A Man With No Feet
I almost cried the other day, reading the newspaper.
You may recall the horrific news item from last year about a group of men who raped a woman in India. The six of them were on a bus, saw this woman walking down the street, enticed her into the bus where they (including the bus driver) repeatedly raped her (including using an iron rod) and when they were finished threw her naked on to the street. She eventually died of internal injuries.
That’s not what made me want to cry, although it was sickening enough.
A few weeks ago I read a story about the wife of one of the rapists. As is common in India, it was an arranged marriage. The wife was sent from her family home to another village, to live with her in-laws. She is now 20 and has a two year old son.
Rural village life in India is incredibly proscriptive for the woman. They are forbidden to work, and in this particular region, forbidden to leave the family compound. (The family erects a fence around the shack they live in).
The only time a woman is allowed to leave the compound is once every 24 hours, when, in the dead of night, a male relative escorts her to the field behind the house where she is allowed to take a shit.
Now the newspaper story I was reading was describing how the woman’s in-laws, the parents of the rapist, didn’t want her to live there anymore because they couldn’t afford to feed her, as her husband was in jail awaiting execution and was therefore no longer sending money home from Delhi where he had had a job. The in-laws have told their daughter-in-law to pack up and go home (and take her son along with her).
Now, here’s the problem. Her parents refuse to take her back. They say they can’t afford to feed her (or her son, their grandchild, either). They paid their dowry so felt no obligation to take the girl back. (In India, unlike Thailand, the bride’s family pays the dowry to the bridegroom’s family. The reason is that the family getting rid of the mouth to feed (the woman always goes to live with her husband’s family) has to pay the family who is obtaining the new mouth to feed.)
So the woman’s family says, we paid the dowry, now you have to keep our daughter. The husband’s family says we can’t afford to keep her anymore, you have to take her back. Uh uh says the woman’s parents. So the woman (and her son) are stuck in this limbo where no one wants them. She is forbidden by custom to get a job, so sits all day, weeping and wondering what will become of her.
I have read other stories of life in rural India. Girls who manage to get to a city to work or go to school are spied upon, forbidden to use cell phones or dress in a certain way.
Just today, before writing this submission, I saw the following news report:
“A girl believed to be 13 was gang raped by three men in her village in India and burned alive”.
Now, where am I going with this? I have been to India perhaps 20 times, and while it is a vibrant culture, with great food and endless tourist attractions, it is impossibly difficult for a foreigner to really integrate. And forget about dating or, heaven forbid, having sex with an Indian girl. That just does not happen.
And what do we read about on Stick’s site? The horrible news that 1) Thai women are putting on weight, 2) Thai girls like to chat and play games on their cell phones, 3) Thai females like to take financial advantage of foreign men.
Gentlemen, all I can say is…consider yourselves lucky.
Lucky to visit or better yet live in a country where women are allowed to be seen with foreigners, allowed to eat, allowed to own a cell phone, and are loved and supported by their families, no matter what they do wrong.
I remember the first time I went to visit my girl’s family in rural Isaan. Now remember, I am much older than she is, from a different culture, married, yet I was accepted with open arms, made to feel part of the family, and when night-time came I crawled into bed with my girl and slept with her in the room next to where her parents were sleeping.
I am not saying that Thailand is perfect, far from it, and I am certainly not saying that all of India, or all Indians, are bad. What I am saying is that compared with other places in Asia, Thailand can be the proverbial dream come true.
So when I feel like complaining about things, I like to think about other places much worse than Thailand that I might find myself in.
When I was a child and whined about not getting a new comic book, or that my chocolate milk wasn’t cold enough, my mother would say to me:
“I used to feel sorry for myself because I had no shoes. Then I met a man with no feet.”