A Good Reason to Stay Home

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things _ air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky _ all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.

           – Cesare Pavese –

Notes from Jaisalmer – At the Police Station

Nobuko stays busy, but still manages to send updates from cyber cafes.

10 July 2012 – Arrival in Jaisalmer

On the first day I hired a guide (some of you have already read about this) at the fort. He started out professional, but about 15 minutes into it, he started to ask me very intrusive questions none of which were his %§$° business, such as how many boyfriends I have had, if I have had pre-marital sex with these guys, and questions that are even worse.

I told him off, and he seemed to panic seeing me being visibly upset, saying “we were just talking about cultural stuff”. But what part of asking me about my sexual experience is considered “cultural”?

After thinking about i,t I went to the police station to file a complaint against him for being unprofessional. However, as I came to learn, the police take such harassment very VERY seriously. Before I knew it, the police found the guide and brought him to the station. When I turned around, there were 10 officers surrounding us with crossed arms.

They spoke in a mix of Hindi (or the local language, I don’t know) and some English, so all I could gather was “tourist”… “guide” … “acceptable”… “report”…. “complaint” etc. I could only see that the guide looked terrified and very upset.

Then he got on his knees in front of me and said “Please forgive me! I have 3 children! They are arresting me!”  So I turned to the officers and asked them, if they really meant to arrest him. They nodded in unison and said that he was to serve two years in jail!

At this moment, it was my turn to panic because having him arrested was not my intention. Although I felt dirtied by him probably imagining me having sex with guys, and perhaps getting excitement from such thoughts, I just wanted to file a complaint. But there, filing a complaint bore such serious consequence to the offender. It was all or nothing. I found out that the only way he does not get arrested was if I withdrew my complaint. So I ended up doing that.

Then the police said “You can go now.”

It really did not sit well with me. I did not know that the police can arrest someone and throw them in jail – not for a few days, but for a few years – solely based on my accusation, without investigating if the accusation is true or false. Later I came to find out through Indians that I met, that the police take such harassment against women, Indian and foreign alike, seriously.

This may be a surprise to some of us who have heard that women in India suffer disrespectful treatment. I think if a woman does not have a husband and/or is from a poor socioeconomic class, then her complaint may go unacknowledged.

I think I decided to report him because I already have had so many other incidents where men verbally harassed me – and my tolerance was maxed out and I exploded. I wanted to retaliate.

I really recommend women to have at least another woman in company when traveling in Rajasthan (especially the western part which is very beautiful, but rural). I do not recommend traveling solo in this part – unless relentless harassment and distasteful advances do not affect you. But then again, experience may differ for women of other races.

I can only tell you my experience as an Asian female (and I am middle aged!) going around alone.

A Good Reason to Travel

Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.

– Kurt Vonnegut –

A Good Reason to Travel

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.

– Freya Stark –

Ionia: A Quest by Freya Stark on Amazon.com

A Good Reason to Travel

Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.

– Howard Gardner –

The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think And How Schools Should Teach from Amazon.com

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