Tag Archives: India

#DeadRoach

30 Jun

Because I have nothing of consequence to write about right now, and because my blog has been uncharacteristically silent, I am going to write a post about the other day when I found a dead roach.

A few days ago I was sitting in my room trying to figure out what to do with my day.  That has been my reality as of late.  I sort of wake up, sometimes I have plans, sometimes not so much, but it is always a matter of trying to busy myself in the mean time.  I usually figure I ought to do something productive – organize my books, clean my desk, send out some writing samples – but instead I always end up sitting at my desk, drinking coffee and watching gymnastics clips.  Just this evening I gave myself a little test and realized that I can look at the entire USA National Gymnastics Team, juniors and seniors, and identify all of them by name and many of them by name, gym and best apparatus.  It is not something I am proud of.  Anyway, that specific morning I decided that the best use of my time would be to unpack the suitcase that had been sitting on my floor from a weekend trip to my friend Debbie’s wedding.  I love Debbie and her wedding was great.  If I had a video of her reciting her vows I would be so happy.  It was like, the most love I have ever seen verbalized before in my life and it was really something beautiful.  (Congrats Debbie and Bobby!  Love you guys!)  Now that I am thinking about it, I didn’t decide that the best use of my time would be to unpack the suitcase.  I decided that I wanted this fun headband that my friend Emily had given to me a few weeks prior and I was pretty sure it was in the suitcase.  I was right but I didn’t figure that out until something terrible happened.  So I went over to the suitcase, I moved it, and

THERE WAS A DEAD ROACH UNDER IT!

It was so bad.  I hate roaches.  Honestly I don’t care if those fuckers are dead or alive they totally gross me out.  There was this one time when I was in India back in 2004 and my friend Michelle and I were traveling around Rajasthan together.  We were at a train station waiting for our ride to the next spot we were going to visit when we found out our train was incredibly delayed.  Not like, “this train is delayed because of train traffic ahead of us, and thank you for your patience,” but like legit 6 hours of waiting for a train.  There were lots of people there also waiting.  Also a really cute little calf wandering around eating all manner of things.  Michelle decided to go off and get us some chai and snacks and I was tasked with watching our bags.  Normally that would not be a problem except that right when Michelle walked away an army* of rat-sized roaches walked right over to where our things were.  They were the biggest roaches I have ever seen in my life.  Like, imagine the roaches that we have here, like, the water bug ones, and then make them something like 5 times the size and that’s the shit I was faced with.  It was horrible.  I had to pick up all of our things and try and relocate them slightly away from the roaches so they wouldn’t hide in our bags, eat the cashew nuts we had, build up their super powers, and then emerge from the bags at the fucking Taj Mahal and kill us all.  So incredibly gross.

So I had India-sized roaches flashbacks.  I was convinced that this sucker was just playing dead and that when I went to dispose of him he would come back to life, fly across the room and give me a fucking heart attack.  So I did what any normal person would do: I put the suitcase back on the roach, called my dad, texted with some friends, and started tweeting.  Nobody really reads my tweets but I tweet nonetheless.  Here is a look at what you are missing:

I then moved the suitcase again and

Then my brain started getting carried away and I got scared.

At this point I had tried calling my friend Ben once and my father two times.  Neither of them had answered.  I was in crisis mode.

As is custom, no one read any of these tweets so me like, putting out calls for help into the Twittersphere did absolutely nothing.  Then I texted my friend Emily and she said that I should probably get a broom and a dustpan.  Genius.  In my mind I had a picture of one of those broom and dustpan situations where you have the broom and it is a regular broom with the broom stick and everything but then you have the dustpan and it is not one of those ones where you have to bend down to use it, it also has a stick.  A dustpan stick.  And the stick makes it just as tall as the broom.  So I was really excited about this prospect because it meant that my face had to be no where near the roach.  The only thing is that I don’t have one of those dustpans with the sticks.  I have the normal one.  Fuck.  So I ended up moving the suitcase, averting my eyes, somehow brooming the dead roach (it didn’t move) onto the dustpan without bending down, then using my foot to angle the dustpan in such a way that the dead roach slid all the way to the back, then extending my arm as much as possible to lift the dustpan and then ever so slowly walking the dustpan with the dead roach over to the window with the open screen that I was really concerned my cats might fall out of and flinging the dead roach as far as possible.  I felt proud.  I still do, actually.  I have been telling everyone about it.

Anyway, so the roach is gone and my suitcase is still packed although I did find the headband thing and I wore it two days in a row. Thanks for listening.

