I do not have anything specific, but the thought of walking up to a guy i think is attractive has always riddled me. Often while on a train or on holiday for instance, I have come across a boy I would love to talk to. However starting a random conversation has always been hard for me. Specific to this however is the fact that often, randomly talking to a member of the opposite sex, is considered ‘slutty’ or ‘too forward’, i.e its not okay.
Adding onto these experiences, are the ones from the ‘smiling’ excercise. I found that as a result of this smiling, of whichever kind there were more than a few curious glances bestowed on me. Infact many men even came forward and asked incessent questions like ‘where you from?’ and on not recieving an answer ‘America?’ Many followed me around but from a good distance. I found this not in the least obtrisuve. Although they did follow me, some for quite a while, i was not made to feel uncomfortable or violated.
The one man that did freak me out, was a man who came too close. He stood blocking my path as well as follwed me around. His pick up line was ‘Im very happy to see you’ while grooming his hair and unconciously engaging in crotch-display (diffrent from flashing).
The Biking Shorts
I believe in lust at first sight.
I believe lust is an organic feeling and we, as a society have conditioned it to be swept under the carpet or restricted to socially acceptable boundaries of marriage and the like.
Even though I believe in what someone would call a ‘radical’ notion, a random stranger on the street attempting to befriend me would evoke anger, fear or distrust in me.
I often question myself as to why a ‘cute boy’ in school, college or in a mall wouldn’t be as ‘creepy’ to me as a good looking young man at the railway station.
Cycle rides around a residential neighborhood in the suburbs of Delhi are generally considered safe for a young adolescent girl. I was 13 and tomboyish. Riding a men’s cycle in my ‘biking shorts’ when the rest of the girls were bedecked in lace and straps, was to me,quite cool. Like any young adult, my body was still taking form which was evident in the way I rode my bike and wore my shorts. My supple, white limbs were quite visible.
The bakery guy. I used to cycle to a nearby bakery for milk, bread and ‘chai-biscoot every Sunday’. He came in once or twice a month and I presume was some relation of the bakery owner. Around eighteen, shy, good looking and light-eyed, he used to make my heart beat faster at the glances he used to give me. Which, in retrospect I can say was often.
My mother had taught me not to talk to strangers.
I have come a long way since I followed that rule, but at 13, I was just about breaking it. I was scared.
What do I say? Should I call him bhaiyaa? I knew I wasn’t a gorgeous teenager. I wasn’t familiar with strutting my girlhood all over the place, but I knew I could match up to any of the‘didis’who visited him.
It was a dark evening and I was returning home from a friend’s place on my cycle, when I see cute-bakery-bhaiyya walking alone. At that point, I wasn’t familiar with the idea of fearing-the-dark and to me, it was just time to get home for a hot meal.
I slow down and looked towards him in anticipation of something.
A conversation? A smile? I don’t know what. But I wanted some acknowledgement. I saw him eyeing me.
He smiled and said ‘Arey!’ I had passed him. I turned back and stopped. He approached me. There was something in the way that he looked me up from my toes to my exposed thighs in the biking shorts that made me think of a typical Bollywood villain. I like him, I thought. Why am I scared?
“Aaap ko pata hain ….. aha hain?” He sounded like he had stuffed a mouthful of paan in his throat. I couldn’t understand what he said, but I heard the words ‘kahaan’ or ‘where’ and ‘tuition’. He is trying to make conversation with me, I thought. The excited little infatuated thing that I was, I smiled ear to ear, eager to please, pointing at a building and saying “ Wahaan hain.” Or “It is that side”. I thought he was asking where the children’s tuition centre was.
“Meri behen bhi karvaati hain” or “ My sister gets it done too”, he replied, again, looking at my shorts, “ Aap bhi karvaiyein. Mazaa ayaega” or “You get it done too. You will enjoy it”.
“Huh?” What was he saying? By now I knew that all was not right, but I didn’t know what. Did he want to know a tuition place or not? Was he making friends with me or not? I just didn’t get it.
