Survival Instincts

As a woman traveling alone, I’ve become keenly aware of my oneness. Just this morning, the trip from my hotel to the Gateway of India (only across the street) was trying. It seemed that people were approaching me from all directions to get me to commit to something they could charge me for.

Relentless.

My number is 4. After 4 “no thank yous,” I start yelling. I’ll be polite and demur up to a point, and then look out.

I’ve thought a bit about how to keep myself safe. There are the no brainers. Don’t go out alone at night. Don’t drink. Careful how you interact with men.

Today, I began to notice my knee jerk social strategies that for better or worse do seem to be mine.

In the Dubai airport when I felt a bit out of my element, I befriended a young mother with two children who was struggling to find her terminal. We were both going to India!

Today, at the Gateway, I needed directions for where to board the boat, so I knew I had to find someone who spoke English. I walked around listening, and then spotted some white people. They were from Argentina. Spanish was their language, but they knew just enough English to tell me they didn’t know where the dock was. But fortunately this group of adventurous foreigners had a tour guide.

Friend of Richard Gere and lady who paid my debt to a Spaniard
On the boat, I noticed another white lady alone. She turned out to be 71, fabulously wealthy, and an acquaintance of Richard Gere.She ultimately paid the 3 dollars I was lacking to a Spanish man I had convinced, no easy task, to pay the money I needed at the gate.

It’s a long story, basically I only planned to take the money I needed, plus a little extra. After patting myself down a few times, it was obvious that I had not planned for 3 places where I would have to pay: the ferry ticket counter, the entrance to the island, and again after climbing what seemed like a mountain of stairs, a foreigner’s price right before the caves.

On the way back to the boat, tired, hot, feeling poor because I had misplaced my cash and actually had to beg for money to pay my ticket into the caves, I was getting a wee bit depressed until I saw a Sikh and determined that I was in good company after all.

I didn’t talk to him but just knowing about the Sikh philosophy of respect for all humans made me feel better. I wasn’t completely alone.

The Spanish man and the rich lady had tossed a little shade my way over the three dollars.

It recalled to me how it was to be in Russia, when strangers watched out for me and questioned me about whether I was freezing to death and emptied their kitchens to throw dinner parties. I remember my friend from the Republic of Georgia who was on a strict allowance for school, who was barely making it reach into her purse and give money to beggars on the street. Her heart was so big. Do large wallets shrivel the heart?

And all that time, I had the money, just in a different pocket.

When I told an Indian man who was trying hard to be my last minute tour guide how I had to beg for the money to get into the caves, he laughed. 

And then after seeing the weird irony of it all, so did I.

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