#In truth there were only 3 roaches but if we use the fact that these roaches were 5 times the size of the dead roach on my floor, that means that there were really more like 15 roaches which is very intimidating.

Dear Naughty

5 Apr

So I have been having a very weird week.  Things are maybe on the cusp of happening and when they do, or don’t, I will inform you all about it.  But in the meantime, and sort of related to this whole thing, I have found myself on the website of the InterContinental Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai.  I decided to look at the guest reviews because, for whatever reason, I always find it really amusing to see reviews of really fancy places.  I like to see what people who can afford these places complain about.  I know this makes me sound a little bit like an ass because, I mean, just because you have money does not mean that you don’t have the right to complain.  Maybe you have more of a right because you pay so much for the places you stay or the things you do?  Of course, as a percentage of income maybe it really isn’t that much at all.  Maybe, relatively speaking, staying at the InterContinental Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai is equivalent, percentage of income-wise, to the time me and my then-boyfriend stayed at a Super 8 Motel off the highway in Dallas.  Let me tell you about that disaster.

Okay, so this was like, 2009 or 2010 or something like that.  We had flown down to Dallas for the wedding of an old friend of my boyfriend’s that was being held at the friend’s sister’s super awesome house.  We decided to stay at the Super 8 because I really liked saying “Supah 8!” and throwing my hands up in the air.  Seriously. That was the one and only reason we stayed there.  Anyway, so we get there late after our flight, after renting a car and after getting lost and the hotel had somehow lost our reservation.  We were tired.  We were maybe a little bit grouchy.  We were being helped by someone who, it seemed, had no idea what he was doing.  We also happened to have arrived on the weekend of some really super important college football game or something so all the rooms were booked up with bros toting cases of Miller Lite.  The only room that was available at the point was a smoking room.  Let me tell you this room reeked.  It was the smelliest room I think I have ever been in.  But whatever, we were tired and figured we could maybe move into a different, less stinky room the next day.  I got in my pajamas, I crawl into bed, pull the covers up to my face, breath in and holy hell.  The sheets smelled like fucking dead people.  Serisouly I am not kidding.  I shot up out of bed, covered my mouth and pointed at the sheet.  My boyfriend, not overly shocked by my behavior, smelled his portion of the sheet.  It didn’t smell.  I told him to smell my portion.  He smelled it.  Dead people.  I mean, to be honest, I don’t think either of us had ever really smelled a dead person up close and personal but if I had to tell you what a dead person smelled like, you know, if I had to imagine it, it would be that portion of that sheet in that Super 8 in Dallas.  No joke.

So the next morning we woke up, after switching to the other double bed in the room and not getting into the blankets obviously, and I saw a roach run across my pillow where I had literally just been sleeping.  Just then.  Like a second before.  With my head.  On what was in actuality maybe a roach highway!  It was horrible.  Obviously, we switched hotels.  I have never been the same.

Anyway, that was a complaint.  What sorts of complaints are on the review page for the InterContinental Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai?  This one:

Really not happy with the Room service.Had ask for curd and change of buttery in remote of Set top box.
No body has turned up for the same.Very Very disappointed with the room service.

I think I would be sad if I had to ask for curd with my food or a buttery remote.  (Don’t make fun of spelling errors, Rebekah, it is not nice.)  The thing about this that was SO amusing to me is that this person called himself “Naughty” on the complaint.  I think what he meant to do was imply that he found the room service to be “naughty,” which is kind of a weird and sort of dirty way to describe it.  I am assuming this is an English as a second language situation.  But what makes it funniEST is that the hotel then responded to the complaint and addressed their response to Naughty.  Like, as in, “Dear Naughty…”  I have a lot of respect for Dhan M, the Case Manager of the InterContinental Hotel on Marine Drive in Mumbai for taking Naughty so seriously and writing Naughty a letter.

I wonder what Naughty would have said if he(?) had been sleeping in death sheets on a roach highway.

You Live Here, Why Not Travel There: The Case for Sustained Female Tourism to India

12 Jun

I traveled to India for the first time in December of 2003 with 21 other students and a few professors.  We spent about 8 weeks learning about sustainability, the economy, tourism, ecology, agriculture.  We spent a good amount of time in the homes of different families who welcomed us with open arms  (well, for the most part).  I returned just after I graduated college in the fall of 2005 with a good friend of mine, Abby, and spent about 4 months traversing the sub-continent.  It was an amazing trip, cut short mostly by the fact that I had run my travel fund dry.  I spent my entire trip in the company of others and the only close-call of a sexual nature came at the hands of a fellow traveler.  I went back for a third time in the summer of 2011 with two of my girlfriends from graduate school, one of whom is fluent in Hindi.  This led to some surprised faces and a pretty awesome night in which the operators of a government bus hand delivered us to our hotel so we wouldn’t have to face tracking down an auto rickshaw after midnight on our own.  I would go back in a heartbeat if I could find a companion and if time and finances allowed.

