Friday, April 27, 2007

The man from Melbourne.

He began by asking for directions.

So many of them do that, that I almost didn't bother to turn my head towards the voice. And yet, it is not a nice thing not to give somebody directions, even if they are strangers, male, and even if it getting dark and you're walking alone.

So, I stopped when he said, 'Excuse me, do you know this area?'

'Yes. This is Lajpat Nagar' and I walked on.

He fell into step beside me.

'And where does this road go?'

'Lajpatnagar market in this direction, and if you go in that direction, there's Jangpura.'

Yet, he did not leave my side.

'And so... do you live in this area?'

I sighed. Any moment now, he would want to 'make friendship'.

'No.'

'So... do you live in Delhi.'

My first instinct was to turn on him, tell him to get lost, not to follow me, yell at him. But one corner of my mind was asking me not to. Yelling would only confirm fear. Besides, perhaps, yelling was not called for. Relax, you can handle this. R.e.l.a.x.

Walking at a regular pace, I quickly swept the lane with a glance - some shops still open; some people still around.

He spoke again. 'So... where are you from?'

'Here.'

'Oh? I live in Australia.'

I suddenly wanted to laugh (but didn't). He was speaking in English, with an accent that bordered on American. The sort of accent I've heard often in Jaisalmer, mostly in the mouths of waiters who work in hotels frequented by American tourists. What did he hope to achieve by telling me where he lived, anyway?

'In Melbourne,' he offered.

I didn't say anything.

'So...where are you from?'

'Here.'

'Where are you going right now?'

'Home.'

No need to be rude. Just say 'no' nicely, if he asks.

And he asked. 'Would you like to be friends?'

Well, at least, it wasn't 'I want to make friendship'.

'No.'

'No?'

'No.'

He kept walking beside me. Still, I told myself, there was nothing to be afraid of.

He said, 'But I want to be friends... I like your hair.'

And I couldn't resist saying, 'You choose your friends on the basis of hair?'

'Er, no. I mean, I like everything about you... your walk. Your looks.'

The accent had dropped off entirely by now. I've would've asked him his exact street address and phone number in Melbourne, but this was not the time. There were no rickshaws or autos in sight and I was beginning to worry.

'Do you work here?' he persisted.

'Yes.'

'Where are you going?'

Silence.

'Can I walk with you?'

'No.'

Still, he continued to walk with me. And still no rickshaws to be seen.

'Why you don't want to be friends?'

Silence.

The last few shops were downing shutters. The street was deserted.

'Can I have your phone number?'

'No.'

Just when I thought there was no alternative to fury and bitter words, an auto appeared. And the man from Melbourne, melted away.

12 comments:

John said...

Hi Annie,

Another one of your auto episodes. Having walked in Delhi after dark I know how scary it can get.

Bombay seems much safer, at least there are people around till midnight.

Keep writing!

J

Nabila Zehra Zaidi said...

wonderful post...loved reading it....

Sigh...that is all I can say for a situation like this...it just happens so often all the time... and yes you just want to scream yell and probably push them hard enough to throw them in a big ditch...huh...

BLogographos said...

lovely narrative.

Fire Fly said...

Until I read this comment I never realised why I kept getting approached by South Asian men in Sydney. I always assumed it was a desperate need for contact brought on by the isolation that migrating produces. I never considered that maybe it was a carry-over of the "eve teasing" that goes on within South Asia...
At least the South Asian men in Australia seem to be polite, if annoyingly persistent.

Mutant said...

Under the circumstances, you showed amazing restraint.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

I wonder if having some proper places for singles to meet (and a host culture that is okay with singles, especially single girls meeting guys) would help reduce this kind of stuff.

regards,
Jai

Me said...

Indian roads are so unsafe, or make you feel so - not without reason. And like in your instance, traffic has nothing to do with it.

saraldutt said...

You write well.

annie said...

john: this wasn't an auto episode really. this was a lack-of-auto episode.
nabila: in lonely places, no punching. only running.
firefly: some of the men here are polite too. but their persistence is so annoying, and even scary, that politeness is of little consequence.
jai: i think it would make a difference.
mutant: i practice that restraint. it doesn't come easy.

blogographos, saraldutt: thanks

gaddeswarup said...

It was not me. I lived in Delhi for four years and now live in Melbourne. I visited Delhi a couple of years ago and the only one I met after midnight was a male journalist near a tea shop in Katwaria Sarai not too far from Lajpat Nagar, I think. If I visit Delhi again, it would be nice to meet you. If you come to Melbourne, pl. let me know.

Shantanu said...

Delhi can be scary! I know my wife enjoys the relative safety of Pune since we moved here a few years back.

sakthi said...

Wonderfully narrated story!!!Everyday i'll leave my office after 11.30pm,on the way to my home there is no street lights.. But you can find lot of street dogs with glittering eyes..Everyday at least 2-3 people ask me for lift,I'd some bitter experience with people who i given lift(probably most of them are drunken)..Its very adventures 6km travel everyday for me...
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