Proust in the land of elephants

February 2, 2009

Rajasthan is one of the last places in India where segregation still happens at an upper-class level.


Before I moved to India, I had only heard this word in reference to  South Africa’s apartheid system. Here, it just means women on one side, men on the other one. Which doesn’t bother me in principle.

The problem is, the booze is on the men’s side.

And if you think of lighting a cigarette among the women, you might as well announce  that you are a cross-dressing stripper. Just. Not. Done.

Mind you, it’s not like there is a curtain or anything. It is natural and unspoken. On one side  you have a sea of colorful saris, on the other one, the turbanned heads.

Choose your camp.

But beware of the consequences.

As an unmarried white girl, I know that the women spontanuously pity me. I live alone. I work. I earn my own money. Disgraceful. Worst sin of all, I am unmarried : nobody is accountable for my behaviour, and my total lack of morals is on constant public display.

And it’s not the husbands who’ll disagree. We are eye-candies and the subject of eager teasing. Where we see innocent small talk, they foresee wild extra-marital sex. And please remember: our opinion doesn’t matter. As a man once told me here when I pointed out that my 18-year old houseguests might not succumb to the tantalizing temptation of sleeping with him – maybe something to do with his short size, balding forehead, protruding belly and married status – he, very pissed off with me indeed, replied:

“But you haven’t got it. It’s got nothing to do with being attractive.”

“Oh dear, but what was I thinking, of course not. What is it about then?”

“It’s about convincing them.”

Of course, I thought, of course.


3 Responses to “Proust in the land of elephants”

  1. Dan Says:

    Interesting! One more view on India. I feel that you prefer that Indian culture change for your convinience not the other way. This is the way many of the invaders felt, it has been 6000 years since many of the people wanted to change the indian culture according to their (“SUPERIOR”) culture. But finally India withstood all these aggressions. Imagine telling the same thing about the west(For them Indian means a poor, Arab means terrorist and Africa means civil war proned)
    I did the otherway arround, I lived in France for some time.It is diificult to find some one to talk to you. This is not to respect your privacy,You have to be white for the people to talk to you. but If some French talk with you it will be to show his superiority.
    Invitation for a marriage or any important occasions are non existent for a guy from India!!! Even though he will have a drink with you one day before his wedding(you will be paying for him!!!) He will never even bother to tell you that he is getting married. He will make a phone call infront of you to invite his white friend!
    Friendship means nothing for them!
    You can have fantastique qualification but for a french you are nothig. This is right from the sweeper(no french is ready to work as a sweeper!!!) to the CIO of a company.
    So many experiences any day I prefere to live in my poor, hot; male dominated, etc, etc INDIA rather any other place in the world

  2. jasmineandtheelephants Says:

    Hi Dan,
    Wow, that was pretty harsh!
    First of all, I am really sorry if I wrote anything that offended you.
    And I am very sorry you had hurtful experiences in France. I am the first one to admit that French people are indeed horrible when it comes to welcoming strangers into their lives. They can be terribly rude, you are right.
    Regarding India, it is not at all my wish to change anything in the Indian culture. I love it here! But it’s not easy everyday to adapt, and I like to write about it – it makes better stories, don’t you think?
    And yes, I can very well imagine criticizing the West: in fact I love reading books making fun of France and French people.
    That’s because I have what is called a sense of humour!

  3. Anand Says:

    Indeed… no good story ever came from all sunny and rosy experiences.

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