Harassment in Temples: Is anywhere sacred? 106


The abundance of Hindu temples is something I love about India. A temple is always only a stone throw away. Lately, I have been regularly visiting a couple of temples around the city. Gazing up at the various deities gives me a profound feeling of peace, contentment and really soothes my soul. I feel connected and have a silent, one to one conversation with God whilst looking into the eyes of the divinely beautiful and beloved deities.

I take off my shoes, touch the entrance of the temple and hold it to my heart, ring the big brass bell hanging over the door and put my hands together as I look up at the Gods and Goddesses who dwell there. I then sit down and silently pray and reflect. I have had some struggles since moving to India and regularly visiting temples has really lifted my spirits and kept me grounded. When I leave I feel refreshed and as light as a feather, I feel at peace. 

Each God or Goddess evokes a different feeling within me. I feel inner strength when I connect with Goddess Durga, Lord Hanuman overwhelms me with devotion, Lord Ganesha assures me the future is bright and Lord Krishna fills my heart with love. This is something I love about Hinduism, you can see and feel every aspect of Gods personality through the thousands of deities, a bit like a tailor made spiritual experience.

Worshipers visit the temple to connect with God and so whilst I am there I get little or no attention for being a foreigner, this is such a relief. People may look for a second but they then go straight back to their own worship as I continue with mine. I feel safe, normal and at peace.

Unfortunately, after weeks of worshiping without a problem, I was disturbed and the sacred atmosphere of the temple for other worshipers compromised. I was sat praying and without seeing him coming, a middle aged man was standing over me. This is what happened:

‘What are you doing here?’
‘I am waiting for my husband’ (the best response when a man is standing over you)
‘Where is your husband?’
‘On his way’ (go away now please)
‘Why are you here, I wondered why a foreigner is sat on her own?’
‘Because I am’ (I try to show that I am trying to worship by closing my eyes, even though it should have been pretty obvious)
‘Give me your phone number’
‘I don’t have a phone’ (sudden pang of guilt for lying in a temple, but I just want him to go away)
‘Where is your husband?’
‘He is on his way’ (haven’t I answered this question?)
‘Where do you live ?’
‘Nagpur’ (oh gosh, he is going to want to know exactly where I live isn’t he)
‘Where?’
‘Nagpur’ (Drop it and leave me alone)
‘But where?’
‘Ravi Nagar’ (The first random place in Nagpur I could think of)
‘Can I have a phone number’
‘I don’t have a phone’ (haven’t we been though this???? You have made me lie for a third time, please go away)
‘Are you married?’
‘Yes. I am waiting for my husband’ (we have already established I have a husband and he is on his way)
‘Where is your husband?’
‘He is coming here now’ (and I wish he would hurry up!!)
‘What does your husband do?’
‘He is an engineer’
‘Where does he work’
‘I don’t know’ (I lied again, oh gosh this is so uncomfortable and everyone has started to look at me)
‘You are married?’
‘Yes, I am waiting for my husband’ (isn’t the fact I am wearing sindoor and waiting for my husband enough for you to realise?)
‘Where is your husband from?’
‘Nagpur’
‘Anything else?’ he asks
‘No.’ (looking up at him with pure confusion)
He walked away and I breathed a sigh of relief, I looked around and now people were staring. I felt an uneasy guilt for disrupting the atmosphere. I wanted to leave but I was indeed, waiting for my husband.
I sighed and looked up at Goddess Durga and apologised. Adding insult to injury, a couple of minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two teenage girls with their camera phones taking photographs of me. I felt awful. 
My first thought: I need to stop going to temples.
My second thought: No, I shouldn’t. I need learn to completely ignore people who try to engage me in intrusive conversations in temples.
My third thought: Is anywhere sacred?

About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


106 thoughts on “Harassment in Temples: Is anywhere sacred?

  • letto31

    Reading this makes me so sad….no, it seems like there isn’t anywhere that is sacred anymore. 🙁 I hope you don’t stop going to the temples. There are people that lack common decency and respect everywhere and it would be shame to forego such a wonderful experience because of some insensitive person since there are so many lovely people in the world. stay strong!

  • Every Day Adventures in Asia

    Gotta say, after time the polite responses just don’t work – start to realize you need to make very clear unwanted attentions are just that – not invited, not desired and anything inappropriate not tolerated.

    A simple “Kuch problem hai, kya?” told in a ‘f*** off’ tone works wonders! 😉

    More seriously – while simple curiosity hit with snapping back aggressively ain’t cool, equally you’ll know whether the queries are hinky – don’t hesitate to push back.

    I’ve had too many women friends – deshi and videshi – get into trouble by letting guys get away with inappropriate behaviour. If once it is tolerated, think what they’ll attempt next…. and how much more uncool is that?

    The additional element that you’ve likely clued into is the right religio-political side aka the militant underbelly of the Shiv Sena and the like. That can be even trickier and more challenging.

