Solo Trekking Experience of a little girl from ‘Dangerous Delhi’ – by Charishma Thankappan

Growing up in Delhi, raised by conservative parents, I had never been allowed to venture out on my own. Educated in a girls’ convent school, play time with friends – strictly girls, a trip to the shops down the road, or even opening the door at the sound of the bell; were all actions that needed to be performed under the supervision of either of my parents. Accompanying me to the school bus and escorting me back home was a routine that my parents never missed until the last day of my 12th standard. As friends and peers made fun of me, I silently bore the embarrassment with resent at the lack of freedom. It was only after entering college that I realised, that it was not freedom that I was deprived; but the unconditional protection that I was given by my parents.

Traversing narrow deserted alleys, walking by unblinking stares, dodging arms ready to grab; I made my way through college. In the five years, I had experienced enough and more of eve-teasing and molestation in just my journeys to and from college. I thought I might as well euthanize the aspiring traveller within me, hoping to see the world someday.

Moving to Mumbai, I thought I was free from the clutches of that horrific breed of men that Delhi was known for. But soon enough I learned that the city that was touted as the safest for women was not at all different from the city of my birth. Some of the experiences I encountered were, in fact, worse than those I had ever experienced in Delhi. With the end of 2012, during which I had also spent two years in the Maximum City, I was saddled with hatred towards my country, which was shared by perhaps most women around India at that time. I desperately sought to escape from this hell-hole that India seemed to have degraded to.

Yet, after moving to Oman, the by then almost dead traveller within me took a rebirth. In one and a half years, I had travelled almost the length and breadth of the country. An unexpected return to India left me unprepared and restless, having tasted the addictive apple.

Being blessed with an equally enthusiastic travel maniac of a husband, we made plans for our first visit to the Himalayas. As luck would have it, an emergency drew my husband to our hometown of Kerala on the eve of our scheduled trip. While I stayed back in Delhi, awaiting his return, it was not to be as a personal loss in his family put an end to his return altogether. It was a testing time for me as I had to make some decisions. At an unprepared juncture in life, I took some resolutions that could have cost me much. At the risk of facing censure from my husband’s family for not being with them at a crucial time and the hazard of missing possible job interviews; I resolved to do something I had never imagined in my existence so far.

I boarded the bus from Majnu Ka Tila and reached McLeodganj. Finding my way around, I trudged about, slowly gaining confidence and comfort in the crowd of enthusiastic travellers. I explored the entire place and then went on to embark upon the Triund trek on my own.

Arming myself with information from the internet, I set out on the day trek alone. Donning the spirit of adventure, I took the longest route, where I found myself alone for most of the time. I found a handful of fellow trekkers along the way after much of the climb and found more people at the fag end. Reaching the peak was a most exhilarating moment, as I delighted at the achievement of having attempted and completed a solo trek, even though it was a relatively easy one.

Subsequently, I chose to ride along the wave of confidence that I was overcome with, and I made plans for extending my solo sojourn further. The next morning dawned with me boarding a bus to Manali.

The experience at Manali was entirely different from the time spent at McLeodganj. While the latter is a place brimming with backpackers and solo travellers, including women; my reception at Manali was met with wonderment by the locals. Manali turned out to be a family vacation spot, outnumbered by Indians, and there was hardly any other solo traveller, that too a woman. But while it made me a bit uncomfortable, making me wonder if I had made a mistake; it also turned out to be advantageous. People were more forthcoming and helpful towards me as a solo woman traveller and offered help and support that exceeded my expectation. They made sure that I was comfortable and safe. Though I had a completely touristy experience at Manali, I did enjoy my time there nonetheless.

Charishma Thankappan - AAO Travel Tribe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus ended my maiden solo trip and solo trekking experience, bolstering my confidence to pursue it further – in another land; at another time. The little girl from ‘Dangerous Delhi’ who had never stepped out on her own is now making her parents proud as a voracious traveller, discovering new sights and sounds.

– Travel Story submitted by Charishma Thankappan