AWAKENINGS

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

Saturday, May 10, 2008–Dressed or Not?

…Depends which country you originate from.

Today I am taking a risk.  I am resorting to wearing shorts, exposing my legs above my knees for physical therapy, along with a spaghetti-strapped blue and white workout top.  Saturday is more casual in the therapy room, and is reserved for the in-patients at the hospital.  Indian out-patients typically visit during the weekdays.  My two pairs of yoga pants are being laundered so my white chicken legs are exposed for the first time in months.  At least my pale swollen limbs are clean shaven for Chavi—dare I ever appear with hairy prickly legs. 

The therapy room in the basement of the building is usually buzzing with patients chatting from all over the globe including local Indians (varying from Hindu, Christian, Sikh, and Muslim faiths), the USA, Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emerites (UAE).  In direct contrast to a beautiful Muslim physical therapist named Rizvana, who wears a pretty pink lacey head scarf tied under her chin, and long sleeves and slacks, I am scantily clad.  Even in yoga pants and sleeveless tops.  I have been ogled with importunate stares by Arabic and Indian men on numerous occasions this week while I very innocently twist and stretch my body in various exercise positions.  When one particular man voiced some suggestive comments towards me, I immediately covered my chest and arms with a long-sleeved pull-over prior to performing cat-and-camel exercises followed by pelvic rotations on all fours.  Today, my shorts would have been too much skin for this strangely naive salivating man to handle (yet pervert-none-the-less).  These men quite simply aren’t used to seeing a woman expose her arms, legs, or even ankles in many cases.  Hint:  When in India (even in the therapy room), do as the Indians do—that is, be respectful of their attire, unless of course you relish inviting hungry stares and the occasional flirtatious comment (which was too shocking for me!).

I had another off-putting experience the other day when an Arabic man from the UAE garbed in a long striped caftan with sandals refused to allow me to share a taxi to the other hospital with him and his wheelchair-bound patient.  He yelled up to Sister Isha and Punja in the lobby: 

“She not coming with us.  We pay lot of money for this treatments.  We go alone.  Now!” 

With that, he ordered his driver to put the patient’s wheelchair in the trunk while he threw his body into the seat and slammed the minivan’s sliding door shut.  

I sat in my wheelchair stunned.  Stranded in the hot sun I forced my best smile.  As he peered at me from behind the backseat window, I meekly stated: 

“I don’t bite!  I’ll take another taxi, not a problem.  I can wait.” 

Still mortified, I rolled back up the ramp into the lobby on Nu Tech Mediworld to literally sit in the cool and “chill” for a welcomed five minutes or so.  Phew.  I believe I just witnessed an outburst of sheer arrogance from a man who is clearly accustomed to speaking down to women and in fact, he was utterly disrespectful regardless of my sex. 

Upon reading the internet (thank God for the instantaneous access of information through today’s World Wide Web), Wikipedia reports that the UAE population has an unnatural sex distribution consisting of more than twice the number of males than females. The 15-65 age group has a male/female sex ratio of 2,743.  UAE’s gender imbalance is the highest among any nation in the world followed by Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. 

In hindsight, had I taken the taxi with my UAE friends, I would have missed out on my crazy and enlightening conversation with Subhash, my taxi driver who showed up not long after (and who still thinks I was injured in a car accident…and that my mother lives in the US).

The first two persons I made sure I said hello to this morning in the therapy room were my friends from the UAE.  I pay respect to them in my friendly way, regardless of their previous attitude toward me…and regardless of my shorts and exposed knees.  Each to his own.  God created us all equal.  Peel our skins off and we are exactly the same.  Beauty beholds all:  that is, all living things, even the stones beneath my wheels.  I accept everything as good—even the tough and foolish entwined with the intelligent and sanctified.  I let it be as it is, love it, and I am glad to be a part of it.

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