DARE TO ASK: What should she expect in India?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I am an outspoken female leaving for India. Is there anything I should be
worried about, such as covering my face or how I dress, drinking at bars, etc.?
I do not want to offend anyone, and I do not want to put myself in danger.
Marie, 22, Tampa
I moved to India when I was 20 and experienced a minimum of sexual
harassment. My advice: do not wear low-cut shirts, halter tops or shorts. You do
not have to cover your face or hair. I found Indian men on the whole to be
caring and helpful.
Lisa, 25, Los Angeles
There is something called "eve teasing," when men will harass you on the
street. Some Indian women carry stickpins with them to poke rude men.
P. Kitty, 38, Caribou, Maine
It doesn't matter what you wear (in India), if people know you're a foreigner
and are not educated about other cultures, they will sexually harass you.
Diana, 18, Sacramento, Calif.
I take strong exception to what Diana says. Most people here are good-natured
and very helpful. Nobody will try to harass you sexually unless you invite it
Padmanabhan, 31, Chennai, India
The farther south you go, the more polite it gets. Bombay and Bangalore are
cosmopolitan, and women move freely without fear. These places also have pretty
cool discos/nightclubs. As long as you are with company, you should be safe.
Zip, 30, Hindu male, Birmingham, Ala.
This would be easier if Marie were more specific and hadn't asked about the
seventh-largest land mass on Earth (1.27 million square miles) that holds a
sixth of the world's population (about 1.2 billion people). For example, hit us
with "If I go to a guy named Ajith's place about 21/2 blocks off Shanghumugham
Beach near Thiruvananthapuram at 8 p.m. next Thursday, will I be harassed?" and
maybe we can start running some background checks.
Still, in our spirit of cultural questing, we talked to Max Ali, director of
sales at SITA World Tours in Los Angeles, a top India tour operator.
As you might guess, he didn't out India as running rabid with groping guys.
In fact, as you might have heard in the media at least once in the past year,
the little massive country that could is growing rapidly - economically and
"Indian guys are interested in Western women, but they are not aggressive, by
American standards," he said, adding that in big cities, U.S. women won't even
stand out at the bars.
"But in smaller towns, it's best to dress modestly and maintain a lower
profile. No short-shorts, and with blouses, a little bit of cleavage, not a
Marie will be treated with respect, though as with anywhere, there are still
"backward areas" of the country where men might ogle and harass, Ali said.
"But I would have to go searching for something like that to find it," he
said. "In general, women are more emancipated in India than elsewhere."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers.