Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Taxi Driver and Foreigners

AKA: The Perception of Foreigners in India

The journey to India this time was extra-long for me. After landing in the evening at IGI, New Delhi, I had to take a train early morning to Jhansi from where I then had to take a taxi to Chhatarpur where I was supposed to meet my family for Diwali.

After landing in Jhansi a little after noon, I hired a taxi for Chhatarpur. The driver was a 22 old boy named Rahul (name changed). Rahul was reticent at first but I soon got him talking.

Rahul told me that he was illiterate.

“But I don’t let that show,” he said, “I am always able to get by without reading. For example, I can’t read the sign boards on the road. But, say you want to go to Chhatarpur. I just take note of the beginning ‘Chh’ and using that as a guide, I’m able to go all the way.”

“If you’re smart, it doesn’t matter how educated you are,” he added.

I nodded in agreement.

“I’ve lived a short life,” he continued, “but I’ve seen a lot. I’ve met people from all over the country. I’ve even met people from foreign.”

“Do a lot of foreigners come here?” I asked him.

“They come to Khajuraho,” he said, “They often land at Jhansi and take a taxi to Khajuraho.”

Then he chuckles.

“The kind of things I’ve seen …”

“Like what?” I ask him, curious now.

“One there was this gori who rented my taxi. She wanted to go to Khajuraho. Just as we started to exit Jhansi she taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘I don’t have any money on me. You can do whatever you want with me but take me to Khajuraho.’ “

“What did she mean, ‘whatever you want’?” I asked him.

“You know …” he said and then added, “These foreigners, they are weird. Who knows what kind of stuff they are into. Maybe it was a trap to loot me or something.”

“So what did you do?” I asked.

“Nothing! I just turned my car around and dropped her back at the railway station.”

He paused as he tried to negotiate around a huge bus approaching from the other side.

“Maybe she really was in trouble,” he continued, “Or maybe she had been away from home a long time and really wanted ‘it’. These foreigners need ‘it’ regularly. If it had been someone else he could have taken advantage of her. Have you ever been to Orchha?”

“No,” I said, caught by surprise at the sudden question.

“There’s this five star hotel there where my friend works. We used to go there to watch the foreigners by the pool. They keep rolling about nearly naked all day. If it were up to them, they’d be walking the streets buck naked. They have no morals.”

“Hmm,” I said, not knowing how to react.

“It’s not safe for them to go out like that. Did you hear about the gora who was murdered a few months ago?”

“No.”

“In Khajuraho. He was walking with his girlfriend. Some boys must have asked her for a kiss. She refused. They got into a fight over it and the guy was murdered. There was a huge uproar about it.”

“Of course,” I said.

“I really like my job,” he concluded, “I get to go a lot of places and meet a lot of people.”

I am sure that was the case.

2 comments:

  1. this "perception" of western women being "loose" is not confined to people of the lower classes or uneducated ones or to those who have never traveled abroad, in India. In some sense it is not entirely without justification. We certainly do have a sexual morality and culture that's at direct odds with the West. The more rational among us are able to resist the temptation to make the leap from a recognition of cultural difference to the assumption that "she must be loose and wanting it all the time". As for your taxi man' story, there are two possibilities about the woman passenger story : a) he was bluffing to make a sensational story, b) the woman was really prostituting her way out to travel, both of which are unfortunate and harmful to the safety prospects of single women travelers in India.

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  2. @kinjal: That's the fun about such voyeuristic stories, isn't it? One keeps wondering about what really must have happened!

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