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Six hours in Delhi – Solo travel journey. Was there a reason to be scared as a woman traveller?

I have been working in various careers since the last 20 years, invariably all related to media or communication. Have been a radio jockey (that’s the fanciest titles of all the careers I have embraced). Others have been advertising professional, PR practitioner, freelance writer, blogger, communications manager; stay –at home-individual and now an entrepreneur for a mom and child segment. Yet for a work assignment when I told my parents that I will be travelling to Delhi alone and from there on will be joining a group to head to Uttarakhand, all hell broke lose.

I am a mum too and my experience of travelling alone from my city to Delhi and back taught me a lesson in parenting. ‘Don’t transfer your fear to your child’.

I meet several inspiring women for work, many who are solo travellers, some who run travel businesses, others who find solace in travelling to off beat destinations, a few really adventurous ones like yet the idea of travelling alone to the capital of the country didn’t go too well with my parents. Questions like “ Is it required? How will you ensure you will be safe? What if you don’t come back?

Frankly I knew there were concerns from a parent who adores me but it was enough to instill the fear of travelling within my own country.

We teach women to be so dependent on the other sex when it comes to travel. I seriously feel, if we want the next generation to change let’s travel more, alone. As I am writing this blog, I read another unpleasant incident that has happenned recently on the Mumbai local at 11pm, of a woman being molested.

The only way we can ensure safe environments is to demand better facilities, better tracking systems, monitoring devices and of course educating men and even film makers to show responsible content. After all women constitute a half towards working in the society. Believe you me, this doesn’t mean only work outside home, in terms of money but we have been working for betterment of families and in turn betterment of society. Travelling is as much our right as much as it is for men. Why should it surprise people when they see a young woman, old woman, middle aged, mum, mum with child travelling on their own? That will of course go to another debate.

So this is what I finally did when I landed in Delhi just a few days ago.

This was of course of four sleepless nights previous to my journey, thanks to all that I have read on women and the atrocities they face in India’s capital ( not that it doesn’t occur in other cities but New Delhi has notoriously attained the tag). It’s high time authorities ensure women travel safe across the country and also develop a system where people are taught what is NOT acceptable when it comes to treating women.

My flight was at 6 am in Bangalore Airport which means I have to leave at 3.45am from my home. Almost the time to reach Delhi by flight, thanks to an airport set literally at the outskirts of city limits.

So in the odd hours I step into the taxi, a driver whom as a family we have taken the service earlier but a woman travelling alone in odd hours, the timing and the quietness so early morning brought its set of anxiousness. I did try consciously try to shake off all my uncertainties by telling myself ” You will be fine.” “Learn to trust people, while being aware of your surroundings”.

I reached the airport much ahead and after sometime boarded the flight. No, it wasn’t the first time but everything seemed so new doing it alone. BTW, I have travelled alone to Pondicherry on a solo trip, yet this journey was new for me and close family members who were concerned. I have to say only my husband kept saying, ” You meet so many independent women, you are yourself so independent in your city, why should it bother so much for a travel?”

Anyways, at the airport, I thought of my child, and whispered a little prayer to God to take care of him. It seems dramatic now but at that point of time I didn’t know whether it was of course logical to take a work assignment like anyone else or I was getting into something not required. The fact that I was going to go ahead and spend my stay with a group whom I had not met earlier added to the anxieties.

Once I landed I had six hours with me before I would meet a group, new people for a work assignment at Uttarakhand.

Our train was scheduled at 4pm in the evening and I had good six hours with me.

I was excited to be alone and very nervous. I loitered around the Indira Gandhi Airport for sometime and decided I couldn’t waste six hours there.

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So I decided to explore Delhi as a tourist. I have always travelled with family and been to the usual places. This time I decided to go a tourist spot close to Old Delhi railway station, considering I had to travel further from there in the evening.

The easiest way was to travel by taxi, but thankfully I decided to use the metro.

 

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Much to my surprise Delhi Metro is clear with its signages declared everywhere and has a connectivity from the airport. So I followed the metro signs and went from Delhi Airport to New Delhi and from there to Chandni Chowk.

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On the way I sat alone at a Café Coffee Day space within the metro premises and was slowly beginning to feel normal and let go my anxiousness.

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Delhi Metro premises is huge and I was wondering why people were rushing with luggages. I understood it only on my way back –on my return journey from Delhi.

So with internet and technology at your fingertips, being aware and conscious is a plus point for any traveller. This is an encouraging factor especially for a woman traveller.

So coming back to my journey, I started walking from Chandni Chowk station and by now I was in a happy space. I was free, I was alone and was confident to handle myself. I stopped at an earrings store and gifted myself a pair of artificial jewellery earrings.

