Ask me about India

india travel
india travel

When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in India, I always face the same dilemma. How does one convey the contradiction that over the past few months has torn my life apart, and convey it in a single succinct sentence?

“India was wonderful,” I go with, “but extremely dangerous for women.” Part of me dreads the follow-up questions, and part of me hopes for more. I’m torn between believing in the efficacy of truth, and being wary of how much truth people want.

Because, how do I describe my three months in the University of Chicago Indian civilizations program when it was half dream, half nightmare? Which half do I give

Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move?

Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?

When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for forty-five minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?

Do I describe the lovely hotel in Goa when my strongest memory of it was lying hunched in a fetal position, holding a pair of scissors with the door bolted shut, while the staff member of the hotel who had tried to rape my roommate called me over and over, and breathing into the phone?

How, I ask, was I supposed to tell these stories at a Christmas party? But how could I talk about anything else when the image of the smiling man who masturbated at me on a bus was more real to me than my friends, my family, or our Christmas tree? All those nice people were asking the questions that demanded answers for which they just weren’t prepared.

When I went to India, nearly a year ago, I thought I was prepared. I had been to India before; I was a South Asian Studies major; I spoke some Hindi. I knew that as a white woman I would be seen as a promiscuous being and a sexual prize. I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets. And I was prepared for the curiosity my red hair, fair skin and blue eyes would arouse.

But I wasn’t prepared.

There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. Walking to the fruit seller’s or the tailer’s I got stares so sharp that they sliced away bits of me piece by piece. I was prepared for my actions to be taken as sex signals; I was not prepared to understand that there were no sex signals, only women’s bodies to be taken, or hidden away.

I covered up, but I did not hide. And so I was taken, by eye after eye, picture after picture. Who knows how many photos there are of me in India, or on the internet: photos of me walking, cursing, flipping people off. Who knows how many strangers have used my image as pornography, and those of my friends. I deleted my fair share, but it was a drop in the ocean– I had no chance of taking back everything they took

For three months I lived this way, in a traveler’s heaven and a woman’s hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning. Back home Christmas red seemed faded after vermillion, and food tasted spiceless and bland. Friends, and family, and classes, and therapy, and everything at all was so much less real than the pain, the rage that was coursing through my blood, screaming so loud it deafened me to all other sounds. And after months of elation at living in freedom, months of running from the memories breathing down my neck, I woke up on April Fool’s Day and found I wanted to be dead.

The student counselors diagnosed me with a personality disorder and prescribed me pills I wouldn’t take. After a public breakdown I ended up in a psych ward for two days held against my will, and was released on the condition that I took a “mental leave of absence” from school and went to live with my mother. I thought I had lost my mind; I didn’t connect any of it to India– I had moved on. But then a therapist diagnosed me with PTSD and I realized I hadn’t moved a single inch. I had frozen in time. And I’d fallen. And I’d shattered.

But I wasn’t the only one, the only woman from my trip to be diagnosed with PTSD, to be forced into a psych ward, to wake up wanting to be dead. And I am not the only woman who is on a mental leave of absence from the University of Chicago for reasons of sexual assault and is unable to take classes.

Understanding my pain has helped me own it, if not relieve it. PTSD strikes me as a euphemism, because a syndrome implies a cure. What, may I ask, is the cure for seeing reality, of feeling for three months what its like for one’s humanity to be taken away? But I thank God for my experiences in India, and for my disillusionment. Truth is a gift, a burden, and a responsibility. And I mean to share it.

This is the story you don’t want to hear when you ask me about India. But this is the story you need.

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Budget cuts hit Randolph Community College

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ASHEBORO, N.C. — The President of Randolph Community College says he’s changing his tune when it comes to asking state legislators for money.

Dr. Bob Shackleford believes it’s time for leaders to recognize community colleges as an investment the state needs to fund instead of just another group asking for money.

“Every year we’re told there’s more budget cuts, more budget cuts. We’ve always been able to kind of suck it up and keep on,” explained Dr. Shackleford. “But we’re now past the point of just being able to tighten the belt. It’s at the point now that it’s going to impact jobs, programs, students.”

RCC will be cutting courses, eliminating at least one program and phasing out some full-time positions in order to meet nearly a million dollar budget reduction this year.

Community Colleges across the state will face budget cuts, party because enrollment has decreased or leveled out since…

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Second Child Comes Forward With Abuse Allegations Against S.I. Camp Counselor


CBS New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Another child has made accusations of sexual abuse against a Staten Island camp counselor, according to authorities.

Endrick Torres, 33, of Queens, allegedly abused the second girl between July and August, The Staten Island Advance reported on Monday.

Torres allegedly targeted a young girl who tended to get cold during trips to a movie theater, according to a published report. The girl would bring a blanket with her to stay warm and Torres would place his hands underneath the blanket to molest her, the report said.

The girl initially opened up to her sister about the alleged abuse and then her mother after reports of Torres’ arrest landed in the media, The paper said.

On Monday, Torres was charged with two counts each of sex abuse, forcible touching, and endangering the welfare of a child, according to authorities.

Earlier this month Torres was charged with sexual…

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