Travel Part 2: WomenTravelLife

 

There are two kinds of flight travelers- Those who chat with co-passengers. Those who don’t.

Someone said to me the other day that it’s a  Men Women divide.
Really? I’ve seen men  pretend to be asleep/ chatty women and the other way around.
Googling for some conclusion I found  travel experts  share that men in their 30’s and 40’s will be happy to chat with a woman sitting next to them, not with a  man. Younger men would rather engage with their gadgets. Electronic.
Women-  inconclusive findings, except that most women would happily chat with other women co-passengers, age irrespective.
(I doubt it’s so neatly tied up.)

For those of us women who like to sleep the journey through, sitting with women is infinitely more comfortable. It’s awkward to wake up with your head resting on a strange man’s shoulder. Worse still, his on yours.
(A friend narrated this story to me:
It was a two hour flight to a job interview. I fell asleep only to wake up to a strange dudes head on my shoulder. I woke him up, he says a sheepish sorry.. but horror! His gel/oil had left a patch on my shoulder.
The interview! )

When the two white women sat next to me on that long flight out, we did that quick smile thing travelers do when they know they’re sharing an enclosed breathing space. And arm-rests.
I do that quick smile thing to whoever it may be, but most often try not to have any eye contact there after. Flights are to catch up on sleep, read, Wordathon, stare ahead at nothing, look at the clouds if you get that window seat and to thank god you’re not sitting around a bawling baby.

Interestingly we had the exact same things on our laps- a book each, stoles, eye shades and music. And a small overnight kit. Somewhere along that eleven hour journey we compared notes and found that although  from completely different cultures, women tend to carry the same ‘long-haul’ essentials- music, moisturizers, eye gels. Mine had an extra- Kajal- for many of us women in India, the eyes look ill without it.
And a diary. Hard bound, pen dangling and well worn.
Somewhere along the way we read out scraps  from there to each other:
My diary entry from a few days ago: Why do I forget that Fish & Chips is the most over-rated food UK has to offer. What a waste of  the exorbitant-in-conversion Pounds! 
A’s diary entry from three months ago: India is hard to take in or write about… even after a month of being here. Too much everything- It’s an assault to the senses….
Z’s diary entry from last week: It’s hard to look dignified  when eating Indian mangoes, they demand to be eaten like you haven’t eaten in days. The juice drips from the mouth to the arms and onto the clothes. The stain never goes away…
I later sent her a link to the Katrina  mango-juice advertisement, giving  Z a maze of  detailed lies about why nothing comes between Indian women looking  like her while a mango  is being chomped down, that  it is an Indian woman thing.

I wonder if she believed me because the two  women had lived in India for the past three years, traveling all over,  a long journey of  discovering India. One French, the other American. Attractive women in their early  30’s, they were articulate, chatty and very happy to share experiences, both good and bad.
It is always interesting to hear visitor perspectives on the country we  live in- it makes me roll things over in my mind and look at at them afresh. It also makes me re- look at everything I take granted as ‘cultural conditioning’ which has desensitized me to them  in the process.

These are just some (among many) things they shared:
India is a hundred countries within itself.
Rape seems  so commonplace in India, almost as if there is no fear of the law.
How fascinating it is to hear Indians switch from one language to another mid-sentence.
The most vivid memory takeaway is the colors- The gaudy  kaleidoscope that will make us look at ‘color hues’ differently forever, and nothing will measure up.
Urban India is not the real India- it is the rural part that holds its essence.
Indian food is addictive.
Barely any Indian does a ‘Namaste”. Only  visitors to the country do that.
Surprisingly, a white women in Indian clothes draw more attention than white women in jeans & a tee.
Indian women have the most expressive eyes in the world. Also, they are so feminine even in Western clothes.
Indian men don’t know how to kiss.

 

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