Thursday, June 4, 2009

a mob is not necessary to intimidate one

sometimes, a custom-made ledger is sufficient.

While travelling in Uttarakhand, I have stayed in hotels that have not got the reasoning behind why their business is called the hospitality industry. The strangest prejudices are seen, and given full play with the convenient right of a hotelier to refuse admission.

I first came across these prejudices in Champawat when I noticed that the ledgers are not quite standard. In addition to the usual name-address etc, there is a column with the heading 'relationship'. And no, 'blissful' is not an acceptable answer. That is apparently to disallow friends or gasp! unmarried couples from polluting their rooms. This irritated me, but not too much. I would just mentally shrug and think, ' ah well, it's not like I would want to come to this dump with The Wonderful One anyways."

But yesterday, I returned from Haridwar where I had gone to conduct a survey (again). I had gone there with the Amazing M (who, as you remember, is a woman too) and with A, a male colleague. A had friends in town, so we just needed a room for M and me. We entered a hotel-disguised-as-dharamshala and the receptionist was rudeness personified.

Me: Do you have a double room available?
He: for whom?
Me (indicating M): my colleague and I
He: just the two of you?
Me: yes.
He: Two ladies only?
Me: yes.
He: is there anyone else with you?
Me: no
He: any gents?
Me: no

This was followed by several questions about where we are from- over and over again and much checking of photo IDs. After that,

He: why have you come here?
Me (thinking fast): It's Ganga Dussehra. We have come to bathe in the Ganga.
He: Fine, give me your cell number.
Me: Sorry, I don't give it out to commercial establishments.
He: We need a number.
Me (trys out intimidating glare):---
He: well, your office number will do.
(labouriously copies it out)
Me: hey! you haven't noted down anyone else's numbers!
He (beligerent and defensive): look. here and here. I take down the numbers of all the suspicous visitors.
Me: !!

I was extremely angry at the end of that little exchange. It angers me that women traveling alone are assumed to be um..how do i put this across politely? um..to be members of a profession that requires the renting of rooms. If I was alone, I would have been interrogated a lot more, and possibly been refused accommodation. A, when we related the episode to him, made matters worse by attempting to rationalize this attitude. He justified this by saying that there are cases where men come with their lovers and murder them. But in that case, interrogate the men! And that was not all. In addition to the usual entries, this ledger had a column for 'caste'. I left it blank, and he did not argue. From his point of view, I suppose that once his establishment became tainted with the presence of two painted Jezebels, caste became irrelevant. But isn't that illegal? or shouldn't it be?

Now, however, I am beginning to find the episode funny. It is still wrong, of course. But this is the first time I have been asked for my phone number and then placated by being told it is because I am a suspicious character. Nothing personal, just business.

1 comment:

Becky said...

The difference between your culture and mine is absolutely striking. I really do love your blog - it's like peeking through a window into a different planet. Thank you for writing.