Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life in Trivandrum and the others....




Disclaimer - I have nothing against Trivandrum. Nor do I have anything against men. Its just the combination that I have a problem with. I know that it is unfair to generalize. But whatever I say here, is based on my personal experience. And guess what, I get to say what I want right? After all, it is MY blog! ;) So pls don;t write in to say how great Trivandrum men are. I'm really not interested in knowing it.




I was working in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. For the benefit of those who don't know much about Trivandrum, it is the southern most district in Kerala, and has the most regressive, perverted men. Now, this is not to say that ALL men in Trivandrum are like that. I repeat, not ALL are the same. But a vast majority is. I live in Cochin, has been to Kottayam, Calicut, Kannur and Trichur and found the male folk to be a lot better. In Trivandrum, me and my friends have been through many unpleasant experiences. There were many girls who worked at Technopark and came back late. They used to get dropped at a stop next to the hostel. And the walk back was scary, and scarier cuz the area was known for prostitution. So a woman walking down alone at night always called for unwanted attention. Then again, many a times I have seen men on their bikes with their wives riding pillion, checking out women. Checking out is very pleasant way of putting it! Ridiculous I say!!! Same thing at the restaurants. They will be with their families, but that will never stop them from staring shamelessly at every girl who walks by. I wonder how their wives take it.




And there was condom machine right next to our hostel. I remember one of my friends telling us about it, and all of us being really curious and making that trip to the "petti kada" next to the machine, just to take a look at it. Or every time we passed that road, we used to crane our necks to take a look at it. C'mon, when did conservative Kerala become so progressive and open- minded? And many a times when me and my friends had gone to watch movies in the theatres, we have seen prostitutes ( I don't know if its politically correct to use this. I think sex worker is a more politically correct term) with their... err.. clients... Now, it may be my over imagination. But what they did in theatre (I'm not going to be descriptive here. I will leave it to ur imagination) din't let me think about it any other way. In almost all the cases the women looked older than the men, but not old enough to be their mothers. Cud be an elder sister, or a friend. But nobody behaves this way with sisters or friends. And the women were all too eager to please. So I couldn't think about it any other way.



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It was the International Movie Festival time in Trivandrum and I was desperate to catch it. I had never been to an Int Movie Fest. While I was in Chennai, I got many opportunities to catch foreign movies, but I just couldn't make it. I knew I din't want to miss it cuz 1) I love movies. 2) I have heard that foreign language movies have a great quality. 3) This is really subjective. But i do think there is smthg exotic about watching a movie in a foreign language. 4) My then boss( who is a movie buff himself) made it sound like I will be missing in life if I don't catch it. We used to have discussions on movies and he knows about my love for movies. So it was mostly under his persuasion that I went and got the pass. I talked another friend into it and got a pass for her too. Now the hitch. I used to work from 9.30am-6.30 pm. I had to report back to the hostel at 7.30pm. How would I manage? It is not too difficult to cook up a lie and catch a night show. But,there was no one to pick us and drop us back to the hostel. Come to think of it, there were people willing to do that favour. But lets says, I din't want to depend on anyone. Trivandrum is not just unsafe, but scary as well for women. So all we could do was to catch the show on sunday. So me and my friend decided to make the most of the sunday and watch 3 movies back to back. Phew! Such committed movie-goers we are.





