There is a famous Malayalam proverb which when translated goes something like, “it’s when you loose an eye that you realize its value”. Now why am I suddenly bringing it up here? It’s just that I am stuck in an emotional wreck right now.
Our prawn shaped lungi clad land of Kerala is famous for three things- Eating rice, Drinking TODDY (followed by the famous half mast lungi erratic dance) & Gold mania. But very less is the fourth and the most common feature of this land known and that is STARING.
Staring as defined by our own WIKIPEDIA is- ‘a prolonged gaze or fixed look. In staring, one object or person is the continual focus of visual interest, for an amount of time.’ But in my land you get more. The amount of time given to one person can continue even beyond the point when you show discomfort and ask the person to quit gawking. I am not talking about ‘man stares at bootylicious woman’ kind of stare but the ‘Equality before law’ kind of stare. Men will stare and even women will stare. You don’t have to look good to be stared at, nor skimpily clad. A fully covered Salwar-kameez will give you equal eye exposure.
KSRTC (Monster Bus) is the cheapest way to travel in and around Kerala and it is in here that you get served with the best and unprecedented kind of staring ,especially if you happen to be standing since the men are sitting on the seats reserved for women and you let them sit because they think they are ladylike. The men stare at your face and then the gaze runs down and up and sideways. They have literally scanned you out while you suspect their glasses to have an X-RAY machine fixed in them. The women crowd stares at you with a grim but demeaning look and your mind suddenly starts to calculate the reason behind that look. Is it because I don’t wear gold, or because I am wearing jeans or because my hair is not matching the level of oil required? Relief touches me when I see that I am not the only one being stared at. The staring does not stop even after you get down on your stop. The eyes continue to be stuck on you from the windows. I shudder and walk towards my den (the hostel) when I am welcomed by two eyes fixed on me. The mundu clad uncle on Pulsar showing off his hairy legs stares at me with a ´Hey Babeee’ look, while his better half does her part by giving me the ´blank stare’.
After my semester got over I decided to take a trip to Singapore and its friendly neighbors to sooth my senses. I landed and I noticed that not a single soul was interested in my existence. Not one stare, not even a fraction of second lasting look. I was happy to notice that even the prettiest of females wearing shorts and sleeveless tops were not being looked at. To my bitterest shock, it was me who was staring at them. Never thought that Kerala could have such an effect on me. I have been pampered by so many stares that now not getting one makes me troubled. Kerala does that to you. Gives you the importance you don’t need and it has definitely left a mark on me.
P.S- I Love Kerala and only i and my fellow Keralites have the right to make fun of it and its people! Wokay???