English | Dutch
From movie star to police escort
Udaipur (India), October 27th 2007
When we are at the Dussehra festival in Kota (see also the article about the Dussehra festival), we witnessed the fact that India is a country with different faces. Despite the fact that the Indian people celebrate the victory of the good over the bad on this day, the bad isn’t exorcised yet in India.

The first couple of hours at the festival were really great. Foreigners are still a sight over here, resulting in a lot of contact with the local people. People want to shake your hand, have a little chat with you, or just want to be on a picture together. Children are becoming shy when we say hello to them, and the parents have smiles from ear to ear when we exchange some words with them. The attraction we have on local families is also very interesting for the fair operators. We can have free rides in the fairground attractions if we want. Not only to please us of course, but also to make some advertisement for their attractions. If the foreigners take a ride in the attraction, it must me a very cool attraction. We decide to reject the invitations friendly, because we are not sure about the safety of the fairground attractions. Just observing the great time that the local people have at the fair, is enough for us.

The absence of other foreigners gives us the opportunity to get a special treatment. The stewards of the festival give us the permission the follow the festival from the press section. This is great because it gives us a good view on the festivities and on the crowds. When we arrive in the press section, we have to give an interview to the local TV news channel. It is also tradition to throw stones to the huge effigy of Ravana (who represents the bad) that is erected on the podium (see the article about the Dussehra festival for more background information). The local press is very happy if we consent to their question to throw also some stones to Ravana. Every move we make is recorded on tape and film. Thus, we really had a great time at the festival and the people were very nice.

Unfortunately, an incident at the end of the festival puts a slur on this great day. When we try to find our way to the exit through the crowds, young people start pushing the crowds. The crowd waves from the left to the right and back, making it is difficult to keep standing. Regrettably, this is not the only thing that happens. Ivonne is groped everywhere by young men around her. It is disgusting, all those hands on breasts and bottom. Edwin tries to screen her, but that is impossible in the heavy moving crowds. When he sees one of the men touching Ivonne, he grasps the guy and squeezes his neck. That ends the pushing and groping for a minute. But after a minute, everything starts again. Fortunately, the crowd is moving in the direction of a guardian angel in a police suit. Ivonne tells him the story and the police officer decides to guard us to the exit of the festival ground. From the moment on that the young men see the police officer and his baton, the pushing is over. As the sea made way for Moses, the crowds made way for us. There is one guy that grasps Edwin at his arm, but when the police officer sees it, he walks to the guy and slaps him with the baton. After we exited the festival ground we say goodbye to the police officer, of course after we thanked him for the support.

It is a well known problem that (foreign) women are groped by Indian men at locations where many people gather. Also in metros and bazaars, groping frequently happens. Groping is not only related the Dussehra festival, Kota or Rajasthan. It is an all-Indian phenomenon. In almost all travel books about India, groping is described as a danger/annoyance. Some travel books even advice women to avoid all places where a lot of people come together (like festivals). The festival in Kota is the first event where we experienced groping. It is cynical to see that it happened on the Dusshera festival in Kota, the festival that celebrates the victory of the good over the bad by setting three use effigies (representing the bad) on fire. Unfortunately, three effigies are not enough to exorcise all the bad. Maybe they should burn ten effigies next year in stead of three.

Go back to home pageGo to Articles sectionGo to Columns sectionGo to Photos sectionGo to countries sectionGo to weblog sectionGo to about us