So I must say I am more than a little saddened by the recent reports that, due to highly publicized sexual assaults in India, tourism has dropped, and especially amongst females.  A June 10th article on the New York Times blog, India Ink entitled “India Scrambles to Reassure Tourists Shaken by Recent Attacks on Women,” discusses the issue.  The article, by Neha Thirani Bagri and Heather Timmons, explains that in the first three months of this year visits by females to India fell by 35%.  Thisfall-off has been linked by many to the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi this past December.  There have also been assaults and rapes reported by tourists over the last few months, including a 30-year-old woman who was gang-raped in a resort town in the north and a 39-year-old Swiss tourist who was raped by four men in Madhya Pradesh.  Listen, I get it, the prospect of being raped or sexually assaulted in a foreign country where you’re not familiar with the language, the customs, or the legal system and where you are far from home and your friends and family is terrifying.  But the thing is that, as a female, I live in almost constant, albeit dull, fear of being sexually assaulted and I think, when pressed, many women would agree.  In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a woman in your life who has been neither threatened with sexual violence nor had sexual violence committed against her.  For my part I have been groped and spit on in the street, been the victim of an attempted rape in my own home, and ran screaming from the house of someone I considered a friend, although not a close one, when my strong and loud repetition of the word “no” went unheard.  My stories are not unique.  And every single one of them happened here, in the United States.

That’s not even the point.  I am not here arguing that there are more rapes in the United States than elsewhere.  I don’t know that we could ever accurately know that given the poor reporting rates at the global level, a fact I have discussed elsewhere in this blog.  Clearly, I have spent more of my life here and so it would follow that most of the bad things that have happened to me also would have happened here.  What I am saying is that the articles covering the decrease in tourism have not done much to reverse this trend by encouraging a more nuanced discussion.  So, here’s my attempt.

As a commenter on an article I read said, India is a very big country, 1,269,219 square miles, with a lot of people living in it, over 1.2 billion according to the 2011 census.  There are places that are more safe and places that are less safe, much like here.  There are people who are likely to rape and people who are unlikely to rape, much like here.  In the Times article, the authors quoted a 24-year-old from San Francisco, Corinne Aparis, as saying “It scares me to think that there’s that type of deep hatred toward women — that just being a woman is enough of a target and reason for some men to inflict such violence on me.”  The thing is, she could be talking about anywhere.  This quote is taken as something specific to the Indian context but that could not be further from the truth.  For evidence of that fact just watch the movie Compliance, read about the Cleveland, Texas gang rape of an 11-year-old, talk to some of your female friends.

You know what is different about India?  The response.  I doubt we would have learned nearly as much about the horrific December Delhi rape if it weren’t for the response of Indians.  According to the Times article once again, “The public outrage over the December attack led to the passage of a new sexual offense law in March that imposes stronger penalties for violence against women and criminalizes actions like stalking and voyeurism.”  I personally do not remember a time in the United States when protesters lined the streets for a day, let alone weeks, in response to a rape and the subsequent handling of the case by authorities.  I do not remember a time in the United States when the national dialogue wasn’t seemingly dominated by the endless repetition of “boys will be boys,” “why was she out at that time wearing that outfit,” and “where was her mother?”  Let’s just think back to the recent events in Steubenville.  Just this past Thursday, on June 6th, Mother Jones printed an article that reported that where the two rapists in the Steubenville case got a 1-and-2-year prison sentence, one of the hackers who broke the case open is facing up to 10-years in jail for hacking-related crimes.  To me, that says a lot about this country’s priorities.

Listen, I am not saying that people’s feelings regarding safety when traveling are unjustified.  If you feel unsafe for any reason, that is your prerogative.  What I am saying is that let’s put this into a larger context.  This is not an India problem, this is an everywhere problem.  But I would go so far as to say that the Indian population at large, at least recently, has a much more proactive attitude towards securing safety from sexual violence for women and men, and towards ensuring the proper handling of sexual assault cases.  We should be so vociferous.  Rather than write India off as unsafe for women, we should follow in the population’s footsteps.  We should stand in support of sexual assault victims, try to get our justice system to do right by them, by us, and change our rape culture.