India: Alone as a woman?
January 1, 1970
by Kim Deuker
Why I love India
India is unpredictable, chaotic and overwhelming.
I found myself as deeply overwhelmed by despair as never before,
found myself laughing till the air around me seemed to fade
and broke down in tears as if those could carry me back home.
India demonstrates corrode humanity at it’s edges,
genuine joy in it’s most beautiful expressions
and so much more of which a human being as me
could have never dreamed of before.
For me, traveling means first of all to break out of your comfort zone. It means to spread your wings – to fly and discover wherever the wind is taking you.
When I started my travels about nine months ago the plane carried me to India, to be a little more specific – to Goa.
“India ? Alone ? As a woman ?” “Are you crazy ?” “Don’t you know that women are worth less than a cow there?”
Those are the words that crashed against my determination, trying to break it with no success. The most worried person was – of course – my beloved mother. The more she researched about the many-sided country, the bigger the storm grew that approached her heart. A storm consisting of fears and nightmares about what could happen with her little girl at the other side of the world. And even though my heart was not spared by it at all, there was nothing that could change my mind – I wanted to make my own picture of that country full of prejudices, I wanted to see the reality.
So I did, and it turned out to be different from everything I could ever have imagined.
I already tried to find the right words to describe India several times referring to specific experiences I gained over there and want to conclude them within this article for those of you who might plan to travel there or just for anybody who is interested.
What to expect ?
At this point I do sadly have to emphasize that you should differentiate between if you are a man or a woman. Even though India is continuously moving away from the male dominated culture, discrimination is still highly visible in all levels of society.
In many parts, parents see their daughters not as human beings, but regard them as a liability, as secondary to men whereas the latter might be idolized when considered through these glasses, embossed by still persisting patriarchal traditions. I want to point out that I am not the kind of person who believes in everything the media tells you, but concerning India I sadly have to admit that – no matter how much I hate making a distinction here – India is way more safe for male travelers.
This fact must not stop you to go there if you are a woman, but you should at least be aware of it and please keep it in mind during your stay there !
You need to be prepared for leaving your western standards from home. We all do that when traveling Asia, right ? Sure. But you want to travel India and trust me – India is different. Speaking for myself, I felt like thrown back into the 50th at several points as toilet paper is rarely provided, you hardly find any toilet flush’s or even a real shower – you have a ‘Bucket shower’ instead – those are the most common examples coming up to my mind so far. Further you have to dress properly which means to constantly cover your shoulders and knees whenever you plan to step over the threshold of your house in order to respect the culture and traditions of the Hindus properly and to let their country reward you with it’s indescribable beauty.
Yes, you will find yourself sweating when perceived with the sickening hot temperatures outside as well as pursued by hungry eyes of most local men which have hardly ever seen an ‘exotic’ woman as you are before, but Ladies, please don’t get discouraged by that ! Just invest enough time in preparing your trip good enough according to your specific needs to make sure not to get obstructed by modest things as you will find plenty other thrilling challenges in this unpredictable country.
India will push you to the edge of your capability, it will fray your nerves and exasperate your mind by confronting it with frightening poverty. India is where the simplest task can turn into a nightmare, where humanity claims new dimensions and where you can experience moments that lead you to review the way you look at the world and your place in it.
Where to start ?
It would probably take a lifetime to cover whole India and one more to unravel her profound mysteries. When thinking about it, I do regret spending a little bit too much time in the smallest state of India – Goa – but I would highly recommend for you to go there first as it is a great way to prepare yourself for the ‘real’ India that you will rather find in the hidden, non touristic places which you should not miss on your trip ! Goa is legitimately seen as “not the real India”. It gets outrageously crowded in the main season (Oct-Feb) and as far as I know the only place in the whole country where you could wear summer clothes on the streets without curious men watching you as if you were an alien. Even though I would not recommend for you to go out alone at night, it is quite save to travel there alone as a woman and there you might find someone to join your trip through the rest of India where it can get quite uncomfortable and even dangerous to walk along the street without a man by your side.
Yes or no?
Even though your trip will probably be more challenging than it is for male travelers, even though it will be more dangerous and probably push you towards the edges of your imagination, India will pay you back presenting it’s ordinary charm, unique scenery and not at least it’s female residents which will show you a way of cohesion that enriches your heart.
I would more likely advise you not to travel the huge country on your own but to take a man to join your trip to ensure your safety and probably make it even more enjoyable for you.
You will rather love it or loathe it – but never know without giving it a try.