Chhimi Tenduf-La, a promising new author with immaculate sense of humor, shared the couch with Meenal Baghel, Editor of Mumbai Mirror; Pilar Maria, a prominent architect; and Jessy James, a traveling poet and a hip hop artist for an interesting conversation about women travelling alone.
Chhimi commenced the session with a humorous note, “I never travelled alone – as a woman” which set the crowd in a laugh riot at the very beginning. As the sun and the crowd peaked at Speak Out, he took turns to talk to the wonderful women on stage who have traveled alone to various nations for studies, work, and pleasure.
Chhimi: Why do you encourage women to be brave enough to travel alone?
Jessy: I ran off from my home when I was sixteen and my parents were very upset. Not only in India, but everywhere around the world, parents tend to get troubled when their children move out. I had a difficult year; I slept off in park benches; I have had some horrific experiences of drug dealers approaching me. I have only grown in the process and that’s why I encourage women to travel. Is it possible for a tree to expand its roots and branches if it was kept in a tiny pot? I don’t think so. It has to be placed in a garden. That’s when the tree gets to grow. Similarly only when we get out of our comfort zone and travel alone, we get to grow.
Chhimi: Is it less safe for women to travel alone in India?
Meenal: I have traveled alone across India and taken public transport to remote villages of the country for my work. One thing that I appreciate during my journey is that I was always overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. You have to trust people. Like Jessy said, that’s when you grow and that’s when you get the feeling of getting out of yourself. I have an advantage of being a journalist and I have always felt a sense of security while traveling. The news regarding the sexual offenses happening all over India are disturbing and could create anxiety. You have to take necessary precautions but get out of your shell.
Chhimi: As a foreigner traveling here and embracing the local culture, how do you feel about traveling in India?
Jessy: I did my college in Coimbatore. When all my friends were either in Goa or Mumbai, I chose to come to a small town like Coimbatore. People are heartwarming. When I told my parents that I was going to India, the first advice they gave me was “Please don’t get raped”. Because they have read stories about harassments in India. It’s the way media projects the news. Even in Germany, if every rape story ended up in newspaper, I am sure that no one would want to come to Germany. I would never say that India is unsafe, but it is the media that makes it look unsafe. Men in Coimbatore have asked me if they could drop me home when I am outside home after 8 PM. Women loved my saree and asked for selfies with me. I never felt harassed and violated. It’s just cute. The most important thing is that the weak image about women has to change. Come on, we give birth to babies and men can’t do that. We are not weak. It’s you who should remember that and it’s the people who make you feel safe.
Chhimi: Pilar, could you please share your experiences in India?
Pilar: I have never traveled alone for pleasure. My story is, when I wanted to do PhD, I decided to work on Indian culture. Like Jessy said, my parents were reluctant in the beginning and later agreed on it. I contacted this eminent professor from Delhi and he responded back. I met him later in Hyderabad and he said that he would help me if I moved to India and not do a study from my comfort zone. After a month of thought process, I eventually moved to India and I am here since then. It’s been an amazing journey so far.
Chhimi: Meenal, as Pilar and Jessy talked about their travel experiences to India, how was your experience in traveling to Europe?
Meenal: To be honest, there are so many children who move from small towns to big cities alone for studies and work. That’s the bedrock of traveling with confidence and the parents should trust their children. Now to answer your question on my Europe trip, in Burgen, during a train journey, I met another young Indian woman who is still my friend. That’s what travel will offer you. You should be open minded and allow things to happen to you.
As the time was running out in no time, the panel wrapped it up with Jessy reciting an impeccable poem that would have surely inspired many women to travel alone. The poem was about the life of a paper which could be as beautiful as origami or a flying plane or a paper filled with poetry that reflected the lives of humans and how they could choose to be anything in the universe.
About the Author: Lavanyaa is a fiction writer, published author, wannabe dancer, and voracious reader. To support all these fun activities, she works in the software industry. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.