Me and my friend M studied the movie list and I did a bit of researching online and we zeroed in (many movies are played simulataneously in different theatres) on this movie called "Whispering of the Gods". My research told me that it is a controversial movie on the happenings in church. I was extremely interested. This is the kind of movie I would love to watch any day. And my over-enthusiastic brain failed to read too much into the word "Controversial". Once we got into the theatre, we saw that there were just two of us girls, rest all were men. We din't think too much about it, cuz women in Trivandrum din't step out much anyways. So we set to watch the movie. The movie began with a steamy scene (this is an understatement.I don't know what better word to use. And even if I know, m not using it cuz my family is reading it) and that did make us both very uncomfortable. But we acted totally cool. U see, we are educated, liberated women and we should be totally okay with a scene like this. And we are true movie lovers and we should be able to appreciate every scene in a movie. And honestly,I think I would have been okay with it if I weren't surrounded by men. That too in THRIVENTHRAM ( as pronounced by my Oriya friend M. And she says "Parrram pori" for "pazham pori". But thats another story)But then we let it pass. I thought it was just ONE imperative scene in the movie very crucial to the plot. But fifteen minutes into the movie, I was almost sure that it was a porn movie. But I was still hopeful that there will be a twist and things are going to be better. But half and hour into the movie, I lost hope. I started squirming in my seat, scanning at the audience, trying to gauge their reaction, but not daring to make eye contact with them. I wanted to run. And we did consider it. But we realised that we would end up attracting more attention. To truly understand my plight, you should understand the cultural context. Now I started wondering if this was the reason why only men made it to the theatre. I din't even spot any female journos. Why din't my research let me in on this info. Cuz I suck at research?? Yeah! Anyways, we sat through the movie somehow and was relieved when it was over. We were too embarrassed to step out and I behaved like I was talking to my shoes ( looking at my feet and refusing to make eye contact with anyone), carelessly ( very carefully actually) covered my face with my messy (on purpose) hair and got out of the theatre unscathed. I remember texting my friend N ( not the one I mentioned in the previous post) about it and she texted back asking if there were subtitles. I think her hubby wanted to know it. :P




Anywyas, I go to work next day and meet a very embarrassed looking boss. I act normal.. cuz I was feeling normal. After discussing this and that for a while he asks me

"Did u watch any of the movies yesterday".

Me - Yes

Boss - Did u watch "Whispering of the Gods"


Me - Yes ( I din't let my Yes give out anything more)
Boss - How was it?

Me - (Now I'm totally confused. I din't know how to answer that qstn without feeling embarrassed. But I keep a straight face and said) It was a rated movie.

Boss - What? (Smtimes he doesn't hear what I say. So I gotta repeat. So m hoping it was same in this case too)

Me - It was a rated movie

Boss- (after a short silence) I was there too. (And immediately added)But i dint sit thru the complete movie.


Yeah rite!!!!, I thought!

I almost choked on my laughter. So that is what it was. He saw me at the theatre and was embarrassed about it. If I had probably lied and told him that I din't have gone to movie, he would have kept quiet about it too. But now that I told him the truth, he was forced to make that confession :D





15 comments:

AWomanFromKerala said...

You have ripped the fascade of the 'empowered women in Kerala' in this post exposing the harsh realities that women in Kerala have to face. Being a literate and an educated woman makes the oppression even more difficult to bear.

An Open Book said...

As for that matter which part of Kerala is not what you described here mols?
I agree TVM is harsh and i know it very well because i was born and brought up there. Men pass comments wherever and whenever and its horrible to be on the receiving end. Strangely though this time i felt it had reduced a whole lot. Walked around in a sleeveless salwar and wasnt harassed :)
But you know what completely pissed me off, this time in Kottayam i was walking down the main road (yes there is only one main road) and in a salwar with a dupatta and the works and girls..women...were passing snide comments...snide as in i dont even want to mention what they were saying, but it made my skin crawl and i went back home almost in tears at having to go through something like that...Imagine women doing that to women...
So can we really blame the men alone?

Shades of Grey said...

I agree that Trivandrum can at times seem really creepy - but that only seems so because there isn't a cosmopolitan culture like Ernakulam which comes by default considering it is a port/harbour and is influenced by various cultures over the centuries. As a result, EKM has a more varied night life - more people and lights on the streets and it is less likely that the creeps will try anything. But TVM's darker, quiet disposition makes the men seem more demonic - though they may not be. I don't see much difference between Trivandrum, Salem, Coimbatore, Ooty, Hyderabad and yes, even Bangalore when it comes to the Indian men - I have at some point in these past 10 years felt threatened by them in all these cities. When I was two minutes away from my hostel in Chennai, this teenage boy, not man but BOY, tried to make a grab at me while whizzing past on his cycle. Lucky for me I saw him put his hand out and he only managed to graze my upper arm. I was really upset about it for days - but it is still better I suppose than men trying to expose themselves to you or follow you down a dark street.