    Good luck finding that peace and equilibrium you were finding at puja!

  • Jocelyn Eikenburg

    I’m sorry you had such an unpleasant experience in a place that served as a sanctuary for you. As the first commenter said, I also hope you won’t stop going to the temples. But maybe you can figure out strategies for dealing with annoyances like this. Perhaps you can ask your husband and his family for some advice — no doubt they are incredibly supportive and certainly would not want you to be disturbed in the temple! I often go to my husband and his family for tips on how to deal with annoyances/harassment in public here in China (admittedly, I haven’t experienced anything like what you reported, but there are small annoyances from time to time).

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Jocelyn,

      Lovely to hear from you. My husband says to completely ignore them but it is very hard when they are standing over you.

      I guess it is a case of being blunt and saying ‘look, I would like some privacy please’. It is just awkward.

      I am sure I will adapt.

      Thank you so much for your advice! I hope you and your husband are well!

      Lauren x

      • Nicola

        Hi Lauren,

        Your husband is right – COMPLETELY ignore them. If you say anything at all, it gives them something to respond to. If you say, “I don’t want to talk to you” that invites “Why not?”. You explain why, and you get, “But you are here in India, don’t you want to talk to Indian people?” You explain that it’s not that, but at this moment…. and on and on it goes. (They are like tele-sales people who are trained never to allow the person they are cold-calling to end the conversation! They have a follow-up for everything.)

        Ignore them, they soon give up and go away.

        Good luck!

        Nicola x

      • Nicola

        Also, don’t feel obliged to be ‘polite’, just because you are a foreigner in India. If you were praying in a church in England and a random man approached you in this manner (“Where do you live?” “Give me your phone number.”..) you wouldn’t feel you had to answer his questions, would you?
        You get men behaving badly all over the world. Don’t feel that you have to entertain them just because you’re not on home soil.

        • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

          Dear Nicola,

          It’s not about being a foreigner in India, its more about my upbringing to always be polite when someone speaks to you.

          I honestly think if a random man asked me these questions in a church I would be polite but give him a pack of lies.

          I hope you are well!!

          Lauren x

  • Gopal Sekhar

    First of all thank for your post, how is your marriage preparation going when is your family comming and do your family plan to wear Indian dress to the wedding. Now let me go to your post, sincearley speaking I will not go to a temple with my mobile phone, as temple is a place Worthing, and I believe those two girls did was not correcting, I have been to Nagpur, hey have you visited the Ayapan temple in Nagpur I don’t know where is it in Nagpur, the last time I visited the temple it was like returning back to Kerala my home, in my home state we used to take 3 rounds around banyan tree in the temple preemies , as it improve our health . People do vist this Ayapan temple, you will like it, please tell my regards to your husband.

    Gopal

  • wrightsolution

    So sorry to hear about the harassment. Unfortunately, I think with people like that there is nowhere sacred. But I you were spot on when you decided to ignore people like that next time. Its hard to do but they usually go away faster.

  • BarelyHereNorThere

    I think he had other problems. It would be terrible to take this negative experience and let it tarnish the peace you gain when you enter a temple. The guy sounds like he’s got issues and unfortunately you just had a bad day. Yes, some men are leches, but remember the many safe and satisfying interactions you have had at the temple. I’ve had similar experiences too…http://barelyherenorthere.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/the-goddess-in-me/ and http://barelyherenorthere.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/faith-in-calcutta/ outline what I went through…questioning the world around me. I’ve realised now, the world can’t taint your goodness. Sacred is everywhere, as long as you, and you alone allow it to be. To hell with everyone else. Keep strong!

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Yes, you are right.
      Luckily I had quite a few lovely experiences before this happened so I know that this won’t happen everytime.

      It just distresses me that some people think it is okay to behave this way in temples.

      Thank you so much for your lovely posts and lovely words.

      Lauren

  • aobeamber

    I think you are not his first victim. I’m sure he is actually that one who likes molesting women in public transport. Just another pervert living there and craving to get a number of a beautiful white lady. Also I’m sure he would bother a single indian lady too. Just you looked very unprotected for him. Don’t get discouraged going to temples, just next time try go with someone of your family. Take care there.

  • Magdalena Rogulska-Pai

    Your husband is right, ignore. But this will work only till some point. He should teach you some hindi or perhaps marathi rude expressions for these kind of people. Polish people are definitely not as polite as English so maybe it was easier for me as I’m polish 😀

      • Magdalena Rogulska-Pai

        I didn’t mean temple… :/ Maybe you don’t go out alone very often or maybe I was unlucky as I came across some very unpleasant situations in India. These uneducated men didn’t really know English at all and asking them nicely wouldn’t work. But that’s just my experience.

        • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

          Hiii Magdalena!

          I go out alone quite a lot but here in Nagpur people stare but do not approach me, maybe because I am always in Indian dress, large bindi and sindoor (maybe it confuses them??).