“ Choosvaeeyein, choosvaeeyein, na”; “ get it sucked, get it sucked”, he kept saying.
Then it hit me. All those words I had heard from the rowdy type guys in my class came to me. The laughter. Then, the fear.
I was so confused. In my naivety, I didn’t know what was the right way to escape. Had I heard him wrong? I looked at him blankly and uttered a meek , “ Sorry, very sorry”, got onto my bike and cycled away.
Never after that has my attraction to a stranger been as organic and free flowing as my first. I have been jaded with a bad experience. But I have learnt not to take that as a judgment point. Not to look at any stranger through that and that lens only.
I have heard many stories of random strangers becoming boyfriends and husbands.
I still get attracted to strangers. But I really do nothing about it.
After four years I saw a face in the market that truly resembled her, four years back she had left school and city due to unknown reasons. It was not as if we were good friends, boys and girls rarely talked to each other in school. But after four years, suddenly seeing her aroused curiosity and I was compelled to talk to her. Without any second thought i started following her with a puzzled mind. She was not alone; an unknown face accompanied her, maybe one of her friends. With her fierce gaze the unknown face just turned to burn me with embarrassment. I wanted to shout and tell her “I am not following you, but just wanted to say hello to my classmate. “Anyway I felt defeated and decided to never repeat this mistake. But my heart was questioning what had I done so wrong? After an hour, when I was struggling to pull my scooty out, i noticed her again in a nearby cloth shop.
“should I”….”shouldn’t I”, “should I”….”shouldn’t i, “should I”….”shouldn’t I”………..
I finally decided not to directly confront her, but stand somewhere to make sure, she recognised.
I stood strategically at a place where she could see my reflection in one of the mirrors of the shop. And I am sure she did…….. But before she could turn, I paced back towards my scooty.
Since then I have never seen her. I don’t even remember anything clearly about her, but I keep wondering why I left, what stroke me to leave all of a sudden.
Maybe because I really never knew if it was her, maybe because she had forgotten one of her classmates, maybe I was too embarrassed by previous incident to dare to stand there. Maybe.
Maybe, because we were strangers.
The street is one public/ transitory space that I have occupied with utmost consciousness or the absolute lack of it. The street it one space that I have always traversed the quickest and been most lost in thoughts. Every time I am on a street, depending on the purpose of my being on the street, my body language changes. When I am in a hurry to reach or leave a space and hence am on a street, I would not notice anything or anybody but just try reaching the required destination. On the other hand, if I were in a street like Brigade road or Commercial st, I would walk slowly, looking at the billboards, looking at people etc.
For the most of my time at public spaces, it is spent by looking at the whole space and not people in particular. Even when I do look at people, it is never to establish eye contact or to attempt conversing with strangers. This one time, however, I had an interaction with this stranger that I hope was a misinterpretation.
Domlur bus stop, 22:00 hrs.
After a visit to a friend’s place for an evening, I decided to take a bus from Domlur to Koramangala in an attempt to save some money that I would have otherwise spent on auto and ironical as it was, ended up spending a little more than what I would have if I had taken an auto ride back home on the first place.Walking for about half a kilometer through dark alleys that eventually led to an ever darker bus depot that was so empty and ill lit, that I was absolutely certain that about half a dozen hired goons would surround me and I would, if Indian cinemas have taught me anything, would have to establish my worth by fighting them in the most unimaginable ways imaginable. Unfortunately, that did not happen and I just had an uneventful walk around the bus depot trying to figure out the duration of my possible wait for the next bus, only to notice that I was the only one at the bus depot which meant I had just missed a bus and the fact that the space was no longer accumulating people meant that the bus I had just missed was possibly the last bus for the day. Walking out the depot, I noticed this one man, in his early thirties, his attire clearly signifying his social and financial background, standing, leaning against the wall that separated the depot from the main road looking around, and this was noticeable as no one waiting for a bus or wanting to board a bus would wait against a wall as it would be visually challenging for him to follow buses that would enter or leave the depot. Not speculating his presence or actions or the lack of it, I just walked past him trying to hold an auto with no passenger that would probably pass the depot looking for the wise people like myself who planned their evening well enough to miss the last bus.
