It’s an excruciatingly hot day in Jodhpur. I’m sitting on the rooftop of my guesthouse, observing life below.
The car horns from the street are relentless; loud music streams over from the building behind me; the chant of mantras wafts up from downstairs; the Call to Prayer from the nearby mosque sounds from across the street. I can’t stop sweating and my head feels like it might explode.
It’s my last day in India. I’ve been traveling through this ancient, vast, beautifully diverse country on my own for a month and a half. I’m happy I made this trip, but I’m exhausted and, honestly, ready to leave. I’m dreading tonight’s 11-hour train ride to Delhi.
But before I head to the train station, I’ll take a moment to reflect.
Before I left for this trip, people scared the hell out of me, constantly reminding me how dangerous it can be for a woman to travel alone in India. But now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and experienced it for myself, I know that traveling through India as a solo female traveler is not frightening at all!
The appropriate word is challenging.
Like anywhere else in the world, India is a place where you must rely on common sense. As a woman, I’ve had to remain extra aware, no matter where I was. I made sure to avoid being out alone at night, drinking alcohol or using drugs, hanging out in isolated places, walking down remote streets, and choosing guesthouses with unfavorable reviews.
I never once felt unsafe.
The truth is, nothing can compare to India. It’s so big, so beautiful, so dirty, so diverse, and so complicated that it cannot be understood or fully experienced in just a month and a half. I doubt an entire year would be enough! India is a life-changing country — it gifts you with beautiful, introspective experiences and leaves you exhausted, but with new life running through your veins.
It’s time to go.
I grab my bags and head to the train station. Once I get into the compartment, I realize how unnecessary all my worries about India really were. I am surrounded by nice women; the train is a bit dusty, but not dirty, and everyone is reading, chatting, or resting quietly.
How unwarranted our fears are sometime!
After a few hours, the lights shut off and everyone else goes to sleep. But I keep writing in the moonlight, capturing my last feelings about the country as the train speeds down the tracks.
India is a rollercoaster of mixed emotions — love and anger, awe and despair. I felt different than my usual self. India shakes all your senses; it throws you and your certainties against a wall, and wraps you in a veil made of questions you wouldn’t usually ask yourself, squeezing you so tight that all you can do is surrender to acceptance.
It was a tough trip; it was a beautiful trip. It was profound, mystical, heartbreaking, eye-opening, enriching, intense, confusing, and draining. And yet, as the train rolls through the night, toward the end of my trip, I look out at the starry sky from a tiny dusty window and think: Thank you, India. I’ll be back.