You Looking At Me?

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I’m tired and I’m irritable. I’m in one of those moods where everything annoys me and this morning is no exception. For starters I’m recovering from a bout of Bhuj-Belly that rendered me a shivering wreck on the last day of my holiday. And as if sharing a sleeper carriage with nattering, hawking, spitting men on the night train wasn’t enough, I now have to contend with ineffective toilet attendants hovering by the cubicle door waiting for their tip for keeping the convenience disgustingly smelly as I sweat it out on a loo doused in something wet. But today none of these people wind me up as much as ‘the starers’.

Indians can be quite child-like in their general demeanor, from their innocent curiosity to their friendliness towards new people. On the whole I find them happy folk who are just willing to please. Sometimes, however, just sometimes, when I’m in an irritable mood, the staring thing really gets to me.

Not For The Paranoid

I’ve always said India is not for the paranoid. As a westerner you should expect to be stared at wherever you go. Almost everywhere on our travels across this huge sub-continent, if people aren’t pointing, giggling and touching (yes, occasionally we’ve been pinched to ensure we do actually exist) they are at the very least staring. One should not take offence though as a smile back at the gawping locals breaks the ice. Next thing you’re chatting and you have a friend for life.

Aside from my silly rants and the odd Facebook update that verges on puerile, I consider myself to be a ‘mature’ traveller, accepting of different people and different cultures and all that guff. Sadly though I am not perfect. No seriously, I’m not, and today is no exception.

Aliens

Take this morning, for example, when at 3am Liz and I walk in to the airport and look for somewhere to sit, an entire row of Indians, twenty or more, stares at us intently. Each face is examining our every move, scrutinizing us like we’ve just materialised in a shimmering beam from a hovering space craft. If it were a quick stare – where they look up for a second, then continue with what they were doing – I wouldn’t mind, but instead an entire row of rubber-neckers stares at us for what feels like an eternity. And when they start giggling and nudging each other, well, that’s when I get really hacked off. I just want to shout ‘What IS your problem? Have you never seen white people before?’ Perhaps it’s the grey hair, or maybe it’s my unfeasibly large stomach. Maybe they’ve never seen a woman with blonde hair in real life, or maybe they’re just as knackered as I am and find the most innocent of objects hilariously funny, like you do when you’re over-tired.

I’m like a bear with piles and in no mood for the stary thing

Whatever it is, this line of 20 people just stare. Under normal circumstances I’d have just returned the stare with a smile, got a ‘hello’ out of them and ended up answering the usual ‘which country?’, ‘where are you going?’ questions. But this morning I’m like a bear with piles and in no mood for the stary thing, so what I do next is pull a face. I stare back at each one of them in turn and pull a stupid, tongue behind lower-lip stare. Now this normally works when it’s one person. It embarrasses them and they don’t know where to look. This morning, however, I tried it on this whole row of starers and I knew as soon as I’d done it that I’d just made a complete tit of my myself. Now they’re all laughing… and still staring.

Whispering to Liz that I feel like a monkey in a cage, I start to imitate an ape. I can’t help myself, an animal-instinct takes over as I curve my hands under my armpits and stick my lips out. It’s about as confrontational as I’ll allow myself under the circumstances, the circumstances being that I am tired, ill and still have a wet arse. It’s my way of telling them that in England staring is rude and that they are making me feel uncomfortable.

It’s How They Roll

Except we’re not in England, we’re in India and it’s their rules we’re playing by. Staring at the ‘different’ person is acceptable. Gawping at Johnny Foreigner is allowed. Giggling amongst yourselves like a bunch of junior school children is how they roll over here.

Having achieved nothing except complete embarrassment to myself and a wife who refuses to acknowledge my presence, I drop my head and shuffle over to the farthest corner. I plonk myself on a seat next to two armed security guards who are playing ‘who can spit their chewing tobacco the furthest’. It’s the lesser of two evils but compared to the starers I find this surprisingly comforting.

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118 Comments on “You Looking At Me?”

  1. Nance Lake

    Oh Jamie! Appreciate the honesty in this though! You must have been at the end of your rope to behave like that! It is funny from the comfort of my front room…..not sure I’d have behaved any better after that loo experience. Is Liz speaking to you again yet?

