He used to call me thirty times a day. It stopped for a few months, and I found out he’d moved overseas. I breathed a sigh of relief, but as soon as he came back, he started calling again…
He called so often I had to change my phone number. He used to send me SMSs calling me all sorts of terrible stuff: bitch, slut, whore. I had no idea what he was trying to achieve… We’d had coffee once.
Indian men—and, dare I say it, especially Delhi men—are notorious for their stalkerish tendencies. Rare is the woman, Western or Indian, who has not been pestered far, far beyond the point of flattery. A couple of days ago, (unwittingly) wearing my Lois Lane shoes, I gained a valuable insight into the mind of one of these young men.
Nicky [I have melodramatically changed names and details] was from a large town in the sprawling state of Uttar Pradesh. He’d moved to Delhi to study, before spending six years in Australia, acquiring a much-coveted MBA, an anglicised version of his name, and a comparatively lucrative job. One of the most dramatic changes that he’d experienced during this uprooting was in his attitude towards the pursuit of women.
Almost as soon as he arrived, Nicky fell head-over-heels ‘in love’ with an Australian girl: let’s call her Sheila. He’d only spoken to Sheila a couple of times, but he set out to woo her in the ways he’d been honing since he was a wide-eyed Indian teenager. He kept lists of all the dates and times he’d seen her and what she was wearing; he wrote her streams of emails declaring his undying love in his (at the time) rudimentary English; he text her endlessly; he sent her expensive gifts—a gold necklace, an iPod; he had friends approach her; he followed her home from work.
You can see where this is going. Nicky ended up in court—’that was the first time I heard the word: stalking’—was kicked out of university, and served a community sentence. He was lucky not to be deported. (Incidentally, however, the conviction was not enough to put Nicky off Australia. Not until he had been beaten up three times in ‘curry-bashing’ attacks, finally being stabbed in the arm, did he decide to move back.)
By this point, I was feeling ever so slightly traumatised by the turn of conversation, but Nicky pressed on with his reflections about the events. He acknowledged that what he’d done was wrong and scary—’now I understand’—but insisted he hadn’t known better:
You see it in Bollywood and on the TV. Indian girls always say no, they have to say no, but they expect you to keep chasing them… They want you to keep calling, calling, calling, sending SMS, gifts, following them every day… checking what they’re doing and who they’re seeing. That’s how you show it’s real love.
That evening, another friend corroborated: ‘A friend of mine from work was getting older, and her family thought she’d never marry. One day she noticed a man on the metro, staring at her. The next day he was there too, and the next. Finally he followed her home and asked for her number. They’re still dating a year later.’ Admittedly the man has married someone else in the meantime, but ah well—it’s the romance that counts.
Nicky doesn’t date Indian girls anymore, because he finds the expected process of pursuit confusing and risky, ‘though it wouldn’t even be a crime in India’. He shook his head forlornly. ‘How do you know when no means no?’
There you have it, from the stalking-horse’s mouth. I decided I’d better bring the conversation to an end—and was quite clear on the NO. Since then, Nicky’s only sent a handful of unrequited texts and calls, so perhaps he really has learned his lesson.