What Makes India Safe for Women Travelers

In India, only a few women travel on their own and stay at a hotel that isn’t expensive or supposedly safe. Imagine then, riding a motorcycle alone and spending your entire time with a rural family that you’ve just met. Add to that a strong intuitive human sense and the possibility of staying with them. Would you do it? Maybe. Maybe not.

What if you did? Well, then you might just meet some of the most simple and loving people who so beautifully radiate the pulse of India rooted in generosity and empathy. Perhaps, you may get invited for chai and feel blessed to observe the fruits of working hard, creating with one’s hands, sticking together as a family, and understanding simple joys of life amidst nature.

Trusting Your Instinct
As most of my rides are, this one to Sakleshpur was intentionally open-minded and spontaneous. On the previous day, I had arranged with an Airbnb host who promised a camp-like stay in the middle of his plantation. The universe, however, pointed me in another direction. After spending two hours resting inside the tent that was pitched on a concrete of a parking lot in a house amidst an inaccessible plantation, I went for a walk after a 5-hour motorcycle ride.

Kunigal - Pitch stop


Tamed animals


Sakleshpur is far less known and visited compared to Chikmaglur or Coorg in Karnataka. Fewer tourists sounds great, I thought. Walking aimlessly in that quiet area was pure bliss. From abandoned houses and massive locked-up plantation areas to animals and a beautiful church filled with people on an Easter weekend, the village had a lot to offer to a stranger like myself.

I turned right towards the dirt road right after the church. I found Jyoti, this woman who stood silently in her front yard with deeply puzzled eyes. Her husband Srinivas and son Sachin were busy marking and cutting logs of wood. I walked into her open front yard without a barrier, unlike some other houses in that plantation area, and asked "Bathroom?" She hysterically said, "Aaa! Come, come." Her daughter, Suhana, was cleaning the front yard with her sister-in-law Yashoda. Both Sachin and Suhana were home for summer holidays.

This countryside home was modest and practical. The living room had two beds and a bench designed by Srinivas, the father who had dedicated one room to keep his carpentry tools and logs of wood. The entire family slept in the living room and adjusted when the kids got home for vacation. The kitchen and the bathroom were of the same size.


Home of Jyoti and Srinivas

From the Left: Yashoda, Jyoti and Suhana

Open-Mindedness and Humility
I walked out, thanked her and asked Jyoti, "River?" "Hmm," she nodded. "Come?" I insisted. She gently patted her daughter and Yashoda, and told them to join me. We passed their dogs, chickens, a cat, and a buffalo on our way to the river. After a few minutes, even Sachin came running to join us, hastily wearing his shirt.

After our walk, Yashoda invited me for tea. In broken English and Kannada, Jyoti joked about her earlier desire to be a cashier at a bank in Bangalore while she got rid of pests in her garden. Sachin shared photographs and magazines featuring the windows and doors created by her father for the village church. A few minutes later after our wonderful conversation, the entire family requested me to stay.

Most rural families in India are like Jyoti’s family – simple and ordinary. India is about such people who rely on love and care for happiness. They live a good life no matter the level of income and are open to helping anyone who comes their way.

Suhana and Sachin in the open field

Plantation

Community and Togetherness
The next morning, I spent a simple day with Jyoti's family. Srinivas offered chai and then asked the kids to take me to the plantation. "Khushi," said Yashoda. "Halt. Free stay. Bangalore tomorrow," she requested. I smiled and remained silent. "Dinner. Chicken," Sachin said, persuasively.

Once we reached home, Suhana prepared some fresh raw mango for snack. Sachin tried playing the new mouthorgan I had gifted them. Suhana then sang a song and tried playing the guitalele. Both took turns. Yashoda and her friend got home for lunch and all of us ate together. Turns out that Yashoda was a school champ at singing and performing Bharatnatyam. She also tried the guitalele; her willingness to learn something new at 40 was seriously admirable. Later, Srinivas showed me his craftsmanship with logs of wood. Pure joy.

Left to Right: Yashoda, family friend and Suhana at Fatimapura Plantation

Sometimes when you keep digging, you find a 6-feet dam 

Suhana trying the guitale

From the left: Jahnvi, Suhana and Sachin

As I rode back to Bangalore that evening, I recollected this purely human encounter; an exercise of watching the two worlds of idealism and realism unfold. It was an experience of humility, kindness, compassion, and genuine human connections springing loud from the barren world marred by insecurity, harshness and greed.

Jyoti's family is made of magic – simple, kind, and ordinary people who make India. It is in families such as these that there lies any hope and foundation for the future.

We must try to create and live in a world that is more like Jyoti's family. We may be able to feel and spread joy, and live happily together in an environment that grows on love and kindness.