Answering a call from a friend and talking to him not-so discreetly, I was rather obvious about my ethnicity with my conversation in Tamizh and the dialect. Half way through the rather unimportant but very engrossing conversation with my friend, I heard a whistling sound from the man resting against the wall. Writing the first few calls off as attempts to entertain himself or trying to stop autos that I realized weren’t around, I slowly reacted to the periodical whistles that were increasing in frequency and decibels. Turning around in response to the whistles, i realized the whistles were not for an auto as I hoped them to be but for me. Trying to get over my shock of such an act from a stranger, I saw him trying to usher me into a darker corner of an already dark space. Looking at his hand pointing to a bag, it hit me that he was probably trying to make a drug deal with me or was a pimp and misconstrued my presence there as looking for some action. Every elapsing second of my presence there and my responding to his very existence only made him presume I was interested in him and his deals and he grew more obvious and loud in his gestures of trying to probably signal to me something that I failed to comprehend. I knew it would be a terrible idea for me to be there even for a second longer and just walked at a pace that would not result in my running but fast enough for me to get to the adjoining main road that held the first rays of street lights that seemed a lot more to me than just rays of light to light up the street. Not looking back and not acknowledging his calls, I walked across the main road little caring for the oncoming traffic and crossed a 2ft divider to ensure I was in a safer space and contrary to my usual routine of getting into a long debate with auto drivers over the tariff, I just got into the fist auto that agreed to take me to Koramangala, not even questioning him about the charge.
Two years hence, there have been other instances that have surpassed this incident in terms of its “shock” value, but this this incident is one of the most unforgettable one of the lot as I as a spectator or a participant have always been better prepared and have managed to handle the subsequent situations better.
We are often told by our parents not to talk to strangers when we are quite young and this continues to a large extent as we grow up also. More often, as of today I tend to ignore any stranger trying to make conversation on the street on an impulse by either simply looking away or walking away. For, instance this one time my friend and I were taking a evening walk and two guys on biked started to block our way and we just ignored them for a bit, increased our pace and tried to make them lose track. In this case they seemed to have been from the same socio-economic background as we were but just the way the approached us did not seem right in terms what their intention could have been. It did not give off a very healthy vibe which might have started a conversation. It was not scary because of the location we were in (streets by home).
There is also the question of wanting to approach a stranger, but
usually I feel I cannot do that because of the same reason I am not
readily willing to talk to anyone who approaches me. So I can question myself, why would they talk to me and how would they know what my intentions are ? They can always ignore us too. So I would usually end up telling someone with me, “look” there is a guy we could talk to and it remains that way. It is sad that we cannot approach anyone we want to only because we never know when it could be unsafe. And most likely the definition of safe and unsafe differs from person to person.
The person who is approaching I think usually has the upper hand in a conversation. For instance, if I were to approach someone i am sure of what I want to say and hence not too uncomfortable for me. At the same time if a stranger approached me, I would react in a questioning sense and I would only be okay to have a conversation depending on what he wants to communicate about as I would never be able to trust a person until I know his reason for approaching me. I guess it also depends upon the background of the stranger and the way he or she approaches.
The little red riding hood was the first lesson that I learnt about the public- beware of strangers! The word stranger to me means unknown or “strange being” one I don’t understand because of lack of interaction. Whenever I think of a stranger a picture of a man comes before me. With a stranger there is a very strong fear of not being able to predict their reactions or understand their way of perception, it is even more for a man. In fact in contradiction to the previous statement there is a pre-conceived notion about men and their reactions and that is what makes me vary of interacting with them. Approaching a woman is easier, not that I can predict her reactions but I feel a sense of safety, I know that she isn’t going to touch me or make me feel uncomfortable in that way. I guess this has to do with a deeply ingrained conditioning.
