German Bakery, Anjuna #placesiwishiwasatrightnow
So last night my friend Gemma cornered me and demanded that I tell her about my bad massage in India and also demanded that she gets a shout out on this blog. Gemma, as always, your wish is my command.
The reason why I hadn’t spoken about it until now is that there’s a lot to go into this. India was a trip that allowed me to understand a lot of about how I feel about various things. One of those was how I feel about unknown men.
This all started a few months ago when I read a post by the wonderful Cranky Giraffe in which she says how she fears men in various situations and I hadn’t even realised that I do the same things. When I went for my lady check up, I waited over a month for it just so that I could be seen by the only English speaking female doctor. I guess that’s normal. All this hollaback stuff really connects with me too because I get really upset when a guy feels the need to judge me as I go by on the street. Sure, no one has ever attacked me, but just a guy saying “not bad” as I go by, or come up to me asking if I’ll go somewhere with them will set me off and make me really upset. I often am grateful for my lack of German so I am kept in the dark about what exactly guys are saying about me.
My family have been to India many times. I have two gorgeous sisters and although they all say that they got hassled in Morocco and Turkey, in India it was pretty quiet on that front. However, when I went onto Couchsurfing and posted in the Goa forum to find people to hang out with there, for every one post I wrote, I’d get 10 messages from random Indian guys there offering me a place to stay (which I did not ask for), or to show me the “real India” or just a random “You are so pretty let’s hang out!” message.
Now, maybe I’m being too harsh. We’ve all been there. You see someone on facebook/twitter/whatever who you fancy and you send them a sneaky message. But here’s the thing 1. It’s probably not a good idea to hit on solo female travellers if you are going to do this. They are (probably) going to be a bit nervous about their trip to an unknown place and if they are savvy about the area then they are going to be savvy to your game as well. 2. If you come to me like “HI PRETTY LET ME SHOW YOU THE REAL INDIA BABE” I will not even reply. If you actually like the look of me and want to hang out, a normal message would probably be enough to get me to hang out with you. I met with one local guy in Goa – he is a very nice guy and sent me a normal message telling me about local restaurants to eat at and offered to show me some. We hung out a fair bit in the week. So it’s not that I’m batting away any message from a guy.
So before I got there I had an idea of what I could expect. I arrived in Mumbai at 2am scared because I had a 10 hour wait in a place that looked pretty dodgy (Mumbai airport – not my favourite place) and on top of this there is the thing that if you let anyone help you, they will expect money. When I stepped out of the airport men wanted to “help” me with my bags at every step. Maybe I’m being a bitch, I mean, they were just trying to earn money. But come on, a 20 something girl, alone in an airport at 2am, with guys who are trying to get money from her bugging her constantly… I think my scowl was pretty natural. I found that I was snapping back at pretty much any man there. At Goa airport when I was waiting for my suitcase the staff there were pretty upbeat and were welcoming me as they went by. My scowl remained, mainly because I was scared. Why were they being so nice to me? Did they want money? I feel really bad about how I felt this way even though there was nothing at all to suggest that they were a threat to me. It’s a kind of discrimination that I feel really ashamed about having.
Anjuna was a lot better. I had calmed down a lot, and though there are guys asking if you want a ride in their taxis all the time, I didn’t feel vulnerable at all. Then I went for a massage.
I chose to have my massage at the back of the German Bakery because the restaurant is pretty famous and also it is now probably my favourite place in the world. A man served me, and I was a little nervous about him also being the person to give me this massage. But I went with it. It’s his job, right? And so when I was lying face down with just my bikini bottoms, he came into the room and starts this really long prayer. I didn’t understand what it was about, of course, but I imagine it was something like “please forgive me for rubbing this fat white chick who isn’t my wife”. Well, if he’s praying about touching me, it means he won’t rape me… right? I relaxed a little. So the massage starts and it’s ok – nothing to write
home a blog post about… but then he does this thing where he puts a towel over my lower half, tucks it into my bikini bottoms and then pulls the towel down, pulling down my bottoms. I am clenching my thighs so hard so that it doesn’t reveal more than my buttocks and he keeps telling me to relax.
Then he starts to massage those very buttocks. I was not a happy bunny. He knew it, and when I wouldn’t relax, he got his wife to come and complete the rest. I still didn’t want anyone to go anywhere near my buttocks, but somehow it wasn’t so offensive when the woman did it. Since coming back and talking to people about it, I have found that it is pretty unheard of for a guy to give a woman a massage in India. Yeah, another way in which I was naive.
On the whole, though, it wasn’t as bad there as it could be. I didn’t feel that I was oggled a lot, though I dressed conservatively (I suck for saying that since women’s clothes should not be the catalyst in men’s actions but you know what I mean). The other encounters I had were pretty… cute, actually. When walking on the beach, teenage boys would ask for photos with me, I guess to tell their friends back home that they “hung out” with a westerner. The taxi driver who was assigned to me seemed to have a crush on me, and on the way to the airport he was telling me how he would have loved to take me on a date, or get to know me better. And as we arrived at the airport he grabbed and squeeze my hand in a very awkward fashion and made me promise our paths would cross again. I didn’t feel this was scary at all… though it was undoubtedly inappropriate, he was a skinny runt around my age who was all too happy to tell me about how his mum was spending time to find his future bride and how he wasn’t so enthusiastic about it. Sure, he could have pulled a knife on me and attacked me, but I knew he wasn’t the type to do this.
So… conclusion. I feel really bad that I am unreasonably hostile to certain guys who probably just want to be friendly. But I feel that when I let go and go with the flow, like I did with the massage, I just get into trouble. I learnt a lot… next time I will be less grumpy with men just trying to be friendly, and learn to understand when a situation isn’t good. Considering my wanting to go to Morocco and Egypt next, I think these are things I really need to get sorted in my head.