I have never been a head turner. I still am not; at least I wasn’t until I reached my hometown this time. But after going for a walk here the other day, I’ve started wondering if I have become one overnight. Normally when I come home for holidays, I hardly go out except to my relatives’ places, that too in a car, with my parents or Hari. This time though, my mom and I decided to walk to the town to buy some stuff. I can’t tell you how much I regret that decision!

The ordeal started with some ladies staring at me shamelessly. A couple of times I looked back to see if they were people I knew or if they wanted to ask me something. But even when I looked straight back at them, they wouldn’t budge and kept staring. On the faces of some, I saw a look of disapproval as they checked out my attire – something as simple and ordinary as a jean and a t-shirt. I tried putting on an expression of discomfort on my face to make them look away, but to no avail.

That was soon followed by almost 50% or more of the men I passed on the main road turning back to have a look of the seemingly new girl in town. If the ladies who stared at me had a look of curiosity, the men had an expression of pure amusement. And by men, I mean anyone ranging from the age of 15 to 60; that is boys who were hardly old enough to be my younger brothers to men who were about the age of my father.

Men who were backseat passengers on bikes turned around almost completely and kept looking until they were too far to see my face or whatever they were looking at. Three boys of hardly 20 who noticed me while they were passing by literally stopped their bike, got off and waited until I passed them, all the while looking at me from head to toe, and when they were satisfied, got on their bikes and rode away. A couple of guys who were sitting sipping tea at the porch of a tea stall came out to have a closer look and went back inside when they were done. At least three or four men from every bus which passed by put their head out of the window and smiled. And these were just some out of many. Trust me, I am not exaggerating. And I still believe that there is nothing extraordinary about me to enchant men. Why then, were they showing off all these gimmicks?

Initially I tried giving stern looks to the guys who were staring. But soon I realized that it was no easy feat when every second guy who came by was the same. I have no words to express how uneasy I was. I even asked my mom if there was something wrong with me because I just couldn’t make out the reason why everyone was looking at me like this. She asked me to simply ignore them. I know I probably should have. But after living in Hyderabad for so long, I think I had gotten over the ogling syndrome that I had to encounter everywhere in Kerala except for Cochin. Not that people elsewhere are complete saints. I have heard my friends recount similar experiences from across India. But I have been lucky enough not to have such things happening to me at any other place I have been to, within and out of India. Here, in front of these people, dressed from top to bottom, I felt naked. As a person who has walked around confidently everywhere else, I felt so uncomfortable walking through my own hometown that all I wanted was to get back to the safety and security of my home, away from the lecherous eyes.

I have only one question – will this never change?