Friday, March 6, 2009

A Follow-up to Tadashi’s Blog - UPDATED March 11

I thought I should follow-up on Tadashi’s blog, On Leaving Rajasthan. Tadashi and I both wanted to share why we left Rajasthan, but we were not sure how much of the story to tell. While we had heard reports of “some women” in Rajasthan being given a hard time, neither of us were prepared for the gravity of the problem. We decided it was important to share just how bad the situation is there for women.

While Tadashi’s blog may be difficult to read, it was also difficult to write. In a large way, his blog was therapeutic for us both, as it helped us to reflect on and process what happened. Although I am lucky that I was not physically molested (unlike some people I have met), I still feel violated by the men in India – especially from the bus ride. This trip has certainly changed my view of India, and Indian men. Tadashi says that the experience was eye opening and changed him as well.

Our original plan involved going to Ladakh in the beginning of May, but at this point I am loathe to return to India. I doubt I will ever return to Rajasthan, although I may be return to other areas sometime in the future. Only time will tell.

UPDATE NOTE TO PEOPLE TRAVELING IN INDIA: I have since learned that when a woman is being harassed by an Indian man, the proper response is to repeatedly hit the man on the head with her shoe. The shoe, as most of us now know, is the most disrespectful thing you wear. So, hitting a man in the head quickly gets the attention of those around you, and often, they will come to your defense. Another reason to wear sandals!


  1. Katrina - I just posted this on Tadashi's blog, but I want to post it here too. -Dawn

    Dear Tadashi and Katrina,

    I’m sorry you had so many of the leering men in Rajasthan, and that it left you with distaste for the region. It is important always to confront such behavior as the guy on the bus – as you did – and when you find supporters in the crowd you get a sense of the complexity of thought people have. There are so many great people in India – and Rajasthan! For example, the three daughters in Jodhpur – that photo is over my desk, I love it – these are the people to remember from Rajasthan.

    In 2000 when we were there, it was more the pop celebrity status, being surrounded by crowds of new best friends, that we experienced. I didn’t often have occasion to go off on my own, so having Big Mark along likely kept the leering down.

    India is a country in great transition, and it will not be an easy road. There is so much to overcome, with a long history of violent patriarchal practices: suttee/ sati, the “self” immolation of widows; now wife burning for dowries; rape; molestation. And economically motivated practices: women’s inability to own and inherit property, as shown in Deepa Mehta’s great film Water, focusing on cast out widows in Varanasi; preference for males, leading to female infanticide; this has become worse with the modern ability to identify and abort female fetuses. “May you be the mother of a hundred sons,” and all that. So much of this comes down to money (seeing girls as liabilities, needing to preserve a chaste commodity, dowries, inheritances, workforce) as much repression does, whether it is cloaked in fundamentalism, religion or cultural practice. How familiar is this to the experience of women in many parts of the world?

    Indians have many examples of female leadership – Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto in nearby Pakistan, others in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – albeit these more famous examples came from dynastic popularity following the assassination of husband or father. But there are many rising local women leaders in India, who come from traditionally lower economic status, and India has instituted in the constitution that one third of all seats by reserved for female candidates. Gender parity is discussed and changes are being made. And those in power don’t like to lose power – there will be confrontation: the fundamentalists assaulting young women in modern dress, and the lack of consequences for much violence against women.

    I heartily believe our world would be transformed if we took one generation and educated everybody, particularly girls!

    Press on!

  2. Thanks for the insightful comments, Dawn. I think you are correct, but it is certainly slow going.

    While we were in India, women in Mangalore were assaulted simply for being in a pub. Girls in parks were also assaulted by police simply because they were hanging out with boys. A newly-wed couple was arrested for public indecency because they had a quick peck on the street. And the ministry in charge of the police had to specifically tell the police that they are not to be moral police, and that they should focus on actual crime, not moral crimes; there's something sad about having to specifically tell police that.

    It's no doubt a complicated, confused and contradictory country. I just hope they sort it out sooner rather than later.

    - K

  3. Katrina and Tadashi
    Loving the blogs and totally inspired that you are out there living the dream. Andy and I can't believe that it's nearly 3 years since we were in Ladakh - where we met you guys. Insane how time passes. Now, we're back in London - working - and each have one eye on the horizon. All the best safe and safe travels.
    Sarah Marshall

  4. Good to "hear" from you Sarah. Sorry to hear your extended working ski vacation has ended. Best of luck, Katrina


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