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Anti-Theta said...

Brickbats

Well...hellow there Ms.Tequila. I'm one of those 'Trivandrum Males' characterized in this post. I mean you said, "not all" but there was no Hero in your story. Everyone of those males were villains.

Epilogue:
The city treatin' you bad?..awww Ms. Tequila :hug:

scorpiogenius said...

I see two things:

#1. You've come to Trivandrum after hearing quite a bit about the famed/infamed Trivandrum stereotype and surely did have pre-conceived notions.
#2. the same old principle that if you look at a stereotype the way you want it to see, you eventually see it as you want even though its almost the opposite the fact is. (This is not my verse)

I'm sick n tired of hearing all accusations against mallu men while being in ~Mangalore/Bangalore. Mallu in the sense all-Kerala males... In Kerala it just transforms to each part of the state depending on where you are. And haven't you heard the prototype of mallu women outside Kerala? Kottayam is a pretty famed place outside for the wrong reasons. And if you bring such a prejudiced man to Kottayam he'd feel that all the women around him are whores. Thats the power of stereotypes.

I'm not going to argue because I can't turn my eyes to the disgusting ogling behaviour ehhibited by my state-men, not just Tvm mates. We have a long way to go before we're ready to be called ' civilised' in behaviour towards the fairer sex, but nodding to stereotypes~? naaaaah! :)

Lex said...

i liked this post sooo much and also the train journey.... Its really funny deee.... keep writing some real happening like this, it is interesting...

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Anonymous said...

Trivandrum vannittu ivide ullavare kuttam parayunnoda alavalathi ......

Anonymous said...

Wtf??? !!! Ur so called progressive open minded. Shit talk ..... Wtf ....Lady ...u urself is a disgrace ..quantifying humans and society ...make u a racist ..back from olden ages ..and living with in new age like all other f#@$ just live and get along ...this is ur blog ...right ..hmmm what a society ....dumb shits reading f#@$ books and listening to news and making it up in their mind and ass and bluffing something here and there ...f@#$ uuuu.....if u r really up to it in what u believe or believed .then just live ur life like its a gift given to u by the one ..and don't classify anything ...or if u feel ur something in so called society then do whatever u want right blog , kill people , " petti kadayil pokham" ...mmm

Vishnumaya V Nair said...

the authoress (do u still remember this word) of the blog when she was a kid (or is it really a girl) - whatever -when he/she was a kiddo was dumb; hope he/she has grown up to realize that there are good and bad men all over the world..just like there are good and bad woman...for example, the same authoress could be bad today, who knows !! never try to spoil your own country ....if you cannot change something, just remain silent and go on on your selfish ways...

Marsbella said...

Foreign woman in Trivandrum,apart from the money hungry porters at the airport ,I have always been treated with respect and never felt unsafe as I did in Delhi. I didn't see any ogling men and everyone kept their hands to themselves,unlike in Delhi where you have to walk with arms crossed to avoid groping.I guess if you go to a porno flick you can expect to find men with fantasies.They use movie theatres perhaps because India being such a conservative culture leaves people with few options. I doubt this is exclusively a Trivandrum issue.However,now I understand why my friend didn't want to take me to the theatre.I went out for coffee with my two male friends as my flight arrived late,the only thing open was a greasy coffee shop with dirt covered waiters. Even there I didn't feel I was ogled. Saw a young girl and her boyfriend walking down the street with the shortest mini skirt I have ever seen,I think I was more shocked than the locals who didn't even notice her.