Written By Sara Manni

The Dark Side of Jaipur

Published: March 25, 2018

I’d love to write about how incredible Jaipur is, how many things are here to see and so for. But A, people have extensively done it already, B, I don’t think this is what is concerning my mind at the moment.

What I want to talk about is HARASSMENT. Sexual or non-sexual, here I experience harassment every day, multiple times, to the extent to which I am ordering food online because walking five minutes to the supermarket is too heavy.

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Uh yes ladies and gentlemen. Let’s speak the truth. However, before I start narrating some funny anecdotes let me launch a survey: to the Indian guy who is reading this post – why do you harass girls (especially foreign girls) every time you see one? What do think you would gain by trying to have a dirty (or not) conversation with us?? Who do you think we are??? Please do answer my questions by commenting below. And do not say stuff like ‘’It’s not true, only some bad guys do it’’ – Hallass, everyone does it, at least 99 per cent of the male population I encounter every day.

Good, now, before I start narrating a bunch of stories I collected, let me put this clearly: all of these happens to me and my classmates living in Jaipur since September. We do wear very decent clothes (most of us only use Indian traditional kurtas), we do speak the local language and normally we do not go around tourist-style (I mean big camera, lost look, and wandering around). We know how things are here and we are very prepared in any sort of term, but still.

Let’s start with no. 1 daily routine: Uber driver. Unfortunately, most of the time we must choose to go around the city by Uber. Getting an autorickshaw (tuk-tuk for the East Asian friends) is very easy, but getting an autorickshaw who proposes a decent price and KNOWS where he’s going is quite a challenge. So we end-up booking Uber rides which most of the time includes the weirdest kind of conversations. Of course, we do not mind explaining these guys why we live here and why we speak Hindi, or telling stories about our fictional husbands waiting for us at home, but then things get too much. If we are lucky enough they will start driving super-super slowly to get the conversation going or change their roots, so meanwhile they hope we maybe could become their girlfriends.

No. 2: the street. Jaipur is such a sunny beautiful city that walking around would be so enjoyable, but, as girl, this requires firm nerves, loads of concentration and serious commitment. Friday evening me and my friend Indira were walking home from a restaurant 10-15 minutes away. During the short walk we have been harassed 33 times. By these I mean people making strange comments, people greeting and calling your attention in a very creepy way, people by bike slowing down and riding right next to you while shouting at you, or bikers coming right in front of you and stopping 5 cm away. Now this might not sound as bombastic as I put it but you must keep in mind that an Indian man is never alone. They always go around in groups of two, three, eight. Sometimes they hold their neck while they walk, sometimes they hold their hands, sweet. And there are no women around. Public spaces are totally gendered.

Therefore, you will be alone in a street where there are probably 200 men and 5 women (who most of the time are beggars, they are the only one strong enough to stay outside!). Then a group of eight of them will walk towards you staring and making comments. How lovely! Or worse. Yesterday a guy stared at my friend, leaked his lips and groped his pouch.  Nice eh? Imagine this sort of things happening every single time you are outside. Once a friend of mine was walking on the street and a guy in front of her kept on walking at the same peace while trying to show her a porn movie! Sweet hen hai??? Or, better. I was strolling in central park with another girl and this dude took a run all the around the park and he came towards us while faking he was jogging (the jogging attire was slippers, shirt and jeans) and grabbed her boob. The other group of men right behind us did not try to stop him at all, they just gave us a big smile and said: “This is India!!”.

But, the worse one I ever had was during my first month here while I was in Rishikesh. At the time I did not give it too much of importance but right now, when I think back about it, I lose any hope on this country. I was crossing the main bridge of Rishikesh and  sadhu stopped me. He started to tell me I was his daughter and give me blessings. He hugged my face, almost kissed me while looking straight into my eyes. The whole thing seemed pretty mystical. But, then he gave me the famous necklace as blessing and he asked me for money. Of course, I refused but he kept on insisting. Well, then he put his hand on my inner leg and pointed at the place he normally sleeps. The message was pretty clear. Disgusting enough don’t you find??

So yaah these are just a 10 per cent of our daily adventures. To the next person who tells me I am racist classist and bla bla bla a gentle invite to fuck off. Or better, I invite you to come and stay in Jaipur alone as young women. I invite to be at the centre of attention of hundred men every time you walk on the street and taking a breath every rare time you see a woman around, of sleeping in a bus with a doggy dude constantly opening the curtain of your seat and staring at you for hours, at receiving the creepiest kind of messages on Instagram and, most of all, at not feeling free at all. I invite you at being in one of the countries you love the most in the world and feeling so much hate towards everyone, because the only everyone you meet OUTSIDE are these middle-class dudes who think they can fuck you because they are prices since they own a motorbike and a smartphone and you are only a white bitch with no father or bother around ready to protect you.

It is so sad because when you come to India you would think that the biggest problem will be resisting the temptation of giving money to that pity child begging at you. But in the end, at least in Rajasthan, you won’t even mind the child because you have to mind these men.

I dream about the day some respect will be given to women over here. I dream.

This definitely a #MeToo

Cheers

Sara

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Avatar for Sara Manni

Sara Manni says:

I'm glad, thank you:)

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Avatar for Alison Higgs

Alison Higgs says:

Shocked and disgusted that you should have to experience such horrendous sexual harassment during what should be a fantastic year abroad. Appalled that you and your friend are effectively trapped and unable even to go out to eat or use a rickshaw. Thanks you for writing this and I hope your university acts on this.

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Avatar for Sara Manni

Sara Manni says:

Thanks for you words. Unfortunately is not my university fault if these things happens. It is already great that they give the opportunity to spend a whole year to study Hindi. Sadly programmes to learn this language are very rare. This is just the price we have to pay. It's not something institutions can change, the point of a staying in India to study Hindi is having the chance to interact with local people, but this is a bit hard do here :C

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Avatar for Alison Higgs

Alison Higgs says:

I understand it’s a great opportunity but I don’t believe there is nothing your university can do to support you, to intervene or to change things. When a young black student was being forced by his UK university to take his year abroad in a part of the USA which is notorious for racism, there was a big campaign and he was eventually found a placement in a more suitable part of the US. It is not the case that this crap is ‘just India’ or that it should be ignored by universities - or that they should not consider whether other cities might be safer for young women. Your university has power as a world-renowned institution and could do a lot. Good luck anyway

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Avatar for Shwetha Suresh

Shwetha Suresh says:

This truly is the sad truth about the vast majority of experiences girls go through in India, and it’s even worse that nothing has been happening about it. Having lived in India for two years, I completely understand how traumatizing and claustrophobic you can feel when walking out on the streets because your mind is focused on getting from Place A to Place B without having to encounter vulgar comments and cheap looks. I really hope the remainder of your time in India is better, hope you make another stopover at Dubai this time as well 😗

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Avatar for Sara Manni

Sara Manni says:

Thank you girl ! :*

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Avatar for Ginna

Ginna says:

You are so right, India has so many wonderful parts about it that are difficult to enjoy as a female! From the weird queues around us that just "happened" to the caste system in some of the places we stayed, it gave me some very mixed feelings. I went there with two girfriends of mine and our BnB hired us a driver from their "trusted" list. Thank goodness he was, because at a toll stop a man in another car gets out, raps at our window, then points to us and the car and speaks with the driver. Our driver rolled up the window on him and shooed him off, only once we asked a few times did he tell us that the guy was trying to buy the car- with us in it!!! All of us travel a lot and try to understand the culture we put ourselves in, but we all agreed a culture like this would definitely make it difficult for a woman's independence.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

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Gosh! Thank you so much for sharing you story!

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