“I was so angry that I shrieked, and we ran after them. Then seeing that I was not going to go, he apologised.” Another time, a group of men sneered as they passed by the young couple: “? )” My friend Neha Belvalkar’s first visit to India after two years in a film school in the US was “appalling,” in her words.
Chris, her American boyfriend, had accompanied her.
She then asked me questions about our wedding and everything that had led to it. I later kicked myself for having misunderstood their questions as friendly banter.
Then the other woman, who had remained silent until then, asked me for proof. When many Indians see one of their women with a man of a different race, they make assumptions, and offer unsolicited advice.
An Indian woman who has got a white man must be enlightened, even by complete strangers.
A lawyer whose services I was seeking for a few marriage-related formalities started by giving me a sermon on running a background check on the man I wanted to marry because “you never know how these s are.” I didn’t call on her again.
Probably every woman in India has one story about having been subject to lecherous looks as she has walked down the street. The male gaze turns more brazen by several orders of magnitude.
Ketki Pradhan, a French teacher in Pondicherry, told me about the time she was holding her German boyfriend’s hand when a group of men started making vulgar gestures.
“One of them grabbed my other hand and held it very tightly for a few seconds, and ran away,” Pradhan recalled.
Elephant Beach on India’s Andaman Islands was not where I thought I would have to justify my life choices.
Yet, there I was, feet dipped in clear water, staring into the horizon, trying to convince two middle-aged women whom I did not know that the man I was with was indeed my husband.