Tuesday, 3 May 2011

What’s wrong with Delhi men…?

Ask any woman ! Go on… take the challenge. Regardless of age, shape,size , temperament or any other factor, Delhi men unabashedly, lewdly ogle women . Any woman. The visual assault begins at the airport itself with lecherous loaders giving every female passenger the prolonged once –over. Up down ,up down…stop at the breasts, and go on leering. Bags on the console can keep spinning, but that does not bother these awful chaps. In any case, for all its cosmetic merits ( barring the spectacularly hideous carpet), the fancy terminal 3 is a nightmare for weary travelers who are forced to trudge a couple of kilometers before they get to their gates or the parking lot. If the traveler happens to be a single woman, chances are she’ll trigger off a familiar response - men will instinctively grab their crotches.It is a reflex action. If the crotch- grabbing does not grab the marked female’s attention, they’ll sidle up to her and ask , “Taxi? Hotel?” Since there is never a cop or security guard in sight, the female under scrutiny will be forced to handle the situation any which way she can. Ignoring these men is a bit too subtle. Challenging them involves a prolonged exchange of angry words, besides attracting some more men who ‘join the fun’. So, the woman is forced to quicken her pace , look straight ahead and march on, hoping it ends there. Once she reaches her car, it’s the driver’s turn to stare shamelessly through the well positioned rear view mirror. His job is to ask, “Water? Cold towel? Newspaper?” if it’s a hotel pick up. In Delhi, they take the word ‘pick up’ very literally! If you indicate your total unwillingness to engage in any form of conversation,the driver starts humming old , romantic Bollywood songs and smiling to himself. So much for interaction with strangers on arrival in the Capital.

Once you get to your meeting, the organizers behave in an equally strange way, unless you know them well. The first assumption is that Mumbai women are ‘bold’ ( yes, of course we are bold, but not in the way implied). This so-called boldness means they’ll invite you to join a room full of the most dead boring, idiotically pompous and foolishly opinionated fellows who are busy name dropping in the most childish way. If you look obviously unimpressed, they assume your mind is on shopping or partying. They turn to you and ask in ‘jovial’ tone, “So….. how’s Mumbai?” It’s such an absurd ,time-pass question. As if Mumbai is an individual and one can provide a health report (“Not doing too well…. kuch sardi-bukhaar problem…change of weather…. vaisey, theek thaak…”). Everybody converses mainly in Hindi, and the few women present stick to ‘safe’ topics – ‘Kya haal hai?’ Nobody waits for an answer. They are far too busy looking over your shoulder to spot some big shot mantri walking in with an entourage. If a bonafide VVIP does arrive, all hell breaks loose and protocol is promptly forgotten as the scramble to get ‘face time’ with the person begins in earnest. If that person is Sheila Dixit or one of the Gandhis, the crowd goes orgasmic. Full blown chamchagiri takes over…. and that’s your cue to beat it!

This appeared in Bombay Times....

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