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Womens' Travel Club


India -- Her Point of View


Evelyn Hannon

Journeywoman Lisa Goldman was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, spent ten years living in New York, where she earned a BA in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from Colombia University. Now after a six month solo sojourn in India she currently lives and works in Tel Aviv, Israel. We asked Lisa to offer some female-centered hints about her solo travel in India. She writes...

I have traveled alone in India twice, each time for extended periods. I want other JourneyWomen to know that a woman on her own in India will certainly experience some hassles, but the rewards of an open mind and a relaxed attitude are great. Here are a few things guidebooks don't usually mention that I learned from my time in that part of the world.

First impressions are not always best...
Don't judge India by your first impression. India's big cities- - especially Delhi and Bombay -- are just foul. Delhi's air quality is so bad that I inevitably develop a persistent, wracking cough whenever I find myself there for more than one day. The city is also full of persistent touts who would try a saint's patience. Please remember, the vast majority of Indians do not live in the big cities.

Choose Calcutta and Chinese food...
If you can choose a city to land in, choose Calcutta. Despite its reputation, it is by far the most pleasant, most cultured of India's big cities. There's a big green park, called the Maidan, that's bigger than Central Park. Watch for white-clad young men playing cricket and uniformed schoolboys jogging in formation with their whistle-blowing phys ed instructor running alongside. There are also many wonderful bookstores, with well-read and knowledgeable proprietors. P.S. I've listed several of my favorite books about India at the end of this article.

There are a lot of really good Chinese restaurants in Calcutta (the city has a large Chinese population, who settled in Calcutta around the beginning of the twentieth century). I particularly recommend Bar-B-Q Restaurant, on Park Street; it's a big favourite with Calcutta's upper middle class, and in fact some wealthy Indian friends of mine treated me to dinner there on my last night in India.

Carry earplugs...
When traveling by bus, carry earplugs. Bus drivers in India usually play popular music from Bollywood films at full volume through cheap speakers that distort the sound to a nearly unbearable pitch. Since most long bus journeys take place overnight, sleep without earplugs is nearly impossible. Be prepared.

Toilet re-training...
In India, you never know what kind of toilet facilities you'll encounter. Do carry toilet paper and anti-bacterial handwash/wipes at all times. Often you can expect a jug of water left beside the toilet in lieu of paper. I encourage women to get used to using this method instead of toilet paper; it's healthy and environmentally friendly. However, while traveling in less-developed areas you might find that there is no water available to do your cleansing; in that case, you'll need your paper.

Ed. note: In the weeks leading up to trips, wait until the paper at home gets down to maybe a quarter of an inch or so left on the roll. At that point, squash them flat and put them aside ready to pack. These mini rolls fit beautifully into all the nooks and crannies of your suitcase.

No smoking zone...
Outside of the large cities, Indian women do not smoke in public. If you find yourself in a traditional place where tourism is less common, do avoid smoking in public. Smoking is considered a habit for "loose women" and you'll get the reaction that loose women encounter in all traditional societies.





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