I’ve spent this summer travelling overseas, and India was my last and most exciting stop.
Something I found interesting is the adjustment one makes when in a new country. I’ve spent less than one week in India, and have already adjusted to the amazing culture, the cost of living, the language and, in particular, the clothing.
Before arriving, I read blogs about what to wear as a woman in India. I packed as light as possible with a mixture of work clothes and ‘I’m not a tourist’ clothes, anything other than black, to not attract the persistent mosquitoes.
Everything in the blogs were right. Despite how hot and humid it may be, I have worn long pants every day; an adjustment to fit in, to not attract as much attention to myself and to not be stared at by the males I walk past.
It’s obvious that I am a tourist and female, and that already attracts enough unwanted attention as it is. My usual pre-work routine of getting ready for the day has changed to adapt to this. No need to do your hair every morning because that attracts even more unwanted male attention. Have you heard of the ‘look good, feel good’ motto? Well, that does not exist here for me, because as I walk the streets of Mumbai to reach the train station every morning, I feel the eyes on me. The eyes of the men outside my hostel, the eyes of the police standing along the street, the eyes of men lurking. It makes me feel unsafe and vulnerable, so I do my best to limit the attention I’m receiving by covering up and dialling it back.
At this rate, despite working an internship, I want not to look dressed up for my safety and well-being. It’s my skin colour, my eyes, my hair colour. Change all that to make me not look like a foreigner/tourist, and maybe I could get away with wearing a knee-length skirt. It’s the reality that most female tourists will face and something you have to adjust to.
It’s what makes India, India. It is the culture and the religion as to why it is normal for women to wear fully covered clothing. It is why the eyes watch you as they do.
Call me acclimatisation queen because I’m now used to long-sleeve tops and long pants in 30-degree heat for the sake of one less pair of eyes.