          I can definitely see the need for it!! These men are usually scared of powerful women so the short shout would be very effective.

          I hope you are well!!! x

  • stockdalewolfe

    It is wonderful, Lauren, that you are able to find such inspiration and comfort in the Hindu temples and that they are all over the place. Too bad, creepy people are, too. I used to go to a church when empty to pray but a bit uneasy when I found people sleeping in the pews so you couldn’t see them. I wanted to light candles but was afraid. Of course, churches and temples are and must be open to all. And then, too, there are men all over who pursue despite all signs of disinterest. Best to ignore or say something curt to imply “Bugger off!” Once one starts answering questions, one is at their mercy.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Ellen,

      Thank you so much for your lovely words!!

      I too get anxiety in churches and temples sometimes, I feel as if someone is going to say ‘oi you, you don’t belong here’ because I haven’t grown up Christian and was not born a Hindu.

      After visiting temples a couple of times though, that anxiety has gone!! Unfortunately, this incident happened but I am going to try to not let it spoil how I feel.

      I am definitely going to ignore next time as I cannot say ‘bugger off’ in a temple… hehe, outside the temple, maybe!

      I hope you and your ankle are getting better each day!

      Lots of love xx

  • melissa

    Oh Lauren, it’s awful when something like that happens. I get myself so stressed when people look, stare and then question me when I’m in India. Fair play to you for standing your ground! xx

  • Nishant

    Terrible! You were too polite there and that guy must have probably thought he had you for a sec. The general perception in India is that white girls are easy to get. He had a go. I’ve come across so many white girls here in Hyderabad dating cheap local weirdos. These guys from the lower classes of society keep getting these innocent girls from some dating sites attracting them with fake stuff and then take advantage of their innocence while they are here.

    You should’ve been blunt and said, ‘please can you leave me alone? I don’t talk to strangers!’. Do how you would do back in the UK, you don’t have to be polite just because you are in India and these guys are Indians. Think of it like this, they are rude so you be rude, you don’t have to shy away from being rude. Terrorists and perverts like these have no nationality and follow no religion. They are just perverts and terrorists. Learn some hindi sentences for next time just so they know you are not just a tourist in India. If you can’t learn hindi, try talking in english with an Indian accent and please always carry your phone with you, to call your family in-case of an emergency!

    As proud as we are to be Indians living in India, perverts like these leave us feeling ashamed.

    Hope this doesn’t scare you away from going around. Be strong!

    Take care

    • Nishant

      On second thoughts, i feel he wasn’t overly rude either, at least that is the impression i get from the transcript, but im sure it was a lot worse in reality. His actions were definitely inappropriate and it must have been horrible for you.

      • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

        Dear Nishant,

        I think saying anything to anyone whilst they are worshiping in a temple is rude but I guess he didn’t think so.

        I am not polite because I am in India, I am just polite. Haha.
        I obviously need to work on my ruder side… but then again I couldn’t be rude in a temple- I think it’s best to ignore if it happens again in a temple.

        I hope you are well and thank you so much for your comment!

        Lauren

  • jcisnowjs

    So sorry that you have to go through that, and that too in a temple. Hope It doesn’t change your mind about rest of us. Take good care.

  • Cyn

    Ugh! Indeed there is nothing sacred anymore! As for these disturbing elements, better ignore them, and like you did give them very short answers. Another thing is to reply to their question with another question as in “where do you live?” Reply by “why do you ask?”. To the phone number thing I would say no, if he insist or ask why just tell him you already answered that. You have to develop a sense of rude assertiveness with this idiots, they are immune to polite ways.

  • Ramesh

    Sorry you had this experience *inside* a temple. I think while the best strategy is to Ignore such men, at some times you will need to be assertive. Like a few other commentators said, you’ll need to come with a strategy to handle these situations.

    • Nicola

      Ramesh is right. Sometimes you will need to be assertive and you’ll need to come up with a strategy. (Personally, I’m not in favour of using a few choice words in Hindi in a raised voice, which many people suggest – it can aggravate the situation. And it still gives the person something to respond to: “Ah, you know Hindi? How is it that you know Indian language?”)

      One strategy that worked for me every time, and that you may want to try, is to simply give a swift and forceful ‘stop’ gesture, like a traffic policeman, holding up your arm with your palm facing the person, whilst looking down, to show that you are not going to engage with the person. You can use this as soon as the person approaches you, or in a situation where you have engaged in conversation but now feel the person is overstepping the mark – this will indicate that you are no longer prepared to speak with this person.

      I did this instinctively in The Gambia when I got sick of being approached by one man after another. If the man continued to talk, I made a gesture as if I was zipping my mouth shut. It may sound ludicrous, but it worked like magic. If it doesn’t feel like something you’d be comfortable doing, practise doing it a few times (you could even try a role-play with your husband). I found this simple strategy enabled me to reclaim my own space, rather than having it constantly intruded upon.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Ramesh and Nicola,

      You are both right, assertiveness, having a plan and probably confidence are the key.

