I am a Maverickbird, a solo woman globetrotter from India. Born and brought up in the laidback, bohemian city of Calcutta, it was not much of a shocker that I turned out to be a firebrand, which is typical of women from there. However nobody much expected a Calcutta girl to zip around the globe solo or with a little baby in tow, traveling to exotic off beat destinations, doing wild adventures and love being a single gypsy mom. When I say nobody, I don’t only mean my fellow countrymen but also a lot of people all across the world.
I have faced too many mistaken identities (nationality wise), incredulous looks and funny, at times bizarre questions. Some questions have come from fellow travelers, locals of places I had visited and most of them had been borderline ignorant, rude even. But traveling opens the eyes and minds, and long back I had learned that it was not smirking rudeness which evoked such questions but the fact that they did not know any better.
So over the years I have gathered patience, tolerance and taken the responsibility of busting myths of the solo Indian woman globetrotter
So over the years I have gathered patience, tolerance and taken the responsibility of busting myths of the solo Indian woman globetrotter. My Russian name also contributes much to the fun and coupled with my mixed ethnicity, I have drawn many hard, confused stares. It is most entertaining to try getting away with identifying myself as diverse nationalities across the world.
I share a warm skin tone with millions of people (mostly real and some tan store bought) across different countries on earth, and on many boring, annoying days I have played the game of guess where I am from. A solo, woman globetrotter always attracts attention and as one whom you can’t really place to any particular continent, the curiosity gets more avid. This game had brightened many traveling moments, at a lot of places-while waiting for delayed flights, trying to break monotony, or want of anything better.
Incidentally the first question everybody asks a traveler is to which country he/she belongs to and immediately you know that the global citizenship is still a fictional concept. It was George Bernard Shaw perhaps who had mentioned something similar as borders create wars and we create borders and traveling reveals this unfortunate glaring truth. Is it curiosity or thirst of learning something unfamiliar which makes us humans seek out differences among fellow earth citizens, I do not know, but I have noticed that the more exotic you are, the better you are accepted.
In this strange game of creating human borders I have passed myself of as Cuban, Latina, Egyptian, Turkish, East African, Australian, American with Indian ancestry and the amusing list is endless and have always gotten away with it. It’s strange how it is only a small book and not the actual human, which creates rifts, the bloody segregation and wars-a small man made book called passport which separates people, treat some as gods and some as animals and which most of the times seem as bad as branding. Although security issues, global situation in the hands of terrorism, make global citizenship a nearly lost dream, I cannot help but wonder, if as curious humans, we really ever wanted assimilation.
Traveling to more than 50 countries had made me into a sponge, which has soaked up as many experiences as possible but can get fatter and it has made my daughter grow up faster than her biological age. It has taught us humility, street smartness and made us immune to differential surprises.
Practicing patience has also come in abundance with myriads of incidents across the planet. From being begged to dance to Bollywood numbers in ski suit (it was winter) at an obscure ski resort in Murmansk city (north of Arctic circle), singing Bollywood songs to a taxi driver at Atacama, Chile, showing my photos in saris to Cuban guajiros (cow boys) at a nameless village in Bay of Pigs, Cuba, the crazy demands of the Bollywood awed world on an Indian woman solo globetrotter have been quite fascinating.
Bollywood had bailed me out every time and nowadays I have actually started carrying some new Hindi movies to give away to the star struck people around the world
Bollywood had bailed me out every time and nowadays I have actually started carrying some new Hindi movies to give away to the star struck people around the world. My most awesome travel memories all involve people- people from different cultures, corners and walks of life, all curious to know about this ancient civilization trapped in a young dynamic giant of a country; Which in most people’s eyes is still full of beggars, snake charmers and elephants and what can be better than a solo Indian woman who travels alone, is young and apparently is seemingly adventurous. I have been bombarded with questions-about why we wear dots on our foreheads, if we actually dress in sexy saris like Bollywood actresses in real life, my thoughts on caste system and arranged marriages, my English proficiency, my apparent wealth (polite way of asking how I could globe trot when mythical millions of Indians are dying from hunger) and on virginity.
While most of them had been fun encounters, some however had been pretty invasive. I remember an Austrian guy asking me why I was not accompanied by my spouse, since I was an Indian woman, born and living in India and obviously should be a hand baggage of my husband. I have been often questioned if my single mom status has made me ostracized from my family and Indian society, and the most intriguing one had come from an old Kiwi couple.
They had actually clucked sympathetically because they sincerely believed that my being upset over breakfast was due to some unspeakable atrocity committed by some male member of my family on me. I had received a call from my father that morning that my dog had died and it had made me break down at the table. I was on a Serengeti group safari and was having breakfast with other group members.
Incredibly enough I was asked if my father was forcing me to marry a much older man for gold, because they had a relative in United Nations who could stop that. Initially I had no idea of what they meant when finally it dawned to me that they were trying to ask me about arranged marriages and dowry, and completely believed that I was treated badly by my father because I was born a girl. That situation took a lot of effort to not say anything mean or nasty to them and I could manage to walk away to grieve over my dog in peace.
The hardest part was however answering-“So why are you traveling alone?” And I could never manage more than, “Because I can.”
All of these are a part and parcel of my solo traveling because solo Indian woman backpackers are not what you see everyday wandering through foreign cities. The hardest part was however answering-“So why are you traveling alone?”
And I could never manage more than, “Because I can.”
Author – Svetlana Baghawan (aka Maverickbird)
Bio – Svetlana, aka Maverickbird is quite the maverick when it comes to globetrotting. Bashing cultural and gender stereotypes to the ground, she has travelled to over 50 countries and some really whacky destinations like Siberia, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. She loves to blog about her experiences at – maverickbird.com
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