Bombay. March 15.

photo credits. Punit and Yamini

Yamini Deen reports:

After so many Blank Noise interventions, the street in my head is like a laboratory of delicious experiments- those of provocation, the test of limits .

The street tells so many stories of wooing , of harassing, of hookers , of control, of sexuality .

SO Gateway Sunday was one such experience.

I walked up and down the promenade for a while. I went and politely handed the letter to anyone who responded to me in some way-lewd, curious,anything.

Some men would look at me up and down in the lewdest way possible and get completey flabbergasted if I went up to them, smiled and handed a letter.

Guilt? Fear? Something they didn't expect?

One man came to me and said
''So you think I am eve teasing you''?
''Why did you only give me the letter''?

He later told a male friend.
'If a girl walks ''that way''..you know one assumes she is asking for sex.'

But Gateway is also a space where they pick up men/women for sex. is the line between being unapologetic and sexually overt so thin?

But I am by now extremely unapologetic about my walking.

Anyhow, in the corner right in front of a gateway of India stood a pretty white woman in a short yellow dress. When I first spotted her, men collected in a line , at a 'safe' distance and stared.

She fiddled with her phone.I handed her a letter and left.

After a while, I went there and noticed that men were taking turns to take pictures with her.

(This while she was holding our letter)

She was smiling. The crowd thickened. Rumours flew like sparks and at other parts of the promenade, fellow blank noise members overheard conversations

about Preity Zinta or 'some' celebrity being there.

(A photo op for random loiterers, is that the new hobby of celebrities?)

Well.,after a while, about 40 men had crowded around her taking turns to take a picture with her.They helped themselves to her waist while holding her.

And she was smiling , mostly, slightly embarrassed , occasionally uncomfortable.

And maybe behind all mobs, there are a few complacent cops standing at a corner.

We asked the cops why they didn't stop anyone.

They said it was because she agreed to have her picture taken.

I was wondering then if in my mind I allowed the thought that she might have actually enjoyed the attention.And NOT in a negative way- not in a she deserved it sort of a way.

We asked her and she said 'Now , ask them to go.'

It was like a constant seesaw between comfort and discomfort for her.She never really looked threatened, to me atleast.

The only thing that worried me was how the mob gathered so fast, and mobs being mobs, can go out of control.

Which again brings me to the question of when attention is threatening, when it is mildly irritating, when it is flattering and when it can make you bawl.

Action Heroes include: Yamini Deen, Pranav Joshi, Kismet Nakai, Punit, April.

Next event: Blank Noise Bombay on March 29th. Sunday.

CALLING ACTION HEROES. REPORT AT blurtblanknoise at gmail dot com


D said...

You can't choose when you get attention and when you don't. I mean, a lot of times, you aren't asking for it and you get lots of it. It's mighty uncomfortable then.

But coming back to the girl in the yellow dress, I'm sorry, but I don't understand what exactly was she trying to do!

Y? said...

Well, the girl in the yellow dress. I think she was just this tourist who i presume landed in india pretty recently.She was part flattered, part amused, part uncomfortable by the amazing amount of attentin these crowds of men gave her by taking chance to take pictures with her.

Abhilash said...

I am sitting at the Gateway of India and doin my chai-cigarette routine.I look-up,there's this girl handing out a letter to my friend.He looks up at her and gives her the " I dint do anythin, I don' know nothin ",look.She amusedly tells him 'Its just a letter'.He's still scared and looks sideways at me and i take the letter from her.
While i'm reading the letter the chai-walla comes upto me and asks whats in the letter and gives me a omniscient smile and i tell him to go mind his own business,which by the looks of it wasn't doin too well.Not being the kind who gets snubbed away easily he retorts "Yeh to uska roz ka chalta hai".I give him a nasty look that gets rid of him.
I finally reach the bottom of the letter but it doesn't really make much sense.My friend snatches the letter from me runs his eyes down and goes "Balls,theres no number", and throws the letter back at me. I got down to readin it again,this time with more zealous and looked up for the "just another girl" .She had already passed me by on her way back.My friend told me that she was lookin at me for some kinda reaction.I looked out at the sea and felt the kinda feelin in my stomach which i feel whenever i feel helpless.I sat there a few minutes tryin to think some deep-shit,but deep-shit ends u up feelin shitty.So i wanted to get outta there,so we get up and start walkin away.
For some reason, my friend mentions about some scene in 'Dil Chahta Hai' where Saif gets mugged.I tell him please.. but his lewd comments continue...

