Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The GREAT Divide!

Women, particularly feminists, leave no opportunity to point out what a bane, men are to society and how, with human cloning becoming successful, men can be just thrown off the face of Mother Earth! But there is a further divide... in the South of India, people feel that North Indian Men (NIM) - and not men in general - are the bane of society. They are supposed to be uncouth, uncultured and God's gift to womankind. And for the South Indian Men, (SIM), every person who has been born and brought up towards the north of the Vindhyas, is a North Indian (Yes, us Mumbaikars as well!!! :) )

Let's put things in perspective : there's no denying that in the 'women-safe' city of Mumbai, a few years ago, on New Year's night, women were molested by a mob in full public view with media around. But to counter that is the Mangalore pub assault episode, when the activists of Sri Rama Sene barged into a pub and violently beat up the girls present there in the name of preserving Indian culture.

Can we really segregate and accuse one section of the population with such 'henious' crimes while absolving the other group in the same breath, just by virtue of the states of birth / growing up / residence? But truth be told - NIM are far more crass and openly rough and vulgar than the SIM. The most perverted, double-meaning jokes, am sure, originated in the northern part of the country and although I am not judgemental about them (having laughed at them with as much gusto as my NIM & SIM friends), they can get lewd and uncomfortable for the feeble hearted. And not to forget the evergreen punch-lines - 'Kya maal / item / bomb / body hai'; 'Aa chalti hai kya'; They not only whistle, but also make obscene gestures and pass lewd comments. Whether a girl is of eighteen or a woman in her 50s, these men shower there love and affection on everyone.

This is what I read in a site which caters to Western Women visiting India - particular advice for North India while South India was rated much more laid back, friendly, and respectful :

- Learn to ignore everyone around you unless you have a specific reason to speak with someone.

- Don't meet people's eyes - especially men.

- Don't chat very much with random guys. Indian women don't do that and neither do they look at men. In fact most Indian women completely ignore the presence of men and just go about their business.

- Maintain your distance from any man - very young to very old. At least three to four feet. That's how much space Indian women maintain between themselves and an unrelated male.

- Don't wear clothes that expose the shoulders, that are tight across the chest, don't expose legs, no strappy dresses, etc. Salwars or just pants and a long cotton top are comfortable and appropriate.

- If anyone asks you about a boyfriend or husband, say yes, you are married for years and he is in Mumbai or somewhere else and you are visiting friends in whichever town you happen to be in. Or just act completely deaf when the topic comes up. Most Indian women do not answer personal questions and keep quiet to indicate that the question was no appropriate.

- Learn a few words of the local language like help, water, toilet, etc. When in doubt about something, ask another woman or a couple.

- If you will wear salwar kameez (that "Punjabi suit" you'll see women wearing -- baggy pants, baggy shirt and a scarf which is not optional -- you'll give people the silhouette that they are used to seeing and will avoid a lot of unwanted attention from the bold and sex-starved men who will approach you.

- You should also avoid being alone on dark streets at night, and private contact with strange men. Just because they are wearing shirt and trousers instead of a longhi doesn't mean a man has the capacity for the sort of friendship you and I are used to from Western men -- so don't expect that.

- Meet cyberpals in public, in daylight if possible... always. Even at home, this is kind of like saying "don't take candy from strangers" but every once in a while we need that reminder.

- If you're lost or need to know what time it is, ask the nearest woman. Her husband will answer, but direct your conversation at HER.
(WOW!!! This is enlightening!)

- If someone touches you, slap him! Scream "pervert"! Take off your shoe and threaten him with that! But that's a last resort -- better to avoid those situations when possible.

- If you are on a train and someone asks if they may please sit on your berth while you sleep -- tell him that you know he would never want anyone to ask his sister that same thing and to forget that idea.

All this being said, you will have a more difficult time in North India than in the South of India. North Indian men are more aggressive towards women - not just foreigners, other Indians too.

Perhaps a burkah would be the answer to our woes in India!!!

But guess what - although the NIMs win this hands down, guess, burkhas are not able to protect these women -

Guatemala, where an impoverished female underclass faces domestic violence, rape and torture. An epidemic of gruesome unsolved murders has left hundreds of women dead, some of their bodies left with hate messages.

