When I walk through the scorchingly male-dominated streets I am devoured by the long-lasting stares from bulgy-eyed collared-clad men who stand hand in hand, their eyes a portrait of something fierce. So intense I feel them picking me apart, shoveling out my intentions, peering deep into my movements and thoughts, sending out a maddening vibration that tells me to stay away. I pick up my shoulders a little more, I look deeper into the distance as if not to be indefinitely suffocated by their brutal stare, taking a little gulp of air.
When the reality of a child beggar stared us in our eyes the conversation ended as one said “I feel so disempowered when” and the boy bandaged and bruised to his core weakly shuffled toward, speaking words coming from an immense weight. But the auto driver flicked him off like a bug, like a buzzing mosquito, just another pest in this land of disease. Jordan tried to finish his sentence, stuttering, feeling the swarm of emotions that suffocated the three of us to where we only heard the sputtering of the rickshaw’s engine as we drove on, paralyzed, feeling disempowered and suffocated, as we couldn’t do anything but be silent.
This is the stare that can break you down, take words from your mouth that instead swarm your head. No matter how many times I have walked to the corner store, seeing the same faces in the village, I always get looked at as I am, an alien with motives unseen. It is my constant reminder that despite the amount of confidence I can muster up, this is not my land. The stare of the children, of something so helpless and in need, who see me as a spark of hope to put some rupees in their hand, remind me that this is not my land. That no matter my purest intentions, it is often those that wreak havoc on something else. And so I am constantly reminded in those fragile stares to be fragile in this ecosystem, to tread lightly down the path of least harm, rather than the feeble path of most good.