My name is Maitreyi. I grew up in a small town in India, but moved to Mumbai after getting married. Big city life gave me a culture shock (among all other shocks), but I loved it. Not only did I get used to pushing and pulling and rushing everywhere, I actually started liking it. The early morning adrenaline-pumping adventure of getting a seat in the train; the totally delicious street food that is made right in front of the drain (almost as if that’s a prerequisite); the chaos that ensues every rainfall, despite the city knowing that every year in July it rains; the strong and modern women that would thrash any man who dare put his head into the women’s compartment; and riding with prostitutes in the second class ladies compartment late in the night… I loved it all.
In fact on one of those night rides, I learnt an important lesson from one of the working girls. I had a habit of playing with my nose ring. I did it all the time as I sat quietly looking out of the window of the train. The girl politely tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You really need to stop playing with your nose ring.” When I looked at her, puzzled, she said, “In Mumbai when a working girl wants to tell a guy that she is available by the hour she taps on her nose ring. You don’t look like a working girl, sister.” As if hit by an electric shock I put my hand down. I started thinking about all the stares I had gotten by men and I thought I was just getting prettier by the day, when it was in fact my constant signalling that invited the looks. They must have thought I was pretty desperate. I have never played with my nose ring since; though sometimes I felt like it, just to see how many heads I can turn.