An open letter to foreign women travelling alone to India

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In the wake of a recent incident that had a British female tourist jump of a window of a hotel room fearing a rape and fracturing a leg, India is facing a lot of wrath of being highly unsafe for women tourists. Data from Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry shows that in first three months of the year the number of women tourist have dropped by 35% . As an Indian journalist having travelled in India extensive and yet safe, I get saddened at stories of rapes and loots on women tourist. But, I find that even female tourists are to be blamed as they have some unrealistic expectations from the country. The following are a few points you would thank me for, so read on.

  1. Build your network beforehand– In your own country if you know a colleague, an acquaintance, a friend or anyone you know is an Indian just talk to them beforehand and ask them to let their families or trusted friends know that you are travelling to India and ask them to introduce you through skype or a call. Exchange phone numbers of their families or women friends.
  2. Location! – Travel websites like www.makemytrip.comwww.yatra.comwww.travelguru.com may be helpful in connecting you to good hotels. Also, state hotels that are usually a safe choice for example MP Tourism and Rajasthan Tourism offer some great hotels at affordable prices.
  3. Booking your travel– Indian domestic airways and Indian Railways are your best bets. If you plan to travel by rail, always book your travel at www.irctc.co.in 3-4 months in advance as it is a very busy website. If money allows travel by AC three Tier and AC two Tier as most families travel in that class. Befriend a family with kids and women. They will provide you with security you need in your rail journey, you may also sit with them until 9 pm just before its time to hit the sack in IST inside the rail, if it’s an overnight journey. Do not book yourself in first class as it allows only 2 people in a coupe. If you want to travel by road make sure it is through the hotel and make sure it’s the hotel’s private taxi service. Most tourist destinations have a railway path, if not a domestic airway connectivity.
  4. First things first– If your High Commission suggests you to register your itinerary with the diplomacy, then do so, no questions asked. Many of us abide by the rule of our own countries but why do we have to flout rules when we go out of our country? Do yourself a great favor by keeping the local Indian Police station in loop.
  5. When in Rome, be on your own – We are often on our own when in our countries doing painting, renovating etc. As far as deals and restaurants are concerned Google is our best friend. Then, why suddenly in places like India do we listen to the flimflammers? There is no deal that an auto rickshaw driver, taxi driver or a local tourist guide will give you, if it sounds too good to be true then you are risking your security.
  6. Cheap Deals are a passé’ – There are no cheap countries left in the world. A decent hotel will cost you average $60-$70 USD per night. Reputed hotels like Radisson and the likes of Marriott may average at $119 USD per night but the experience is safer and peaceful. Any hotel charging you $20-$50 USD per night may be a bummer.
  7.  Communicate– When checking-in to a hotel, let the manager know that you already registered yourself with the local police station and they have your itinerary. Also, include you wouldn’t require a room service and will not entertain knocks and if not abided by, just call 100 (Indian version of 911) even if at the end it turns out to be a false alarm.
  8. Night life – Night life is not a safe time to explore India. Period.
  9. Do not get overwhelmed– You will find taxi driver, coolies, beggars hounding you like vultures most of the places in India, do not show your frustration as these moments make you look for a back door. There is no place a local guide will show you that you haven’t seen in your recce.
  10. Listen to your gut– As women we all have been gifted with a sixth sense that helps us when there are doubts hovering our mind. Respect your gut no matter how luring a deal or an argument by anyone seems and go by your instincts.

P.S- Indian experience is humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It is all that is touted to be colorful, hospitable, enlightening, empowering, traditional and tranquilizing. Just do your research and plan ahead, you will love India.

A life without ‘Facebook Life’

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to belittle people who love to share the snaps on Facebook, believe me I am one of those. I love those people for sharing their snaps with me.I am here to just add a perspective on the same topic.

My affair with social media is almost 8 years old..I started in 2004. Since then it has been a smooth ride.It has given me a lot of business and fortune and I don’t regret being with it even for a single second. I hate to admit it, but it is now guiding us in our behaviors, habits, idiosyncrasies, our relationships and more so life.. Whether its a recipe; a new decision; a new job;vacation, birthday bash or plain party..we are just not capturing the moments but clicking “Facebook moments’ or ‘Facebook clicks’ and this my friend is not the mistake.The mistake is to live for those ‘Facebook clicks’.

