Where Women Must Not Enter

“You must finish your drink and leave.”

The young man looked like he wanted to kill me. He wasn’t joking, and he wouldn’t back down. The feminist in me itched to laugh in his face and keep drinking, just to annoy him. Ever since we had entered the bar, he and his friends had made it clear that they did not want me there. It was a guy-kind of bar, a hide-out. And of course, there were no other women in this bar.

We found this bar by sheer coincidence. In religious Varanasi, bars are scarce. Devout Hindus don’t drink, nor do serious Muslims. Your only option when you are thirsty for a pint is to ask your guest house to scoot to the market to buy beer for you, or take a rickshaw to a far-away hotel bar. We were on our way to one of the established bars when we noticed a sign saying “Chilled Beer,” and a doorway covered by a curtain. It was too tempting to resist.

As if someone had hit the pause button, everyone stopped and stared at us.
“We only serve beer here,” said the man closest to us.
“Great! Can we have a Kingfisher, please.”

We knew exactly what we were doing. It was a men’s dungeon; a stinky, filthy place, where all dozen customers were either drunk, stoned or both. Just the kind of place we like.

Eduardo poured the beer into a glass, lifted it in a salute to all. “Cheers!”
Most of the men lifted their glasses and smiled at him.
Then it was my turn. I filled my glass, lifted it a salute and said “Cheers,” just as Eduardo had. Silence. Not one man cheered me back.

We were shown to the back room where we sat down on a cardboard box and smiled at the men sitting across from us. They smiled back and asked the usual questions about where we were from, how we like Varanasi, etc.

That’s when my would-be-murderer turned around, his eyes bleeding with anger.
“I don’t think they want me here,” I whispered to Eduardo in Spanish.
He didn’t believe me. But just to make sure, he asked the guy who seemed to be in charge:
“You don’t mind my wife being here, do you?”
“No, of course not!”

My nemesis didn’t agree.
“You should leave now!” he hissed.
We ignored him and ordered another bottle on the insistence of the others. Just to show we didn’t care.

The stares grew harsher, meaner, more frightening.
“Women don’t come to this bar,” said the woman-hater when he realized I wasn’t getting the hint.
“Really? So maybe it’s good that I’m here, so you get used to being around women.”
“No. It’s not good.”
“Well, maybe it is.”
At that point Eduardo was elbowing me to shut up. I was irritating the hell out of this guy. And I did it on purpose.
My enemy turned to Eduardo.
“If you would have come here alone, it wouldn’t have been a problem.” He wanted to make sure he wasn’t insulting my husband – a man.
“But she cannot come here.”

The angry guy and his friends made up some story about drunk guys coming in to this bar later, and that it might not be safe for me. We had heard of a recent group rape in Delhi where the victim had died and knew that women were at risk in India. But from the looks I had received, I knew these guys were not worried for me. They were furious that I had dared to cross the line and had trespassed into their male-centered territory.

Having made our point, we finished our second beer and shook hands with everyone including the angry boys. I can only hope that in the spirit of Rosa Parks, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, a seed was sown, however small. Because if you just accept discrimination and don’t make a fuss, things will never ever change.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dominique Williams
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 10:52:24

    Brava, Kristi!


  2. Lolade
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 16:46:21

    Kristi, i love the way you provoked that guy and i wish you were dressed not indecently but with as little as a tank top to infuriate these Neanderthals even more! Wow! in the 21st century, its hard to get over this kind of appalling behaviour!!!!!! and i thought we were a little backward? No man would ever dare a Nigerian woman this way, we’ve been known to kill our men under the influence of extreme rage (Hahahahahahaha). Bravo to you Eduardo, my Spanish knight in shining armour for not scooting away to protect your lady but using your humour and insight to show you were not afraid to take off your top, bare your six-pack to fence off the marauders.
    Kristi, at least the guy in the bar in my country home just wanted to marry you though in the crudest way possible. Nigerian men definitely love their women though in too large a dose (Lol).
    Keep it coming, i’m enjoying every bit of your journey.


    • Kristi D
      Mar 06, 2013 @ 21:57:36

      As you know, we love to provoke. But I have to say I prefer bars where I am welcome. Another post on bars, Sri Lankan this time, coming up as soon as we have better wifi connection.


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