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Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

16 April 2013 36,039 views 134 Comments
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I have traveled to 18 countries and over 50 cities in Asia and Europe, and I walked around by myself at all hours of the day and night. I have never felt unsafe anywhere except in India.

Feeling unsafe was a pretty new experience for me. I have started traveling by myself since I was 11 years old, and I had always relied on the kindness of strangers without feeling that they were out to get me. Prior to my India trip, I had never felt scared as a solo female traveler.

holi festival

Holi, the festival of colors, is a big celebration in northern India.

During the planning stage for my 3-week backpacking trip in India, numerous people (both Indians and foreign travelers alike) have warned me about what India is like when it comes to women. “Don’t go out at night” is the common advice. “Don’t go out alone,” others said.

What they didn’t say was that whether you would go out during the day or be with other people, if you’re a woman, you may still get sexually assaulted.

I had experienced the worst of this country in Varanasi, the religious capital of India.

ganges river

The Ganges River in Varanasi is very important to locals.

It was Holi festival, and a group of us from the guesthouse decided to join the street celebration. A Couchsurfing member was supposed to go with us but he stood us up, so we decided to go on our own at 9am. Aside from myself, there was one guy (Canadian), a Frenchwoman, and two Japanese women.

We played Holi with gusto, getting drenched and drenching locals in turn with liquid colors. One thing we noticed was that, out on the streets and aside from girl children and female tourists, there were no Indian women around. Before the day ended, I was to learn why.

ghat in Varanasi

One of the ghats leading to the Ganges.

Sometime during our walk, we were joined by another Canadian guy and a local man. After an hour, when the Frenchwoman and the Japanese girls expressed their wish to go back to the hostel, the rest of us decided to push through and walk along the ghats (a series of steps leading down to the river Ganges), feeling it was too early to return (it was only 10am).

By that time, we could see a lot of Indian men in groups, playing Holi with tourists. It meant dousing us with colored water and smearing colors on our cheeks and arms.

Holi in Varanasi

Taking a break, with the two Canadian guys behind me.

Not wanting to endure more smearing, I would always take the long way around when we were about to meet a group of Indian men. One of the Canadians noticed, and he told me, “Why are you letting them bully you? You should walk straight and proud.”

I thought his remark was naive, but I let it be. I continued my roundabout route every time we encountered Indian guys. I’m adventurous, yes, and I want to experience a local celebration, but I’m not stupid.

Unfortunately, there was a part along one of the ghats where it was very difficult not to go straight ahead. If I had taken a roundabout route, it would have meant walking very close to the Ganges River. So I decided to walk behind the Canadians, intending to walk fast and avoid as many of the men as possible.

ghat in Varanasi

Boats by the river Ganges in one of the ghats in Varanasi.

The minute our groups met, I was immediately surrounded by seven or so Indian guys, around four of them groping me. I remember flailing around, wanting contact with anyone of them so that I could scratch or pinch and hopefully draw blood,  but they knew what to do. After grabbing, they would step back.

The worst of it was the laughter, and the fact that even though they had drank, they didn’t seem intoxicated at all. There were both teenagers and adults, and they knew perfectly well what they were doing.

My Canadian friends were shocked. They kept on shouting, “Stop it! Stop it!”

When I was finally able to get away, I had to sit down on the ghat to calm myself. The local guy who was with us had disappeared, and we were left there trying to get a grip on what happened.

I was lucky it was all that happened to me in India. I didn’t have to jump down from my balcony window to avoid being raped by the  hotel manager, nor was I drugged or raped by the hotel owner’s son.

What I had experienced is called Eve teasing, a prevalent form of sexual abuse on women in India. The use of  the biblical name “Eve” implies that the assault is the woman’s fault for being a temptress.

An American friend told me later that I should have worn a baggy shirt so as not to appear attractive. What he doesn’t know is that sexual assault has nothing to do with clothing or appearance; just the fact that I was a woman was enough.

When we got back to the hostel, the Canadian and I never talked about what happened, but I did talk about it to other guests a few days later. One of them was 27-year-old Monique, a German national who was also traveling in India by herself. She told me that during Holi, she was also on the streets in Delhi celebrating it with another guy, who was also coincidentally a Canadian.

They were walking along when they also met a group of Indian men who surrounded her and began groping. She crossed her arms on her chest to protect herself, but two men grabbed them to open her up to the others. What was worse was that there was a policeman nearby; it seemed that even the presence of authority couldn’t stop her attackers.

After that incident, everything seemed sinister to me, even during daytime. I remember going to an internet cafe the next day, wanting to work at least one hour. Unfortunately, the guy at the shop kept on telling me he would give me a massage, touching me on the shoulder and arms. There was only one other customer, so I rushed sending my email. I didn’t want to be left alone there with him!

I took every precaution as a solo traveler. I didn’t go out alone, I didn’t go out at night, and I dressed very conservatively. Still, it happened to me. People might say that I shouldn’t have gone out at all, that it was my fault for joining the celebration.

women in Varanasi

Women keep to themselves in India.

What kind of a life is that?

What kind of a society is it that gives men freedom to molest women, even in public?

I told my story to local friends in Delhi and both of them told me that Eve teasing is pretty normal in India. Women of all ages and socio-economic status experience it at some point in their lives. That’s why, they both said, they don’t go out after sunset, or if they do, they don’t use public transportation.

As an independent woman used to being on my own, I couldn’t believe what I heard. What must it be like to live as a woman in India? (Read the story of an affluent woman living in New Delhi: How it feels to be a woman in India) By sunset, you’re expected to be home, otherwise, anything that might happen is on your head. You will not go out during public celebrations. In fact, you should never go out at all!

Taj Mahal, Agra

Side view of the wondrous Taj Mahal in Agra.

I remember wanting to go home immediately after Varanasi, but I was so glad I pushed forward with my trip. I couldn’t say anything memorable with my one day in Agra to see the Taj Mahal, but I loved my stay so much in Jaipur.

Unlike Varanasi, Jaipur made me feel welcome. There were the requisite touts, but I had never felt threatened by any of them. A local shop owner befriended me and as his shop was just across the Hawa Mahal, I took to spending time there to watch the sunset while he remained on the streets looking for customers.

City Palace, Jaipur

Entrance to the City Palace, Jaipur.

hawa mahal, jaipur

The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur is currently under renovation.

I was very grateful for Jaipur. Even though I still followed the warnings of not walking around at night, I felt that my love for India which I thought had gone forever in Varanasi was rekindled there.

I still think that as an independent woman, I can never live in India, no matter how beautiful this country may be. However, I know that I would be back there someday, and I would still travel solo. Knowing what I know now about what it’s like to travel alone there, I think I would be able to take care of myself better.

jaipur

Beautiful building (among many) in Jaipur.

My experience in Varanasi hasn’t turned me off India forever, and I have only Jaipur to thank for it. The Pink City saved me and gave me back my sense of control, and for that, I will forever be grateful.

Have you traveled alone to India? What was your experience there?


 Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!


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134 Comments »

  • Lauren said:

    Wow Aleah, what a read! You had me rooting for you from the get-go. Immensely scary experience. I think i’m having apprehensions about traveling to India for now. Quite sad because it’s such a beautiful country. :(
    Lauren recently posted..Dancing to the Rhythmic Beat of the Bongo Island Drums

  • fifi leigh said:

    nice photographs. it is like that everywhere. that is why women are always told to be careful when traveling alone, no matter which country you go. in foreign countries, they have their own cultures, lifestyles, and ways of doing things, which is different what tourists are used to. most tourists, like me, want to explore everything of that country, not knowing the good and safe areas as well as the bad and dangerous areas, and they could accidentally stumble upon a place that they will later regret just by being a curious traveler. when my mother and i went to europe, we were told to be careful where we go. later, my father met us in nice, france and we traveled to greece and other areas because coming back to america.
    i even told dutch students visiting california to be careful where they go in america. i think they were aware of it because they were three girls and one guy, and their parents wouldnt let them go to america alone unless they had a guy friend go with them.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Lauren: Well, you don’t have time anyway to go to India now. Save up for it in time and money and I’m sure you can go when you’re ready. Don’t let these things prevent you from solo travel. It *is* a beautiful country!
    @ Fifi Leigh: Yeah, women are always told not to travel by themselves. I think that’s hogwash, honestly.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Filipina S. Mendoza said:

    what particular place is taj mahal. thats the only place i want to visit in India,

  • grasya said:

    congrats for surviving India.. may Pakistan pa, Afghanistan, etc etc.. women are lesser creatures in some parts of the world..

    wasnt able to emphasize details in my blog about India but you were able to capture it.. it really helps when you dress like a local to blend in and not be noticed..

    so thanks for empowering women to travel in your stories.. and thanks for the warning of what ladies will expect once you travel in India..
    grasya recently posted..Restaurant Review: Pan de Amerikana

  • Aleah said:

    @ Filipina S. Mendoza: It’s in Agra. But there are a lot of other places you can go in India. It’s not just about the Taj Mahal :)
    @ Grasya: Thank you. It just makes me sad, that we still have sisters in other parts of the world who are still very much oppressed and don’t realize it.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Riz said:

    Oh My Aleah thats a scary experience! I’m glad you’re okay. I heard India is overcrowded but the culture, art and religious thing are amazing. One reason why I want to visit the country however the security and safety always puzzles me. This is a good write up Aleah, thanks for the precautions!

    By the way, i love the side view photo in Taj Mahal. :)
    Riz recently posted..The Grecian Pillars and the traitorous waves of Fortune Island Batangas

  • Jardness said:

    My last visit to india last year was also solo.. went to Delhi and then agra .. and Jaipur.