      I really wouldn’t be able to swear in a temple so that’s not for me. I wouldn’t really like to swear at random people anyway, I like to reserve swearing for stubbing my toes or stepping on a plug.

      I had much more hassle in Ghana than I have had in India, so I guess the Gambia might be similar. The policemen facepalm is always a shocker to the receiver, they become all confused haha. It is a good idea.

      I hope you are both well!!

      Lauren

      • Latha Baradwaj

        What if he himself is a cop ? After the terrorist attacks in Akshardham temple in Gujarat, Raghunath temple in Jammu, serial blasts in Mahabodhi temple, Bodh Gaya, the 3 attacks in sankat mochan temple varanasi, cops are alert about people belonging to “other” religion ! These are unfortunate times. Because of some fanatics, others have to pay a price…..just like the security checks in airports in the west. Sorry for the incident. I think we have to learn to treat is as a security check. Good that you retained your composure. Your blog makes an interesting read. Keep it up.

      • Nicola

        It’s interesting to reread the dialogue in the light of Latha’s comment. (This possible explanation wouldn’t have occurred to me!) It does read more like an interrogation than an attempt at a pick up. Can I ask, in India would a police officer who is not in uniform not identify themselves first (by showing an ID card) before questioning someone (in order to establish their authority to do so)?

  • Nithya

    Hi, I have been following your blog for sometime and was really moved by dedication you are showing for one simple reason “love”. Sorry to hear about this incident. All I can do is to wish such people stay away from you (may god bless them). Such incidents happen to Indian ladies also. So I advise you to stay strong and if possible
    try to learn from your husband *some dialogues for such kind of people All the best

  • mariemcc

    No one is under any obligation to politely answer rude, intrusive questions from a stranger. Just stare back and don’t answer or say “that is none of your business” and walk away.

  • Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate

    I am sorry to read that you were harassed in temple, of all the places in India. It’s a shame indeed that we often find snakes hiding in the sandalwood trees. Indian men and society often exhibits such duplicity, when it comes to treating women. The same man would not tolerate his daughter, sister or mother being treated the way he treated you. Please do not be polite with such scumbags, for your gentle behavior and politeness will be viewed as weakness. During my college days, I recall many occasions of standing up firmly for girls who were being taken advantage of – by similar middle aged “gentlemen” who had no shame in touching the girls inappropriately or pressing their bodies against them in the crowd. The most shameful part is the behavior of spectators, who turn a blind eye rather than standing up and teaching the aggressor a lesson. I try to forget those disgusting and distasteful experiences, encountered on countless occasions during my growing up in India. Your post re-awakened some of those memories.

    Please be firm and stand strong. God bless you!

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Deo,

      ‘We often find snakes hiding in the sandalwood trees’, such a lovely way to describe such a horrible fact.

      It is very chivalrous of you to do that, if only more men were to act in this way, God bless.

      I am sorry I brought back some bad memories for you. There has been a revolution in the way Italian men treat women (or so I have heard) so hopefully the same will happen here in India asap!

      Take care and best wishes to you!! Always lovely to hear from you.

      Lauren

      • Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate

        Thanks Lauren, for your prompt and nice response. Please do not feel sorry if such distasteful ordeals bring back some bad memories.to a reader as myself. It’s nice to expose such bad elements in the society so that many will become aware, lest it gets forgotten. Hopefully it will help in cleaning the society, slowly but gradually moving in positive direction.

        I do like your writing, and use of words, setting a good example of well-written English…..something that’s getting so rare nowadays. To exemplify, after a long time I happen to read the word “Chivalrous”. BTW, your use of capitalization of GORI in “CateGORIes” also shows the subtle humour as much as the notable power and prowess over English language. Please do keep up the great work!

        With Best Wishes for “Holi Pournima.”

        -Deo

        P.S.: In India, many Parsi families have the last name “Chevalier”, which has no French connection at all, but an interesting British connection…….in India, it is derived from “Chaiwalla”, the term used by British officers during British Raj days. Thought you may find it interesting. Cheerio!

  • Deanna Herrmann

    Was this guy threatening or just annoying? Reading this it comes across as scary and threatening, but if just annoying, I would ignore him too. I agree with the others. When you respond, you are encouraging the conversation despite what you say. It shouldn’t be that way, but I’ve found that it is. I get stared at a lot as well especially if I’m speaking to my husband or son in public because I’m using English. It’s an awful feeling, but I’m getting used to it and someday, I’ll be speaking German and will blend in more. Hang in there.

  • Nicola

    Bet you never imagined, Lauren, that this post of yours would galvanise quite such a reaction from your armchair advisers! I’ve only been following your blog for a short while (although I’ve read all the back posts), but it’s lovely to see how supportive and protective your readers feel about you.

