Yet, there I was, feet dipped in clear water, staring into the horizon, trying to convince two middle-aged women whom I did not know that the man I was with was indeed my husband. By the fourth day of our vacation on the islands, we had got used to being stared at.
But when curious glances turned to quizzical looks, we began to realise that we were considered an oddity: A brown woman with a white man. She then asked me questions about our wedding and everything that had led to it. Then the other woman, who had remained silent until then, asked me for proof. Where are your bangles? I showed them the fading mehendi on my palms. Why did I do that?
I later kicked myself for having misunderstood their questions as friendly banter. When many Indians see one of their women with a man of a different race, they make assumptions, and offer unsolicited advice. An Indian woman who has got a white man must be enlightened, even by complete strangers.
White poison Probably every woman in India has one story about having been subject to lecherous looks as she has walked down the street. Now make her walk next to a white man. The male gaze turns more brazen by several orders of magnitude. At first, he laughed. Then seeing that I was not going to go, he apologised. Chris, her American boyfriend, had accompanied her.
She asked him to watch where he was going. Her experiences in those two years in Mumbai before the couple moved to Los Angeles forever clouded the way Aarya thought of the city in which she had grown up. At times she ignored the comments, but when she did try to fight back, some men found the aggression titillating: By extension, the Indian women they are with must be promiscuous.
Then there is patriarchy: Women who venture out of the nest to seek a mate must lack decency. The ugly head that raises itself at the sight of anything that dares to deviate from the norm.
When Aarya decided to tie the knot with Nicholas in , she often got lectured about the sanctity of marriage and how it should be preserved. And a mixed-race couple in which one person is black often brings out the worst kind of racism. I wondered whether she would have felt as much concern over my being so far away from my mother had I married an Indian. Or whether a policeman from a Mumbai police station would have muttered under his breath when Aarya went for a no-objection certificate required for her American visa: In a country where jingoism is at its peak and love is being politically exploited, such comments are no surprise.
I urge them to listen to the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who said: The doves that remained at home never exposed to loss innocent and secure cannot know tenderness. To the neighbour who tsk-tsked at my life choices, I would like to extend my tender invitation to a home cooked Indo-French meal. We welcome your comments at ideas. This post first appeared on Scroll.