An Unfortunate Encounter: 4300km

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.”

This section of India, through the eastern state of Uttarakhand, has unfortunately proven to hold many rude and inappropriate men. Though everywhere in India they stare, in this part, the young men in their twenties and thirties try and stop me on my bike, or yell “I love you,” as they pass by. Though most of them are harmless idiots, I did come across one circumstance which had me worried.

As two men in their late twenties passed me on their scooter, I looked down to show my disinterest. Like almost every Indian boy, they then turned around and gawked at me. They proceeded to pulled over to wait and watch me pass, then sped up to ride beside me. Since this is a common occurrence (and a very annoying one at that) I just ignored them and figured, like all the others, they would eventually get bored and go away. (I have named this little game leap frog as it involves us switching back and forth who goes first. This game has been taking place every few minutes with different men for the last week, and is one of the reasons I am ready to leave India). They apparently had something else in mind, as the kept trying to talk to me and get me to pull over. Finally I yelled at them “go,” in Hindi, at which point they sped away. I decided to stop and let them get farther ahead (plus I had to pee) so I walked a few feet off the road into a field. A few minutes later I looked up in time to see them speeding towards me again. Unfortunately they spotted me in the field and made a beeline to join me, at which point I became a bit nervous at their persistence. As one of them approached me on foot I grabbed a large rock and held it up over my head, once again saying, “go.” They backed off, for what I hoped was the last time.

As I cycled around a bend a few minutes later I saw them and their reinforcements, another three sleazy looking guys on a scooter. I stopped grabbed a few rocks, and signaled the next motorcycle with a women to stop. A Sikh women (who thankfully spoke some English) hopped off and asked what she could do. I explained to her that the men ahead were following me and were “bad men.” She went to tell them off, then signed the next Sikh man she saw (on a motorbike) to escort me out of the area and back onto the safer highway. Thankfully I never saw them again.

This isn’t the only time I have thrown rocks, in fact, everyday this week I have thrown (or threatened) at least a few. Normally it is just guys on their scooters who ride beside me and won’t leave me alone, and though I haven’t felt threatened, I have found the stones to be an efficient way to make them move on. Another time, as I was sitting under a tree, a young man approached me and pulled out a crumpled cartoon picture of a naked white women. He quickly ran away once I started with the rocks, but that wasn’t the only time I have been asked for porn in India. The only white women many men in India have seen are either in porn or in American movies which portray an awful lot of women as over sexualized objects. Combine that with India’s already large problem with preying men, and you have me, a white girl, as an unfortunately appealing target.

It is extremely frustrating being starred at constantly, not just watched, but openly gawked at as Indians do. Though it is mostly the men, the women and children in this area aren’t so wonderful either. They too stare somewhat menacingly, and never smile or show any positive signs of acknowledgement. I find myself getting more and more frustrated, to the point that once I arrive in a town, I find my room, lock the door, and don’t come out until morning. Which is why I am thankful I am close to the Nepali border now, where, I hope things will be different.

16 thoughts on “An Unfortunate Encounter: 4300km

  1. Oh dear! What a bother! And what sad commentary of the image portrayed by western women. Good for you for smashing that stereotype! Be safe! Prayers and hugs!

  2. I guess the problem with seeing the world is that the world can also see you. You may wish to consider investing in some pepper spray as a secondary defense against the day the rocks are ineffective.

    However, despite all our best efforts, the world is ultimately beyond our control, and sometimes truly terrible things happen; so in that unlikely event just remember that your friends will support you, that tragedies do not define us forever, that there is no shame in being a victim of cruelty or crime, and that you will eventually recover from anything. -And hopefully this comment will always seem weird and unnecessary.

  3. Shirine: I wish you continued safety in your travels. May you use your wits and strong will to avoid any more assaultive boys or men. May you be protected by the divine, which intends for you to continue your great quest to its completion and be an example of the embodiment of courage and whimsy for many. There are many here at home whose best hopes ride with you. Best, fdr

  4. Yo, Shirine. I have shared your blog and experiences with quite a few friends and am very admired at your whole trip. All the more now, I believe. Anyways, keep safe and don’t hesitate to ask for help like you did.
    Good luck and I am looking forward to the Nepal section of your travels!

  5. just found your blog…i am awed at your epicness!
    i wish i could do something like you! you’re just two years older than me and your biking around the world!

    *Proceeds to give standing ovation*
    Im Serious! I just got up at 3 AM to give you one! 😀 you have actually inspired me to be more passionate about things i care about!

    You won yourself a follower! 😀

    It really is an unfortunate experience you had here…please don’t let it dent your opinion of us Indians! Some of us are really nice! its just Gender equality has a long way to go! (That’s something i’m trying to support as much as i possibly can and your courage has really inspired me!)

    I owe you!

  6. Side note though, the big cities are much better…have you biked across places like Chennai, Mumbai, bangalore, kolkata? in cities people are extremely hospitable! places like uttarkhand and Bihar are like the wild west of India where even indian men and women are stared at if they arent wearing traditional clothes, acting conservative etc.. so i can only imagine the experience you went through!

  7. Pingback: The Caste System: The Demise of India | A Wandering Nomad

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