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Sense of Self and Culture shock – from Mumbai with Love!

On our first day in Mumbai we ventured out to the Prithvi Theater. One on One was the play we had planned to see but the sign Tickets Available was turned to Full House right after we had asked for tickets.

I already felt uncomfortable in my knee-length skirt, wondering how I could have forgotten that all women here wear clothing that covers the full length of their legs. Tomorrow I will wear something more suitable, I thought, while trying to cover my legs with my sweater.
As we were browsing on what to do next a man in his late thirties approached my husband, who was sitting right next to me on a small bench. He was a poet, he said and if it was Okay for him to recite one of his works for him. The man completely ignored me, not even a shy glance in my direction proved that he even knew I was there – he kept his gaze completely on my husband. It made me feel silly and somewhat offended. After all, usually I am the person of the two of us with a knack for literature. The man did his thing; it was long and hard to understand and even though he seemed to lay his heart in it, his performance didn’t resonate with me. But then again, obviously it wasn’t meant for me.

Then another man approached my husband and started a chat while totally ignoring me – No glance of excuse or justification that he wasn’t including me in the conversation- I just didn’t exist!

There are a lot of things I don’t know about this Indian culture, I realized. It is intriguing and humbling too. The streets of Juhu are populated with mostly men – where are all the women? What are they doing? What kind of a life do they have? Maybe somebody who reads this can tell me that. If I had not felt that I don’t depend on other people’s acknowledgment for my Sense of Self, I could have felt ashamed, upset and insecure. Now I realized that it was just a culture shock. But I admit, it did shock me.

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