India mimics the rhythms of the ocean. At times, it’s benign, lapping gentle waves at your feet, tickling your toes. Then there are the trying moments, a violent storm that slams your body, jarring nerves to the brink when you drop any social veneer and gulp heaps of utter shock.
Friends warned me. I prepared myself, reading Wanderlust and Lipstick’s Guide for Women Traveling to India, Beth Whitman’s excellent guide.
Still, there’s reality. Physical encounters are obvious, but what about the internal inputs? As you absorb the logic or chaos of India, it can be daunting to a solo explorer, especially a lone female.
Reality is nothing to fear when armed with practical information.
1. The Staring
I can confirm, you will be stared at. Walking down the street. In a restaurant. Standing in the ATM line. It won’t be a glance of mild interest, and then they look away. There’s a focused intensity as people rake their eyes up and down, examining every detail of your being. Sometimes I look down at myself to ensure everything that should be covered, is. Not every person you encounter will do this, but it will occur frequently. India is not like Europe, where travelers blend in, often ignored by the general public.
Tip: Many worry a man’s attention will be followed by an unseemly proposition. While some ladies might invite this, others don’t. Much of the staring is simply curiosity. Some locals have never seen a foreigner before, so they are intrigued. Eventually you notice that women stare as often as men. This can be unnerving, but try to remember that while you