  2. Nance Lake

    Oh Jamie! Appreciate the honesty in this though! You must have been at the end of your rope to behave like that! It is funny from the comfort of my front room…..not sure I’d have behaved any better after that loo experience. Is Liz speaking to you again yet?

  3. Nance Lake

    Oh Jamie! Appreciate the honesty in this though! You must have been at the end of your rope to behave like that! It is funny from the comfort of my front room…..not sure I’d have behaved any better after that loo experience. Is Liz speaking to you again yet?

  4. Nance Lake

    Oh Jamie! Appreciate the honesty in this though! You must have been at the end of your rope to behave like that! It is funny from the comfort of my front room…..not sure I’d have behaved any better after that loo experience. Is Liz speaking to you again yet?

  5. Leyla Temiz

    Y’all act like you never seen a white person before
    Jaws all on the floor like Pam, like Tommy just burst in the door and started whoopin her…….. this is constantly playing in my mind!!!

  6. Leyla Temiz

    Y’all act like you never seen a white person before
    Jaws all on the floor like Pam, like Tommy just burst in the door and started whoopin her…….. this is constantly playing in my mind!!!

  7. Leyla Temiz

    Y’all act like you never seen a white person before
    Jaws all on the floor like Pam, like Tommy just burst in the door and started whoopin her…….. this is constantly playing in my mind!!!

  8. June Cluett

    Heh, heh, ha, ha, ha!!!! I am with you, Jamie, all the way. Traveling on the London Underground, once, I found myself next a young indian mother who must have very recently arrived. She had NO SENSE of personal space. Completely unconcerned she leant against me and allowed her baby to be at at least 50per cent in my space with its wet sticky fingers curling around my necklace and into my clothes STARING at me, three inches from my face. What could I do? Certainly not slap it or her! Get hysterical, very nearly. Staring back was no use. Giggle, yes. The tube was too full for me to move. Yup, just grin and bear it ………… URGH!!!! and add it to my list of new experiences.

  9. mike

    Hi Guys ,Soooo good to hear your blogs . My grand daughter has just returned from hindi wedding in Kolcota [Calcutta] as you know her Mum is Indian .
    But little Indrani really took offence to all the face touching she is only 7 so I understand how you must have felt . Keep up the good work. Love from Fandangle

    1. Liz

      We’ve become so used to referring to each other as husband and wife over here (it just makes life easier, believe me) that the terms seem to have slipped into our writing. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything!

    1. Liz

      Never fear, little sis, this elder sibling wouldn’t dare do something as radical as get married without telling anyone 😉

  10. Tim

    He he, ‘Look at the ape man’!!

    Remember being stared at in Tunis in ’88 then going for a wee and still being stared at?

    I recently experienced the touchy Indian whilst visiting my local zoo here in Essex. A large group of very loud, annoying, rich, Indian tourists banging on the boa-constrictor’s window. Before I had a chance to chastise them, one of them approached me from behind, put his arm round me and pressed his nose up to the glass…a few years back I would have smacked him one but I seem to be mellowing in my old age and found it rather friendly!

    1. Jamie

      And that’s the key: it’s all done innocently and in good humour. It’s just a cultural difference and I think they’d be horrified to know that this kind of behaviour just isn’t cricket in England. Don’t talk to us about rich Indian tourists though! They have a terrible reputation here, especially amongst the hoteliers. Think Brits-Abroad, but without the alcohol. Loud, brash, and rude; their treatment of hotel staff is shocking. Still, the middle classes are the same the world over, no matter which country they hail from.

  11. Rachel Turnbull

    Just discovered your blog and this post made me smile because I’ve been there and argh, do I know what that feels like….what a relief to know it wasn’t just me who got really irritated by this behaviour!….I did feel like an alien with two heads sometimes…never did try the ape thing though!!

  12. Rachel Turnbull

    Just discovered your blog and this post made me smile because I’ve been there and argh, do I know what that feels like….what a relief to know it wasn’t just me who got really irritated by this behaviour!….I did feel like an alien with two heads sometimes…never did try the ape thing though!!

  13. Rachel Turnbull

    Just discovered your blog and this post made me smile because I’ve been there and argh, do I know what that feels like….what a relief to know it wasn’t just me who got really irritated by this behaviour!….I did feel like an alien with two heads sometimes…never did try the ape thing though!!

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