Saturday, July 18, 2009



Diu Island

We decide to spend the week-end on Diu Island, in the South of Gujarat on the Arabian Sea. The midnight bus arrives at one o'clock at the stop on Satellite road, where I dropped some stuff at Siddhart's place and packed a toothbrush . The trip to Diu, including train then coach, will take eleven hours.

We book a hotel room with eight beds which we negociate for Rs700 instead of the announced Rs2,000. That's Rs100 each. Once settled in the room, various members of the staff bring us mineral water, tea, some biscuits and individual portions of soap and shampoo.

we meet Juliette as we hit Diu Island after a fifteen kilometre rickshaw ride. She's a French film maker who is travelling alone in India, like me. We go to the beach where Juliette and I go for a swim while my six Gujarati pals are getting drunk on beer further up the beach. Diu is the only place in Gujarat where alcohol can be purchased and drunk legally (a small fee paid to a police officer is often required to be able to drink on the beach).

Indians seem to be fascinated by whiteness. One could take it for a kind of positive racism at first look, except that they don't associate "being white" with certain behavioural attributes or moral values, but more simply seem to find white skin beautiful. Some cosmetics are available to give a fairer skin, and fair skinned Indian ladies have often been described to me as the most beautiful. I also witnessed people buying posters of white babies, which are found is some auto rickshaws in place of the usual Bollywood stars. When I asked the reason behind the purchase of such posters to a 50 something year-old guy in suit and tie, I'm told that it's for a friend whose wife is expecting a baby. The gift will bring luck upon the baby's birth. Those posters don't seem to exist with Indian babies on them as well.

Poster associating whiteness with purity, in a typical Indian English ("He who has a pure mind sees everything pure"). Quick one about Indian English: They often say "also" twice, at the beginning AND the end of a sentence ; Also, they tend to use "as far as (blank) is concerned" rather often also.

On Diu Island, I experienced an unexpected side of this fascination for whiteness. Drying ourselves on the beach after the swim, a few Indian men approach us to ask the usual questions (which coutry? Do you like India? etc.) and are quickly joined by some other guys. We end up being stared at by a small crowd standing in semi-circle right in front of us. However, most of them don't seem to be here to communicate with us and they start taking pictures. Then some of them join us for a few seconds, the time for their friend to take a snap, before returning to position. Getting rather impatient, I struggle to find someone among them who speaks a little English, asking him what this is all about. He replies that people from here are not used to seeing white people. Diu is a rather touristy place though... As people keep on taking pictures of us in our swimsuits, I raise the voice. And the silent and oppressing crowd just stands there, not moving an inch. We start putting our clothes back on. In a few seconds, coming out of nowhere, two police guys come to beat up the pervy Indians! Loud slaps, stick beating and yelling by the angry policemen. We wonder if we're gonna get yelled at too, but they explain to us nicely that they're here for our protection and that the crowd there was full of known rapists and other perverts who use pictures of white women to put on dodgy websites! My friend Dilip Singh shows up. The police tells him that he should never have left us alone, the place being dangerous, especially for tourists. Some men try to make their way back to us, and get yet another beating by the policemen. An old skinny man seem to be quite smashed on booze as he comes back for more a few times. We pack our stuff and leave in a rush for some quieter beach, near Sunset Point.

On Diu Island we've witnessed that Indian mentality and consumption of alcohol doesn't mix well. The danger is real for white women travelling alone in India, as for many uneducated men with little knowledge about the world outside of India, white women actually want to be approached. Which shows by their provocative ways and habits (cigarette smoking, drinking, Western clothes). Some stories are being told about white women actually wanting to have sexual intercourses with Indian men, such services being expected from their driver or guide for instance. Some of it might be true, and having heard those stories at a young age, they will not hesitate to try their luck by harassing 100 women, thinking that it could work with 5 of them. Throw in the frustration that a traditional society can create, where women and men are not suppose to mingle, some illegal hooch, and you understand why women should be careful when it comes to Indian men.

My friends are all Rajashtani and Dilip Singh, Kan Singh and Denish come from Jaisalmer, in the West, close to the Pakistani border. Next stop after two more days in Ahmedabad: Jaisalmer.

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