Pakistan, women are gang-raped as punishment for men’s crimes.

Somalia, a vicious civil war has put women, who were the traditional mainstay of the family, under attack. In a society that has broken down, women are exposed daily to rape, dangerously poor health care for pregnancy, and attack by armed gangs.

Nepal Early marriage and childbirth exhaust the country’s malnourished women, and one in 24 will die in pregnancy or childbirth. Daughters who aren’t married off may be sold to traffickers before they reach their teens. Widows face extreme abuse and discrimination if they’re labeled bokshi, meaning witches.

Mali, where few women escape the torture of genital mutilation, many are forced into early marriages, and one in 10 dies in pregnancy or childbirth.

Afghanistan More than half of all brides are under 16, and one woman dies in childbirth every half hour. Domestic violence is so common that 87 per cent of women admit to experiencing it. But more than one million widows are on the streets, often forced into prostitution.

Daughters of Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera outlines in painful detail the horrific stories of women abused and suffering... 'I listen to those stories -- told by women who have been drugged, beaten, imprisoned, raped and terrorised within the walls of the homes they grew up in. I listen and I am humbled by their resilience', she says. It is a long drawn battle - one which is being fought in various parts of the world, behind closed doors and in open grounds, in darkness and in light, in public view and in private; it is a battle without ammunition but the wounds are equally deep, the cries deeply painful and abuse and death as real... Every defeat in this war must be deeply mourned and every victory celebrated and recounted deftly and without apology.


  1. hello Dewdrop...!!!
    a thoughtful post...must be read by every woman...it will be helpful for sure..!!!

    i cant comment anything...coz i was hardly into trouble with men and as u said our South Indian Men are a bit better....and also you dint leave anything that i can tell you and your readers...!!

    but it was a great post..!!! keep writing dear....ur pen is your sword...wage a war in the problems we face...!!!

  2. Doesn't it sound too much like those extremists would want women to stay? I don't know about this great Indian divide between NIM and SIM... but sounds like too much of biasing to me! But then, I've never really come across this kind of a comparison before...

  3. you just made me reconsider my idea of spending vacation in India... though i guess NIM do have something to say to this? But anyways.. sounds totally scary.

  4. I agree with Akanksha, someone is really biased here...

    I have lived in South India as well as North India and my experience has been almost the same...

    Shockingly, though in southern India, men spit paan or gutkhaa on you if u r wearing light colored dresses... happened a lot of times in hyderabad...

    in northern India, some men are more loud, I agree... but it all depends upon individuals...

    This post and the info is really interesting though... I wonder how foreigners perceive India to be...uhuh!

  5. Interesting read but somehow I am not able to convince myself for whatever is written here.

    What I feel is, there are good people and there are bad people, and that stays same every where.. its not about north or south and rather not for India only.. it can be any where in world.. do you think there are no crimes in dark streets of USA or any other country for that matter?

    In my point of view it looks on the extreme side!!

  6. nice post..
    which is that site???
    it does nothing except bring shame on us Indians, both NI and SIs.
    it may be true to some extend, but its not fair..not at all.

    well, the condition in the other countries u have given is terrible.

  7. umm I agree completely on this one , ''Can we really segregate and accuse one section of the population with such 'henious' crimes while absolving the other group in the same breath, just by virtue of the states of birth / growing up / residence?''

    But isnt this site quite judgemental?
    yeah its all sound advice except that it does go overboard at times..

  8. which site is this?:D gave me a few laughs with a few horrified gasps too:D

  9. really! men banished from the face of the earth? lolz! And then what? get ruled by female tyrants... :-)

    I read the post as a funny post, even though it does speak volumes about our country and its "tourist unfriendly" culture.

    NIm and SIm.. lol well, no comments... Bombayites think of everyone to the south as Southeners and to the North as Northeners.... New Yorkers are the same too.. I guess its the big-city syndrome and its perfectly normal to me :-)

    Nice post. (I knew there was a reason I subscribed to ur blog)

  10. Well DD,

    I have mixed feelings with this post of yours.
    I too have heard about NIM's being more boisterous, audacious, rude and that they think women are items of ridicule. And also that mellowed versions of men is what one finds down South.

