Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India – November 2014
My next adventure takes me further north into the mountains – I was beside myself with excitement to get close to the Himalayas despite a 12 hour bus journey ahead. The first part of the journey went smoothly as I slept, ate biscuits, played a ridiculous addictive game on my IPad while enjoying the incredible views in awe of the bus drivers who made me feel very safe despite driving like formula 1 drivers on the windiest roads.
After a few months in India I am now well adjusted to local bus life this includes fighting my way on to the bus and squeezing on to a seat.
Given media attention to risks of solo female travellers such as the fatal rape of a local Delhi woman, and the gang rape of a Swiss tourist I was very much aware of potential risks and to increase my safety I would wear culturally appropriate clothing, avoid walking in the dark on my own and always get a seat near the front on a bus by a female or couple where possible. This had worked well for me and I was beginning to feel quite safe and at home on these buses.
Sadly it was on this bus where I had a stark reminder of the problems solo female travelers endure in India and the inequality between men and women. Not wanting to miss out on the incredible views I placed myself by the window next to a couple rather than the aisle seat. The man started off by being quite nice offering me some samosas which I munched on before falling asleep. After a snooze I woke up to the man staring at me……after 2 months in India it became normal to have people staring at me so I thought nothing of it. However I soon realised he was not just staring…..(I have struggled to find the right words to describe what happened next without sounding too crude but this has been an impossible task)….disturbingly the man had his penis out masturbating while staring at me. Just to remind you he was also sat next to his wife who was timidly tapping him on the shoulder muttering something in Hindi which I presume was ‘what the hell are you doing’.
Given my history of hallucinations as a result of Narcolepsy I looked for the third time just to check, unfortunately for me I was not wrong – not wanting to get past him I stood up and started shouting to the people behind, none of whom spoke English so I then grabbed the hands of the women sat behind me and pulled them to stand up. Now the next bit is a bit of a blur…….as in seconds the bus had stopped, the guy was removed from the bus without his luggage and wife……hahahahaha.
I then had a three seater to myself and for the rest of the journey was handed a variety of delicious yummy food….not a bad deal. All jokes aside on a serious matter it was a depressing reminder of the views that some Indian men have on women and the power and inequality between men and women. However I was comforted by the responses displayed by the bus driver and other people on the bus. In 2011 the International Centre for Research on Women published an article on Gender equality and Indian’s men Attitudes. They found that even though many Indian men support policies that promote equal opportunities for women, they also feel that they lose out if women are afforded more rights. And while they are aware of laws against violence against women, this knowledge does not always coincide with their values: 65 percent of Indian men surveyed said they believe there are times that women deserve to be beaten.
For further information read http://www.icrw.org/media/news/gender-equality-indian-mens-attitudes-complex
After the excitement I continued to enjoy the amazing views, bearing in mind that although it has been eventful it was only 2pm and a lunch stop was due.
Due to the plethora of food given to me I was not hungry and decided to stay on the bus. In seconds I was covered in flies…. I looked around and soon noticed that everyone else were ignoring the fly’s. To get away from the flies I dare getting out of the bus.Instead I walk around and suddenly start laughing to myself as everyone is staring at me,some more subtle than others. I am laughing cause I doubt that no one has noticed that I am wearing my top back to front and have a tag hanging out.
I finally arrive to Shimla at 9pm and go straight to sleep. Shimla is a beautiful hill stations of India which as a small, unknown village before the British discovered it in the year 1819. Around the year 1864, the British declared it the summer capital of India. The British influence is evidence through the cathedral and council building.
My first impression of Shimla was how clean it is…..there were lots of bins everywhere and no rubbish on the floor. This is thanks to the many rules implemented by the local police.
The Jakhu Temple of Simla is dedicated to the monkey God, Hanuman. The Jakhu temple is located at a height of 2455 meters and is situated on the highest peak in Shimla.
After Lakshmana was cured, Hanuman went back to place the mountain in its original site. He rested on top of the Jakhu hill for sometime. It is said that the top of the hill got flattened due to Hanuman’s weight! The temple has been built around the place that is supposed to have the footprints of Hanuman. It is a highly revered religious place of Shimla and devotees throng in huge numbers to pray.
At the bottom of the hill there was this sign which unfortunately brought out the competitive side in me and in seconds I find myself running up this hill. I completely exhausted myself, not a great idea as is had been feeling really ill. I was chuffed with doing it in 19 minutes though.
Views from here were pretty sensational but the shrine is a hotspot for monkeys who flock here in great numbers so I had to be on monkey alert though when I was taking photos as they have been known to take such items. A local girl who had taken her shoes off to go in the temple had 1 taken by a monkey. It caused quite the commotion but 30 minutes the monkey got bored and the girl got her shoe back.
There is lots more to see in Shimla but due to time constraints and feeling ill I missed out. From the little I did see of Shimla I loved it and will definitely be returning.