This morning I took an hour’s break in between work and some errands to spend at a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in the city. It’d been about 3 weeks since I visited one and I was missing having some cold coffee and so I went around 11:30 am to one of the 3 outlets they have in city and took my favourite table at the back end of the cafe and ordered my favourite – Kaapi Nirvana. It was a hot morning and I was sweating a bit so it was the perfect choice. I thought I’d just relax and sit back open the current book I am reading and chill for an hour before my next errand. About a few minutes after my coffee arrived and I was sipping the coolness, a rather pretty women entered the cafe and sat at the table on my left. She was a foreigner dressed in an India outfit – a churidhar – and she too was reading a book and drinking coffee. I must have glanced at her for less than a minute – the kind of glance you do when someone passes your general direction – and then went back to my book.
A while later she caught my attention as she politely apologized for disturbing me (not at all, it’s not everyday that a pretty young woman like you disturbs me) but she wanted to ask directions & suggestion to a couple of places in town which she planned to visit and could I offer her some help? Ofcourse I could, so i joined her at her table shook her hand and introduced myself before providing the information to the places she wanted to go to. She was sweet and nice and I was glad to strike up a conversation with Dublin Ireland raised French girl, Nicole. As she told me about the places she has been to in India, she also told me about the bad experiences. She had wanted to visit India from when she was a child as this is where her parents honeymooned 30 odd years ago. Since she learned of it, Nicole has wanted to visit but was only able to do it this year. Her father died 7 years ago and her mother is in a wheelchair so she put off her visit to India for several years as she wanted to be there for her mother. She has been in India for almost 4 months and will spend another 2 or 3 more if possible before returning back to France and get back to her life there.
Although she loves the country she has a lot of criticisms about the people and the men in particular. She says that she has been propositioned more times than she can count, by men of all ages, many old enough to be her father. This is nothing new to me but to hear it from a person who is sitting right in front of me, is another thing altogether. Not that India is the only country where foreign women, and Caucasian women at that, are groped, proposition, leered at, have rude & disgraceful comments said to them. Far from it; but for a country that supposedly is full of religious & pious people who ae supposed to treat women folk with respect – it is actually the opposite! And not just to Indian women but to visitors too. I admire the fact that a young woman like Nicole is traveling alone across this large nation of ours but I wish she didn’t. I wish she went about in a group atleast 4 of 5 people strong just so she could avoid these unwanted incidents. I’m not blaming her – I wish she didn’t have to! She says she has been relatively safer and that she has been treated with a lot of kindness & helpfulness in many other places in India but I wish she only had the pleasant experiences to take back home with her to France. I keep hearing all these horror stories of women visiting my country alone or even in pairs and having a torrid time in some places. I wish people would just grow up and learn decency.
Safe travels. I shall look forward to Nicole’s emails when she hits the next places on her itinerary.