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Manners for men March 10, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in india, life, rant.

I linked to the Blank Noise project blog from Indiauncut and that linked me to a host of other posts on the same. Over the last days, in the midst of an exam and a submission, I have been returning to more posts on this topic from more people – Hemangini wrote her personal experience on a train to Chennai while Annie wrote a particularly moving post on tips, strategies and tricks women in India use to avoid being victimized. Each of these posts further links you to several comments from women and men alike .

I am a man and so although I don’t have an experience to relate in this context, I can at least recall one experience-by-proxy where something like this happened to my friend when I was traveling with her. I know that the blogathalon was due for March 7, 2006. I however cannot resist making this post, partly out of my guilt and a terrible sense of helplessness.

Dec 23rd, 2005 : I had just landed in India ( Bombay ) after a gap of 500 days in the United States ( where I am currently a student ). And this incident happened on my first day in India. Four of us – 3 girls and I were returning from Churchgate on the way to Andheri. It was about 11 pm on a thursday night. As we were boarding the train, I asked them to get into the ladies compartment since I thought that is what ladies in Bombay normally do. They insisted that it’s late in the night (and a weeknight at that), the trains don’t get that crowded, so we might as well get into the second class compartment. 2 of the girls got off before at some stop before Dadar (I am not too familiar with Bombay). My friend and I were to go over to her place at Andheri and we continued.

The train got progressively crowded as the Andheri station approached. My friend who had a backpack on her lap (she was sitting) got up and we walked towards the door. She casually wore the backpack as we were talking. I got off first and as I looked back my friend got up and squatted on the floor trying to balance herself – her footwear had sort of come off and she was regaining balance trying to wear it. I initially thought she just lost balance as she was trying to get off but I didn’t have to ask her to know what had happened. She should have held the backpack against her rather than wearing it on the back.The train had left. She kept insisting she knew his face and would like to smash his face against the train.

I didn’t realize the extent of the pain she felt until this happened – we were causally strolling down the street the next day when I just punched her on her shoulder as we normally do to each other playfully. And she said, “Man, that really pained although it was just a light push. We women stand no chance against you guys yaar. We have no choice but to avoid and be careful. Physically tho forget it.”

She said something to the above affect at least twice again in a span of 24 hours. I just told myself how she might go on to connect seemingly unrelated events and learn lessons several times over by repeated to herself this message several times over – “We just don’t stand a chance”. Reading these posts here from people I have never known and may never will, I realize why she was doing what she was. But these things happen in such fraction of a second that there is just no time to react. I felt terribly guilty for not having forced them to get into the ladies compartment. I was angry too.

I was shocked too – in some sense a rude awakening as this happened the very day I landed. Maybe for this reason, in my next 20 odd days in India, nothing seemed to shock me – everything was seen before, everything known before. I had read an article long back about why we Indians have a perpetual frown on our faces ; reading some of the posts and comments online – I seem to know why – at least why so with Indian women. ( this doesn’t prevent me from getting irritated when people continue to do so even here, even after years in the United States – guess old habits die hard ).

I long thought about why this happened and how it may be avoided. I thought it was about education – I was mistaken, my batchmates from college ( who call themselves alumni of the 8th best technical school in India – NITK) are a poor advertisement for education alone as a solution to this problem. I dont intend single out my college, some places are worse. Some, only marginally better.

For Men

Now, this one is for men – men, who are willing to go a little out of the way to make it a little safer for women. ( And I hope women will not confuse courtesy with condescension.). Readings from the blanknoise project also reminded me of things I did to make women feel comfortable and “left alone” in the recent years.


I list them here :


Bus manners :


1. I would avoid sitting next to a woman unless she is significantly older than me.

2. If a woman (whoever it was) is sitting on the aisle seat with the window seat empty, I never offer to walk in and take the window seat.

3. If I am sitting next to a woman on the aisle seat, never look out of/towards the window.

4. If I am on the window seat and a woman is sitting next to me, keep looking out of the window.

5. Don’t stand directly behind a woman in a crowded bus. If you cant help it and you have to, stand sideways – don’t face their back or have your back face their back. You don’t have to do anything, the driver can ruin things for you on Indian roads.

6. If you happen to be sitting next to a woman, don’t ever give up a chance to give up your seat – preferably not to a man – not unless a senior citizen.


Street manners


1. If a woman is walking ahead of me at a brisk pace, slow down your pace of walking.

2. If a woman is walking ahead of me slowly, walk fast, overtake her and not slow down. i.e. if you have a choice of following a woman or having a lady follow you, opt for the latter.

3. If you are standing/walking with a group of male friends and a girl or two walk past you in the opposite direction, continue talking, don’t stop talking as they come close to you and then start off again.

4. Don’t laugh out loudly as they approach you or just go past.

5. This one is hard to always practice, but especially at night, avoid crossing the road if there is a lonely girl walking towards you from the other side.


I realize that much of this amounts to treating a woman as an untouchable and I know that is not how women would like to be treated. I myself hate doing this because it means three things –



1. This is not how free societies behave – and when I say free, I am talking not of mere democracies. Societies may be free but uncivilized – you know what I mean.

2. It means I am not willing to be proactive about this – take an active step in this direction. I have too much belief in naïve algorithms of distributed processing – that we can all do our part and world will be a better place. Alas, that’s only true of civilized societies.

3. In some sense, it stifles my sense of freedom – I feel I am being paranoid about being mistaken for a stalker/groper/feeler. In a freer, more civilized society, I don’t have to opt to stand merely because the only vacant seat is one next to a girl.




1. Deppe - March 14, 2006

I share your views on the Distributed Processing analogy man! Nice post.

2. Deepak Krishnan - March 26, 2006

did u link ur post to the blank noise project?

3. Dio - February 21, 2007

nice post.

4. raosharath - February 22, 2007

Thanks Dio… 🙂

I am surprised ..you got your hands on this post……over an year old….

5. BD - February 22, 2007

Nice post. Given the stuff women have to go through in India, the list makes perfect sense.

Also check out this.

ps: I have read your post this time!

6. raosharath - February 22, 2007

🙂 thanks again ..for going all the way …The picture, yeah ..when i saw the blank noise project blog last april, they were trying to put together all such pics….

some such thing in boston as well…


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