If you wish to travel alone in India, you must have knowledge of how you can keep yourself safe. Whether you had to put it in practice or not is secondary. Of course, you would never want any situation where you need to get through a horrible experience just to put your self-defence skills into practice. Though I myself have experienced only the safer side of the world, I have heard many women complaining about their bad experiences especially in a country like India.
Fighting against the ill-treatment or harassment is a brave act but it would be smart to avoid such situations with some basic knowledge and tricks.
However harsh may it sound, but in many of the countries, you can’t just be as carefree as in Europe, Canada or America. Safety measures have to be taken irrespective of your nationality and a little vigilance is required in almost all the countries (including your own). While writing the ‘Quirky Travel Hacks for the solo female travellers’, I realised that I had written more than 1800 words only on safety. And thus I came up with this separate blog on safety hacks that no one might tell you otherwise.
Also Read: My Solo Adventure in Ladakh
‘I am on a Call’ Drama
This hack is used by most of the solo travellers. Though you would not feel the need to pretend to be on a call, it can be useful in case of some suspicious gesture of the auto driver, cab driver or the person who has offered to drop you.
Now the biggest question is, even if you fake a call, what would you talk? First of all, even if you don’t know the local language, try and use a few phrases that are common in all languages. For example, keep mentioning something emphasizing ‘auto driver’ word. If possible, also ask his name or vehicle-number in between. This would make the person believe that though you are travelling alone, there is somebody at the other end who is waiting to receive you.
In most of the bigger cities, the personal details of the auto-driver are put right in front of the passenger’s seat. Click the picture and pretend to send it to somebody. Then fake a call again, with your opening line as, “Ya, I have sent you the picture of the driver’s details and the auto-rickshaw number.”
Even if the auto-driver asks useless questions, the answers totally depend on you. You can make a fool of him for your own safety.
Remember to apologize in case the driver clarifies that he is not that kind of person. Remember that they are also humans, they get offended. Please say a polite sorry and clarify that you were doing it only for the family members who were worried about you.
You are the only one to handle yourself and your problems. So, please don’t put yourself in a condition where the person thinks you are too weak to carry even your luggage and offers help with any wrong intention. Many a time it may result in theft too. So, travel light, wash your clothes and reuse them if it is a long-term travel. Your makeup kit won’t be of any use during rough travel neither would any extra pair of shoes would make you look cooler. Always remember, you are a traveller, that itself makes you awesome.
Forget Your Fancy Shoes
When I went for a self-defence session at Red Brigade Lucknow and told that I am a full-time traveller, the trainer Usha Vishwakarma first observed my sandals. I don’t wear a fancy one but have found out comfy sporty ones that also go with my Indian attire. My sandals have perfect grip even to climb the shiny marble rocks and there are no chances that they trouble me in any case. And they are also the perfect for running in case of any escape needed.
So, spend some bucks on your shoes before heading for a solo travel.
Be a Badass Lady with some basic Self-Defence Tricks
Your Judo, Karate and other martial art expertise wouldn’t help you when you would be attacked for any attempt. The martial arts are meant to attack from a certain distance and they really don’t help when your hands are tied or in an immovable situation. Only the correct self-defence technique would come to your rescue even when you have completely drained off your energy.
Red Brigade-Lucknow (in Uttar Pradesh, India) is one such organisation where I couldn’t only learn but also practise different attacking positions with the trained men who would not show any mercy till you counter-attack the right way. During the sessions, the boys even bleed many a time, but they don’t give up until they feel that the girl has mastered the technique perfectly.
Moreover, after listening to the experience of the real rape survivors, you can get more idea about the actual situation.
Lucknow is a lovely place for exploration too, and 2 days of training sessions are worth taking.
Get the shit out of that sticky co-passenger
Many of the girls have recently shown their irritation with groping in buses, trains and other public transport where you generally become helpless. I would advise you to keep a day bag with you and sit with that bag in your seat. In case of any groping or touching, shove your bag in between the two seats. So that none of the body-parts of the other person can touch you.
Another trick is using a big safety pin. If you feel any deliberate touch while standing in a bus or sitting, shout at the person so loudly that everyone can hear it. If you still feel that the person has not learnt a lesson, pretend to tuck a safety pin somewhere and secretly poke it hard under the skin of the person. If he shouts, just claim that it happened by mistake (the way he would claim, he touched by mistake).
Pepper spray idea isn’t much practical unless you get enough time and situation to be prepared for the same. And if they prove that it wasn’t for the self-defence, you can be proved guilty of violence and can be put behind the bars.