    Jaipur was the best for me. And planning to go there again to meet back my CS hosts there who took me in for almost four days. =)

    Gladly.. haven’t experienced what u did. huhu.
    Jardness recently posted..A Bloody Experience in Hatyai, Thailand

  • Aleah said:

    @ Riz: It was scary then, but it’s not scary now. There are safety issues everywhere, but I guess it’s more emphasized in India. You just have to take extra care of yourself.
    @ Jardness: Didn’t stay with CS in Jaipur, but like you, I also loved that city!!!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Photo Cache said:

    what a scary experience. there really are still some places on earth where they see the female as the lesser species.
    Photo Cache recently posted..Bangladesh: Time to Go Back To Dhaka

  • James said:

    This reminds me of a poem written by a young Indian girl during Hillary’s vist: “Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence”… I could never imagine bringing my sister there. I would go crazy. But yeah, India is still on my personal list. Safe travels Aleah!
    James recently posted..Camiguin as a Mysteriously-Veiled Woman

  • Aleah said:

    @ Photo Cache: It was also a learning experience, but yeah, it’s sad to realize that there are still so many parts of the world who see us as lesser beings.
    @ James: I really LOVE that quote! I have to find out the name of the child who wrote it. Unbelievably profound. :)
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Happy Little Wanderer said:

    Wow, what a scary experience! I want to go to India too one day but it is exactly this kind of thing that makes me wonder whether I want to go there solo.
    It is interesting to read that you would go back as a solo traveller again!
    Happy Little Wanderer recently posted..Australia – A Great Place for the First Time Backpacker

  • Lorena said:

    Hi everyone !! What a bad and scary experience ! i’m glad it didn’t prevent you from going back to India after all !

    Unfortunatly, what happened to you is part of dailylife in India, be it in Varanasi or in Jaipur and Delhi (as for me, the most unsafe cities in India).

    India is an unpredictable country. Whatever the place the visit, you’ll find people telling you that this place is the worst or the best they’ve ever seen. I’ve lived in India for one year, and trust me, having a very white skin and being a blond girl, i’ve been through many misfortunes.

    Yet, i go back to very often and THIS COUNTRY HAS TO BE VISITED.

    But, if i can share a few tips with you today, i would suggest not to travel alone in India if this is you’re first time as a solo traveller, try to be accompagnied by men as often as you can, especially at night, wear normal and understated closes, and above all, do not show your fear, stay calm & confident and if necessary take off your shoes and defend yourself !!

    this is a cultural concept there. Indian men know when a woman is ready to hit back and usually that’s when she grabs her shoe. this has saved me from harsh situations.

    Hence, avoid public buses. Rickshaws and taxis are affordable and safer. Trains are ok, as long as you are not undercover and not by yourself. If you travel alone though, you’ll always find another tourist on the platform to go along with.

    I wish you all a safe and thrilling travel to India !

  • Aleah said:

    @ Happy Little Wanderer: Yeah, I would. Don’t let stories like these scare you off India. It’s a wonderful country with so much to offer.
    @ Lorena: Thank you so much for your tips, especially the one about shoes! I didn’t know that! Wish I had known so that I could have used it in Varanasi :) Eve teasing as “part of the daily life” of women is what makes me sad and mad. If it happened to me (I’m small and brown and relatively inconspicuous), I can’t imagine the experiences of white and blond women like you. Be safe!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Janani said:

    Hi guys, I live in Bangalore. I’ve been sitting here pondering what to write for sometime…

    Indian culture is beautiful. Every city if filled with customs, traditions and stories. One could go on about it.

    But, to survive in it now takes some skill.

    What Lorena said is very good advice. Be confident and make a racket. Shout with all that you have, and curse with all your might, it helps if it isn’t in English. You will probably succeed in making whoever in accosting you to pause, that would be the ideal time to move away. To hit someone with a broom or footwear (or even the foot) is to tell that person that they are only fit to be beaten with something so dirty that it is only used to touch the floor. Very useful thing to use :P

    When my mom was younger, she had to travel to and from school everyday by public transport, as did some of her other female classmates. What they did was, they would threaten the guys who molested them with compasses from the geometry box! She says it was quite effective.

    Still doesn’t answer what you would do if you get caught in a mob like you did. Most of us just try to avoid that from happening.
    It’s better in some cities than in others. Bangalore, for instance, is relatively safe.

    I know a number of Indian women who, like you, have gone against norm and struck it out alone. Some are tough enough to do it.

    Hope this helps!

  • Salika Jay said:

    Such a disappointing story, Aleah! I’m glad you’re ok. Gang rape has become quite common in India lately. It happens not just for visitors but local women too. It’s such a shame because it’s a country filled with such beauty, culture and history. There are lot of good people there too but the few does things to overpower the good ones. I was there with a group (consisting quite a lot of men) so I was safe.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Universal Studios Singapore

  • Aleah said:

    @ Janani: Thank you so much for the insight to Indian culture. Now I know why threatening men with shoes or any footwear, as Lorena advised, would work. I know that some cities are worse than others, which is why I’d still be willing to go back alone. It’s just so sad that school children like your mother once was had to use her compass to fight off boys wanting to molest her. It’s unbelievable that it’s still happening until now. Looking forward to visit Bangalore next time I go there!
    @ Salika Jay: Eve teasing is common, but I think gang rape is not. There were two reported cases recently, but the majority are the public harassment in public. Still, the fact that Indian men have done it decades ago and are still doing it now is so disheartening.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Mariellen Ward said:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you Aleah! I wish all Indian men would treat women well; I think we are all hoping for a big attitude change in the country.

    I always advise women to stay indoors during Holi unless you are with people you know — like at a private club, or ashram or something like that. People drink bhang lassi on Holi and it makes them crazy, not predictable or trustworthy. It is unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. As you noticed, no Indian women were on the street.

    As a “feminist” I wish India would change and become a better place for women. And as a “traveller” I accept India the way it is, and adjust myself in order to be able to travel there, and enjoy what it has to offer, without judgement. So, I am torn on this issue. I’m just not sure it is fair to expect a foreign country to be like back home in Canada. I read a lot of travel adventure books from years ago, and the writers never expect the strange and foreign places to be like the western country they hailed from … this is something new, I think.

    Personally, I love travelling in India, and I have spent about 17 months there over the past 7 years, travelling mostly alone. I am very cautious and practise a lot of “safe travel strategies” and I have never had an experience like this, though I was groped once in Old Delhi.

    Stay safe and enjoy your travels!
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Shop online for clothes, jewelry from India

  • Aleah said:

    @ Mariellen: Thanks for your comment. I also don’t want to impose my values on the countries I visit, but I think this is not a question of culture, but of human rights. Women are women wherever in the world they may be, and they have rights same as everyone else. It’s not right that they should be abused simply because they’re women, and simply because it has been so for generations. As you can see from other comments below, both men and women in India are recognizing this aspect of their culture as something that has to be changed and I’m glad for that. No one should hide–or keep silent–about violations of human rights, whether they’re cultural practices or not.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Christine |GRRRL TRAVELER said:

    Aleah, OMG I wish I were there to give you a big hug! It’s hard to go through something like that and not feel shaken!

    I really didn’t think about your trip’s timing to Holi. Seems like you got the eve teasing bad. What Mariellen said about Holi is what I’ve heard from many Indian women. Men are bolder and wilder around Holi as any female who enters that arena becomes “SURE game”. But there’s no way you could’ve known that. As foreign travelers, we only know we want to experience something as cool as Holi and the warning is something usually an Indian women or friend would impart. I wanted to see Holi but an Indian gf really deterred me and said it was “dangerous” for women. It was something she really didn’t recommend. So I chose to spend it at an ashram- we celebrated in yogic safety. haha… I still feel like I missed out on Holi tho.

    Indian women get it bad, hence, you don’t see them outside often. I want to think there’s a wild card to foreign women, because Indian men never know how they’ll react. So far I’ve been lucky, but I’m not sure if my body size has to do with it or the fact, when I get enraged, my face deforms (it really does). I may be Asian, but I’m big enough where I look like I’ve eaten two Indian men, so a slap from me, may cause a bruise!

    Varanasi is kinda shady in general and I agree w/ your vibe about it. I love it, but I know I have to watch myself there. I encountered many scam artists. In general, with india, I have my eyes open 24/7 and am consciously thinking about my safety or where I place myself… that’s why I consider it a challenge

    Aleah, I truly admire your spirit to keep going forward and not be deterred. Undoubtedly, this post will be a good one to share with solo travelers, especially for those hoping to experience Holi.
    Christine |GRRRL TRAVELER recently posted..Are your secret travel fears really that ugly?

  • budget jan said:

    I feel sorry for the women of India who live with this their whole lives. It is particularly disheartening that the behaviour is so entrenched that a policeman even thinks it is O.K.
    Good on you for moving on and enjoying Jaipur.
    budget jan recently posted..Old Town Sintra

  • Aleah said:

    @ Christine: The warning I received was not to go out for Holi by myself. I was with a group of guys, I thought that was enough. Apparently, it wasn’t :) Unfortunately, I’m short–so perhaps, I’m fair game. Even when it wasn’t Holi, men would touch my long hair too. Strangely enough, I didn’t have to be on guard 24/7 everywhere in India. I don’t know, but it was just in Varanasi where I felt unsafe. The other cities were fine.

    And yeah, I’m very grateful that Jaipur welcomed me so much. Otherwise, I would have gone home with the bitter taste of Varanasi still in my mouth. Now, I can’t wait to go back!

    @ Budget Jan: A lot of them are speaking out now on violence against women. I hope their voices will be heard!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Jasmit said:

    As an Indian male, I always feel ashamed when I hear such stories from fellow women colleagues, friends, travelers, acquaintances… It is a malaise that is eating up the freedom of girls, be they Indian or foreigners.

    As much as for the sad state of affairs right now, what I feel is that one must not stop exploring the beauty of this country, but just be extra cautious so as to avoid such situations as discussed above. Better still, have somebody know about your whereabouts and as Aleah says, don’t lose love for India, but be safe…

  • Ishan Sharma said:

    Aleah, I salute you for the courage you showed even after the incident in Varanasi. India is such a vast country that you simply can’t generalize things. Unfortunately, the places you visited, i.e. Delhi and Varanasi, are some of the worst places you could visit as a solo female traveler (as far as safety is concerned).

