A bus ride in Shanghai.
It was late in the evening and the bus was amazingly crowded, but I got in nevertheless. There was hardly any space and it was difficult not to step onto each other’s toes. While standing there, trying to balance myself in the midst of a lot of local Chinese; it struck me how I would never be able to travel in as crowded a bus in India with such ease. Earlier in the evening, I had read about the stripping incident in Patna in broad daylight. A 2006 report by the National Crime Records Bureau said in India a woman is raped every half hour and is killed every 75 minutes. And considering that only one in 10 rape cases get reported, the actual statistics would be mind numbing. Also, almost every woman in India would have experienced some form of leching, eve teasing, etc. When I pointed out to a friend that Chinese men don’t even look, forget staring, leching, eve teasing, bottom pinching, etc; he said it may be because they are careful when dealing with foreigners. This led me to discuss this with a few of my local Chinese female friends who also confirmed that they have never felt a man stare at them or try to misbehave while walking on the road or using public transport. This is in fact one of the cities wherein a woman feels safe unescorted even at 3 am. Another friend jokingly speculated on the testosterone levels of the Chinese males. I dismissed this logic immediately as to me the reason for the Chinese men being so well behaved and decent is largely attributed to the fact that there is more respect for women; percentage of working women much higher compared to India and the society here is more open in terms of acceptance of women as equals.There is an equal amount of pride in culture , civilization & ways of the past. However there are no taboos on sex, sleaze & porn. There is also a certain degree of openness about sex and u wont find too many people gawping when couples snuggle in the open. Nor will you find too many self proclaimed guardians of moral values of society who abhor ‘promiscuity’ of any kind and are a law unto themselves.
And this brings me back to the experience of my firang friends in India; most non-Indian women friends of mine have shared with me how they feel unsafe to walk on the road in one of the supposedly safest cities of India, Bombay. In fact, in India tourists are often soft targets. So while I enjoy the bus rides here, I wait for a day when I can board a bus anywhere in India without hesitation!
Busna Ae Haseeno!July 29, 2009
A bus ride in Shanghai.