Nail Ring, a ring with a sharp nail is available in the market nowadays. It helps you get the powerful results out of your not so powerful punch where you can make the person bleed just with a punch. And if you use that in the person’s eyes that he is definitely gone.
Don’t smile too much, show some attitude and anger
Your culture may emphasize on smiling at random people as a courtesy or a polite gesture, but I may not work everywhere. The open culture as shown in most of the Hollywood movies has created a wrong impression in the minds of men (especially in India). The uneducated ones think that foreigners are mostly available for a one-night stand.
When I was exploring the havelis of Mandava and Churu, I was asked by a biker which country did I belong to and without waiting for the answer he said he would like to sleep for a night with me. This ensured me of the pathetic mindset many dumb Indian men have towards foreigners.
Most of the shop owners in Pushkar, Manali and Mandava boast about their girlfriends in Spain, Australia, France and the list never ends. Many of them have even married to the travellers whom they met on their short visit to India. Many of them are very much dedicated to their relations and love their wives/girlfriends while most others are just using them for a few dollars or free trips to other countries.
Show your anger even at a comment you don’t like. Don’t just laugh it off. Clarify that certain jokes aren’t funny. You might not shout, but your face and expressions should send a clear message.
For any initial introduction, prefer a formal smile and after knowing a person you can show your true self.
The information is not to scare you, but to make you aware of the reality. Be smart enough not to be fooled by such assholes.
Check That Drink
“OMG, I am on an adventure, I am travelling alone and I need some cool friends to hang around, share a drink with and have fun.” Yeah, these are many of us including me. But, before doing that, please check the background of a person. How? Here is the answer.
Whenever you plan to go out with a stranger, have a short conversation with the person before the actual meet (mostly on social media platform). Check the social media profiles and his posts on the same. This would give you a rough idea of how a person is. This still doesn’t ensure that the person is good. But, through my experience, I can say that a hardcore traveller would mostly not be a ‘wannabe fucktard’. In the end, it totally depends on your judgment of a person’s intentions.
If you have met a local on the streets or in a hostel/café, please observe his dialogues and the way people are addressing or greeting him. Most of them wouldn’t have the wrong intention but might just want to hang-out with you. A decent behaviour in a first meeting is fine and you can keep being friends and can share your number. But a little fishy smell should alert your senses quickly enough.
Why the hell do I need to do this? The answer is, though a rare practice and too filmy, mixing a drug in a drink has still not vanished from the list of rape tricks.
Please don’t care about how the person might feel in case of an uncomfortable situation. And don’t hesitate in lying that you need to leave for some XYZ reason.
You have a hundred excuses to safely avoid what you don’t like.
When it comes specifically to India, the hard truth is that a girl’s smile (Even a simple hello) and friendly behaviour is considered her consent for any sexual act. Though most of them are now sensible and educated enough, there are many who are still blinded by romantic Bollywood movies. If you don’t mind installing just one app then please use Couch Surfing to find the travellers around where you can read end number of reviews about the person.
Have a Fake Name and Number
I have a SIM card which I use in a simple basic phone that doesn’t have any app or even WhatsApp. I call it an official number which I don’t usually check. Even if you have to share the number due to unavoidable circumstance, don’t worry, you can always block a number.
Share only your official number (Not the WhatsApp number) with the person so that it becomes easy for you to avoid the retard.
You would ask why not a fake number? Because brats nowadays are smart, they would want to give you a missed call immediately.
Another helpful hack can be, ask him to give his number and say that you would contact him later as currently, you don’t have a network.
And lastly, a fake name and number can be used in all useless registration in the museums, restaurants or even hotels.
Be Positive, Don’t attract the Evil
Many a time, I have observed people just cribbing about everything bad in a country and they also land up experiencing only what they thought. That, my friend, is the ‘Law of Attraction’. Believe it or not, your mind, thoughts and aura attract all negative energy around you.
Each day, tell yourself, “Today I would meet only good and helpful people but I also have the energy and presence of mind to face any unwanted circumstances.” This might sound silly to a few people. But eventually, it does work.
The Concluding Lesson
No tips and tricks can be perfectly useful as each criminal have a different mindset. And this article doesn’t aim to scare you or force only the negativity in your mind. There exist exceptions for everything and anything.
You might only have good experiences while travelling solo (The way I have had), great, enjoy it.
You might have a few bad experience, great! have guts to face and deal with them. Don’t just sit and cry and blame the system/country.
The good and the evil are always present everywhere but that doesn’t mean we conclude the whole country to be of evils only.
The country like India is still in a transition phase where people are not used to seeing girls in a certain manner. This will change eventually, with the revolutionary travellers like us. There are many foreigners who have even permanently settled in India.
Dare to be a change-maker rather than just cribbing and crying.