experiences

What I Wish I Had Known Before I Went to India

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In my travels I’ve grown used to being stared at, being begrudged or denied service, even being followed around 24 hour Walmarts at 3AM, but none of that prepared me for me for the undisguised lust and even violence I encountered in India.

I talked to at least 5 female friends about their time in India before going, none of them mentioned this perception of women. But when I got back and was candidly telling them about my experience, everytime they were like “yeah, that’s pretty much what happened to me.”

Why didn’t you tell me!?

So that’s why I’m writing this post. I’ve debated for several months. I’m sure this will anger and upset some of my readers, and that’s not the goal. India has many charms, but because I wasn’t prepared for the reception I received, I didn’t enjoy much of my time. So my hope is that this help any females traveling to India be prepared, and perhaps your experience will be completely different (I hope so), and you can say that Heels First girl didn’t know what she was talking about.

So. My first India destination was Chennai. I was picked up at the airport, taken to the hotel, and received nothing but the friendliest, most respectful service during my entire stay, even though looking back, my sundresses might not have been in the best judgment. I left the hotel once during my 2 day stay to go on a food tour with the assistant manager. On the tour I got plenty of hard stares, but nothing disrespectful or uncomfortable, and I thought the Chennai residents were perfectly nice. Particularly when I was leaving and had a ticket hiccup.

Fast forward several weeks later to my arrival in Delhi. I was staying with friends (Indians) and they took me around to all the sites. I was not only stared at wherever we went, I was leered at. Bikes and scooters would follow our car in traffic so they could look in the backseat at me. When we went took a horse and carriage from the parking lot to the Taj Mahal, a group of men were following us so they could stare at me and my friend. And it wasn’t like previous experiences, this time I didn’t feel safe, despite the fact I was with friends from that country and who spoke the language.

You read about the horrible violence towards women in India in the news, and it’s tragic. But until I went there and saw the lust and hate in random men’s faces, I had no idea.

It didn’t seem to matter if I was wearing a sundress that showed my arms, knees, and calves, or a long flowing maxi dress with a sweater in the 90 degree heat. I was female, and I was pale.

Even my Indian friends were concerned about the situation in Dehli, since both had teenage daughters. For me the capping point was their reluctance to have the Etihad First Class chauffeur pick me to take me to my departing flight, because they couldn’t 100% guarantee I would make it to the airport.

I was skeptical! But it’s Etihad First Class! Surely if something happened to me because of one of their drivers it would be an international incident? Their preference was to spend an hour in traffic to take me to the airport at 2AM.

I loved spending time with my friends and their friends. I loved seeing all the sites. But after 4 days I was ready to go. I was tired of seeing that look in strangers’ faces and feeling unsafe. Forewarned is forearmed, so my hope is that others will be prepared for what it might be like.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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