Many women of Indian origin, most but not all of them Hindus, wear a red dot (bindi or tikka) on their foreheads.
Many Indians have migrated to the USA. Some have them have met resentment and even violence against them by their ‘white’ neighbours. From the mid 1980s until 1993, a gang known as the “Dotbusters” operated in New Jersey. They attacked and sometimes murdered anyone, who, in their ignorant eyes, looked “Indian”. Wearing a bindi helped these thugs identify their female victims.
In 2001, some Muslim terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers in Manhattan. This fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments in the USA. Ignorant people assumed that anyone who looked Indian might well be an Islamic foe of the USA. However, many people knew that anyone wearing a bindi was likely to be Hindu rather than Moslem.
In the last few decades, there have been serious inter-communal riots in Gujarat, in which members of one community have massacred members of the other. Although many Hindus have been victims of these disturbances, Moslems have suffered even more.
No Moslem woman would normally wear a bindi. Therefore, anti Moslem rioters can easily recognise a woman bearing a bindi as not being a Moslem, and therefore not one of their potential victims.
Recently, we met an Indian woman in a Gujarati city, which has suffered anti Moslem attacks. We knew she was neither Hindu nor Moslem. However, she wore a very large bindi. I wondered whether she wore this as a fashion statement or for cultural solidarity, or to make it clear that she was not Moslem, to protect herself from becoming a target of anti-Islamic violence.
These excerpts from my recently published book describe how surprised people, especially in Kutch and Saurashtra, were to discover that a Gujarati had married a European. The reactions described below have never happened to us anywhere else in India.
“By the end of our third day out of Bombay, our third in Daman and nearby parts of Gujarat, we had become aware of the attention we, as a couple, were attracting. On many occasions, both in Daman and later in Gujarat, Lopa was asked whether she was my tour guide. When she replied that she is my wife, this was met with both surprise and disbelief. It seemed that the locals were not ‘phased’ by the idea of an Indian woman acting as a tourist guide for an unrelated European man, but the idea that we were married was beyond their comprehension …”
And some days later in Bhuj (Kutch):
“After eating toasted vegetarian sandwiches in a tiny café in an alley near a small dargah, we boarded the bus bound for EKTA supermarket near to our hotel. The bus route ends at the Government Engineering College. Lopa and I were chatting, when a young man, an engineering student, turned around and asked Lopa abruptly in English: “Are you Indian?” She replied: “What do you think?” To which the student said: “But, you are speaking English.” Lopa pointed out that English is one of India’s national languages; it appears on every Indian banknote. Then, the youth pointed at me, and asked aggressively: “And, this person?” Lopa said that I am her husband. To which the boy asked incredulously: “You are married to him?” When Lopa confirmed this, his jaw dropped, and his eyes seemed to pop out of his head in surprise and disbelief. This extraordinary behaviour was not an isolated incident. Wherever we went in Kutch and in the rest of western Gujarat, we encountered people who were unable to conceive of anyone of Gujarati background marrying someone not of that background, and certainly not a European.”
Join Adam and his wife on their interesting travels through Gujarat, Daman and Diu.
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