India was a place I’d wanted to visit since I was in my twenties, and when I finally arrived at age fifty-three I had a difficult time getting used to it.
Almost all the public spaces I passed through in northern India (the Golden Triangle, plus Amritsar, Chandigarh, and Rishikesh) were 90 percent male. Or more. The featured image for this post shows that.
For the first two weeks I felt profoundly uncomfortable, and then I relaxed somewhat. Compounding the problem was the fact that I love to walk around by myself, but people in India generally go down the street with others. Men, women—they were almost always in company.
I don’t think my then-husband truly understood how it felt. How could he? All the men, and boys, addressed themselves first to him and ignored me. (I don’t know if it was out of “politeness” to him or to me, or if it was their sexism that made them ignore me.) Men on the street would strike up conversations with him. I had to interrupt to be “included” in those conversations.
But I captured other scenes that may bely this conclusion: this young man selling bel puri, a popular, crunchy street snack. I don’t recall, two and a half years later, if any of the snack vendors were female.
Most of my images from India show streetscapes (one of my favorite things to photograph), monuments, or items from daily life. I’m shy about photographing people on the street, though I’d like to overcome that.