What do you want to be when you grow up? When I was a child I remember being asked this question and my answer would always be…an actress. I did not want to be an actress for my love of the craft. Simply because I was, always have been and always will be an attention whore. I loved the idea of everyone looking at me, and wanting to know me. I wanted to be on camera all of the time because I just loved being the centre of attention so god damn much.
As I grew older, and realised that I probably was never going to be Kate Winslet (my childhood idol) I decided to go to University instead and gave up on my dream of fame. Although I had always wondered what it would be like. I got to finally find out when I went to India for the summer, and….I am so happy that I gave up on trying to be Kate Winslet!
Being a western woman in some of the less visited areas of India is very much like being a celebrity:
Everybody stares at you:
I first noticed this in Mysore, where in monsoon season me and my friend where the only westerners in the city. As we walked down the street people all stared at us, some in curiosity and some who wanted to say hello. It’s easy to see why; I think that it’s human nature to stare at what is different to you. This was not the problem, the problem was the two individuals who decided to follow us around the city in their rickshaw, they were causing no trouble, just very evidently following us around, which is annoying.
Everybody wants to know your business:
In India they are the most incredibly hospitable people that you could possibly meet and part of this is that as you walk down the street, you will constantly be stopped, have your hand shaken, and asked: What is your name? Where do you come from? Why are you traveling India? Do you like it here? Then the questions move from the mundane to…Are you married? How many children do you have? How many brothers and sisters? Do you have a boyfriend? And the very occasional question of do you want a massage? This interaction is almost always followed up by “Welcome to India”
This is obviously because these people are friendly (however, the ones asking about massages…you’re a little too friendly) and at first this is incredibly endearing, it can be nice to have someone take such interest in you and to try to understand your culture, and teach you there’s. On a good day you see it as sweet that someone wants to know about you.
But picture this – You have been in India for a few weeks and you have had this conversation hundreds of times, you have lost your friends as they are all hauled up telling someone about how many cats they have, you have eaten something dodgy and are running around desperately trying to find the toilet, someone grabs your hand and…”Hello what is your name?” NOOOOO
“I need to go, now”
“But I just want to be polite and know about you”
And now you feel bad
“But I’m in a rush I need to go, please let go of my hand”
“Are you married?”
End result you shit your pants!!
Only joking, I ran away and found a toilet, but you see how this could happen.
Everyone wants to touch you:
I have to add that this one is mainly women and children, the men there do have boundaries and are very respectful. The women however, know that it isn’t threatening if they touch you so they do and it is highly amusing! I was at the top of Chamundi hill in Mysore when a giddy woman runs over to me says something in Hindi and then starts to pinch my cheeks and pat me on the head, she then bought over her friend to do the same. This happened a few times in India, I was told that some of the people who live in small villages believe that to touch a white person is lucky as it brings them wealth.
People want you to hold their baby’s:
I love this little quirk of India, It never gets old, and it never gets annoying it is just amazing. In some parts of India this happens more often that others but people will come up to you and just hand you their baby and want a photo of it. But sometimes they just want you to carry the baby around. They want you to play with their kids and teach them English card games and one man even forced his son to play his trumpet for me.
This is so refreshing, In England kids are no longer allowed to play outside and must not talk to strangers, if you see someone who is different you are to stay away, In India they embrace you and it is so uplifting.
Everyone wants to take your photo:
Outside of Mumbai and Delhi everyone in India will want a photo of you, whether it be sneaking a cheeky snap of you on their i phone asking you to pose alongside them as their pretend girlfriend or having you in their family portrait, everyone will want to have a photo with you. Sometimes I can be in the mood for this, however one photo turns into many and you can be there for hours, posing with literally hundreds of people, one after the other.
In Aurangabad there was a hilarious family who asked if they could pose for a picture with me and my friend, we said yes, next thing you know they are yelling that we agreed and relatives are running at us from all directions one even threw a baby at someone so that it could be in the photo. The day ended with us having to get our taxi driver to act as a bodyguard and chauffeur us into our crowded vehicle.
Merchandise you touch gains value:
To be fair this only happened once but it was hilarious. We were in Aurangabad and being swarmed by people wanting to take our photo, when a lady selling bananas for 10 rupees asked if my friend could just hold the banana for the photo. Once my friend had held the banana she grabbed it back and announced that this special banana was now 100 rupees, there was a frenzy to buy it! Why, nobody knows!
What I have gained from this experience is that some aspects of being a celebrity must be great, being richer then everyone is probably nice, feeling loved by people, and having everyone care about the mundane things in your life is sweet and everyone taking photos of you can be funny – I mean I dread to think in twenty years’ time, how many Indian families are going to be looking back through their photo albums and asking “who is this white girl?” However, this stuff is nice/sweet/ amusing for a while, I could not imagine life being like that all of the time, it is fun while it lasts and everyone should go to India to experience it, but it is nice to come back home where no one gives a crap and you can walk to the corner shop in peace.