Just yesterday I had spoken to a Canadian friend who complained endlessly about how her boyfriend has not been taking her for any vacations for past 3 months and how their photographs on Facebook are not generating enough ‘Likes’. I wanted to let her know that is not what life is..but how could I, when I knew deep down that even I like to have some ‘Facebook clicks’? Facebook friends and Facebook  life all travel with us on vacations,sit between us in our sitting rooms through the  Facebook clicks and even define our relationships. I was not surprised when my friend from India complained that I didn’t wish her  New years whereas I wished another friend of mine on Facebook. Are we not taking our Facebook life too seriously? I have recently put some beautiful moments of my life on Facebook and loved to share it with my friends and family online. But I am going to be more cautious the next time I click any snap, that these would be also cherished in a photo album. I intend to put all my special moments in a photo album.According to Threatmetrix, published in an article on socialmediatoday, 50% of consumers do not trust Facebook stores.This is enough for me to work extra mile as a social media consultant. But still, I do not advocate living a Facebook life, even though that’s my profession.I know that the Facebook life is not my only reality.

Facebook may profess freedom and autonomy. It may be good at creating phenomena but our lives are not phenomena.I am not against social media but I think we all can try building our own quality life as well with building the social media life as well. Facebook has given great business to many people, social media is an amazing tool for increasing the bottom lines;for marketing, for business strategies and has changed the whole business phenomenon all in positives. Its all great! It has given us a way to find people that otherwise was not possible for us to meet.As humans we are born to connect whether online or offline and this need is the impetus of companies like Facebook and Twitter.

I do have a ‘Facebook life’ that inspires me to do great professionally; helps me connects with my friends and family; adds to my confidence but my life out of Facebook is equally fulfilling. Out of my Facebook life I am a mom, a wife, a person who serves community and loves to talk over coffee sessions post dinner.Out of my FB life I call my friends, visit my old aunt, talk and comfort friends.For all of you who are somewhere renouncing your unique life and copying a life that exists on Facebook that may or may not have been clicked just for Facebook. Its a Face and not the soul.Our lives are not phenomenon, they are at times exciting and at times boring;its not necessary for something to be happening all the time. I am not here to stir a debate on cyberoptimist or cyberpessimist.I am neither because I value logic and life. What makes sense does make sense and what dosent will never.

So get out with that digi cam or DSLR of yours, click the most amazing soul stirring pics and get them printed ! sometimes somethings should only be for you !!

With love from 2011

It is a busy day for me..some dear friends coming over for dinner at a short notice.I have read through some amazing posts by fellow bloggers on Truckshops near highway; how to plan ones life;how europe is going to cope with meltdown etc. All amazing in their own ways. My post is a cliché’ and will proudly remain so. It is about my learnings from this year which was rough and roughening. The rough times roughed me.This year churned some basic feelings inside me and I tried to get these answers through a book given to me by my dear friend.

1. ‘ I’ is dangerous. Nature in its mammoth state gives a lesson that when sun will rise it will set as well and river will flow and will never stagnate.Nothing is permanent so get rid of ‘i’.

2. Love breeds fear and it is natural.What is unnatural is tolet this guide ones life.When I tried to recognise my fear on my face I fought it and went beyond it.

3. Doubt comes when there is space to create it.Friction arises when there are two or more entities.It never arises when there is one.

4. When ones survival is at stake one does not complain.But when there is safety and security we find excuses to be in conflict to demand attention.

5. In life we will leave behind experiences saying “this is nothing..what remains is a basic need to be loved” and “This is it..there is nothing more to it”.The question is how soon we come to this understanding.Either through understanding or through sorrow, the choice is still ours.

6. Three modes of communication in head to head we talk, in heart to heart we sing and in soul to soul we are silent.Head s safe for ego;heart breaks the ego and soul dissolves it.If you cannot communicate ..Please introspect-chances are there is a small trace of ego somewhere probably.

7. Every experience as lead me to self.It has not always been a pleasurable experience but I am closer to myself .

Note: Some of us might have our own learnings.Some of us might just like to live as it comes..its all good!

Happy New year 2012 with hope to live and laugh truly !