Anonymous said...

Woah! That's a heavy list of actions which one should avoid to do. Personally I'm against eve teasing and I like this campaign. But as abhilash mentioned in the previous comment, his friend was given this letter by the girl when actually the girl was looking at him. So maybe abhilash's friend can be called a victim in this case. Anyways, people are bound to commit mistake. Maybe the girl was having the letters and wondering whom to give this letter to. She found someone ultimately. This can be proved by the chaiwallahs comment, "Iska toh roz ka hi hai". But we can't prove anything on the basis of mere statements. And in no way can a person take a female's side in this context just because she is a female because she's doing one duty which might change her mindset altogether. She can be against the entire "male domain".

Coming back to this post:
I really can't understand much of what has been mentioned as we really don't know how the men flocked around the woman. There is a lot of ambiguity. It'll be better if someone edits this post.
From personal point of view, I would say it would have been really embarrassing for the girl and if policemen were really there, they should have helped her.
I myself wouldn't have liked my girl friend, mother, wife or sister in such a position.
My Jortal

Anonymous said...

Having been in similar situations myself when I first travelled to India, believe me, we don't know what to think. India and the behaviour of it's men are very confusing at first. Without knowing the sexual politics and climate of a country, the behaviour of it's men can be a mystery. After staying a while, speaking with women, reading books and newspapers, we finally figure out that no, these men are not acting normally, friendly or culturally acceptable for their society. Then we become aggressive in avoiding Indian men.

But at first it is very strange, very weird to be in India with no other women to guide us on what they consider acceptable behaviour for their men in public.

Sohan D'souza said...

I absolutely hate it when men in India line up to take pictures with foreign-looking female strangers, specifically white ones. I don't know what the stats are, but this has happened anecdotally enough that I believe it to be a regular occurence. It's a humiliation to the country and I'm sure the women at the centre of the attention would rather they weren't. If they are curious about foreigners in general, why don't they take say hello or take pictures with foreign men or couples as well? Does being in the immediate vicinity of a single white female stranger somehow make you a hero?

Y? said...


Sometimes women instinctively suspect men . many men I've spoken to are afraid of being labelled as someone out to get women.
That said,I was one of the girls giving out letters
Anyhow , some of the men who did respond to the letter wanted to know why them.

Personally when I gave out letters, i just gave it to people who responded to me in some way, people who might have stared in offensive ways or people who i thought would want to work with us
or think about the issue or people who weren't even looking at me or acknowledging my existence

I agree, the letter is randomly distributed but the intention is not neccesarily an accusatory one.
we distribute the letters to women as well
Perhaps Abilash you can tell us how the letter could have been differently written?

Abhilash said...

It wasn't really 'bout the letter nor whether my friend was a victim or a voyuer.
What i tried to tell in the narration was about prejudice...of people jumping to conclusions...of the much hyped freedom or freewill or rather the lack of it.
It was 'bout people like me,who bogged down by prejudices dare not act upon their instincts.The letter didnot make me uncomfortable,it made me think.So... u keep being unapologetic.

Wonderwall said...

@Abhilash - that is precisely what the letter was meant to do, to get you thinking. Get your friend thinking too.

The cops didn't help. The men standing around certainly didnt help. In-fact, I was approached after we had gotten rid of most of the crowd by a man who asked if he could get a picture taken with me. This is RIGHT AFTER this episode had happened. He was smirking the entire time.

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