I am waiting to meet the youngster’s teacher on English literature. The classes over for the day, boys and girls file out– not from different doors as in a Muslim wedding or on a godman’s talk show – but together, talking, giggling, playfully teasing. Half of the kids, I notice, are from other South Eastern Countries, most others European or American, . The girls all wear incredibly short denim shorts or skinny Bermudas and hugging T-shirts . I notice a light brown, beautiful face of an Indian teen. She is the only one wearing a nearly-knee-length skirt. I muse she must have had a lot many arguments with her mother before settling for what her peers would call grandmother’s wardrobe .In nineteen thirties,I had read in the book, “Civilizations of China” by Herbert Giles, that tight European clothes were considered vulgar by the Chinese who then wore lose clothes. What a sea change.
I meet the teacher, a Chinese woman who graduated from Cambridge, whose grey hairs peep out between golden curls. When she stands up to shake hands, I notice that she is wearing a short pleated skirt, perhaps even shorter than the students’, and v-necked T-shirt . Unlike the still growing teenagers, she is well-endowed and knows it. Her familiarity with Indian English literature amazes me. We discuss Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry and Kiren Desai, She has also heard of Premchand, but couldn’t find an English translation. I feel secretly ashamed that I can only quote Confucius and show off my hazy knowledge about Hsuan Tsang.
The youngster, in his usual crumpled Bermudas and equally crumpled T (I believe he has instructed the Chinese help not to iron them) joins us at the teacher’s desk. He is pleased that the teacher thinks well of his writing style. More importantly, he needs to buy something from the Wal-Mart Mall.
At the mall, I find the same pattern of feminine apparel. Nearly all young Chinese women – at least those till in their forties – have short, short, bottom-hugging denims, many with their hems roughly torn off. Those who are endowed enough, show off their cleavages. Older women – older than myself by their looks – wear tight pants and just as tight flowery shirts. The winter has just departed, so some of them wear transparent leggings under their shorts. No one seems ashamed of her shapely legs any more than Valmiki’s Sita was when a disguised Ravana complimented her on her’s.
You cannot say that there are no reports of rape in Chinese newspapers. Plenty, if you ask me, printed with ill-concealed glee. Reports of rapes that happen in India.
Back home, the Sunday edition displays a chart of last ten years’ rape cases – in India – and I hide it when a neighbour comes calling.
Oh, no. To be fair It is not that they only report Indian rapes. The other day, there was the news of a headmaster molesting a 12-year old student in a town near Beijing . It happened a month ago. This month, the headmaster has been tried and awarded suspended death sentence. An appeal wouldn’t save him, tells the reporter. Suspended death sentence in China means this : the jailbird will be watched for two years. If he behaves to the entire satisfaction of the turnkeys, the sentence would be commuted to life term. Life term means prison till he dies, not for thirteen years, shortened to eight years, as in India.. If the turnkeys (or wardens, whoever) gives an adverse report at the end of two years, he would be taken out and – yes – shot. Good riddance.
So you know why most of the rape news I read in an English daily in China is of what happens in India.
Talking of clothes, I can’t help wondering – how revealing were a duty nurse’s uniform for Aruna Shanbaug to get raped by sodomy?