Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tourist Dowry and Fatal Attractions - Solo woman travel safety for India

You thought you would somehow be okay, that you would make sense of the city, the noise, the pollution, the constant demands on your attention, the "hello, hello" as if they knew you. The "Excoose me Madam, where from", the sly insidious grasp of a beggar childs hand, the more confrontational approach by it's mother. Then there is the staring, o god! have they never seen a white woman before? Do I have spinach on my teeth, is my underwear showing? The slightly rebellious stomach, the strangeness of it all and the heat!

No surprise to find yourself unburdening all this on the first charming English speaking person to sense your pain. He is the first person you met who hasn't tried to sell you anything, he is just like people everywhere else in the civilised world. You can have a conversation with him, ask him things about the country, the people, the habits and why they stare so.

"Ahh Fucking Indian men," he will exclaim and apologise on behalf of the country for the stares and inappropriate touches. Totally charmed and relieved, you relax into the AC of the coffee shop/the cool breeze of the fan in his shop or emporium/the seat in an eatery where you met by chance or perhaps he gave you directions when you ran out of circle in Connaught Place. Such lucky encounters is what travel is all about, chance meetings that are the begining of a lifetime friendship.

Suddenly you don't feel so alone, so strange.
How much lighter you feel now that you have unburdened yourself. You offer him a coffee if you met in a coffee shop, he offers you chai if you met on his territory. Later he will offer you a meal at his house as if you were by now long lost relations or even perhaps as he may have already mentioned, some strong Karmic Connection from a previous life.

Except it is by no chance that you met. He was always looking for you, darling girl. He knows how to read the signs and what signs will ring the cash bell over the door to his shop. There you were, flushed with the heat, lost maybe confused definately and fresh of the boat literally. 

Ah but what the hell, he is good looking, charming and mannerful. He is a barrier between you and the great churning mass of people of every description clawing at the hems of you skirt. His life story will be as you have read in most Booker Prize Winning Novels, one of hardship, turmoil, war and terrible bad luck. Your heart will be won over by his loyalty to family, his execution of his duty to provide and probably do a few flip flops in sympathy for his difficult life.
ike any handsome prince in a story he can whisk you away from it all and take you to another land so close to heaven that you will begin to live out the myth of your life in such a story book setting. Or he will graciously accompany you on your travels, greatly smoothing the way for you.
Now your confidence returns. Now you have a good looking man and a grip on the situation. He may give you promises of love, of a fairy tale that continues, nothing is too much trouble for him if it means that you will be comfortable and happy.
To be a lone woman in India is lonely and confronting and confusing and often people are mean to you but to be with a man who speaks the language and who knows the ropes actually deepens your travel experience, so what if this totally blows your budget? Do it, plan it, draw more money out of the bank and now begin your real holiday in India with a local.

"Say we are married" when you travel. Then he can use your Visa card while you sleep to drain you of all the cash in your account or worse.  Better still, 'marry' him and suffer the indignity of accepting a second wife when all your money is gone. Or go home to Australia and sell your suburban house to exchange it for a dream in paradise only to wake up to the reality of years of legal action that will result in nothing. Or go to a hotel room with a man who you only recently met in the seediest streets of the city.

Two months ago in Paharganj, Delhi a young French woman was found dead in a seedy hotel room.

Her story began in one of the ways described above. Her story is not unusual or unique in India, women who make 'friends' with random strangers who prowl the tourist areas are routinely ripped off, blackmailed or cheated by men who make it their business to make some business out of you.

The women, their victims will invariably shell out large amounts of cash either knowingly or unknowingly. There will be a scheme that you are invited to invest in or a kind of tourist dowry anticipated in exchange for goods and services. It usually ends in tears. The victims rarely make a complaint, she will take on the blame of making a bad choice, cuts her losses and goes back to work to pay off her credit card while the man simply goes back on the prowl for another woman just like you.

When New Zealander Diana Clare Roultley was murdered in Varanasi, her father spent years of his life and over half a million dollars in an attempt to find his daughter and then to bring her murderers to justice. She was murdered by a rickshaw driver who had befriended her.

In Delhi if someone suddenly gives you flowers, you are not in a 30 second deodorant commercial but in the first stages of a sting.

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