    The way things work in India is a lot different than anywhere else. It may take some time to understand the system but you would get used to it. Try to avoid the overcrowded metro cities. There are a lot of places in India away from the cities which are way more beautiful and the people there are much more friendly. For instance, anywhere in the foothills of Himalayas, North-east India or some of the cities in South India (Bangalore, for example).

    You will find miscreants anywhere you go (not only in India). But there are somehow a large number of them in places like Varanasi and Delhi.

    BTW Indian society “ideally” highly respects its womenfolk. We have female deities, for example.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Jasmit: Thank you for your comment. I’m happy to know there are a lot of Indian men like you who see Eve teasing as a violation of women’s rights. I agree, India should be visited. Your country’s so beautiful!
    @ Ishan Sharma: I wish the ideal will be translated to reality, eh? Still, I hope to visit the other cities off the tourist trail, esp the ones high up in the north, and your southern cities as well!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Malaysian Meanders said:

    My friend has just returned from visiting India with her husband and 2 young children. They really wanted to experience Holi, but the hotel owner practically forbade them from going into town. He also told their driver to ignore their requests and not to take them. My friend thought he was being ridiculously protective, but they decided to take his advice. The next day, they were driving when various groups of youths would block the road with rocks, joke around with them, and ask for money. But the 3rd time this happened as they drove down the road, the group seemed a little more sinister and demanding, less jovial about the whole interaction. Being Westerners, they seemed to be an easy target.
    Malaysian Meanders recently posted..The Ruins of Chiang Mai’s Chedi Luang Temple

  • Aanchal said:

    Sad to read your story. I am an Indian women born and bought up in Jaipur.Kind of agree with your points. Holi is a day when we simply avoided going anywhere because these are common incidents when ppl are drunk.

    I am an independent women , have travelled alone to lot of countries and I think women travellers should take care in India. Although I have never felt very unsafe anywhere in India but thats because I know the things to keep in mind.

    Dont be scared of travelling to India, its a beautiful place with different culture but just avoid travelling solo or with only females at night and at quiet places.

  • Marisol@TravelingSolemates said:

    Hi Aleah, honestly I was a bit worried about you when I learned that you were traveling to India by yourself, especially during this time that there are many untoward incidents against women, locals and tourist alike. I was with my husband and friends when I traveled to India so I felt a lot safer. But we encountered women who were traveling solo and had the same experiences like you did. I feel shaken by your experience but I’m glad you have toughen it out and is not discourage to return to India.
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Monks Don’t Live in Angkor Wat

  • Aleah said:

    @ Malaysian Meanders: Hi Michelle! I saw a father bringing his 5-yo son with long blond hair to the Holi celebrations in the streets. It was poor decision, the child couldn’t stop crying because everybody was pinching his cheeks and touching his hair! I hope he didn’t get traumatized. The father saw me evade a group of locals, and he said he admired how I knew to deal with them. If he only knew what happened earlier!
    @ Aanchal: Nice to hear from an Indian solo female traveler. I disagree with your statement about avoiding solo travel there. Except in Varanasi (and Holi), I didn’t really feel unsafe anywhere else, probably because I took precautions too.
    @ Marisol: All of the women travelers I met there had some sort of experience with harassment. There was this woman, for example, who had a massage. She was very surprised when the massage turned to something else! Anyway, yeah, it hasn’t discouraged me to go back. There’s a lot still to see in India.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Nandini said:

    Hi, I just read your post..and was looking at the comments, and could not stop myself from commenting..too many readers have suggested to avoid public transport, and take rickshaw or cab instead.

    As an Indian, born and brought up in India, I would like to say, there is no bigger mistake than that. In a crowded bus/train you will get groped..all the women I knew have had such experiences since we weren’t even teenagers…it scared us for our lives…but…if you decide to take a cab or auto rickshaw, you risk getting raped.

    Even at the age of 30, I ask someone to pick me up from the airport..because? The airport and city are a bit far away and there is a long stretch of less traveled road, which translates to opportunities for the driver to rape!

    Yes…we Indians avoid traveling alone in cab/auto as much as we can. Don’t do that. The best way I would say, travel in groups, with reputed tour guides/companies, and avoid the locals..especially those who look uneducated…they are…the only time they have seen a foreigner is probably in some porn, and they think that’s what they do!

    it is no different for us either..but being foreigners, you are, I suppose easier targets. So avoid them. There are lots of decent places and people in India; camping in the wild, meeting strangers, taking lift are some things that are just not possible in India. Sad story..but true!

    Oh one more thing, someone said something about Bangalore…I wonder whether he has been to Bangalore in recent times! Everywhere it is the same, sometimes luck saves you, sometimes it doesn’t..so the only advice..travel in “huge” groups…most of these idiots are scared of numbers.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Nandini: That’s really sad to hear that. It’s not right that you as a local should feel so unsafe even in your own city. I don’t know if I’m just lucky, but I’ve taken public transport and cabs and auto rickshaws everywhere and I haven’t felt unsafe. Would you believe I got in a general compartment in the train going to Bodh Gaya from Kolkata? It was jam packed with passengers. I had also experienced riding the metro during rush hour. I also took the bus from the airport to the metro, and that was at 7pm in Kolkata. I really hope this situation in India will change!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Anurupa Sharma said:

    Women Helpline Numbers in India

    Delhi Police Anti-stalking helpline. (Obscene calls, threats, abuses) 011-27894455.

    If you get stuck anywhere in India, don’t rely on autos, buses (If only..) or taxis. Instead, dial 44222222 or 44333222. The helpline provides cab services for females. This has been started essentially for female safety.

    What I do want to leave to the attention of people is helpline numbers like justdial “8888888888″. It would give you answers to any queries, be it helpline numbers or cab services or area information. It’s also not very hard to memorize!

    Dial 181 in case of any kind of emergency, this was changed from 167 to 181

  • Bianca said:

    So glad you’re safe! This gives us a very good glimpse of life in that side of the world. Thanks for sharing.

  • Dee said:

    Hey

    I am an Indian woman and scared of going out alone at night and sometimes even during the day. Eve Teasing (hate the word) is ever prevalent in India, and inspite of the many protests and awareness, still happening.

    Because of my experiences in my home country, I am always scared to go to any foreign place alone and in general do not like going anywhere alone. I am also quite scared and apprehensive of strange men, always, everywhere.

    There are some places in India which are quite safe for women, but still necessary precautions need to be taken. Too crowded, or too empty places must be avoided. India teaches its women how to survive these incidents by taking precautions themselves. :(

    Ashamed. :(

  • Aleah said:

    @ Anurupa Sharma: Thank you for sharing those helpful numbers! I will post it as well in my FB page.
    @ Bianca: Hope this post will help you when you’re planning your trip to India!
    @ Dee: I hate the term Eve teasing too. It sounds so innocent when in fact it’s not. It’s not just teasing, it’s all-our harassment! It’s sad that you’ve grown scared to travel alone. Actually, outside of India, it’s not scary to travel by yourself. Just take precautions, listen to your instincts, and you should be fine. I hope things will change in India!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Nobel Shukla said:

    Madam. I read your experience. I am sorry to say the least. There are indeed some horrible people in our nation. And as much as I am proud of my country, my head falls in shame whenever this ugly truth of our nation keeps emerging again and again.

    I want to tell you a thing about India. Everything you can say about India is false as well as true. We have extremes. May be it is true with all across the world. I have never travelled outside India. But in India there are extremes. There are men who just view women as sex toys. And that is dreadful.

    I accept and the value system is may be not strong enough in a major part of our society. But you will also find some really nice people in our nation. We are really bad. We must accept. And slowly the current generation is experiencing a major stir in their thought process.

    I am 23 years old and I must tell you that most of us (the current generation) have understood that this part of our culture really needs a shake up. In trains, buses everywhere people have started discussing about this male dominance issue. It is far from the desirable situation and there is a lot to be done still.

    Actually male till now in India was born and brought up with a sense of superiority that he is born to dominate. And women were always told that there place is subservient to male. That is harsh and ugly truth. I am really sorry for being such terrible people. I hope we change for good.

    May be if you come again, we could give you a better experience.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Nobel Shukla: I am very glad to read your comment, and to know that the younger generation are aware of this issue and recognize the need to change. This practice, though cultural (because you’re brought up to see yourselves–men–as more superior than women) CAN and SHOULD be changed. I have talked to single women AND married women in India, and they have all told me that they have experienced being Eve teased. Can you imagine this happening to your mother? To your sister?

    I did have good experiences in India though. Except for Varanasi, most of my experiences there are good. I especially loved Jaipur. I’m really looking forward to going back, your country’s so beautiful!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Indira said:

    Hi Aleah,

    I totally relate to you. I have been living in Delhi for the past five years and now that I am married,Delhi is sort of my second home.

    Every day I leave home checking myself in the mirror if there’s anything that’s revealing and that’ll provoke men to tease or pass snide comments. I’ve learnt that looking different from the mainland Indian women also invites comments as we look more like the South East Asian women.

    So when I visit the Taj Mahal or Old Delhi, I’m constantly bombarded with offers to take a guide and at the entrance I’m asked for a passport. It’s funny how despite being an Indian, I’m asked to prove my nationality.

    And it’s not just about looking different, being a woman in India sadly makes you prone to such things. Like you said, other parts of India will definitely change your perception.

    And I think you must visit the northeastern part of the country, each of the 8 states have a unique culture, language, tradition, and you will love the simplicity of the people there.

  • Sky said:

    Heya Aleah! Your photos are epic, it made us more wanna go in India. Though we visit India for another reason, I hope Summer wouldn’t tremble when she knows what happen on your India Trip ( I wouldn’t tell her) lol.

    At least you never let your guard down while enjoying the local festivity.
    Sky recently posted..Melaka Trip 2.0 : Melaka River Cruise

  • Aleah said:

    @ Indira: I can’t imagine checking myself everyday before I leave the house to make sure I don’t get harassed. Doesn’t it get frustrating? I know you’re used to it, but I really hope things will change for women there! Yeah, I would want to visit the other cities; I know I will love them as much as I loved Jaipur!

