in whichever medium possible. I had never heard of this machismo movement, what is that all about now!?
      Thanks a tonne for reading and stopping by!

      1. There is one example, heartiste.wordpress.com
        basically they are bashing the single, educated, independent women and millions of people are agreeing with them. This is just sad. They think women should sit at home and serve the men as obedient slaves. They say men have the right to sleep around while their woman waits for them at home. It’s disgusting.

    1. I agree. Just a few days ago I visited Pune and in one of the historical monuments Aga Khan Palace, we noticed that the foreigners were asked to pay 20 times the original ticket rate. All I thought to myself was “Thank god I am an Indian. (One of those rare occasions!)

  4. I love this and your honesty. Chin up, standards up, and be the change that you wish to see in the world you live in. Start small and go far!

    childseyeviewblog.wordpress.com
    811southern.wordpress.com

  5. I agree with you on groping in the public transport but on other points i would say let’s not try to cut a sorry figure , i am an independent woman too, educated ,attractive , successful a self made woman and belive me what all I had to face while climbing the ladder to success but never cared about what peoplr thought of me or looked at me and too during those days when you must have been a toddler. Become focused on what you want in life and you will stop seeing or hearing glaring eyes and comments.

    1. True but I feel unless we speak up, the way for the generations that are to follow won’t be made any easier. Just because things are better than they used to be, doesn’t mean there is no scope for improvement.
      When someone looks at me in a way that I find uncomfortable, not speaking up about it is complying to that behavior and that is exactly what must stop. Now.

  6. Really nice read. My wife and other female friends have experienced some or all of the things you have mentioned above. It is sad really, because although men will be men, I have noticed that women outside India are treated differently. What is with our mindset and how do we change this?
    Maybe social media can take a lead on this one… but then again, I have seen on twitter, that if you are female, have a good looking pic as your DP, even crap will get retweeted and applauded 😀
    So maybe online versions of men are as lecherous, but more evolved in how they communicate it 😛

    1. Haha. Great observation and it is true isn’t it! I am glad you are sensitive to these occurrences and don’t brush it aside like some men I know. I remember a horrific experience once when I was sexually harassed in a autorickshaw and one of the first questions my male friend asked me was “What were you wearing?” Because that would justify the filth I had to hear *rolls eyes*

      1. Letching seems to be a very Indian Male concept. And I know what you mean by statements like “What were you wearing?”. We often want our wife, sisters, etc to dress decently, but will letch at any woman showing even a bit of skin.
        During a recent trip to Goa, my wife and me were observing, that people were least bothered about any woman even wearing a bikini. But we contrasted it to a trip to Mahabalipuram, where my short skirted and t-shirted wife was stared at by all and sundry, including women 😀
        It is very rare that people overseas letch.

        PS: Thanks for the follow, however, I blog more often at http://santoshnc.blogspot.in/ as I feel I’m technologically challenged to use WordPress 🙂

  7. Wonderful essay. I’m very sorry to hear that Indian cities are still so far from gender equality. I imagine it may be even worse in some rural areas. I applaud you for your courage in standing up to it.

  8. I agree with you, the most scary and alarming part is that these things are on the rise day by day, be it on streets ,railway stations, bus stop, pubs or online,.. Have also read that most of these incidents are becoming often and common in young boys between age 12-18 which is most serious concern.
    I just always say to my wife, sister, niece and all my female friends that if ever you are made to feel uncomfortable by anything don’t ignore it…if u let it go for any reason someone else may become a bigger victim.

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