In all the years of travel (and life), I have often found myself to be the only female in railway compartments, local buses, airport queues, hotels, eateries, auto-rickshaw stands, meeting rooms, parks and once, as a teenager, even in a classroom. It doesn’t make me visibly uncomfortable unless the men act creepy. But, mentally, I have not been able to make peace with it. The efforts to sleep in a way that your cleavage or lower back doesn’t get exposed to attract unavoidable eyeballs, or the ridiculous assumptions made by waiters that someone must be joining me on the table for two (or five), are a bit too frustrating on some days. Glancing around in public spaces, and re-doing it, I find myself asking, “Where the hell are other unaccompanied women?”
That’s a selfish reason why I want to see more women by themselves. Now, if we compare from the previous years and rely on published data, more women are now travelling for work and leisure.
That’s great news!
But does it mean the numbers are satisfactory? Not to me.
If I start from home and take my mom for instance, she has hardly ever gone out, even to the market, without my dad or another family member. On asking why, she always asks back, “What’s the need?”, to which I say, “You’ll know when you do it.” The day hasn’t come yet. In recent years, she has started going out with her women folk though, to brunches and movies, not without a male driver who frequently tells himself, “What would they do if I wasn’t there!” and feels good about himself. The disturbing fact is that they would cancel half the plans if there’s no one to pick and drop.
Also read: How I planned my first solo trip
I have friends who raise their eyebrows each time I talk of wandering alone, and give excuses for why they can’t do it even if they wish. While there are many women in India and around the world who are still struggling their way out of a forced restricted life where they can’t make a choice to be on their own, a lot of us have all the external liberty but are bound by internal dialogue. Things we all tell (have told) ourselves:
- Will my family approve of me hanging out alone?
- Where do I even look while walking by myself?
- How do I know where to go? What if I get lost?
- Would people think I don’t have friends? Do I really have none?
- What if I am groped and don’t find my voice, yet again?
- Are all those movie mugging scenes real?
These and several other statements that we answer conveniently to shut ourselves up, let a dream remain just that – A dream. Each time we suppress our thoughts, we remain in our own shell. To step out of there, we need to believe in ourselves, and others, a bit more. We need to know that we are more capable than we think and the world is better than what we have been told.
Reclaim the tiny tea stall you were afraid to enter, because of the gang of men surrounding it.
Become your own savior for only you know when and from whom you need to be saved.
Do it so that we see more of us around ourselves and strengthen our belief that change is possible, empowerment is essential, one woman at a time.
Initially, if venturing out on your own seems overwhelming, and your friends think you’ve gone crazy, consider joining an online community, for example, Sheroes, where you can connect with like-minded women, plan meet-ups, go on a vacation and who knows, find friends for life.
Come back and tell me if you went out with yourself!
© 2018, Swati. All rights reserved.