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“One of them grabbed my other hand and held it very tightly for a few seconds, and ran away,” Pradhan recalled.

“I was so angry that I shrieked, and we ran after them. Then seeing that I was not going to go, he apologised.” Another time, a group of men sneered as they passed by the young couple: “? )” My friend Neha Belvalkar’s first visit to India after two years in a film school in the US was “appalling,” in her words.

“While talking about Akbar’s many wives of different faiths, he cited our marriage as an example,” said Divya.

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Probably every woman in India has one story about having been subject to lecherous looks as she has walked down the street. The male gaze turns more brazen by several orders of magnitude.

Ketki Pradhan, a French teacher in Pondicherry, told me about the time she was holding her German boyfriend’s hand when a group of men started making vulgar gestures.

And a mixed-race couple in which one person is black often brings out the worst kind of racism.

When I decided to marry a Frenchman, my family’s concern was the normal one that parents have about whether their children have made the right decision; my partner’s nationality played only a minor role.

So when a neighbour took it upon herself to tell my mother that I was being an irresponsible daughter by marrying outside my “caste” and moving abroad, it upset me at many levels.

I wondered whether she would have felt as much concern over my being so far away from my mother had I married an Indian.

Yet, there I was, feet dipped in clear water, staring into the horizon, trying to convince two middle-aged women whom I did not know that the man I was with was indeed my husband.

By the fourth day of our vacation on the islands, we had got used to being stared at.

And there’s the drive towards conformity: The ugly head that raises itself at the sight of anything that dares to deviate from the norm.

Milan resident Divya Kapahi was visiting Jodhabai’s palace in Agra with her Romanian husband when their tour guide made a comment that angered her.

An Indian woman who has got a white man must be enlightened, even by complete strangers.

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