North Tour: Patna: Don’t look

Thursday, 17 March

PATNA TO NEW JALPAIGUDI: About a week ago, I watched the movie Inception with Nikolas for timepass. Its plot is too convoluted to explain here, so I’ll suffice by saying it has to do with dreams. In the characters’ dreams, the dreamee is always stared at. In the dreams, everyone is always looking.

I haven’t slept well on this tour, but I’m pretty sure I was awake at the Patna Railway station today.

I was reminded of Inception as our cars arrived at the station this afternoon, an hour after our train was supposed to have departed, but about four before it would actually leave. We had plenty of time to stand and do nothing.

So apparently, did dozens of other men in the parking lot.

We’d been standing outside our cars for about ten seconds when a crowd assembled around us. It wasn’t the Hollywood kind of crowd, where photographers and autograph seekers rush towards an opening limousine door and ask celebrities frantic questions. The rush was more a wide-eyed stroll. The speech was in low Hindi undertones, not high, exuberant English. But the Biharis may as well have just seen a celebrity – the excitement at seeing us was just the same. We were surrounded in a wide circle, anticipative wide-open eyes shamelessly looking us up and down from every direction.

Of the 13 students in our tour group, ten are teenage girls. Fair and lovely foreign girls do not mix well with horny Indian men.

Living in India for the last few months has done wonders for my body language. Whereas in America I’d slump, an unconscious attempt to conceal my height, here slumping does nothing to make me stand out any less. I guess I’m also more intimidating at my full height. While our group waits in crowded areas, Jordan and I often stand on the edge of it facing outwards, our chests puffed out and our arms tightly crossed. We’re willing and ready to glare down any Indian men. If men feel the urge to stare at members of our group, they usually suppress it when they catch our eyes. Our looks tend not to be friendly ones.

I suppose in a state like Bihar that seems so disconnected with the rest of the world, I can sympathize with wide-eyed wonder at the sight of white skin. The infrastructure is atrocious here, so even sites like the place where Buddha attained enlightenment and the beautiful surrounding complex don’t attract as many foreign visitors as they aught to. It’s a shame Bihar isn’t more tourist-friendly, because the lack of exposure to the outside world is exactly why we get the attention we receive here.

We’re on a train again. We’re moving on. Life is good.

We have each other’s backs.



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One Response to “North Tour: Patna: Don’t look”

  1. Frances Harris Says:

    I swear, Chris, every one of your posts leaves me with goose bumps. I don’t comment often, but know that I’m a reader and that this is what your words do.

    Thank you.

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