An open letter to Mr. Parameshwara
Saloni Chopra ☮

I was a student in Gujarat University’s architecture program in the mid 1980s. The first thing I was told by my professor was, as a western woman, I should outfit myself in traditional garb to be treated respectfully.

Fair enough, I thought. Different countries, different customs (even though many of the Indian women in the program dressed in western-style skirts). I immediately bought myself a wardrobe of salwar kameez and wore them exclusively.

Despite my modest attire, no where in the world have I experienced such sexual harassment, both verbal and physical, as I did on the streets of India. I was deeply shocked, but made excuses for it in my mind. I imagined Indian men had developed the wrong impression of western women from Hollywood movies.

Luckily, I am a rather strapping woman, because once I had to physically defend myself while standing in the WOMEN’S QUEUE! at a theater. It was so bad the theater manager kindly came rushing out and brought me inside. (Which is to say, I also met many very nice Indian men.)

But with all I have been reading in the news these past few years, I now think I was cutting my harassers too much slack in believing my harassment to be based on my ethnicity.

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