• Pages

  • Dogs and women not allowed

    By Karuna Jha

    Have you ever had a chat with a colleague about a new eatery he’s discovered? Have you ever been excited to hear about delicious food at reasonable prices? Have you ever felt an urge to go there the very next day only to have your colleague point out matter-of-factly that women do not normally frequent such places?

    There are a huge number of such eateries in our country which are considered to be inappropriate, unsafe or even embarrassing for females to visit. A Catholic girl traveling next to me in a bus from Goa to Bangalore preferred to remain seated in the bus at dinnertime. She was afraid of getting down and going to the dhaba where the bus driver had organized meals (free for him in exchange for the rest of us paying). Bus passengers are usually men or married women in the company of their husbands. So there was little consideration for an unattached being traveling alone by bus when it came to choosing a place.

    I suppose she may have been scared of meeting the same fate as Sheila Dixit prognosticated for “adventurous” ladies like Soumya Vishwanathan if she stepped out in the darkness of the highway night. I did go in for curry paratha. What I got as a side dish was the usual mix of wondering and disapproving looks along with lusty stares of multiple individuals varying from fellow passengers to certain elements who always surround such eateries. Now, you may say it was at night when women are expected to be accompanied. But would it have been different during the day? I am reminded of the outskirts of Bangalore city. Outer Ring Road. Men and women in neatly pressed shirts slog 24/7 in posh glass buildings representative of India’s newly acquired prosperity. I walk 200 meters down the road towards a junction and stop at a darshini. Even prior to my entry a pair of slimy glances welcome me to the place. There is not a single woman there. Another stare from a happily chewing face. Then, one more. These looks are not directed at my clothes or my body parts. They are pure curiosity. Why does she come here? Can’t she see women are not welcome here?

    There are no written rules which prohibit women from entry anywhere in India. But it has been understood and complied with that there are places we better stay away from. If a man can savour the best of Indian cuisine just about anywhere he wants, why can’t I?


    Karuna Jha grew up in Moscow, studied German linguistics in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and worked for an international NGO before starting her career as a Marketing Executive with an IT company in Bangalore. She is highly passionate about Simone de Beauvoir, gender equality and women’s emancipation in India and worldwide.

    7 Responses

    1. Point taken, but I think this Catholic girl would have been safer in the dhaba than in the bus alone!

    2. It’s not really any better in more upmarket eateries either.

    3. […] guess all I mean to say is I care about this in India about no dogs or women allowed too, and I’m glad and proud to live in a culture with songs like […]

    4. Dear Karuna,

      I live in Bangalore too, and I travel alone a lot as part of my work. Every possible scenario you can imagine – in buses, taxis, in the backs of tempos, at night, in all kinds of locations. I have stayed alone, in (small, local) hotels in small towns in states like Jharkhand.

      There is only one way to counter the notion of eateries/public spaces de facto only meant for men, and that is to claim it for yourself, in a quiet, matter of fact way.

      Obviously, when you are one of the first few to venture in, you are going to attract some attention of the kind that is not welcome. But the more you do it, and the more women do it, the legitimacy for women to share that space becomes more recognised.

      It’s like long-distance travel alone. It’s so much more commonplace for women to travel alone now, even long distance travel, and women from so many more social classes – not just middle class women.

      Or renting a house as a single woman. Even given the still prevalent reluctance, think of how many more single women of your own acquaintance have moved into accommodation on their own (or sharing with friends) compared to ten or fifteen years ago, and you will see how much things have changed in a comparatively short time.

      My father who is retired, and lets out a couple of small flats to support himself, routinely actively seeks out single women tenants, who he swears are model tenants. This is the same man who, at the end of ’94, threatened to throw me out of the house for not falling in with his marriage plans for me, and said he would ensure that I did not get a place to live in in Bangalore (and I knew he could so easily carry out his threat – a couple of nuisance calls, and any potential landlords would have backed off.)

      There was no need for “the Catholic girl” to remain seated on the bus and starve. (By the way, what relevance does her Catholicism have, in this context? If you had said “young”, or “first time traveller”, it would have been more apposite. There were many possible responses – you could have invited her to eat with you, and assured her that it was safe, with so many people around. She could have joined one of the families – people around the world tend to be more often friendly and helpful than not. She could have requested someone to buy her a snack.

      So tell me, since one of the main purposes of stops like these is also to use whatever functional loo arrangements there are, did she not empty her bladder either?

      Let’s hope she shows a teaspoonful more gumption the next time, and the traveller sitting next to her is actively helpful. So many spaces have been claimed for so many women, compared to even a decade ago, but so many more remain to be claimed. And the only way to do it is to do it, as Mahatma Gandhi put it, to be the change that you want to see in the world.

      And 99% of the time it will work. There is of course, the chance, that 1% of the time, you will run into louts of the Sri Ram Sena variety.

      But then, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Cheers!

    5. Hi You Guys talking about equality I appreciate it. However let me let you not all men are against women’s rights. Few men will be the most rejoiced if women are considered as equal at every nuke and corner of the world.

      If you guys stay in Bangalore the why not all like minded work towards this, I am sure you guys must already be working but please make it more inclusive. I am all up for this.

      By the way on eintimation to you all, please note that on Feb 7th, we working in many companies together r organizing a peace protest against Mangalore attacks and as I don’t have your IDs please mail me at mindraneelbm@yahoo.com or call me at 9342210058.

      We need people to express their anguish vi athis peace procession.

    6. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Cliche, I suppose but quite true. It is the difference in gender, race, religion, etc. that causes us to worry. A white man can be worried to step in to a balck neighborhood. A rich man can be fearful of venturing into a poor neighborhood. Heck, a junior college student can be fearful of going to a eatery where his seniors enjoy their cup of tea!
      And by the way,I still don’t understand why people include “dogs” in their subject. Poor creatures, always get discriminated for no reason!

    7. I think the point which was trying to be made was how in our country, this discrimination against women is universally present – as in every other way – in this sense as well. I have felt it. When the discussion about K.R. Market in Bangalore came up and I was told how good the non-veg food is there, it was also qualified by a ‘oh, but you please don’t go there’. This coming from a well-educated 23-year old law student and my very good friend. I was shocked at first. But being a ‘loose, forward woman’ from a small town and used to it, I told him that I had been alone amongst 500 men at once. If there were 200 more, it really didn’t matter.

      Another sort of ‘discrimination’ if that is what you call it was when I was recently in another small city and there were two other women with me who weren’t used to the sort of hooliganism that men create in such places, by laughing loudly, staring, bumping into you deliberately etc. and they wanted to get away from there asap. It boils down creating the right kind of atmosphere so that nobody feels unwelcome but when that does not happen, women will just have to make themselves welcome, whether men like it or not.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: