Jaya said something to me the other day that I found very interesting.
Her son is 13, and went on a class outing the other day to watch Spiderman 3. Funny, it never sounded weird until I just typed that a class outing would be a movie. Maybe it was for English class or something? I know their schools don't have air conditioners, so maybe it was just an excuse to sit in cool air for awhile. Anyway back to the story. After she told me they saw it, I remarked that I thought it was a good movie and asked what he had thought of it. Jaya looked a bit scandalized and said he had come home and told her that there had been much kissing in the film! She was so upset that their teachers had taken the students to watch a movie that had kissing in it! Not to mention it was a co-ed group. As I've mentioned before, Bollywood movies rarely have kissing in them. They will do things that are shocking to us as Westerners, like suggestive dances or kissing each others' necks. But apparently kissing on the mouth is worse, in their worldview. Jaya told me that she and her husband have been very careful to not let their son see movies with kissing, and so up until he was 13, he hadn't seen any of that. She said this is why he isn't allowed to watch English movies, because, to quote her, "I don't think Hollywood would know how to make a movie if there was no kissing in it." She herself rarely watches English movies because they embarrass her, even the ones, like Spiderman 3, that to us as Americans seem tame.
None of this really took me by surprise because I've grown accustomed to their ideas of modesty and public displays of affection. I was a little taken aback that Jaya's 13 year old had never seen a movie with kissing until last week, but even then, I wasn't shocked. But I thought about it later, and began wondering. I love South Asia and feel like I'm relatively adjusted by now. Things that bothered my American-ness at first arrival, I don't even bat an eye at now. But the one thing I still have a hard time with is the way many of the men stare here. I'm not an expert by any means, but in the few cultures I've traveled to - East Africa, a modern Arab country, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Mexico, the US, and South Asia - I have never been stared at or harassed the way I have been in South Asia. I don't mean to put all men here down, but it is very noticeable.
I don't think there is an average family here, because the culture is too diverse for that. But Jaya's family isn't atypical, so I know her views are representative of many others. It makes me wonder then, if they don't even watch these so-called kissing movies, why the men here behave the way they do? They aren't exposed to these PDA's nearly as much as we are in the West - so why do they behave, in this particular way at least, worse than many other places in the world?
I don't have an answer for that. Any thoughts?