  • madhmama

    UGH. Sorry to hear about that experience, Lauren. What a disgusting pervert that man was.
    Even though you were in a temple, I feel as if you should have shouted at the fellow to leave you alone. If you do not speak up and protect your boundaries, he will keep prodding at you, as he did. Goddess Durga will forgive you for shouting, but she surely won`t forgive him….he has some karma coming back at him with a vengeance. I mean, how dare he!!!!!
    As a fellow firangi, this type of harassment does not happen regularly, but when it does it really stings and makes one feel unsafe. You HAVE to be more assertive. And also report that man immediately to the priests.
    That being said, keep going to temples, keep going out on your own – don`t let it discourage you.
    Anyways, I am really happy that you find solace in going to the temples. That is something I love too 🙂

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Alexandra,

      Lovely to hear from you. Goddess Durga is a powerful and strong woman, I am sure she would have forgiven me but it is just something I would feel so guilty about, disrupting everyone else.

      Otherside the temple, different story. I guess some people go to the temple to actually socialise but I have read that this is very wrong, although I have seen it on several occasions.

      I hope you and your beautiful family are well!! I love your saree from Hyd!

      Lots of love x

  • Amit Kumar

    You should be more assertive. If you started feeling uncomfortable then don’t answer the person. I don’t think it is necessary to answer his all question. Tell him that you came to worship and its none of his business to ask such kind of question. He is not in police or something like that. Ask for help from the persons nearby in temple. I am sure they will help but you will have to ask them.
    I hope you will not have to undergo this kind of experience in future but on a second note i think that since you are going to be in India for a long time its better to have all kind of experience. The earlier you face the situation the earlier you learn.
    Have a good day.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Amit,

      I hope you are well. I really do need to work on being more assertive. I have been back to this temple several times since and nothing like this has happened since (thankfullyy!).

      Ah yes, I am going to be in India for a long time, forever as it stands! I am slowly adapting, just need to get used to this heat now!!

      Take care

      Lauren

  • raina

    This is horrible. If people start approaching someone at a temple just because they look different, where can you be safe? My husband is white and when we visited India I was able to shield him from unsavory experiences such as people walking up and asking for money (falling prey to the typical stereotype that all White Americans or people with white skin must be rich). I hear so much from other Indians about how Americans and Western Europeans stereotype people from poorer countries, but really, are any of the Indians who indulge in this behavior any better?

    Raina.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Raina,

      It is quite upsetting. I guess everyone falls victim to stereotypes, regardless of where in the world we are! It just depends where we are if we experience them.

      When I volunteered in an orphanage in Ghana, the little children were made to write ‘white people are good because they give us money’. Shocking but it happens!

      I hope you and your husband are well! Thank you for reading

      Lauren x

  • arnyo

    You should have called someone,atleast the Pandit or the police for help……
    These guys seriously need a kick on their a*s…..
    Then only will they learn….

    Btw being an Indian, I am really sorry for whatever happened to you…….

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Arnyo,

      I hope you are well. Thank you for reading. I have visited the temple since and nothing like this has happened again. Phew.

      I guess some people just don’t understand what they are doing, or they do understand and the simply do not care!!

      I hope you are well

      Lauren

  • Shailesh

    I am sad that you faced this in incidence. But in India if somebody is rude with you, dont be too polite if its not your mistake. Also note that some times people might sound like rude but he may not be rude. You may misjudge due to language difference. Bcoz people may do word to word translation and may sound rude.
    Wish you happy and prosperous married life.:-)

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Dear Shailesh,

      I hope you are well, thank you for reading. Yes, the tone of voice can be quite different, several times I think my husband is shouting at someone but he isn’t.

      Thank you for the perspective, I think it was more where it was said that made it rude, but you are right. Something come out wrong!

      Take care and best wishes
      Lauren

  • thelosperspective

    Wow, each of your experiences really paints a picture in my mind. It makes me wonder what the locals might think of me when I visit India! On the other hand, I can easily pass a North Indian based on my look, and I’m always talked to in Hindi and Bengali…LOL I just respond in Spanish, and tell them I’m from the Indian “Buenos Aires”, right by New Delhi. 😉 I’m sorry for such an unpleasant experience in such a holy place, but remember that the deities know exactly what they’re doing. Take it as a test to see how you react and how you respond. So far in my book, you have an A+!

  • Crystal (My Hindi Heart)

    I connect so deeply with the Hindu faith here. I love visiting temples, and am planning to set up a small home temple soon.
    Maa Durga. ♥
    I’m sorry you were disturbed there, honey. Shame on that man, as well as those girls.
    Keep going to temples. Don’t stop. They have to answer to God, in the end.

    Lots of love!

  • Tamil Hindu

    Dear, Really I felt Sorry For your Experience In Temple. This is all because of people like.”she has commented in your site, Mexican married to American techie , both came to India , because GOD told them. and to spread God’s love… Though She said she is not a Christian….. We all Know…..:).

