Stares of Malayali men unbearable, say foreign women tourists

Ivan, a young lady from Canada, is in Kalamandalam to learn Kathakali. Photo: Tibin Augustine

A common problem faced by foreign women visiting Kerala is the stares they attract from the local men. "You Malayalees need to change your attitude," says Irine, from Germany.

"The staring is often unbearable," adds the western woman.

But is Irine alone with such an opinion? Certainly not. Every woman tourist who has visited the state has been subjected to intense gazing at least on one occasion here. "People look at us from head to toe as if we are some criminals," explains Esther, a traveller from Spain.

Esther has realized that Keralites look at foreigners not out of curiosity. Irine has stopped wearing shorts in the state. She now prefers only churidars.

Apart from Irine and Esther, Ivan too holds such views. Ivan, a youth from Canada, is in Kalamandalam to learn Kathakali. All of them have several interesting incidents to relate from their days spent in Kerala.

"We all love Kerala for its culture, traditions, and natural beauty. But the stares are terrible. We are examined as if we landed from some other planet," says Irine.

"Once I was walking along the road after dusk had set in, two men approached me on a motorbike and showered abuses on me. Initially, I was terrified. But now I have got used to such behaviour. The attitude of the men in the state towards women has to undergo a sea change," she adds.

The German tourist has more to reveal regarding Kerala's people. "In the morning, people arrive in bikes and throw plastic covers containing garbage on the roadsides. Later in the evening the same people pass that way covering their nose. Don't they realize that throwing garbage on the roadside is a crime and creates a social problem? Wouldn't it lead to the spread of contagious diseases? Don't the people know all this?" Irine asks.

'Day with masters'

Kerala Kalamandalam now offers a tour named 'Day with masters' for the benefit of tourists. The visitors will be taken around the campus from 10 am to the time when classes end in the evening. Visitors have to register their names at the Tourism section of the Kalamandalam and a nominal entry fee of Re one will be charged. An artiste from the campus will serve as the guide.

The visitors can walk around the premises and in the Koothamabalam where masters of Kathakali such as Pattikkamthody Ravunni Menon, Krishnan Nair, Thakazhy Kunju Kurup, Ramankutty Asan, Gopi Asan and Hyderali once held viewers and students in thrall.

Statues in full Kathakali attire are also arranged at a hall in the Tourism office. Visitors can check all kinds of costumes – 'pacha,' 'kathi,' 'minukku,' and 'thaadi.' Apart from Kathakali, mannequins of Ottan Thullal, Mohiniyattam, and Koodiyattom dancers are also exhibited. All of them are faithful representations of real performers. Statues of Narada, Bali, Sudeva, Balabhadra, Roudra Bheema, Simhika, Narasimham, and Parasurama are the other displays.

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