    @ Sky: Well, just remember to be cautious. Even if she isn’t traveling alone, she can still experience Eve teasing, as I did. I’m sure you will enjoy India, though!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Garima Jindal said:

    Thank You for looking at the brighter side India has…Although I am disgusted about my society to learn about your nerve wrenching experience in Varanasi. I totally agree that Women here can’t be totally independent and face Eve teasing in one or the other way. No matter what class you belong to, no matter what age, no matter how are you dressed…
    Its the most shameful fact of Indian society. If only I had a wish granted to change one thing about India I would have wanted it to be uprooted in anyway and every way possible.

    ~An Apologetic Indian

  • stvolpina said:

    Wow, what a story ! I can imagine how scared you nust have felt. Awful,to experience this just because you’re a woman. It’s good that the story has a good end and that you are safe now! It’s all one experience and a useful story for other women who will be travelling solo in India or elsewhere! Something similar happend to me in Paris during the New Yers’ Eve celebration. Now it’s a good story to be told and I’m more cautious when I travel alone.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Garima Jindal: Thank you for seeing the need to change. It all starts with awareness…hopefully when more people are like you, this part of your culture will begin to change. It all starts with yourself, though, and with your family. Again, my thanks! Looking forward to be back in India!

    @ Stvolpina: Indeed it can happen anywhere. I’m just glad I experienced only good things after Varanasi. It made my trip so much more memorable, rather than just scary.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Dennis said:

    That’s a real nightmare Aleah! I salute you for being brave enough to continue with the journey despite what happened. On trips like this, it does make it safer to have another traveler with you. I just can’t imagine the horror you had to go through if you were alone!
    Dennis recently posted..Flower Power

  • Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger said:

    Scary. Just like any other travelers who have heard a lot of horror stories, it will not stop us exploring the place but will make us more cautious about what to do and where to go. I heard about it from other long term travelers that for some reason, India has its own charm, you love it and at the same time you hate it. As they say, they think its what’s giving its charm.

    Still, travelers are now distinguishing what to avoid, places that are safer to go and not. I would not want to go to places that would make me feel unsafe, inmy head, I would want to bait myself in that situation. Anyway, congrats Aleah! You’ve done it but still, always be safe! :)
    Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger recently posted..My First Songkran Festival Was Incredible!

  • Aleah said:

    @ Dennis: I traveled alone, but I wouldn’t have observed the Holi celebration by myself. I had received too many warnings to disregard them. :)
    @ Lyndsay: It’s true I have a love/hate feeling for India. Still, I know I would want to go back, and I would take even more precautions!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Red Nomad OZ said:

    I’m glad this story has a happy ending with your very positive Jaipur experience, but it’s a shame the Holi experience happened in the first place. There’s a fine line between adapting to local customs and speaking out against behaviours that are not acceptable, but your thought provoking article shows the difficulties of life that Indian women tolerate are not OK.
    Red Nomad OZ recently posted..Aussie ABC: M is for Mount Kosciuszko

  • Indrani said:

    Aleah…great to read this post and go through your website. Just one word – please tell all your friends and acquaintances not to travel to India and if you must, move around in a group, so that you can severely thrash those bastards who even dare to eve tease or rough you up. Being an Indian I’m ashamed today by the fates of millions of women and children who face similar things every day. There has to be an end to every wrongdoing. So let’s hope that good days will come when women will finally learn to retaliate in India or the strictest of laws will be imposed for these vile perpetrators. In the meantime, we should be safe and try to avoid traveling alone and be on our guard always. All the best!

  • Aleah said:

    @ Red: I know. Just because violence against women is cultural doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak against it. It’s not okay wherever in the world it’s done. Respecting human rights do not just apply to developed countries; women from third world countries have rights too!

    @ Indrani: Yes, the prevalent violence against women in India must be stopped. The awareness of it as a human rights violation starts with you, the citizens, and I’m glad I have read that a lot of Indians are now speaking against it. Wish you all the luck! And no, I don’t agree with what you said about not traveling solo there. I did travel by myself and except for Varanasi, I didn’t feel so unsafe anywhere else.
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Lynette said:

    As an Indian who has also travelled alone since the age of 11 I am so sorry to hear of your experiences. There is much more to India and particularly in the south (I am from Mangalore) you will find that you can indeed walk alone. Having said that, every Indian women learns early how to deal with these thugs. Safety in numbers is needed especially at night time.

  • Ding | The Pinoy Explorer said:

    What the…”Eve teasing”…hay naku. ANyway, I am glad you are able to get over the experience. I wanted to celebrate Holi Day. I was even ready to have colors on my face (only) the eve of the celebrations. unfortunately, we spent some time looking for our colleague who was “missing” and our Indian partner forgot to buy the colors from the market. :-(. Sadly, I left India on the eve of holi day…
    Ding | The Pinoy Explorer recently posted..14 photography interests in Chitradurga Fort

  • Aleah said:

    @ Lynette: I will remember Mangalore when it’s time for me to make my itinerary for my South India trip. Hope to do it soon! :)
    @ Ding: Be glad you’re not a woman. Men are held in high regard there and are not harassed at all. :) Too bad you missed out on Holi. It’s a fun celebration, esp if you’re not a woman!
    Aleah recently posted..Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India

  • Val @ThisWayToParadise said:

    Wow! After having my own scary travel experience traveling solo in Sri Lanka, I will probably never go to India alone!
    Val @ThisWayToParadise recently posted..Scammed In Sri Lanka-Information You Need To Know Before You Go

  • Mary {The World Is A Book} said:

    Oh Aleah, I’m so sorry you had to experience this. I admit I was worried about you when I read your postings of traveling to India solo but admired your perseverance of not letting anything stop you. I was so relieved to see your FB posts that you had a great time. My heart aches for the local women and what they have to endure. It’s wonderful to know you still had a memorable trip. Love the pictures especially your Taj Mahal ones.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..The Marvels of the Getty Center Los Angeles

  • Aleah said:

    @ Val: Don’t let this experience stop you from enjoying India as a solo traveler! Just take precautions. :)
    @ Mary: Thanks. Despite Varanasi, I did enjoy my 3 weeks in India. Looking forward to go back in the near future!
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Amir Rizvi said:

    As a social communicator in India, I have felt that it will take at least 5 decades of dedicated struggle to change the mindset of the masses towards women. The discrimination and attack begins as soon as a baby girl is conceived in mother’s womb… India has highest female infanticide in the world. The television, movies, mass media project a very distorted concept of a woman. Male to female ratio is 1000:900 in a country of 1.25 billion people.

    The popular cinema has always portrayed all the “free to have sex” girls as foreigner/smoker/music loving etc.

    The most common abuse or even friendly exclamation is Mother Fucker (matharchod)/Sister Fucker(benchod)/Daughter Fucker (betichod)/Cunt (choot)/ Dick (lund)etc. The revenge taken by the people is by shaming/raping the women of the opponent.

    We have stringent laws against assault on women and children but the lawmakers, the police and the politicians have the same archaic mindset.

    The perpetrator of mass rapes are being projected as the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Instead of educating the masses the politicians are asking for medieval punishment for rapists/molesters, they want the guilty to be punished without trial and to be beheaded in public. Sensitizing the masses to respect opposite gender is one of the toughest task.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Amir Rizvi: Thank you for your comment. Society really has a huge role in shaping how people think about and behave to women. I agree it’s an uphill battle to change mindsets. In the Philippines, we also have the same problem. However, once more and more people realize the need to change and act on it (starting from the family systems), I’m confident things will change in India. It will not be easy and it will not be quick, but it will happen!
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Shashi Kumar Dharani said:

    I live in Delhi. It is quite sad to see the state of my city and the country as a whole. We have such a great legacy and some of the most beautiful places but most common folks have forgotten basic courtesy and manners.

    Such appalling behaviour have become common in this city, where even a 5 year old girl is in danger. I train people in self protection and safety but by the end of the day one against many is not an easy scenario to be safe, even for trained fighters.

    There are however some very good people also living here and it is better that you have some local as your friends and learn a bit from them before you embark on a journey in India, though you should not trust anyone completely before you test them accordingly.

    Being a guy, i feel bad for what happens to women in India, local or visiting foreigners. The local law enforcement does not work properly either, in fact it a common scenario shown in our local movies, that the police or security can be more dangerous that the civilians.

    If you have no contact here, search the web for safety tips and train a bit in fitness and self protection, so that at least you can run and escape, as in India most of these ill-mannered people/criminals are faster that the good guys. For any local information you cannot find, mail me at skdharani@gmail.com, i’ll help if i can. Stay safe.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Shashi Kumar Dharani: Thanks for your comment! I must say I didn’t feel threatened in Delhi. I went around a lot, went to the crowded markets, walked for hours, etc. However, I did heed my host’s advise not to go out by myself at night. I haven’t trained in self-protection; maybe it’s time to do that + bring pepper spray. I have never owned one in my life. I usually just carry an umbrella. It’s for 3 purposes: to keep out of the sun, to protect from rain, and also to use as self-defense. :)

    By the way, I’ve deleted your email address. I don’t want you to get spam messages. If people want to get in touch with you, they can write a comment here and I would forward your email to them.
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • the fernweh frau said:

    Here’s my follow-up post to yours.

    http://wanderlustingwoman.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/travelling-alone-in-india-woman-wise/

    Also, have added your blog link to mine. A link exchange would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    The fernweh frau
    the fernweh frau recently posted..Travelling alone in India-woman-wise

  • wandering educators said:

    HOW AWFUL. thank you for this excellent advice. i completely agree with your points – and that’s so sad, that this is common (even with a policeman there!). it makes me sick. and you weren’t ALONE! that’s the worst part.

