Welcome to India: On Making a Spectacle of Myself

Let’s be honest. I am good at making a spectacle of myself. It is arguably my only actual talent. For as long as I can remember, I have been hiding my intense, occasionally crippling, shyness behind the facade of a person who enjoys making a fool of himself. I have done this for so long that the distinction between performing for pleasure and performing as an escape mechanism is totally blurred. It is now a natural, almost instinctual, part of my personality that I am the first to do dumb things in front of a group, the guy who will walk on a stage when no one else will, the person who enjoys being the mockery.

But that was in America.

Being a spectacle in India is a lot easier for me, and a lot harder as well.

With my red hair, often unkempt beard and my sizable girth, I have always stuck out. People remember me because I look like no one else. But my looks were not so odd that I elicited stares just by walking down the street. Enter India, where I have already been known to cause stares, cause cars to slow down for a better look, and cause shopkeepers to literally burst out in shock. People here feel compelled to say things like, “You are a big, big man!” (Actual quote from random shopkeeper) Kids are the worst. They point, gasp, ask their parents questions about me, giggle, and several times have followed me down the road.

This is not the kind of spectacle I want to be. My shyness is caused mainly by worries about my weight and appearance, and by redirecting people’s attention to my behavior, I was able to distract people from what I perceive as my faults. But here, the spectacle is purely based on appearance, so there is no deflection. In my admittedly off-kilter mind, the stares are what I fear people would do in the West if I were not so busy being charmingly silly.

But there is a bright side, I promise. One, I am getting more exercise that I have had in the past three years combined. But more importantly, I wanted to use this trip to India as a way to minimize the evilness of my brain, and maybe not hiding behind the spectacle is a step in the right direction.

Not that I will stop being a spectacle. I would hate that. Maybe just being a spectacle for the right reasons.

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About the Author

I moved to India. I mean, why the hell not, right?