By Vartika Savarna
Returning from a hard day at college, my sole aim on returning to the hostel was to have a full meal and get a sound sleep but something happened in the hostel mess as a result of which here I am sitting in my room , writing this article, my much needed sleep all forgotten.
As I sat down with my plate I noticed a fresher staring at me. It sort of made me conscious but pushing aside that thought I focused all my attention to my food. After a while my friend pointed out to me that the girl was still staring at me in return of which another friend of mine stated a simple point of fact “Indians have the tendency to stare”. Well if we look at it in a way every human has the tendency to stare but I will be narrowing down my subject from the entire human race to the one group I understand better than others – Indians.
The most “known” sort of staring, that of a man staring at a girl is now termed as a form of eve-teasing, but what do we call it when you’re travelling by a metro and a whole group of “Aunti-yan” keep goggling throughout the journey or when you enter a sweets confectionery and a kid stares at you. Why, it will be gender biased if I say only girls/women get stared at, even men here in our country aren’t spared of what I would call the daily business of most.
So is it true, are Indians simply nosy or there is some deep psychological reason which could probably explain why a show like Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi ran for 8 straight years or why we just can’t sit and watch a movie that does not have spontaneous and well synced dance in the middle of the road.
Well the answer to this question will indeed be a well debated topic of discussion but what this actually reminds me of is the cultural diversity of this nation. At times I feel the urge to stare comes from the fact that we live in a multi-cultured nation. People every few kilometres dress differently, talk differently maybe even look differently.
Different to most equals weird. Weird demands attention and hence the staring. Maybe this explains why the south Indians get stared at in Punjab or why the north-easterns get stared at almost everywhere. A saree clad woman in Goa would probably receive a similar reaction. Being different in a crowd does indeed invite too many stares. While I think of Indians getting goggled at in India, I actually shudder when I think of what a foreign tourist feels like. Most of them come to this great nation to see the great sights we have to offer but the greatest experience each one of them probably gets is the “staring”. I remember reading an article by an African tourist who says “the continuous staring of a six-year old on a bus journey psyched her out”.
They say Spaniards stare as much but getting stared at in Spain is said to be a compliment. Men and women there who get that look just smile back and wave. I read an account of a tourist visiting India where she tried to smile and wave back at the people staring at her, which to her horrific disbelief totally backfired. This made me wonder, do Indians take this a step too far? Well of course people stare but to make this a bad experience for someone simply because they are different by your standards is like slapping an ostrich for being flightless.
But diversity alone of course does not explain it. A man will certainly become the centre of attention if he “dresses up too much”. I know from personal experience how the older lot specially the women stare at us, young girls for wearing “obnoxious” clothes. For a country that boasts of a new coming-to-age era such double standards do not give a very good impression to the world. I fail to understand how one dresses should be anybody else’s business but then this “happens only in India”.
I remember I had a neighbour back at home who so reminded me of Aunt Petunia ( the famous Harry Potter’s aunt). She had her head hooked at her kitchen window. She would keep staring at anyone who passed by her window but her special evening hours went to staring at another of my neighbour who would water her flowers every evening. We would later hear Aunt Petunia passing all sorts of judgement based on it, though that never stopped her from buying a similar evening dress as her beloved subject of criticism.
So is it competition that makes people stare? Is it the desire to own a BMW or aVero Moda that makes Indians stare incessantly? Or maybe some simply find flaws in others for self-satisfaction? Or maybe some simply think others might find this flattering ? Or maybe some are trying to grasp attention? Or maybe some are just so used to staring that they don’t even realise that they are.
Surprising it may sound but in most cases its true. But whatever may be the reason, whatever silly little reasons one gives themselves to justify their actions the one thing that yet remains to be realised that you could be the one staring and creeping someone out this moment but you might find yourself at the receiving end of it the next day.
So beware “starers” for the science of staring is yet to be explored and unless you’re careful you might be its next victim.