  • Aleah said:

    @ The Fernweh Frau: I read your post. Thanks for sharing it with us!
    @ Wandering Educators: I agree that was the worst. I wasn’t alone and it was high noon. Sigh.
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Angela said:

    Damn, just reading this made me uncomfortable. I hope it didn’t upset you too much and I’m glad you found your love for India back.
    India has never been high on my travel list and with all that has been in the news lately it has been pushed down even more. Maybe, someday, I’ll visit but for now, I’ll skip it.
    Angela recently posted..Through our eyes

  • Phioxee said:

    OMG! ill probably go home after that varanasi event. ill probably forgot the beautiful taj mahal of India. hay! good thing, you got away from those indians. now i know india has this culture.
    Phioxee recently posted..Dumaguete City – Palarong Pambansa 2013 (part 1)

  • Aleah said:

    @ Angela: Yeah, maybe someday things will improve for women there, not just solo female travelers. Still, don’t let my experience sour you off from visiting the country!
    @ Phioxee: I’m glad I didn’t go home after Varanasi. India is so much more!
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Udit said:

    Great post and sad but true. I have had female friends traveling to India from all parts of the world for more then 9 years now and all of them have some horror stories to share. Although Holi is definitely not the best day to go out on the streets, but even if one does doesnt allow anyone to behave out of line.

    I make no excuses for the behavior of Indian men and it is wishful thinking to imagine it will happen only in cities like Varanasi and Delhi. The swiss tourist that was raped was in a small village near Orchha in MP and there are countless incidents like that. Also it is not that it will happen only in the North, it can very well happen in the south or anywhere in the country. A large no of Indian men dont respect women period and if it is a foreigner then she is a free for all.

    Not in anyway to condone it or dilute your experience, but similar incidents have happened to my Indian female friends in Poland, German female friends in Brazil and to my sister in Nigeria where she had to return halfway from her internship because some local politicians son had told her that ‘I WILL PICK YOU UP FOR SURE’ and was then told by her employer that she better leave as not much can be done about that guy. This doesnt only happen in India, but that doesnt make it happening in India justified. It is a beautiful country and any & everyone should be able to enjoy it without fear.

  • Gurdeep Singh said:

    I know I don’t have to but I apologize for what happened. I’m sorry you were subjected to this in my country.

    For travellers, my advice is connect with friends that your friends might have in India. Degree of trust between them should, ideally, be very high. This might not seem very probable for everyone but going by the concepts of six degrees of separation, not very tough either. I do this for all my friends from outside India and go out of my way for solo female travellers (I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing).

  • Aleah said:

    @ Udit: Yeah, I had gathered that female tourists are seen as “free for all.” I’m small and an Asian, and I still experienced it. So much more I guess for Caucasian women, eh? I agree it happens everywhere. We just have to take care of ourselves, esp in countries where women are not so respected.

    @ Gurdeep Singh: I did connect with friends in Kolkata and Delhi. I was supposed to meet some in Varanasi as well but they all cancelled. Maybe things would have been different if they showed up. Oh well. Thanks for your apology, though it’s not necessary. :)
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Larissa said:

    It’s very sad that you had this experience Aleah. And equally sad that the many people commenting on this post have had similar experiences. I haven’t been to India yet, and this is certainly not pushing me to go. (But if/when I do, I think I’ll skip Varanasi!)

    It’s ironic that travel in my travels to the Middle East, with all the restrictions on women, actually seemed safer. The men do not like “western ways”, but they are not overtly agressive in the manner you describe.

    Thanks for sharing this information-it’s important to know!
    Larissa recently posted..Picher Oklahoma: A modern American ghost town

  • Filipina S. Mendoza said:

    what airline did you take in going to India/Taj Mahal. Im so curious of your experience..

  • Aleah said:

    @ Larissa: I’m surprised to hear that about the Middle East but I’m glad that they’re not as aggressive as in India. Don’t skip Varanasi, but just be mindful of the risk.
    @ Filipina S. Mendoza: I took Air Asia. :)
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Flashpackatforty - Craig said:

    A truly shocking story, but sadly one that all too often we heard from female travelers when we were in India. We were there at the height of the press frenzy around the Delhi rapes, and yet sadly heard many views from Indian men that the women had somehow brought it upon herself. Difficult to comprehend that way of thinking.
    Flashpackatforty – Craig recently posted..Sightseeing in Istanbul

  • Paula said:

    Hi Aleah,

    I can understand you since for the past few months I’ve been reading nonstop about women and girls being raped.

    Me and a few friends is planning to go to India later this year. Any advise on how to avoid/prevent this from happening?

    What attire did you wear for most of the trip?

    I hope our travel here will be safe and memorable.

    I know it is a beautiful country, it’s just too bad things like these are ‘normal’ to them. This made me appreciate and love Philippines more.

    Safe travelling for you!

  • Aleah said:

    @ Flashpackatforty – Craig: That’s why they call it “Eve teasing.” Somehow they make it sound like it’s all our fault! What an awful term, eh?

    @ Paula: I can only echo others’ tips: don’t go out at night by yourself. You can also wear Indian dresses, but I just wore the usual shirt and jeans, with a scarf across my chest. I thought the Philippines was too patriarchal too, but having been back from India, I realized that our country is so much better for women!
    Aleah recently posted..Where to Stay in Siquijor—Villa Marmarine Resort

  • Kaushik Krishnan said:

    I am a college student studying in the coastal town of Mangalore, India. I happened to stumble upon your travel articles recently. Very interesting reads. I also came across your write up on the trip to Varanasi. From what I have experienced, treatment of women in public is not as bad in many places in south India. I would recommend visiting the south for your next trip, if you are planning one in the future. The Western Ghats of Karnataka, the temples of Tamil Nadu and the tea estates of Kerala are worth a visit.

  • Jo Carpenter said:

    I lived in India for nearly three years and traveled extensively on my own. Varanasi was the worst place for harassment; it was pretty incessant and I would recommend traveling there in a group because you’ll enjoy it more. The south is more relaxed as is the north-east. If you want to go off the regular tourist route try Assam and Meghalya where women traditionally have a very prominent and respected role in society. You can also check out the tigers and the rhinos. Quite awesome and much more relaxed than Varanasi.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Kaushik Krishnan: Yeah I did hear that it’s better in South India. That’s why I’m looking forward to visit there, esp Kerala. All the travelers I’ve met really liked Kochi!

    @ Jo Carpenter: Before I left for India, I haven’t known that Varanasi is among the worst when it comes to harassment. All I knew about it was the river Ganges and the practice of cremation. Will make sure to visit Assam and Meghalya when I go next time!
    Aleah recently posted..Taking The Plunge in Danao, Bohol

  • Ajay said:

    Hi Aleah,

    You can’t generalise this to whole India. The incident that happened to you on Holi is not a common happening everyday to every women in India and your experience in a crowded city like Varanasi may not be the same across whole India. There are some class or kind of men who want to take advantage of these kind of situations when they find a women alone or a women who can’t protest or protect herself. I agree that travelling at night times, alone in a place which you donot know may be a problem here. But this problem is not there in all places across India. Women in India are living safe here. Isolated incidents can’t be generalised. Next time visit other parts of India (expecially south) which are decent enough for women where your experieces will be better I hope. :)

    Regards,
    Ajay
    Bangalore, India

  • Solo Travel Tips to Kota Kinabalu | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] forget to carry a photocopy of your passport with you. Prior to my India trip, I had always been cavalier about my safety. I walked around Kota Kinabalu even at midnight, [...]

  • Rakesh Nandakumar said:

    Hi Aleah!
    Very saddened that you encountered all that. Hope there were brighter memories to take home. Great blog. An FB share about ‘dating a woman who likes to travel’ brought me here.
    Keep travelling.
    regards

  • Manas Mohanty said:

    I read your experience in Indian Express magazine eye contents today. I am sad but I am not surprised. I am an Indian and a man.Such ugly incidents are a sad reality.I cannot say any city is completely safe for a woman to venture out alone- only the degree varies. Even cities like Kolkata which was quite safe a decade or two back has changed for the worse.Leave aside public arena a lady has to be careful on most of the places if she is alone. The other day I read some where a lady was groped by ward boys when she was being taken out of a operation theatre in a hospital and in her semi-conscious state she felt so helpless. The problem is compounded as most prefer to remain silent sufferers. The girls suffering wont relate to her family for the fear of being told “Why you need to go out so often”.

    The festivals like HOLY is as unholy as it can get in most of the places for women.

    But I would hasten to add things are changing. This huge, diverse and old civilization is finally ,slowly but steadily confronting this ugly truth. No dramatic changes can happen over night but the winds of change are perceptible.

    Finally I would say Aleah and other women travelers to INDIA that we are sorry for whatever ugly memories you carry back. I am thankful, you shared your experiences so boldly and I consider you a friend of India for having done that. I am sure the Indian men and women, especially the educated ones will be get the right message to fight back.

    I am hanging my head in shame till India reaches a stage as the ancient diplomat Chanakya visualised : That country is well governed in which the most beautiful women bejwelled can roam around the streets in the dead of the night.

  • Debamitro Chakraborti said:

    I read your story in a newspaper today and I must applaud your strength in writing about your experiences. What you went through is part of normal Indian life and yet very few have the courage to write or talk about it. I hope other travellers to India read this and shed the romanticism about this country. Yes, India has wonderfully rich and diverse culture and probably has more treasures than any other part of the world. But the other side of India is equally rich — the power of patriarchy and the suffering of females :-) Please come to India again and enjoy what it has conserved and developed over millennia. But do take the precautions to keep your journey enjoyable — keep friends and family around yourself at all times.

  • Harish Desai said:

    Being an indian & a father of a daughter I feel sorry for what you had to go through. I sincerely hope you a pleasant trip the next time around

  • vikd said:

    Aleah, I am Indian guy from Pune. I read about your experience in India as a solo traveler from the Indian express site. I just wanted to say that I am so sorry you got treated the way you did in my country.

  • Trupti said:

    Hi,

    READ ABOUT YOUR BLOG IN ONE OF OUR LEADING NEWSPAPER MAGAZINE TODAY. FELT VERY SAD TO KNOW SUCH THINGS HAPPENED TO YOU IN OUR COUNTRY. YOUR HAVE EXPRESSED YOURSELF VERY NICELY IN THIS BLOG. I HAVE SHARED YOUR BLOG ON MY FB TIMELINE AS FELT RELEVANT TO DO SO. BUT NICE TO KNOW THAT YOU HAD SOME POSITIVE EXPERIENCES ALSO SEEING OUR INDIA. WHEN YOU COME NEXT TIME PLEASE VISIT MUMBAI AND SOME SOUTH STATES. THANK YOU.

