“You can leave one more button open as well,” a voice murmured past me in Hindi.
Before my brain worked out the meaning in English, the man had disappeared and except for narrowing my eyes a little, I did nothing.
I was on Pedder Road, clad in jeans and a formal shirt.
Back home in Manama, this would be considered demure.
In Mumbai however, regardless of what you wear, you’ll hear whispers saying, “Sexy”, “Hot”, “Oooh”, “Aaah” and some animalistic groans.
The fact that I was raised in an Islamic country and never had to face reproving stares but bore the brunt of it in ‘all-embracing, people-friendly democracy’ called India is a bit of a joke.
Bahrain maybe an exception as a liberal Arab kingdom with expatriates outnumbering locals in terms of population but I don’t remember receiving sleazy whispers or stares in Sharjah or Dubai.
That maybe because there are more buildings than people in the Emirates.
However, the big question is why are women in India which is supposedly ‘liberalised’ harassed everyday on an unprecedented scale?
Didn’t both societies at some point in their history, commodify women?
Though conditions for certain sections of Arab women haven’t improved, why do Indian women in metros such as Mumbai still get ‘eve-teased’ as Indians refer to sexual harassment?
I was at the Mumbai International Airport a few weeks ago with a male friend when an airport maintenance worker approached us.
“Who is he to you?” he seemed to ask in Hindi.
“Pardon, what’s that?” I asked.
“Woh kon hai?”
“Where you from?” he finally blustered in English.
“Bahrain,” I said cautiously eyeing him.
My friend, at this point lost his temper and said, “It’s none of your business.”
The man affronted at being told off by a foreigner, pointed to the little flag of India he had pinned to his chest.
“Today...India Independence Day,” he said proudly.
“Gandhiji got freedom,” he added knowledgeably.
And in a furious tirade he lambasted us for standing together and said that such things were not permitted on August 15.
Eyeing me with disdain and following us around the airport, the man seemed to think he was doing the public good by policing the world around him.
Not too different from Saudi Arabia where there are vice squads and moral police to ensure you don’t breach the Sharia code that governs the country.
India though not governed by Sharia is ruled by chauvinism.
The men who wolf whistle at a passing woman may or may not be employed but the very fact that a woman dares to step out of the house to earn a living, somehow injures the male ego.
Regardless, Indian women battle it every day.
I’ve no idea why women in Delhi thought it fit to take to the streets as part of the global feminist march ‘Slutwalk’.
It’s about shaking the dust off your feet and walking ahead with elegance that makes a woman a far better form of the human species.
And I think that Indian women have for long taught men a lesson in civility, it’s a pity that some feel wearing skimpy clothes and marching with placards will make all the difference in the world.