How to Deal With The Indian ‘STARES’

Stares. They’re going to happen. In my experience, whether you’re travelling with a guy or completely solo, men, women and children are going to stare at you. Obviously, where men are concerned, the stares happen less if you’re with a guy but still….what to do about it?

India . Incredible India  The land of stares.

Curious stares.

‘I’m gonna look away from you as soon as you look at me’ stares,

‘You’re so freaking different’ stares’.

‘Pleeeaaasssee be my girlfriend’ stares ( yup!)

I’ll tell you my take on it….

Smile!

Just smile!

We are all human, right?

At our very core, all we desire is a connection with one another. Connection with our fellow humans is what, ultimately, makes us tick.

We might choose to be a solo voyager on this trip we call life and yes, some may love their own company, sometimes for days on end, but when all is said and done, human contact, even if that’s brief human contact, is what we all need.

I travel alone. It suits me. I love my own company. People have asked me if I get lonely and my answer is…no….yes…..sometimes….no.

No. Because I enjoy the freedom of pleasing myself. I enjoy the freedom of not having to consider another’s preferences and trying to marry them with my own. I can go where I like when I like. My free-spirited self can drift and roam to my heart’s content. If I choose to browse in the market or talk to someone, I can stay with that for as long as I please. I can be selfish. I can choose my own accommodation,  whichever suits me. I can, alone, choose when to arrive and when to leave. I can choose to engage with conversation and I can choose to look away and give the message that I am happy to be by myself.

Yes. I do get lonely. Sometimes, I feel lonely. I sometimes feel lonely when I’m alone. When I’m sitting in a cafe or bar and I see friends engaging. When tables are full of friends sharing, laughing.

And Couples.

I feel lonely when I see close couples and I get to thinking, why am I alone? .And then those thought processes lead me back to my life and I start analysing why I push people away, why I’m a lone traveller, whether it’s because it’s my karma, my fate, my destiny or whether it’s just because I’m some seriously fucked up individual who has major issues with being so close to another someone else.

Sometimes. Basically, this is yes and no. But it’s not the above which I’ve written about. I waver. Meaning, ‘I can change my mind between the Yes and No 5000 times in one minute. Yes is yes and No is no but ‘sometimes’ basically means, I don’t fucking know. ‘Sometimes’ means I can’t decide whether being on my own is good or bad. Lonely or not lonely.

I ‘sometimes’ feel lonely when I’m in my room at night. I think about how lovely it would feel to have shared my day’s experiences with another human being. Someone to talk about it all with.

But when all is said and done, every single one of us human beings on this planet needs to connect. It is at the very core of us.

A mutual stare, a moment of eye contact can mean the world.

Whether the connection is made from a high society individual to a freaking ‘lower caste’ individual,,….from a slum dweller to….a higher, lower, or who gives a fucking shit caste individual………….a look, a touch, any engagement, on any level, connects us.

After many years of being in India, I have never felt threatened or unsafe. I have always smiled at my fellow human beings.

That’s not to say I haven’t been met with hostility on occasions. I have had my fair share of ridiculous ‘come on’ gestures: from licking of lips to blatant requests for sex. My responses range from flipping them the finger to laughing in their faces to VERY LOUDLY naming and shaming – they soon retreat back into their sad shells following naming and shaming. One time, on the bus back to Shogi from Shimla, some freaking perv touched my arse ( he was sitting down, I was standing ) and I FREAKED on him! The whole bus load of people became VERY AWARE of his crime. But I didn’t feel threatened by this. I freaked because it’s just NOT OKAY for some guy to think he can touch my arse, uninvited.

I guess how we choose to deal with these annoyances depends on how we choose to view them.

There are no hard and fast rules on how to deal with the stares lone, female travellers will encounter. Ultimately, your response is up to you! It would be ridiculous of me to attempt to write a post on ‘rules’ on this subject. It, of course, depends entirely on who you are as an individual and what your own personal boundaries are.

I’m a woman and I certainly do not mean to downplay stares or touches as just annoyances, no way!! No one female or male, should EVER have to be touched without their consent,  EVER!

But stares? It’s gonna happen. As a  Western female, getting on the bus, walking in the street, hailing that rickshaw, ordering food in a back street, non- tourist, locals restaurant,  is gonna attract stares.

Just smile. Offer that basic human gesture. Smile and look away if that suits.

When a woman, or a whole group of women cant take their beautiful big brown eyes off me, I stare back and smile at them. Woman to woman, sister to sister, eye to eye. Sometimes this causes whispering between them ( clearly I’m the subject) but still I smile. Mostly, I receive a smile back. Often times, if the circumstances allow, this basic of human connection will result in a conversation about their children, questions of where I’m travelling to or my complimenting them on their beautiful sari’s. Sometimes, from that initial stare, facebook ‘friendships’ are made!

I also want to stare at the women, if I’m honest! I’ve never been a big fan of my pasty white skin and brown hair. I’m certainly not body shaming, no way, but I do slightly envy their beautiful brown skin, their jet black, long, thick hair and deep dark eyes. Usually, my hair is stuck to my face with sweat and yet they all manage to look so…so…fresh?!

I personally love the stares from beggars. I totally stare back and then engage. I often sit with gypsies and the ‘untouchables’.  I love to talk with those who mostly only experience life with people only passing by and ignoring them like they’re dirt. To me, they’re not dirt. They are humans with a soul. They’re no different to the guy or girl with all the financial wealth.

Obviously, it’s a little different with guys. I still smile because I’m a polite person. Human to human and all that. But I don’t prolong eye contact and I also don’t agree that all men think you want to bed them because you’ve smiled at them!  I’ve had some fantastic conversations with guys which all started with that initial stare and they clearly have no agenda, whatsoever!

If the stares are just too intense and too prolonged and are actually making me feel a little uncomfortable, I will stare HARD back at them and raise my eyebrows in a questioning, ‘What the fuck are you looking at?’ way! This usually does the trick but for the most part, I’ve never felt threatened or uncomfortable and like I said, I’m often just as curious as them!

But for the most part, I feel it’s totally worth remembering, before we moan about it all,  that We have CHOSEN to go travelling in the land of stares so we can hardly bloody moan about it. If you don’t like it, leave and take you and your backpack somewhere else!

Love Heidi xx

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