  • nandan said:

    Hey Aleah…. Sorry for the bitter experience tat you gone through, all I can say is you need to visit some more interesting places in India 1.Madyapradesh 2.Orissa 3.Karnataka.etc I will provide you more inputs if required. Sorry again for that misbehavior from those bastasrds. In India we respect woman more than anywhere we have high regards for woman.Visit again do contact me if u need any info :-)
    Regards,
    Nandan

  • Women keep to themselves in India. What kind of a life is that? | MriduLand said:

    [...] P.S: The blog that inspired me to write this one: http://www.solitarywanderer.com/2013/04/eve-teasing-and-solo-travel-in-india/  [...]

  • Dee said:

    Read about you in an article printed in an Indian Newspaper…

    Felt truly inspired to know that there are women solo travelers who have the guts to roam the world by themselves…

    But also deeply disgusted at what you had to go through in my very own motherland…
    I am an Indian, and I am a girl… I can very well relate to what you must have felt….

    I know apologising on the behalf of those creeps will not make you feel any better or help you forget that moment of horror….so won’t attempt at doing that…

    Just wanted to tell you that next time if you ever decide to visit India, do mail me… Will try and help a bit with your itinerary…

  • Saurav Sengupta said:

    I am an Indian and I still have enough of an experience of India to last me a lifetime, though, being a male, I cannot be “Eve”-teased or “Adam”-teased or whatever. But it is not just about the sexual harassment women face in India, and you have to delve deeper to understand it anyway. India is a primal country where emotions, including carnal instincts (remember the obsession with marriage?), have a much greater stronghold on people’s minds than reason, rationality or civility. Hinduism is one of the oldest surviving religions and its practices and rituals are primeval as well, such as the “exuberant” Holi you experienced (maybe I should not mention that its rituals also call for drinking a cow’s urine on occasion, but now I have mentioned it anyway). It is mainly about gods and demons and fire and destruction and laughter and loudness and rudeness. The Ganges that you saw in Varanasi is one of the most sacred and most polluted (go figure) rivers on the planet. It carries everything from industrial waste to sewage to partially burned remains of the dead (Hindus who believe that getting burned on the ghats after death and being washed away by the Ganges is the best way to fulfil your life and get rid of all your sins). Ironically, though, the birth of a girl child is considered unlucky and a bad omen here, and illegal prenatal sex determination to abort female foetuses, and even murder of girls should they be unlucky enough to be born, has led to a horribly skewed male-to-female ratio. There is a huge amount of history and social evils behind the modern face of India. As just one example, Hindu women in some cultures wear an iron bangle after marriage, symbolising their slavery to their husbands for the rest of their lives. A husband, actually, is called “swami” here, meaning “master”.

    India has a very few “well-planned” cities, among them Chandigarh (where I live), New Delhi (not Old Delhi), and some cities in the state of Gujarat, like Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. Not that these are “modern” in the way Western or Far-Eastern cities are, but they are better than the old cities.

    And as far as trains are concerned, the trains don’t just have wildly different classes within them, there are wildly different classes of train as well. If you want to travel by train in India, try to avoid all except the “prestigious” ones which are the “Rajdhani”, “Duronto”, and original “Shatabdi” Expresses, although even they have no guarantee of reaching anywhere on time. They are the fastest, but don’t expect actual high-speed travel of around 300 km/h of Western and Japanese trains. India’s fastest ones do about 100 km/h on average. However, at least you won’t have to get yourself sandwiched between half the Indian population at your feet and above your head, because these trains don’t have a general compartment class in the first place. They are made mostly with German and other Western technologies, so your journey, though long, will be more comfortable.

    Maybe you should take a look at this. This is Chandigarh, one of the “better” cities of India:-
    A Mosaic of India

    Bon voyage!

  • VJ said:

    Hi Aleah,

    It’s good to see that the bad incident didn’t over-shadow all your good experiences.

    Just a quick tip. When back home (India), I always carried a torch (in the hope that if you have seen their face, they wont attack you! Also, can be used for blinding), pepper spray, a small pocket knife, a phone, an umbrella! Also, when riding back home in the night, I would dress in layers – mostly a sweater and a jacket – and I’d tie my hair in a bun under the helmet. That way you could never tell if it was a woman or a man driving! And you should take note of those numbers someone else posted in one of the comments above! That is quite useful!!!

    But other than that, enjoy the local cuisine. I personally recommend the street food – they are the best! Good luck! Stay safe and visit again :)

    Admire your spirit and courage!

  • Solo Travel Planning Tips for Women | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] Solution: Read up A LOT on the experiences of solo female travelers on the place you’re visiting. What are the best practices that travelers follow there? As much as possible as well, connect with others when you arrive, either in the hostel or through CS. Practice common sense as well; don’t drink too much. (Read: Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India) [...]

  • Anisha said:

    Hi Aleah

    Your blog entry made waves all over the country and a lot of my friends have posted the newspaper link on FB which brought me to your blog- for someone who loves to travel but have been unable to do so for the dangers that come along with me I was instantly mesmerized by your entries

    Although I am an Indian, I was born and brought up in America and some of the mannerisms (and accent) still sticks to me even 20yrs after leaving America so I get treated as an Indian and a foreigner at different times.. Eve teasing is sadly very common here though in my city- Bangalore it is considerably safer to travel around
    I do hope this hasnt affected your plans of coming back here… you would love south india- Kerala and Hampi to be exact… and I look forward to reading more about your expeditions!

  • R. roy said:

    Hi,

    For whatever its worth, apologies for wht you have had to go through in Varanasi. Have been a frequent vistor to Varansi but never thought a destination which sees so many foreign tourists would have such behaviour.

    It is unfortunate that men in India behave in such ways, however the general public is still decent minded. Rajasthan as you righly pointed out is a great state for travel and so is Himachal should you ever decide to go to the hills.

    Hope you visit India again and meet great people to make your journey memorable.

    I’m a guy and can confidently say that for all the bad folks in our country the good ones still outnumber them 10 to 1.

  • Gagan said:

    Dear Aleah,

    Through a post on the indian express I discovered your blog, and your horrific experience in India. Of course, you weren’t worse off than other women in India, but after reading countless accounts of harassment meted out to foreigners in India (who are supposed to be our guests) I can only bow my head in shame and ask for forgiveness for my countryMEN (not women).

    One must understand that the religious institution that is Hinduism propagates a strong sense of patriarchy through our people. At the same time, there is an intense sexual repression of men and women during adolescence, which I think adds to the whole problem. Nevertheless, things must change. I cannot call myself proud to be an Indian if this continues…

    Some advice: next time please visit the South. Men are more respectful there (even though the same problems exist in homes).

    Btw, I live in Zurich Switzerland, doing my Phd. If you ever need a place to crash, let me know. I would be glad to treat you like a normal person :)

  • Shivaraman said:

    I came across your article, and I feel so ASHAMED.!! So so so freaking ashamed.. Am sorry Aleah Taboclaon.. If ever our travels cross paths, I will apologize in person and hope to redress some part of the wrong..

  • Prem said:

    Hi,
    I am fascinated by your solo travel all over the world. I have done a few myself in Europe but I do get slightly apprehensive whenever I start my journey. Nevertheless, your story is truly amazing to read.

    Being an Indian man, I apologise for the behaviour of many men in Varanasi. We have millions of men and I can assure you that all men in India are not like these hooligans that you encountered in Varanasi. When you visit India next time, please do visit South. There are a lot of decent men, different culture and food, and vastly different landscape than the North.

  • Dianne Sharma Winter said:

    Yep, No Indian woman leaves the house during Holi!! Its totally irresponsible of tourism promoters to India to even suggest that people participate in Holi, its so very annoying to me as I advise women on safe travel in India. Women dont want to believe that they cant join the party and then learn the hard way.
    NOT all of India is like this, problems come on the tourist trail espceially in the budget areas.Generally budget tourism attracts the worst kind of people. I have recently been road testing some itineraries for the tourist season and am currently writing on women safe cities in the tourist areas, its shocking to see and hear the kind of comments these junglis use to GUESTS in this country.
    http://www.womentravelmotherindia.com/reasons-why-holi-is-unsafe-for-women/

  • Shivaraman said:

    I came across your article, and I feel so ASHAMED.!! So so so freaking ashamed.. Am sorry Aleah Taboclaon.. If ever our travels cross paths, I will apologize in person and hope to redress some part of the wrong..

  • Paras Raj R. said:

    Read your article and saw you had some bad experiences in our country felt bad and ashamed really this is not the way we treat our guests/travellers come to INDIA on behalf of the peoples who were JERK and IDIOTS and personally myself i say SORRY FOR THE INCONVINIENCE YOU HAD. like not all the fingers in hand are same neither all the peoples hope you will have a good experience if you visit INDIA next time.
    wishing you a good life and best of luck

  • Ankush Kashyap said:

    I’ve just read in an Indian Express article about your experiences in India. I feel ashamed to learn that you didn’t felt safe in my country, that you were manhandled,abused and faced every kind of trouble that you shouldn’t have.

    As a citizen of India I apologize for the humiliation caused to you. I am really SORRY for the inhuman acts of some of uncivilized countrymen of mine.

    It is an old saying in India in Sanskrit, “Atithi devo bhava” meaning “Guest is God” and there are people working in India for its realization.

    I’ll pray to God that when you visit again, India be a much safer place for you to be Solitary Wanderer in true sense. Thank You.

