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.