Heads turned, she was luscious. Men anywhere in the world would have given her a second look. Her auburn hair, grey eyes, lightly-freckled Caucasian complexion and that throaty laugh being just the sort of invitation for a wide stare.
She was reckless, a lady with the mind of a backpacker. India was her dream country -- the colourful mirror-work skirt swirling to reveal silver anklets, the junk jewellery, the carvings, the very grand feeling of experiencing somebody else's world in your own currency that would go very, very far indeed.
She felt safe in the second-class compartments. She got used to the water and the oglers. Life was to be enjoyed and she was going to make the best of it.
No, the real India, the much-maligned India, did not leave her crestfallen.
There is something else which she does not even know about. About the champagne clique that twirled around her on the powdered floor, about the dizziness of wine mixed with the delectable high that strangers experience on dark nights, about the dim lights, the hands moving lower down the back, the jive turning into a close embrace, someone groping into her blouse and then that deep soul kiss.
She was too engrossed in the momentary bliss to notice that she had become an item. Her partner of the moment, who had initiated the proceedings, was let off with a, "Mazaa aaya kya (had fun)?"
But the young woman became the 'floozy'. And the explanation the hot-blooded youngsters of the party-till-you-get-a-headache set had for it was a sharp, "These foreign women are so available."
And the guy – surely, he wasn't dragged to the guillotine? "Oh no," they said in his defence. "He was just feeling sentimental, his girlfriend was not in town and he was missing her!"
Some sentiment this. You miss a loved one, transfer your pent-up lust to another, use the latter who may no doubt be a willing accomplice, but instead of making a graceful exit or perhaps even a genuinely affectionate farewell, you end up bad-mouthing her.
This chap was heard telling friends, "Come on. She came on strong and wanted it."
Not only do we have a budding social worker on hand, but someone who is extremely finicky. Asked how far he went, he replied sagely, "Just the oral stuff. No further, who knows what diseases she suffered from?"
If this guy came near me I'd probably throttle him, but he seems to be quite popular in his group. Since this girlfriend is away quite a bit, his friends understand his biological needs and his temporary sentiments. They also envy him his fleeting forays. He keeps them happy by recounting his tales and making them laugh. It gives the men in his coterie a chance to fantasise and the women in their crotch-snuggling jeans an opportunity to feel terribly respectable.
We just can't handle foreign women -- we don't know how to treat them or what to think about them. Indian men abroad go completely bonkers -- from the ones who describe the strong vaginal muscles, to the ones who think every western woman finds them exotic, to those who think that an invitation to dance means that he is irresistible.
And then, there is this incident about an old professor in Delhi who visited a close colleague. There he cornered a male foreigner, who was chatting with a lot of Westerners who patronised the place, and pleaded with him, "You seem to know everyone. Can you please arrange one white woman for me? I am willing to spend my whole salary for the night!"
He could be an uncle of our young 'sentimental' friend. They are all alike. If only they knew that Western women may be open, but they are not free with their bodies and emotions. And if they do share a healthy relationship, however brief, they don't hold you responsible for "tainting" them.
They too get married, have kids, help run a home, have a career, have feelings.
It is extremely insensitive and unfeeling of the Indian man, and woman, to sit on a high horse and pass judgement only because, often, the Western woman can ride better and fall freer.
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(This is an old column of mine from 1998. The people mentioned were all known to me.)