  • Md. Zulqarnain said:

    Its disgusting but is an usual affair in India. Believe me or not but truth is so… even indian woman enjoy this stuff on the pretext of festivals like holi

    and now u can see the rise in rape ratio in India… especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar… so next time if u wish to visit India again try to avoid these states…Take care may Allah bless u…

  • Leah said:

    so, what we have been hearing on the news AREN’T ISOLATED cases. Im really surprised with India, seeing as its a country with so many religions… I’m sorry you had to experience what you did. This kind of experience is a true violation of your person and memories will not be hard to erase. I disagree with a poster here… it is not happening in all countries. This just sounds like there are no REAL laws protecting women in India, that this is accepted behavior. Thank you for the warning.

  • Kumar said:

    Hi,

    i just happened to read about the bad experiences you had in India in this newspaper article http://tinyurl.com/oe7yqg8

    I just thought i’d visit your blog and apologize profusely on behalf of all indians, for the few who ruin it for this wonderful nation.

    I am so sorry you had such a horrifying experience. I do not know what more to say. the problems of eve teasing are so rooted, that the new laws that are being implemented right now, will take a long time to finally create any change.

    Do visit again. DO mail if you need any help in the state of Kerala. I shall send you relevant links by email.

  • Katherine said:

    Thank you for writing this! I’m sorry that happened to you and it reflects my own experiences in India (which I wrote about for my friend’s blog, here: http://wp.me/p3oe7T-4H). I’ve spent a lot of time in India with zero problems at all, learned quickly not to go to any outdoor festivities (my terrible experience with this was at Teej in Jaipur, not Holi, but it’s all the same).

    I also do think that this has gotten a lot worse in the past 2 years (or my first experience living in India was an anomaly…), and that there is significant uproar about this in India as well, so hopefully things can change soon.

    I was supposed to return to India this January after getting back in November, but after my most recent experiences I just couldn’t get myself to buy the plane ticket. I do miss India a LOT, though, and hope that soon enough things will either change or I’ll get over my PTSD and be able to go back – though I honestly will probably never be able to go back to Jaipur without triggering something, which is unfortunate because I spent 7 months living there and have second families there I would love to visit.

    Anyway, I’m VERY glad to hear that Jaipur (and Delhi! I loved Delhi and have been having to defend it since September) treated you much better than it treated me, and am grateful to your own post which has started so many discussions among my facebook friends and opened me up more to talking about my own experiences.

  • Diva said:

    Too many men , indeed. I have to agree with all your observations, I am sorry you had to go through the holi incident.I wish our male population had a sense of honour, it is really shameful the way women are treated,even those travelling here.

    reading about it fills me with shame, while I do love my country ,it’s culture ,history and it’s beauty dearly ,I have no pride about the people. it is a sort of a fight with men here, everyday. the working women have to struggle to not breakdown by the sheer fear of molestation everyday. I admire you for picking up the broken clay pieces at the ghat. that’s what one should do.

    The states of Rajasthan (the more tourist populated areas), Gujarat,Maharastra (mumbai is extremely female friendly),Kerala,Pondicherry and the higher states of Himachal, Uttaranchal etc are far more safer for women. still the rules apply there too of not going out alone at night,never to get drunk,not to mix with local men too much,not to eat anything anyone offers you in the train/buses etc.

    Holi is a fascinating and fun festival, but one that only should be celebrated if you have a group of friends to celebrate it with. going out on the streets on that day is a bad idea,even if you are a solo male.my friend from Korea visited here and was caught in Holi celebrations in Delhi, she thought they’d be alright as they were 3 females, not so.

    here in my home town,we celebrate it with neighbours and friends, and it is a lot of fun, (though not many females do).

  • raj said:

    i think this as a rare incident happening. this can happen anywhere in the world not only in india. this can happen in your country too…
    women keeping to themselves..i disagree with that too..then you havnt seen the nightlife of india..may be you have seen house wives at home doing all the work and happy that too in places like varanasi and madhyapradesh etc..

    travelling solo is risky anywhere even for men in any part of the world. in an allien country you need to take care of yourself.

  • Abhimanyu said:

    It is very unfortunate that such a thing happened to you.
    India is a very varied cultures country as you might have and has many beauties and mysteries and color.

    But it is full of many other negative things like these which I personally feel really bad and angry about . I often try to understand why this happens, why people are misbehaved, and non cultured. Its quite a contrast, at one side they will fearfully pray to god ,and on the other side do such things , and not be concerned about their fellow being or their surrounds or their country.
    I ask myself why is law, if at all if it was there, required to stop these things, why are people not understanding themselves.It is not only you, but we ourselves suffering in problems that people just ignore and create.

    I am myself very interested in travelling, I love doing cycling and wish to discover the world on it someday. Unfortunately , I havent yet had the courage you have.Maybe i’ll break out my limitations soon.

    You should give India another chance, maybe plan better, safer places.
    South India is in general better, people are more God believing and fearing there.And the Himalayas, that is something you should not miss. Those mystic mountains cant really be described in words.

    And if you are interested in spirituality, I can tell you about a group, the Isha foundation . You should just visit their ashram in coimbatore in tamil nadu.
    It is a very beautiful and the ashram itself very spiritually intense.

    Hope you come again…

    Best wishes for you

  • S.D. said:

    Aleah.. the article about your experience in india (eye-indian express) had me almost in tears.. What do I do? I felt even worse when i heard of the unfortunate canadian woman but at that time I couldnt have done anything other than praying for her. This time i can help. I really want to- I cannot bear to see my country’s reputation going to the dogs If you need any assisstance regarding..er.. understanding the social customs and behaviour of people in my country.. feel free to text.

    It is my duty, just as it is of every India, to treat a guest as our God (Atithi devo bhava)- you might know that. Our family is a middle class family so we cannot afford to travel a lot but i want to- i really want to help guests be at home in my country.

  • Raghoo Romeo said:

    Aleha you said you wanted to travel to India again. My very sincere advise is DO NOT TRAVEL TO INDIA again. There are better places in Europe, Mediterranean, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada, Africa etc. BUT DO NOT VISIT INDIA.

    What India has to offer is only a glorious past of 4000 Plus Year Old Cultural Heritage. But its Present and Future are blur and unpredictable. So its better to visit a place with a reasonably good present and which has a future to offer. Past is past.

    Like others I will not say Sorry to you for what happened. This is what a country with 1.2 Billion can offer to you. Their education is only restricted for and limited to being only able to read and write. They are not educated but only know how to read and write. There is nothing worth seeing in India except temples or some tourist place which are not getting victimized by the wave of new property developers and the crazy neo rich Indians who invest heavily in such properties as investment in the hope of high returns.

    Crowded Trains, Under Development Projects for years, People People People any and every corner you will only have people, Guthka Spitted Roads and walls and Trains, Garbage in the trains here and there, garbage on the roads and the most famous of indian view the cows on the highways and roads roaming free instead of being in the cow farm they are let free to graze on the city streets.

    Better vist rural Philippines I am sure it has much to offer to you then India. If you do not want to have a harrowing, scary and an experience which you wish not to remember in your life better never visit India.

    Be Safe. Happy Traveling.

  • Janet said:

    Hi Leah,
    Late to the game but saw this on my fb feed at the time..
    Wow, I feel lucky with my first time to travel being India. I had no incidents and not even stomach bug incidents! I joined a voluntour program in New Delhi and we just toured around the triangle. I had no idea Day of Holi is something that should be avoided for women.. I had always wanted to come back to India and join it but now I have 2nd thoughts. I knew there were safety issues.. never be out alone, never be out at night, etc. But I was a bit naive about just how unsafe it could be for women.. but luckily had no major incidents.

    While I traveled solo to get to India, the moment I was out of the airport with arranged transportation, I was taken to our voluntour group and was never alone throughout the whole trip. Though we did go out at night/dark sometimes.. But I think I always had a male presence with me, or vaguely remember I may have been with my Asian (female) friend at one point, just the two of us, while we were separated or trying to find the rest of our group in a busy market.. but we found them with no troubles.

    The only incident was checking in to some hotel with my friends.. One man offered to give us a free massage and said that he was practicing to get his license. The three of us said yes.. it was me, my Asian (female) friend and our caucasian gay friend (tall male). He gave the massage to our gay friend first.. But when the two of us got our massage we realized that he was focusing a little too much on… our butts. We had somewhere to go so luckily our gay friend mentioned that we needed to leave and commented on how long he was taking. I never felt threatened or in danger though, and our caucasian friend was bigger than the Indian man (who typically have smaller builds) if he ever needed to overtake him. But he stopped without any problem. I just felt he was a harmless, but somewhat horny man and I found it funny/amusing but not threatening. I guess I could have considered it assault but I just had a different benign perspective for whatever reason, and in hindsight I could have potentially put myself in a dangerous situation (he was in our hotel room)… but nothing escalated. I would never want to be raped or groped inappropriately. But since I had consented to a massage it sort of justified his actions, though his concentration on the butt made it very shady, which is what our gay friend picked up on and why he said we had to go.

    I would love to visit India again but would never want to live there as a woman. Also having lived in the US for most my life and then living in the Philippines, it’s a VERY matriarchal society from my perspective! (saw your comment above about thinking you thought it was pretty patriarchal)
    Janet recently posted..Live on $2/Day Challenge

  • Janet said:

    I should mention we were all fully clothed during the massage. ;)
    Janet recently posted..Live on $2/Day Challenge

  • Emma said:

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I’ve traveled solo across eight countries so far and had problems with “Eve teasing” in Turkey, India, and Morocco. (Morocco was the worst.) It doesn’t matter how you dress, and while such things happen more often after dark, it happens in broad daylight as well. I used to think that I’d be safe if I was with a man or in a group, but that theory has been proven wrong.

    I was really happy to hear about all the protesting across India after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. I have hope that the situation for women here in India is improving.

    By the way, if you want to celebrate Holi again in India, I’ve heard that there are certain places in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore which are for women or couples only. This should be much safer.

