“I am a star”

One of my first cultural shocks when I came to Pune was the
amount of attention I got here. Wherever I turned, I would meet multiple eyes.
Sellers would elbow their way past more interested costumers just to get to me.
And people would speak to me and ask for photos of me wherever I went. I guess
I somehow thought that when I got more used to Pune, Pune would get more used
to me. That was not so.

It continued. I wonder how many selfies I have taken with
strangers, or how many people I have exchanged phone numbers with without
knowing them. Seeing people drive with their heads turned backwards is a usual
sight. Why? Because my skin color is fair and my eyes are blue? Is that enough
to make this reaction?

It has its good sides. I have seen children who turn super
excited when they see me. I meet many smiles wherever I turn around. And I get
to talk to so many new people all the time.

Yet it also has its bad sides. I have had old men rising
from their seats on the bus to specifically give it to me, not to the old woman
next me. And I have had old rickshaw drivers pull off across the road to
masturbate while staring intensively at me.

Why? I ask myself all the time. I don’t understand what is
happening. Is my skin color all of it, or is it another reason for all of this
attention? There are relatively many foreigners here. It is not unusual to see
a fair-skinned person in the street. When I try to ask people why they want
photos with me, they answer that they want it for the memory of it, and then they

This whole thing makes me feel like I am taking part of a
big prank or something. It makes me feel like I can never fully integrate here,
that I will always be a foreigner, an outsider.