I think I have felt attracted to a stranger before but other than discussing him amongst my friends I haven’t had the guts to go up and talk to him even if all I want to do is ask a question because there is a lot of scope for misinterpretation of words. Just recently my friends and i were travelling in a bus and happened to find a “cute” boy in the backseat of the bus just next to ours. it is a different story that the bus moved before we could do anything but one thing is for sure all i could do is maybe stare at him to draw attention and smile at him only to make my presence known. however being amongst over enthusiastic friends we might have gone overboard with tactics to draw attention to ourselves like talk loudly, giggle, smile witha flirtatios edge to it but one thing is for sure i was aware of the fact that the boy seemed our age and from a similar socio-economic class moreover there was a sense of safety being in a separate bus.
if i do find a stranger attractive all i would do is smile and giggle to myself. discuss him amongst my friends, blush if they tease try and draw too much attention to me. if i am alone i would just tell myself look at him a second glass at the max and then go on my way. strangely such attractions do not linger on in my head for long so there is no desperate urge to start a conversation or establish interaction. more often than not i am highly confined to myself drawing a rigid boundary around myself for the fear of my actions or moves towards those men drawing unwanted attention towards myself.
However there is a difference among strangers and their surroundings. Somehow I would feel more comfortable approaching a stranger (whether man or woman) if they are from a similar socio-economic background, even if it were going up and talking to them for the simple reason-attraction. In fact I find it easier to be approached by and talked to by a stranger of the same socio-economic class since there is this feeling that there is less ambiguity of words and a hope for a better understanding.
smiling- something as simple as that can attract a lot of attention. there is this whole notion of the good girl smile and bad girl smile as told to us by a bus conductor and articulated and expressed most vividly by most tv serials and movies. today, 24th august 2009 i sat in barista, on a mission to spread a smile across my face and direct it to the public. a man dressed in a blue and white striped shirt with white cuffs came and sat down at the table diagnal to me with a friend. as i had been doing the whole day my face broke into the warmest smile i could give him and established eye contact with him. there on began a most subtle flirtation. everytime i looked up from my books i saw him staring at my, lips apart forming a highly toothy smile with some strange lip movements that pushed the smile towards letchiness. this exchange of smiles became more frequent and i was aware that my smile was becomming more of the “lets have fun and flirt” kinds. he soon broke into song about love, took out his cell phone to show off perhaps? tapping and bobbing my head to the music and a wide gummy smile on my face i directed my gaze and the smile at him occasionally. clearly he seemed to be enjoying the attention. when i was leaving i took a step forward and blew him a kiss. something i normally would never have done but peers and a whole day of establishing intangible interactions with strangers gave me the courage to do so. i had pushed my boundary on the street flirting front but in the name of fun. i somehow regret that because i now feel that it is a little unethical (clearly according to my moral code) to play around with someone like that. somehow when i met this man outside i felt a sense of fear just thinking about what if he knows it was a game?
another instance of public flirting happened when i was in the 8th. i was sitting with a whole bunch of girl friends at cafe coffee day in calcutta. right next to our table in this cramped branch of ccd was another table with 2 girls and a boy sitting there sipping at their cold coffee. they seemed about 16-17 yrs of age and from a similar socio economic strata of society. this one girl taps me on the shoulder and says that the boy sitting next to her liked me and wants to know my name. i flipped. i froze. in fact that was the first time that had ever happened to me. i thought he was some flirt sitting with 2 girls flirting with a third. fortunately or unfortunately we were finishing up and paying the bill. once we left i found myself being trailed by this boy and his 2 girls. that scared me even more, that is when i ran towards one of my school teachers who just happened to be at the same mall. this act diverted him and he no longer trailed me. today sitting 6 years from that incident i feel like i would have done things so differently. in fact i would have told him my name and even exchanged a few words with him. my boundaries have changed so much since that day. i have learnt to be little less suspicious or rather i have learnt to be more confident about an interaction with a stranger. looking beyond a stranger as a “strange unpredictable being”.