 

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Then I walked to Red Fort and had an interesting time there. I had to speak in Hindi to convince the individual at the ticket counter that I am an Indian and not French as she assumed. This was before I could remove my passport and convince her.

Then I hopped on to a rickshaw and was amused to see the by lanes of Old Delhi (Purani Delhi).

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It has its charm and gives a feel that it is stuck around 30 years ago. Lots of people, lots of wires dangling from streets and severe space crunch. I reached a ‘kulfi’ joint (as recommended on Trip advisor) to savour some delicacies. Even though there were enough people –my friends and others who knew I will be in Delhi, they advised me to have Indian chaats.

I decided against it as you are so unsure where you will find clean toilets in India, just in case I have a stomach upset. This is especially true if you are a woman traveller. I was surprised to find out how men thought this wasn’t a problem at all for a traveller.

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So after relishing pomegranate kulfis at this small space- Kuremal Mohanlal Kulfiwale. It was a tedious task to find this place and a lady who guessed I am new to the city, asked the rickshaw puller to go a few lanes back in typical Delhiwalla hindi.

I loved the desert I had opted even though the eatery doesn’t boast of a fancy ambience.

Soon it was time for me to head to the Old Delhi railway station. The sight at the railway station in the afternoon made me think of the number of people who perhaps sleep on roads. Here they were sleeping at the station without any bed, bed spread and I couldn’t believe it that in cities where I belong, me and others were so indifferent and unaware of people who can’t afford any comfort in life. So the next two hours at the station made me think of my blessings in life and soon it was time to take the train to Uttarakhand. I did have an amazing trip at Jim Corbett.

So after a lovely stay for two nights at Uttarakhand I was on my way back to Delhi. This time the train got delayed by 3.5 hours and I had a flight to catch in the evening.

After contemplating on whether I should get down at a station further away from Ghaziabad and take a taxi or hope for the train to reach at the earliest, I decided to stay in the train and take the risk. I was also advised by other women travellers who were with me to stick to the train journey and hope to catch the flight.

There were discussions of course by these bunch of boys who wanted to take a taxi and they even offered me to join in. But I wanted to be safe (not that they didn’t appear as safe company), but I wanted to go by the known route.

Thankfully, showing some mercy on travellers like me on that train (there were others too who had a neck to neck commute flight to other destinations that evening), the train finally reached Old Delhi railway station at 6.10pm. I had my flight at 8.00pm. The moment the train landed I was shocked to see the huge number of population at one railway station. To say that it was overwhelming and intimidating it will not be an understatement.

As I have used the public transport of metro (in Bangalore), I decided to run and try to reach airport. Huh..it wasn’t a cake walk. So there I was running across the stairs in the station, making my way amongst at least thousand people who were pushing me and then I started running on the road, at the exit ( which I found out after 10 minutes, the right exit to use to go to New Delhi metro) and then I was running like a marathon racer at the metro station. Somehow I assumed while running that there are good chances I would be pick-pocketed of my money or passport considering the sheer number of people around me

As I live in Bangalore, the best I have seen of huge metros is at Kolkata and in Mumbai but Delhi metro in the evening gave me the shock of getting into reality of dealing with huge crowds. I finally managed to go the front , in the line, requesting people and again took the train to Airport.

When I had assumed that I will surely make it on time after so much of running, I was told by the check in flight assistant that I have to further run past 41 gates in the airport. This was thankfully at Terminal 3 and I had saved time.

So I began running again and just two minutes before the counter closed, I reached the flight gate. I also wanted to make it on time to ensure my parents or others don’t have second thoughts on if I can take care of myself. However I kept telling myself , ” Even if you miss, you will still manage.”

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As I looked from the sky, from the flight, I realized that I had done fairly well for myself and it may be for a brief while that I stayed alone in Delhi, but the experience taught me to be aware of myself, celebrate my moments of happiness and learn to do everything myself.

The stay was memorable but the journey and the experience has been priceless and now waiting to take my next journey alone at the earliest, to another destination to embrace another travel memory.

 

2 thoughts on “Six hours in Delhi – Solo travel journey. Was there a reason to be scared as a woman traveller?

  1. Can’t believe one can do so much in 6 hours in an unknown city, though in your own country ! Its really an adventure that you were able to make it on time for your flight but would be glad to be in your shoes for this kind of experience !

  2. This trip had so much adventure that I had to literally pinch myself to say that I it is real. Loved your blog Reshma…and yes 2 mins before the airport gates closed…wow that waz really close.

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