  • Ruth said:

    I know this is a late posting, but I felt the need to comment as I had a similar experience. I was sorry to hear what happened but pleased that it didn’t put you off travelling back to India.
    I was in Hampi at Holi with my boyfriend and my female friend and her boyfriend. We knew that Holi was something we should experience and decided to head straight out and join the fun, especially as it was such a nice place to be. However, it was not long into the morning when we were joined and followed by a group of young rowdy men who we at first thought were friendly and harmless. However, having managed to corner us in a big group, a few men went too far and basically groped me and my friend. We both shouted and swore at them, which briefly dispersed the group but they didn’t show any shame or apologise. Our boyfriends didn’t even realise what was happening (we were both annoyed with them for not doing anything, but luckily the shouting and swearing seemed to help).

    Later, we walked up to these beautiful waterfalls where we hoped we could rinse off the colour a bit. I love swimming in natural water and looked forward to it on such a hot day. But there was no way I would have got in after we realised we were being followed by a group of men and then we saw a huge group of men messing about almost naked at the spot we hoped to swim. We could feel all the stares, it was awful so we just left. And this was when we were accompanied by our boyfriends (or husbands as we decided to tell the sleazebags to detract them as much as possible).

    I visited here after a long spell in Gujarat where I didn’t experience anything like this, and felt quite safe being a lone female traveller. I experienced a lot of jeering and stares in Rajasthan but that was when I was with other females. I travelled to Delhi and Uttarakhand on my own and felt quite safe. In fact, it was heart-warming the amount of hospitality I received as a girl travelling on my own. Wierdly I found I received more unwelcome male attention when I was with others – male or female!

  • anton said:

    hi there. my india trip next week (hopefully) is a dream come true but ironically, haven’t made any research yet. hope i can pull it off- just want to see the taj majal, the agra fort, “varanasi: experience et al. based from your blogs and thoughts, it is indeed a sojourn. hehehe. i am a nocturnal soul and your blog makes me more insomniac. salamat for this. amping!

  • Bianca said:

    What a scary experience you had. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to continue with my trip so I totally commend you for not letting that experience from ruing or stopping your journey through India.
    Bianca recently posted..A Weekend in Paris – Travelling with Sisters

  • Shalu Sharma said:

    Holi seems like an excuse to touch women. As far as eve teasing is concerned, its there for real, it does happen. Delhi has become extremely unsafe in recent years. There was a time when it was very safe but sad to see it decline right before our eyes.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..My India travel survival guide for women ebook now available on Amazon

  • Is it safe for women to travel solo in India? | Welcome! Lovely Delhi said:

    […] I wrote about my experience of sexual harassment in India, I received a lot of comments from Indian nationals. A lot were from men who apologized for my […]

  • MithunOnThe.Net said:

    As an Indian who loves the Philippines, has been there twice and loves Filipinos, I read this with a sense of shame and disgust. Although the fact this happened to you in Uttar Pradesh doesn’t shock me at all. Varanasi, for all its spiritual crap, is in one of the worst states in India as far as safety and crime go. Hope you get a chance to visit the south of India as well. You’re far more safer here.
    MithunOnThe.Net recently posted..Thailand 2012: Madame Tussauds, Asiatique and leaving Bangkok

  • Deep Bhatnagar said:

    First of all I am extremely sorry for the incident which happened to you in Varanasi. Let me try to shed some light about condition of women in India as many people here have barely just touched the surface of the problem -

    1.) Holi is celebration of colors but the way it is now being used for unfair & malpractices hence most families have started to celebrate only with their relatives & near and dear ones.

    The number of people who used to celebrate Holi in a community seems to be decreasing.

    2.) It may sound harsh but most educated families try to do their best to avoid such anti-social elements using various measures e.g. Not going out in late, Using busy streets, Having a companion with you always etc.

    3.) One of the biggest reason for such people are streotype thinking of male dominance over women as well as other social factors such as uneducation & poverty.

    There are other social evils too e.g. Abortion of women in India is a huge problem & the biggest reason for that is Dowry. Dowry used to be gift to bride & grooms to help them start their couple life but it has now become a necessity in every wedding & thus many poor people try to avoid a women child. It also happens in upper middle class too but in rare cases only.

    4.) There is a general perception amongst men that foreign women are easy going i.e. misunderstanding of cultures.

    5.) India is also home to one of the largest number of tribal people in the world. Although most of them are not harmful & generally friendly but sometimes they can act in indifferent manner with foreigners.

    I hope this provides you some insights into the Indian life. As far as situation of women in India is concerned it has improved a lot since independence but needs to improve further. Once again i am sorry that you have face such a horrific experience in India.

  • Nikhil said:

    Myself being an Indian, it feels good to see people from other parts of the world visiting India and exploring its culture, tradition. Stumbled upon your blog and wow, you have been traveling a lot it seems. Well written and express blog posts you have.

    Regards,
    Nikhil (@MrCoffeekhor / Twitter)

  • Paula O said:

    Hi Aleah, just came back from India with Marx. Though I did not experience the full-pledged eve-teasing like you had, I have experienced numerous men purposefully bumping me whenever we roam Varanasi’s tiny streets. Fortunately, I came prepared and every time men will walk by, I’d turn my body the other way or just casually put my hands together over my breasts or as if praying so my arms will cover my upper area. This is where I was most cautious as even if traveling with a male companion doesn’t stop them from doing this stop. There was also a guard in the city palace of jaipur of who tried to touch my breast but he failed since I am covering it with my hand. I don’t know, but maybe instinct or prior knowledge to these events helped me protect myself better.

    India is indeed a beauitiful country. You have to have that genuine interest for new cultures in order to completely appreciate it.

    I hope women will fare better in the future when staying here.

    But, I do not regret coming here. Will I come back? Definitely!

  • Missy l Sole of Missy said:

    Oh my! Your experience was scary! Now I am having a second thought in visiting India :(

  • Ankush said:

    I’m from Jaipur and am glad to know that you liked the city. Traveling alone in India for a female can be a horrible experience and it can happen in any city. I’m ashamed by the conditions prevalent in my country and ensure that I inform as many female tourists about it.

    I reside in Mumbai and whenever I happen to talk to female travellers going to North India, I warn them about potential dangers and help them out with local contacts. I’m sorry for your bad experience and thank you for still showing the faith.

  • Tash said:

    Ugh, that’s so, so awful. It’s a tough place to travel to as a women. I had a few moments where things were a little scary, more scary than anywhere else I had been, too, when I was there, when I was on my own, and even within a group.
    I experienced lots of gropes during Holi too, which was full on – although with such a culture, when else do men have the opportunity! In Western cultures, we hug the opposite sex, often just in hello. The result of such repression is that it comes out like this. So sad.
    I too found parts of India that won me back, and I saw the Hawa Mahal with the scaffolding too! We must have traveled around the same time!
    Tash recently posted..Project 52: Sunday Morning

  • Rishi said:

    @Aleah i think the main problem that happened was that nobody told u not to go out on Holi, specially in a place like Varanasi which is highly crowded specially on any festival.

    Holi is one festival that foreigners(specially girls) should be careful, while visiting India. Its better to celebrate festivals like Holi with some friends n only known locals at a known place near ur stay location.

    U could have had similar experience even in a city like Jaipur too during Holi, IFhad gone out in Public to play Holi.

    Though i agree that India has some issues with Eve Teasing but Specially on the day of Holi it could turn in a different level all together as everyones face is covered in colors n they move in mob, so it becomes an easy excuse for wrong doers n it becomes difficult even for the police to take action at times.

    Its not like that Indian women don’t come out to play Holi but rather most people play Holi with their families either in lawn area of their houses or very near to their home.

    While many guys(mostly teenagers) roam around in most cities in groups n they r generally drunk n may even intentionally try cause trouble.

    Its better to consult some locals about the do’s n don’t about the festivals.

    Although most festivals in India r fun n Holi too is a lot of fun provided it is played in right manner.

    Although nothing can compensate for ur loss but still being an Indian I m sorry what u have experienced in my country n hope u’ll return someday again n have a wonderful n safe journey.

  • Backpacking Northern India in 3 Weeks | Solitary Wanderer said:

    […] I was as a solo female traveler. Walking along the river bank with two Canadians, I became a victim of Eve teasing. I had met so many wonderful friends in my four days of stay in the city, but I will never forget […]

  • chris said:

    Hi Aleah,
    Holy smoke that is terrible, I am a father to an 18 year old girl and she has so much wanted to go to India… so we are! yay! She wants to go with me as she will feel better travelling with her Dad to such an exotic place. We are so much looking forward to it and when I announced we could fit in holi festival in Varanassi she was so excited but after reading of your experience I am so worried about it. Being a father I think I would go ballistic if a group of men started groping my daughter, as any father would. I would love response to this as I am quite concerned.

  • Ross said:

    That is terrible. Really well written piece. I have read plenty about the abuse women suffer in India since the recent scandals over there but this just highlights that it is not just serious crime is the problem but it seems acceptable to everybody that men can do this in broad daylight without anything being said.
    Ross recently posted..Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

  • The Best of My Travels in 2013 | Solitary Wanderer said:

    […] My trip to India was an eye-opener. I’ve learned how it feels to be so completely helpless, as well as what it’s like to be given support by hundreds of people you don’t even know. (Read: Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India) […]

  • nn1 said:

    Don’t go to India. You have big chance of getting gang raped. Read reports of recent incidents.

  • Itchyfeet said:

    Hi! Thanks for your tips but I want to know where is the safest hotel to stay. I heard that Pahar Ganj is not a good area to stay? Is that true? Though I saw some booking sites that there are a lot of hostels in that area. Would you recommend one please as I will be traveling alone to India sometime this year. Your recommendation will greatly appreciated. Thanks! :)
    Itchyfeet recently posted..Dreaming of Travelling..

  • Rosette said:

    Its scary for a woman knowing what you have experienced. I am planning to visit there also maybe on 2015.

    Do you have any suggestion for a cheap tour package to Jaipur? How much it cost you?

    Thank you.

  • Celebrating Holi Festival with Kids in Bodh Gaya | Solitary Wanderer said:

    […] in India. I was in Varanasi on the day of the festival itself, but due to what happened there (read Of Eve Teasing and Solo Travel in India), I had always preferred to remember Holi as I celebrated it in Bodh Gaya: among local friends who […]

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