  • bhuwanchand

    Sorry Lauren that you had to go through an uncomfortable situation. I hope the interaction and the suggestion you must have got for a number of people after that has left you stronger and better prepared to deal with such. Because such things will happen in the future as well, people will stare at you, try to talk to you, try to take picture of you without your permission in public places here in India not because of some very deep or negative meaning but maybe simply because for them you are different. Not because in appearance you are a foreigner even though from inside you are more Indian than many of us Indians by now, or you were a young woman. Temples are safer in that sense – safer than the crowded public transport system here in India where misconducts are a daily affair. Please do not think that I am trying to justify the rude behavior, I have been on the receiving end at many similar situations and I can feel your discomfort. I would just request you to tough yourself up because you may have to face similar situations in the future as well. We Indians are not going to change anytime soon. It would need a lot of slapping, public humiliation and finally some kind of social change to deter such rude people who are in a very large number.

    It may not appear that way by our behavior but most of the Indians are not actually racist or any such thing. The basic problem is that in India we do not have the concept of giving a person her/his own private space.What happened to you could happen to anyone, male/ female/Indian/ foreigner/ young/ old. I have been asked some tough questions inside a mosque/ church and even a temple with my two young kids trying to teach them about different ways of worshiping the god in different religions. I had to back off because my polite replies were encouraging more aggressive questioning.

    I am sorry but I do not have any suggestion for you, I am sure you will learn on your own and be more confident in the future to tackle it yourself. All I can think of is the necessity for me and all of us to teach our kids and everyone around us to give some private space to people in public places and not intrude upon their privacy. I know it is a very big task to be accomplished here in India. It will happen, slowly, but surely.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      I know that the reason that people take photographs is not because they hate me or are racist, if they hated me I am certain that a photograph would be the last thing they wanted. I know that it is because I am different but I also know that some unsavory males also take photos of Indian girls.

      I have become accustomed to unwanted attention but I did not expect that people would behave like this is a temple. It was quite beyond my comprehension. As would it be in a Mosque or a Church… I am sorry that you had to also go through some uncomfortable questioning in a place of worship. It is so sad and brings me back to the title of my post… is anywhere sacred?

      I also commend you on teaching your children about other ways of worship!! I think that is a very good practice.

      Luckily I have been to many temples since and have not been disturbed.

      I hope you and your family are well!! Take care and best wishes

      Lauren

  • nivaashlesha

    I’d advice the same as the others. You’re used to the polite peoples’ community back in England. This is India and you know what they say, when in Rome….

    You could do what the Indian women would do. Just tell him to mind his own business. Learning some really bad words will definitely help you. Not just at the temple but also at other places. As another commenter here said, you could ask his right back. He wouldn’t be prepared for the avalanche of questions on him. And practising in front of a mirror helps.

    A little advice, people will take advantage of you if you don’t know how to deal will idiots like that guy. And you can start with harsh words and a loud voice in English.

  • American Punjaban PI

    Good for you not letting this experience ruin things for you. I remember going to a temple in Amritsar once only to be followed by the cameraman (with the camera) and my every move broadcast to the entire city. Yay. Talk about pressure to not screw up or look like the ignorant foreigner. Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe how that felt. Still, I kept going because I loved it. I’m not sure I could have reacted as nicely as you did given the situation you described though. I got annoyed with him just reading it.

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      You know, I went to my favourite temple yesterday and they had a big function going on with cameras and video-cameras… after reading this comment, I turned around and went back to where I had came from!!

      Better luck today!

      Your experience must have been beyond uncomfortable!! I am so glad you kept going!!

      Thank you for stopping by, Take care

      Lauren x

  • subhash

    dnt scare dear friend…they though u r forigner…the girl k photos of u means they feel proud that forigner is being part of our culture..nothing more…and the elder ….just respect his age..the people (middle age) murmering always….welcome to india..:)

  • M. Nathan

    We still struggle with this problem when we visit India. My wife used to love to shop the small stores along the streets in India for glass bangles and knick knacks. Not anymore. For some reason, the sight of her in a traditional Indian saree, made a guy lose his mind completely. He grabbed her hand and started caressing it as if he were possessed. My wife started to scream and I had to rush to her side dropping the sweets I was trying to buy from a nearby store. A crowd, gathered and trashed the guy, but he kept moaning, “Kya karoon bhai, pehle kabhi pari nahi dekhi na (what can I do brother, I had never seen a fairy before)”. The beating was so severe that my wife started yelling at the crowd to stop. It shook both of us up pretty bad, specially when the man’s wife showed up pleading and begging for mercy. She fell on my wife’s feet. It was all so embarrassing. Finally the crowed pulled back and the poor woman dragged her bruised man away.

    Both Stacy and I were left shivering in disbelief.

