I wrote this in the moment after the incident. Some statements are just personal expressions due to the frustration and confusion of the moment, but I choose not to edit them to retain its original feel.
I wear a white crop top, through which the shade of my bra can somewhat be seen, and a bodycon black skirt that hugs my hips. I apply a Wine Maybelline lipstick and do my eyebrows. It’s a good morning.
The day I spend in a mutual friend’s house – there are six African men and the lone girl, me. I sit there, a little distant because I am a mere acquaintance to all but one. It’s a small, cozy apartment we are in. The cleaner comes knocking, and enters to take out the trash. He tells one of the men in the kitchen, that I’m pretty and all that. I laugh when I’m told that. Well, I guess, thank you.
Then I happen to venture out the apartment door, wanting to explore and also escape the awkwardness I’m experiencing with strangers. I am just about to return inside when the cleaner comes outside. He greets me with a smile and asks me how I am in Hindi. I reply politely. He then proceeds to ask something I took a little while to register: “How much do you charge…” I’m blank. “… Per night?”
That question takes me by surprise. I am astounded by the audacity this man has to dare ask a young woman how much she charges these African men per night, and just through this simple question, I see several layers of complexities merging.
“I’m not a fucking prostitute!” I exclaim in English, when I finally register what he is saying. I am ashamed to say this, but I am unable to say anything beyond that, unable to confront him.
He, at that moment, asks me if I understand Hindi. I think I just looked at him in anger and shock. He says, “no? Okay, thank you. Bye bye.” He walks away.
Dumbfounded, I enter the room and tell them what happened. They’re also irked by the man’s actions. I want to cry, but I hold it in well. I am able to blink my tears away before they fall. It is all good until my friend asks me if I want Fanta or Sprite – my tears burst out. Outside the apartment, he comforts me; the cleaner happens to be right downstairs. Upon confrontation, the cleaner tells me that he never said that, that he never asked that, that he was only asking if I knew Hindi. I want to spit on his face.
He grasps the rosary around his neck when he hears the accusation. And I scoff – you’re not a good person just because you have faith in a god. He tells me I am confused and that I misunderstood. I tell him to stop bullshitting. In the end, he offers me an apology that is not sincere and I walk in back to the room.
I feel ashamed and embarrassed, apart from the anger and hurt.
1) My clothes… Could they have sparked this incident? I remind myself that it is not my fault. Despite what some people might say, despite what the society might say, the length of my clothes do not determine my worth or my promiscuity.
2) I am a fair Asian woman, dressed very cutely, in a room with six dark-skinned African men. Most Indians here tend to have a negative view of Africans, and the traditionalist and conservative culture of India ensures that any such woman with several men must surely be a prostitute or engaging in some sort of sexual relations with them. I mean, of course, she must be! They can’t possibly be platonic friends. She must be fucking them all for money, or at least one of them.
The conclusion I came to today: I looked as cute as I felt, and no ignorant man can take that away from me. He is a fool guided by judgmental and inherently sexist views that only draw clear lines between men and women, unable to see them as just people, unable to see them beyond a romantic/sexual relation.
This incident only proves to me the ridiculousness of some people out there.
My point no. 2 may come off as a bit of a concrete statement, but I am well aware that the culture there may not always be like that. Not every Indian is like that, no, I could never say that, for someone who believes in individuality and for someone with a good number of beautiful Indian friends. But I do stand by the fact that a fair-skin-preference does exist in India and it manifests in untoward ways.
I was very upset and taken aback by this incident; it’s the first I’ve ever had that was of this extent. I experienced another one not so far after, however.