Thursday, May 24, 2012

In India White People Get Their Own Paparazzi

Have you ever had the feeling someone was watching you but you didn’t know why? That happened to us today in Delhi. Only it wasn’t just one person, it was mobs of people, and it wasn’t just watching.

Early in the day, I noticed as our tour group stopped, Indians slowly congregated around us. At first I thought they were eavesdropping on Raj’s, our guide, commentary. But at points, he’d mention an interesting cultural tidbit about the people around us and say “don’t worry, they don’t understand English.” Really? Then what are staring at?

Then it escalated. I noticed people snapping pictures of us. One guy came and casually stood a foot or two from me and had a friend take a photo. Video cameras began trailing us as went down a sidewalk. Then one particular large and brave group gathered around us and began asking to take photo with us, although it seemed they primarily wanted photos with the women.

It was so bizarre. It was kind of making me feel like a freak, but most of our group was really eating up. We quickly discovered if you let one person pose with you it becomes a mob scene. John and I ended up a bit ahead of the group as we headed to the bus. I stopped to let a young couple take a picture with me. So many others already had, and they asked really nicely. What I didn’t realize was that we’d gone from a relatively secluded portion of the park to the busy entrance area. Suddenly I was surrounded.

Dozens of people crowded around me, jostling for a photo op. They were grabbing and beginning to shout as cameramen lined up nearby. About this time, another crowd seemed to decide a photo with John was worth the effort as well and he started to drift away in his own developing photo-frenzy.

And that’s when I kind of lost it for a moment. I started yelling for John, “John! Johnjohnjohnjohn!” Together we managed to disentangle from the scrum. Luckily, no one seemed insulted by my melt down, in fact they seemed to think it was pretty funny.

On board the bus, Raj told us most of the people at the monument were tourists as well, from small villages around India. They’d never seen a white person in real life before. They’ll take the photos back to their village and show all their friends how the met a white person in Delhi.


David C. Burton said...

I don't remember that experience when I in India, but I certainly do from my three trip to sub-Saharan Africa: "Wzungu"! Enjoy your time in India!

Susan W. said...

Not only a white person but a tall redhead!