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India - She Fights Her Fears
A journey of self - discovery

 

Carolyn Masler is a sixty year old wife, mother of three, and psychotherapist living in Malibu, California. Her passion is travelling to remote areas of the world, alone.


I remember. I am roaming around a dingy hotel room in New Delhi on a sweltering, dusty summer day. I can't sleep even though I'm exhausted after a twenty-six hour flight from Los Angeles. I look into a mirror and stare at the person looking back at me. Who is this woman? She is familiar, yet I do not know her. I recognize how frightened I am. I have come to India to have an adventure, to trek in the Himalayas with a guide. My husband and children think that I have lost my mind, but I have to do it this way. Now that I have come this far I am not sure how to accomplish the rest. Maybe they are right.

A few days later I am in Srinigar, Kashmir. I make some inquiries and, with surprisingly little difficulty, have set up a trek. The arrangement is to hike for six weeks in the Indian Himalayas with a Muslim guide who speaks English, two "ponymen" and their horses that carry the gear.

I am squeezed into a corner!
It is necessary to hire a car that will take us to a village that is some distance from Srinigar where the trek begins. Our start is uneventful, but as we drive along the guide invites an Indian man to join us. Then others get on the car. They ride on the running boards and the hood. More and more men appear until they are inside the cab and I am squeezed into a corner. I am annoyed but I think this is the Indian way and I should be tolerant. It seems polite to offer part of my lunch. I expect they will not accept--there are so many of them. Instead the bag is grabbed and they consume everything.

I am frightened!
Something seems to change. The men are laughing and joking often glancing at me as they talk. The car stops and some of them urinate near the car with no attempt to cover themselves. I am frightened. I know I have to do something. I get out of the car, walk a short distance and call the guide, Kankashi. I ask, "What is this about?"

He answers, "Mensahib, these men are poor and they need a ride to the next town."

I say to him, "You get these men out of my car." He argues with me, but relents and does talk to the men. They become agitated and begin to shout and argue with him. Kenkashi tells me they will not leave. I am not convinced. The situation feels dangerous. I am alone in the middle of nowhere, with all these men around me. Without knowing their language, I sense their hostility. My power has been gradually taken from me. I know I have to grab it back. Even though I am terrified, I march over to the car, wave my hand and angrily say, "Get out."

One by one the men leave the car!
They don't understand the words but, one by one, they leave the car. I turn to Kankashi and tell him that if he is not able to accommodate me and my wishes, we will return to Srinigar where I will make other arrangements. His attitude changes. He treats me with respect.

Riding in the car, alone except for my guide, I find I am sitting more erect. I am reminded of the woman in the mirror and now she seems less strange to me.

I found a new kind of strength!
It has taken me a long time to understand what happened during that ride in the car. Out of desperation, I had found a new kind of strength that would see me safely through the trip. Now I believe that there are parts of every woman which, in ordinary life, remain hidden under the veil of our universal image. But then something occurs, and each of us is forced to reach down into our secret depths and draw on hidden resources. Then the part emerges, that woman in the mirror. She pushes back our limitations and gives us the strength and courage we had never recognized before.

 

Ed. note: If you enjoyed this article, you'll probably want to read:

India - She Fights Her Fears
Preparing for a trek
Spider, Spider
India -- Do Your Pre-Trip Research!
A mixed bag of travelling tips

 

 

 

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