This post was originally penned for Zostel and was hosted here
The exhaustion gets to you
Waiting, waiting all by yourself be it at bus-stands and railway stations gets to you
Becoming an easier spectacle to behold amidst the throngs gets to you
‘Girl on the run’ is what their eyes seem to be saying almost accusingly
And having to put up with it in repeated succession is like sitting on a bed of nails. It makes you angsty.
You’re there. On your own. Why?
There is that initial sense of trepidation. And you begin to sense it lasting a little longer than you’d imagined. You have reason though. This is the northern most you’ve travelled solo. You’re last stint was Kutch in March.
|Solo at the railway station|
You find yourself flipping through notes you’ve jotted from your previous solo travels -- Trust life a lil’ bit; it ain’t so bad after all.
You begin to remind yourself you need to breathe. Because once you are able to separate out the ones who are curious from the others who may mean you harm, you (a) realise the numbers of the latter are rather small and (b) you play a role in putting people around you at ease without necessarily throwing caution to the wind
Indian female solo travellers aren’t a rare breed anymore. Many from the tribe have repeated it beyond a mere first attempt – even though traveling solo outside of India seems to have more takers than travelling solo in India! Or so it would seem.
So while sightings of non-Indian female solo travellers in India mostly go unquestioned as do sightings of Indian female solo travellers outside of India, it’s the ‘Indian female solo traveller in India’ who finds herself at the receiving end of needing to justify herself!
No doubt questions that get thrown at the ‘Indian female solo traveller in India’ are largely because of the concerns around her own safety. The odds of spotting ‘the girl/woman unescorted’ is quite a rarity. Women and girls whether locals or travellers are mostly seen accompanied by someone. And that’s exactly what compels her (and others like her) to demonstrate the need to differentiate between the world recreated by newspapers from the world experienced while on the road courtesy the people met (who never fail to rise to the occasion).
|Run ins with groups|
|Solo travelling in Madhya Pradesh|
While recently solo-traveling in Madhya Pradesh, ‘yours truly’ had some time at hand during one lazy afternoon having completed immersing herself in the temples at Khajuraho and decided to navigate her way around the little town. Having walked a couple of kilometres I came across a ‘shilpgram’ and decided to explore what lay inside the store. Exquisite pieces of art and craftwork, antiques from time long since gone on sale adorned its interiors.
Some moments later a staff at the store struck a conversation with me sharing details about the pieces for sale and enquired where I hailed from. He’d come to Mumbai some years ago and was amazed at the pace at which the city functioned. It was rather evident that I was travelling on my own to which he complimented me saying (in Hindi), “It’s really nice that you travel by yourself”. I replied, “I have always met some really wonderful people and had good experiences when travelling by myself”.
Something that he said right after got me thinking.
“I cannot say much about other places but people in Khajuraho are really nice people.”
|Encounters with people on the road|
Whether north, south, east, west or central India, local people I’ve met have been quick to assure and sometimes justify to me that their town or city or state is relatively much safer than others. So when the gentleman at the shop in Khajuraho said the exact same thing to me, I only smiled.
I have since then wondered that if more people affirm to others and as a consequence to themselves that inherently we are all nice i.e. mean no ill-will or harm to another, maybe it’s a beginning to something small but powerful.
The girl/woman unescorted, then, is on a mission.
|Unescorted on a mission|