Ladies Only, No Gents Please

Apologies for the short hiatus in posts. India has been a whirlwind of family oriented travel and unreliable internet. I can’t understand how the country supplies the world’s IT brains, but can’t seem to network the motherland. Anyway, it’s good to be back online and reunited. Here’s a recent Luke story.

We were on our way from my parents in Goa to Sandeep’s parents in Cochin, with a layover in Bangalore. In Goa, once our bags were checked, we proceeded to the security line – the four of us, as usual, moving in an efficient pod of kids, carry-ons and our faithful stroller. By now we have the airport drill down to a well practiced march. After ten flights in eight weeks, even the kids know their parts.

When a uniformed policeman ushered Sandeep and Kayan to one side and Ava and I to another, we were thrown off order. Kayan went into a state of panic at being separated from Ava. “Where is Dada going?” yelled Ava, as she made a run towards Sandeep, “Dada! Dada!”

It took me second to realize that we weren’t being detained, but separated by gender. “They’re putting the women on one side and the men on another,” I explained to my tear streaked daughter.

“But waaaiiiiii?”

As I understand it, based on my time in India, there are Ladies and Gents lines and sections for two main reasons. The first is conservatism. India is still a conservative society, and giving women their own space without being forced to mingle with strange men is appropriate. Second, being a society with zero concepts of personal space or boundaries, giving women their own space reduces improper interactions.

For a family traveling within India, this poses a few challenges. Here’s where to expect gender segregation.

  • Lines at any government run facility, including train stations, airports, and monuments. Where security is not involved, women can choose to be in the general line. If a woman so chooses, she should be prepared for plenty of staring and close contact. The upside for a woman, however, is that Ladies lines tend to be much shorter.
  • Certain public transportation, such as the bus we took in Goa, offers Ladies Only sections.
  • Restaurants in South India offer a Family Section at the back. It may as well say Ladies This Way Please. The front of the restaurant is usually a bar area where men mingle, drink and eat, while the back is where it is appropriate for (it is assumed) non-alcohol drinking ladies and children to hang out.

When we arrived in Bangalore, we realized that we had a limited number of diapers in our carry-on. In an effort to conserve, we let Kayan stay in bit of dampness as we passed time over cups of coffee and juice. Ava was on my lap and Kayan on Sandeep’s while we people watched the happy greetings and weepy goodbyes at the airport entrance. As we stood up to board our Bangalore-Cochin flight, we realized that a little more than dampness had made its way out of Kayan’s pants and onto Sandeep’s.

A speedy check in through security (this time we knew to separate ourselves by Ladies and Gents), we made a dash for the Baby Care room. I had taken Ava there when we were in Bangalore two years ago. The facility is maintained by Himalaya is the most well equipped family room we’ve seen – clean cribs, changing tables, baby soap, oil and lotion are all available for passenger use.

As the four of us jostled the door knob, a guard appointed to care for Baby Care stopped Sandeep with a polite “No gents allowed.”

India is seeing a rise in dual income families as it races along the highway of development, yet the assumption still exists (in Bangalore – the model for the modern Indian city) that women take full responsibility over child rearing. Even in an age when baby accidents happen on gents just as much as they do on ladies.

As we’ve said before, this trip is a chance for us to get out of our comfort zones, no matter if it’s in the country of our origin or it means reversing on the road of social progress.

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2 Comments

Filed under India, Travel With Kids

2 Responses to Ladies Only, No Gents Please

  1. Sonal

    Poor Sandeep! I can’t believe he wasn’t allowed to use the facilities. Also love Ava’s “but waiiiii”! Kiran says that a lot too and also “anno”, which is his abbreviated version of I don’t know. Skype soon? We are around this weekend and Monday.

    • Diya

      We thought about protesting, but decided a dash to the men’s room was a better use of time given the circumstance. Anno – that’s cute. Yes, Skype for sure in the next few days. xx

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