    I second what Scattered thoughts, has said here, though. I believe there are good ppl and bad ppl...irrespective of the place they live in. It's what we percieve. Like one says Delhi girls are snobbish, Mumbai girls are rude and so on. and it is not necessarily that. But again, one cannot totally do away with the darker side because maybe we haven't had a personal experience, but someone else has had it.

    It is a common belief, though I would personally (want to) refrain from generalising. I did not find your post biased. I assume those are just the facts as you understand them?

  11. With or without the NIM / SIM segregation ! This post makes a great reading !! Good one !!!

  12. DD,

    We need to carry out intensive awareness campaigns to make men understand that women are to be respected and treated as equal. That advisory is eye opener. However such incidents do occur in so called advanced nations too ,may be at little lesser level.

    Take care

  13. Good post. :)
    My mom's south indian, dad's north indian and I'm not sure whether NIM or SIM are better... but in general, women aren't very safe in our country. Period. :(

  14. @ yamini meduri : Thanks Yamini for those words...

  15. @ Akansha Agrawal / Harshita / Scattered Thoughts :

    I too considered such things a little on the extreme side since, like Yamini, I too haven't (thankfully) faced too much of trouble with men. I have lived in Mumbai for a better part of my life and spent time at Delhi, Kolkata as well and now that I am at Chennai, I find a huge culture difference between how men behave here vis-a-vis, say, Delhi. Here, I see men giving a wide berth immediately to women, while walking on the road, rather than brushing shoulders / tonnes of lady police officers on the streets at all times of the day... I read the local newspapers and there are far less women-oriented crimes as compared to Delhi / BiMaRU States... I take the point that at the end of the day, it is completely on individuals and how they behave but the trend, as I see it, is definitely a stark difference between North & South.

  16. @ Lena : :) India is not really as bad as you may have felt, after reading this but yes, there is a culture difference between the West and here and you may want to understand what works and what doesn't, while you plan your trip. You will find good and bad people everywhere but there will always be certain common things that trigger the bad, in every place.

    @ Amal Bose / Indyeah: http://www.indiamike.com/india/india-for-beginners-f122/advice-for-young-females-traveling-alone-in-india-t2806/ and


    @ eye-in-sty-in : :)... Yeah, I guess we like to always refer to 'others' when we talk of the -ve... and no female tyranny here... we are such nice, gentle, non-violent souls!!! :)

  17. @ PURN!MA : Bingo, Purnima... I deduced from what I see and feel... and to all those who found it biased, maybe I was a little biased against NIM but not without reason... and I am a true, blue Mumbaikar (and by SIM logic, a northie)... Yet, I think it is important to realize that there are differences... but, finally, yeah, men will be men! :)

    @ Life 24*7 : Thanku

    @ Jack : Very true Jack...

    @ ki : :) That's the crux... I'll take it a little further and say that women are not safe anywhere in the world... there are much more heinous crimes that are committed against them, in the name of honour / practices etc... It's scary to think that it could just be happening next-door and so close to you...

  18. Thought provoking, Dewdrops.
    I am so glad that I read it.

    This one deserves a standing ovation!

  19. lovely blog!
    and the post is def food for thought....

  20. I agree to it completely.Being from north India, I was quite used to "kya maal hai","aati kya khandala" and much more!
    My work took me to south India and I was quite astonished to see that SIM dont even know the concept of eve teasing!

  21. Just loved this NIM - SIM analogy ..... Lastly I am one proud SIM ........ ;-)

  22. Enjoyed reading.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and your kind comment feel free to visit again.
    Keep posting......

  23. i think this post too biased against north/south indian men. you cannot generalize men with one act. honestly, i never came across south/north men divide such as this!

    interesting thoughts.

  24. Well, I don't know in what category I fall in then.
    I'm a south Indian brought up in north India!

    But the site is just a discussion forum which states the opinion of some tourists. Can't really generalize on that basis.

    At the end of it, I feel that the level education of people does play a big part in deciding how safe tourists can feel in a particular region.

    And in that respect, may(I repeat may) be South Indians have an upper hand.

  25. DD,
    i did the 100 questions from here. do chk.

  26. Whatever is the divide - its really about Indians. We need to right the wrong wherever.

  27. too biased an opinion, but gud article neverthless