Friday, April 15, 2011

From the Editor - Rare and Elusive and Right Under Our Noses

They are rare and they are elusive. In fact, they are so difficult to spot that at times their existence is shrugged off as another unsolved mystery in the same league as the Little Green Men from Mars and the Loch Ness Monster. However, for us at Ghumakkar, they are a reality since we can proudly boast that we have them amongst us. Yes, we are talking about that rising and rapidly multiplying breed of travellers – The Indian Women Backpackers. If you have been reading Ghumakkar regularly, you could not have missed Nisha Jha’s recap of her travels in her story. And those of you who have been around long enough would have immediately thought of our original backpacker, Lakshmi Sharath, whose Ghumakkar ID ‘backpakker’ says it all. Indians are social people and when someone talks about travelling alone, the first question that comes up is “Why? Won’t you get bored?” And if you are a woman, you have to fight through additional layers of approvals and disapprovals. You need to have a certain ‘dabang’ streak to be able to rise through these social barricades and to fulfil your dreams. A woman travelling alone is not such a rare sight in the Western world. Neither is a western woman travelling alone in India such a rare sight. But when an Indian Woman travels alone with no fixed agenda in India, it is a sight that few are ready to accept without questioning. In an effort to find out about what motivates these travellers, I asked both Nisha and Lakshmi about how and where they embarked on their first journeys alone. For Nisha, her “first ever trip alone was for appearing for some competitive exam in another city in India.” Since then apart from travelling in India, Nisha has been to 21 countries and “each of them holds some special memories”. The challenges that travelling alone throws at her every day keep her motivated and each solo trip adds to her confidence. Lakshmi has been travelling for so many years and to so many places that she cannot exactly recall how it started for her. She says “have travelled alone as a student or as a professional and I guess I started just that way”. For her, travelling is a way of life and in her own words, she is “sort of addicted to it”. Travelling solo means that they can choose their own activities, places, mode of transportation and hotels.

For women backpackers the strife usually begins at home. We are not used to seeing our daughters travel alone. Until recently, parents were wary of letting their girls go out in groups and, even today, this continues to be the point of contention in many families. It is no surprise then that travelling solo is unthinkable for most of us. The concern is usually security with crimes against women rising every day. However, there is also the metaphorical magnifying glass through which the conduct of a woman is inspected in our society and, as a result, propriety is another concern. Due to various social reasons, independent women are still looked at with a lot of suspicion and families want to fiercely protect their girls against any mishap or questionable reputation. This is perhaps the toughest barrier to break for a woman backpacker in India. Nisha who is a seasoned traveller now says “later it became habit though parents were always concerned as any parent of a girl would have been”. Things invariably get tougher after marriage because then you have two sets of worrying parents to convince. As in case of Nisha whose first solo trip after marriage to the USA “was vehemently opposed by both sets of parents since it was for around a year and leaving your newly wedded husband behind was something they could not come to terms with.” It requires a great deal of conviction and self-assurance to break through this barrier of concern without hurting people close to you. And, of course, a supporting spouse helps a great deal. You, however, have to be fairly thick-skinned to not let yourself get effected by the distant relatives who think that they have a say in how you should lead your life. And then there is the other side of the coin too where families are more worried about a particular destination “but not the concept of travelling” as in case of Lakshmi.
Click here to read the whole article at Ghumakkar.

6 comments:

  1. Travelling does open one's eyes to the reality of the world.. we get to meet new people, see new places but most importantly we discover ourselves everytime..

    nice post..

    u've earned a new follower

    -aneek ( http://sylarthemaverick.blogspot.com )

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  2. Thanks Aneek.

    I am glad you like the post. Yes, travelling helps in evolution :).

    -Vibha

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  3. Travelling alone for women is fraught with risk to an extent, best is to follow surnrise to sunset timings could be safe, secondly Meeru cabs have GPS tracking, and thirdly if some acquaintance in the destination of travel safety factor increases. Cellphone technology makes it easier to trace whereabouts i presume...nice musings.

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  4. Thanks Deguide. Yes cellphone technologies have made it easier for travellers of both genders and their families. I can't imagine how things would work if we did not have cell phones.

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  5. Have been backpacking in India with my wife for about 18 odd months now. We have met a lot of solo indian women who are backpacking. And a few solo bikers too :)
    Cheers,
    Madhu
    http://www.10yearitch.com

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  6. Thanks Madhu,

    Thats nice to know. Things are changing fast for women in India. And I am so glad!

    Cheers,
    Vibha

    ReplyDelete

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