    Most men in India are decent folks, but I don’t know what it is about seeing a “gori” that drives some men in India so crazy. They just lose it. We are so tired of all the stares and ogling that now, when we visit India, we avoid a lot of places, which is a pity, because Stacy actually loves shopping on city streets and eating “footpath vendor” snacks 🙁

  • Ramkumar

    This incident is very sad. But don’t get afraid when you get similar sort of experience in the future. Just ignore the person and just walk away to some crowded place. Or else answer him by raising your voice. Speak so loudly so that others may get attention. There will be always some people around you who will come for your support. And of course avoid going to temple or any other place during night, may be after 8.30 PM (This time changes with cities). Not only you (who look different than the local people), many local girls face these sort of disturbances. If you have some girls of your age nearby your house, tell them this incident and they will suggest you many different ways to prevent these experiences.

  • Satyam

    I felt ashamed as an Indian and as a brother when I read that some middle-aged pervert harrassed you in public. You are a wonderful lady and very brave to try and sync in with life in India.
    I knew a british girl as a child when I used to sail with my dad ( he is a Captain). She was the daughter of the chief engineer and we became good friends. My sister was in her 10th standard that time and so was not aboard with us as she was studying. I would become very lonely without her and cry (I was only 8!). She told me that she was also my elder sister and tied Rakhi ( made out of a Hotwheels car :P) to me on Raksha Bandhan. She would shower me with love and make awesome food for me.
    I just want to say that though you might feel very awkward here, please don’t feel lonely. There are plenty of brothers looking out for you too. And in the end, the mother goddess ( and all the forms of gods everywhere) are also watching lovingly. 🙂

    One word of advice: Please try to travel to public places with your husband or some male family members. I know this sounds primitive but it is sadly true that India isn’t the safest place, even local girls have trouble. Having your husband around to deal with such pervs will allow you to peacefully enjoy your surroundings.
    May god bless you.

  • hemajethwani

    Hey Lauren,
    I had read about your blog in a newspaper and thought it was very interesting so checked out you blog posts and loved them entirely evwn got my li’l sis hooked onto your blog, lols 😉
    This post I am commenting on particularly is because of the shameful experience that you had and on top of that in a temple of Maa Durga too… Disgusting really.
    But my advice is that I understand that you’ve been brought up to be polite but at times like these it’s better not to be. If nothing else when someone asks such a question and you can see their wrong intention it’s best to give them a very angry or frustrated look even if you can fake it, or just ignore them on their face, it’s the only way as the more you answer the more they try to take advantage.
    Lastly, I don’t think such people deserve our time of the day to actually think of stopping our routines which give us satisfaction.
    I am sure you will find in no time you have grasped some of the important ways to get by.
    and I really appreciate and respect the way you are trying to adapt to our culture and you respect it so much.

    Keep it up Gal!!! Rooting for you 🙂
    Regards,
    Hema

    • Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life)

      Awww thank you so much, Hema (and little sister!!)
      I hope you are both well!

      Thank you so much for your advice, I have definitely become more confident since writing the post and can avoid these situations much better 🙂

      Thank you so much again.

      Take care

      Lots of love,

      Lauren

  • Bhavesh

    Me being from Nagpur feel extremely humiliated with guilt upon hearing such incidences. We need to change our attitude. As far as your journey here in Nagpur goes.. All the best for future..

  • Meera

    Sorry to hear that you had this experience. I think eve-teasing is something women have to deal with in all parts of the world.In India some people have wrong image about western/foreign females due to Hollywood and other western movies where women are portrayed in a particular way. It will take some time to change this perception.

  • Priya

    Dear Lauren, I just found your blog today and have been reading whole day! I’m amazed at your knownledge of the culture (traditions, religion) and although I know lots, I’ve learned lots more today by reading you. Thank you for that. On top of that, you’re an amazing person, I’m so happy for you, and I wish all the best to you & your family 🙂

    Being in a gori-desi relationship myself, having visited India 2 times as well as met many Indians abroad, I know these kind of things happen and I absolutely hate it. I was also brought up to be very polite and my nature is such that I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So whenever a man came to me and started asking for my number, relationship status, or something, I used to smile politely and lie; “yeah, I’m engaged, no thanks, I have to go now”. This led me to almost trouble a few times… :/

    However my (North) Indian boyfriend has taught me over the years that this is not enough for an Indian man. To make me understand, he showed me his (cute but quite childish) little bro’s fb account. He had messaged a number of Indian girls saying absolutely harmless things such as “hello, how are you”, and none of them had replied. “See!” my boyfriend said. “When an Indian girl is not interested, they show it like this: by ignoring it completely.” He told me an Indian man would take any kind of answer as a “yes”, even if it was clearly an undirect “no” from me, and thus I should give a very firm “no” or sometimes no answer at all. He also explained that Indian men are used to girls being rude like that and hence I would not hurt them; they’d think it’s pretty normal. Later I noticed this kind of behavior here and there and concluded my bf must be right. You could argue we are different because we are not Indians, but dear, they are, and they know nothing about where we come from, so when in Rome…

