Fending Off Harassment Outside of My Boarding School in India
I’ve been in boarding school at the foot of the Himalayas for about a month now, and the longer I stay here, the more I realize that coming to high school in India for my junior year was an amazing decision. India is absolutely incredible; there is nowhere in the world with the same vibrancy, color, and wildness present here. Undoubtedly, India has changed my life for the better.
Our school is located on the side of a mountain, and at the top is a bazaar, which the students frequent almost every weekend. When I first went to bazaar, I loved the absolute its overwhelming nature with merchandise, stores, people, cars, and dogs all crowded in a tiny alleyway-sized street. Everyone at the bazaar is friendly and helpful, however, I felt exposed and a little uncomfortable because almost all of the men were staring at my girlfriends and me. The fact my friends and I are a minority with white skin was one reason why they were staring at us, but not the only reason. Girls in India get stared at and all agree that they are disappointed in men’s immature and seedy behavior. In order to fend off harassment, the dorm parents don’t allow us to wear pants that fall above the knee, and our cleavage must be covered before going to the bazaar. The fewer clothes one wears, the more attention they attract to themselves.
In Mussoorie, the town where I live, there are many tourists and the local population is quite small. Though I have never heard of anyone getting raped here, men disturb women by staring, taking videos, and catcalling. I experienced this while running through a village in running shorts–something that I will never do again. Later I learned that car accidents have occurred due to driving men taking their eyes off the road to stare at women instead.
Over a long weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Chandigarh. Even though Chandigarh is a sizable city by American standards, it still is regarded as one of the safest in India. I had an amazing time, but still, on the street and in the mall, the staring continued. In fact, the mall was the worst. People followed us and videotaped us. Though I felt uncomfortable, I never felt threatened. No one got too close to us or even tried to talk to us. I eventually got used to the stares and wasn’t bothered much by it, but it was a little shocking at first.
Nevertheless, of the many countries I’ve traveled in throughout Europe and the Americas, I think that India is the most open, wild, colorful, and life changing one I have ever been to. People are friendly, the food is wonderful, the sights are breathtaking (in different extremes), and there is always something going on. You will never be bored in India.
If you are a woman interested in visiting, make sure you travel with a few friends–hopefully one or two who are male. Make sure you pack appropriate clothes and don’t go out late at night, even with men.