Sunday, November 2, 2014

Married Life

    Jaipur was our second stop after Udaipur. We had many lovely experiences and good meals and saw beautiful old forts and palaces, but what stuck out most was the endless harassment as we explored the city. This isn't unique to Jaipur (or India) as women travelling alone, but the sheer volume of catcalls and less than comfortable situations coupled with hot, dusty weather and lots of walking was overwhelming. In just a few days we (probably more me than Laura with my bright-white skin) had hundreds of men calling out to us, asking to take our picture (or not asking). I had at least three men serenade me, once while I ate lunch someone sat at my booth to try to talk to me, once we were followed for a decent amount of time by two boys on a motorcycle, once someone drove by on a motorcycle, touching Laura's arm. I got much better at sticking up for myself in a very short amount of time. Several of the rare, proper Meleah-yells made their way into the world. None of the situations felt like I was in any serious danger, but it is so frustrating to have the act of going across the street to eat be a big, stressful undertaking.
      I have gender envy like never before. Being a female certainly has it's charms here, access to the community of other women has been a valuable experience, especially when I lived with my Indian family, but for the purposes of travelling, I am finally realizing how short my end of the stick is. In order to stay safe, we have to generally avoid being out after dark, keep our adventures to a minimum, always keep a foot on the beaten path. It is an exacerbated version of the patriarchy in the US, but one that's harder to ignore because it is in an unfamiliar context.
     It's also always hard to get straight information about places to travel. "That place isn't good for you" can either mean "It's closed," "It is actually not a safe place to travel," or "You are probably too weak to go on that awesome hike because you weren't born with a penis."
     Life had gotten a little easier since I got married. It's easier to explain that we aren't two women travelling alone in a foreign land, but that our husbands are eternally waiting dutifully for us in our hotel rooms (or we'll meet them in the next city if we are taking transportation). Being married puts the concerned aunties and uncles we meet at ease and makes us look a little less vulnerable.
     The other day Laura and I sat exhausted waiting for a train, our dusty backpacks seated in the chairs next to us, each with its own character and I realized we haven't been entirely lying. Our backpacks are our husbands, forever kindly waiting for us in the room while we go on adventures during the day. We haven't solemnized the event with rings yet, but we are on the lookout for nice bands. 

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