    So I think you can, without guilt, just totally IGNORE such men and their questions. Just be plain rude. Don’t smile. Walk away without fear. If they still continue, say it straight and firmly (preferrably in their own language): “Stop it.” No need to be nice or polite. I know it’s very hard for polite girls like us, but after a few times I started feeling very good about this method and use it without shame nowadays. (As writing I realize this is the same method used to stop vendors and beggars from circling you…) If your husband has any comments on this, I’d be interested to hear… 🙂

    Btw. If the man pestering you is someone you *have* to be polite to (like a classmate or a distant relative), the best way to make him stop is call him “brother” or “uncle” (in the correct language). These words are sacred to Indians. I’m sure you’ve already noticed this though 🙂

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Priya,

      Thank you so much for your love comment <3, it made me smile so much! Your boyfriend is right!! I have learnt to completely ignore, I still feel very mean but it saves a lot of time. I sometimes cannot help but reply but as soon as the conversation turns weird, off I go haha. I also think always wearing sindoor and mangalsutra really helps 😛

      Actually two young men on scooters stopped next to me and said 'excuse me...' and I could tell that they were going to be inappropriate so I just said 'DON'T SPEAK TO ME' really loudly and scared them off. I really like speaking to little kids and women but sometimes, even if men do have innocent intentions, I don't really want to speak to them if my husband is not there.

      LOL, I love your last tip 😛 I have definitely noticed that!

      Thank you again, stay in touch!! lots of love xxx

  • thisissatya

    I think your reply should be “mind your own business”… (in a rude manner).
    and when ever some unknown person ask that What does your husband do?’
    Just tell him he is in Police….
    This answer is enough for that guy.
    then he can run away.
    and then you can ask what’s your name, and where do you live and the nearest police station from your house. etc.

    Ha ha ha :
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Dharmesh K

    Hi Lauren, my wife once told me how her auntie and husband were refuesed entry into a temple in India becouse they were not Brahmins. This happened while they were on holiday visiting different temples in India, quite strange when you consider temples are for anyone to come to for spiritual healing. however this didn’t put them off from visiting other temples which were warm welcoming. BTW do you have a small temple at home?
    kind regards
    Dharmesh

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hey Dharmesh!

      That’s such a shame, I know that 50 or so years ago this was a real problem and that’s why many non-Brahmins converted to Buddhism. I’m glad they were not put off and visited more temples!

      My inlaws have a temple in their home but now we have moved out to our own apartment. We will set up a small temple though once we are settled. At the moment we don’t have any furniture haha.

      Warm wishes,

      Lauren

    • Bharadwaja

      There is NO temple in India where ONLY Brahmins are allowed entry! Could you please provide specifics about this temple? The Venkateshwara temple in Tirupati, the biggest in India, hosts many non Brahminical priests serving the deity

      • Bharadwaja

        Lauren, it is sad to see an innocent foreigner such as yourself fall for such malicious propaganda .Not far from where you live is the ancient Vithoba temple. The temple has been the abode of non a brahminical sect called ‘varkari’. The tales of these ‘vegetarian’ saints are widely known even in Punjab(whence I hail). The temple is visited by people of all castes and regions. The people who converted to Buddhism 50 years ago were hardly around 0.01% in number, and they reverted back to worshiping these deities once the monetary source from responsible political entities ceased to flow in

        • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

          Hey Bharadwaja,

          I trust my readers because I have heard of similar instances and I know times have changed for most temples in India. My husband is a Brahmin and has told me that were times when Brahmin excluded particular castes from temples regularly, sadly. I am glad it’s different now!

          Vithoba temples sounds very nice!

          I hope you are well! 🙂

  • Ishaan Sharma

    Well, this is a very social experience for you bhabhi, but very recently, there had been some terrorist attacks on hindu temples by tha way & if you google tye terrorist attack of 26/11, in mumbai, in which 170 people doed. There was a man named david coleman headly, he was a double agent for CIA & ISI & the days befire attack he had done survillance( RAKIE), of the area himself. So a doubt since then had been created in the minds of the people regarding the foreigners visiting hindu temples & some educated people try to behave in a high handed manner, who become rather paranoid resulting in offending someone. I am sorry that it happened to you, but as people see you & many others who have made india as their home, get a very friendly treatment from the locals. I believe that this is only a perspective, which came across my mind & tried to give you, the reason being that i also belong to the family of army men.

  • Sachin

    The race element fused with hinduism several centuries ago. That’s why it is said that only an “indian can be hindu” and a “hindu can only be indian”. This concept is very common within the indian community.

    Technically, you’ve ventured into “their” world and trying to break into their closed community. You’re an “anamoly” creating ripples on their periphery and they haven’t understood yet whether it’s worth it to confront an anomoly head on or its best to just ignore it.

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