A Tale of Two Countries: India

Mariellen Ward of Breathedreamgo at Taj Mahal IndiaMy experience of travel in India as a solo woman: 5 reasons I love India

Many people have asked me to comment on the CNN story about Michaela Cross, a young woman visitor to India who wrote about the trauma of experiencing sexual harassment while there. The story has “gone viral” with over a million hits, thousands of comments and a subsequent flood of media stories and blog posts. I started a very spirited discussion on my Facebook page that lead to some very heated words being exchanged. This story has really triggered people — people who feel compassionately for Michaela Cross, people who are concerned about the treatment of women in India, people who are concerned this story stereotypes the country and distracts from the misogyny, sexual harassment and rape that is rampant all over the globe, and people who are using the story for sensationalizing purposes to boost traffic and to bash India.

It all reminds me of the Indian story of the five blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time. One feels the tusk and says the elephant is smooth and hard; another feels the hide and says the elephant is dry and wrinkled; and so on. We each have our own experiences based on many factors that could include our age, attitude, luck, karma, destiny, timing, perception, interpretation, etc. It is the nature of the mind to find patterns and want to make things black-and-white, and discern the inherent truth in each story. But I prefer a personal interpretation of truth. And my truth is that I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences of travel in India. So here’s another India story for your consideration: 5 reasons I love India.

1. Indian hospitality

Mariellen Ward, Delhi, India

Me with my Indian family in Delhi on the terrace, 2009.

From the first moment I arrived in India on December 6, 2005, I was welcomed with open arms. I met Jyoti, a young woman from Delhi, on the plane and she stayed with me until I connected with Ajay, the man picking me up at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Ajay drove me back to his family’s apartment in South Delhi, where three generations of an extended family lived together, along with three servants. I have written many times about how my first morning in India I walked out onto the family’s white marble terrace and sat in the warm sun and drank tea, ate breakfast and shopped: a shawl-wallah arrived with a big bundle full of gloriously coloured suits and shawls and spread them out on the terrace. Instead of the traveller’s hell I was lead to expect, I felt I had landed in heaven. And from that moment to this, almost 8 years, that family has continued to welcome me and make me one of their own, and I have lived in their house for many weeks at a time. Not once have they ever made me feel unwelcome in all this time; not for one second.

Atithi Devo Bhava is a philosophy and tradition in India: it means “Guest is God.” While this ideal is not always met, of course, the tradition persists and I personally have been the happy recipient countless times. I have been made to feel welcome in India in a way I have never experienced before. Guest house owners have invited me to their homes, waiters have given me rides on their motorcycles, yoga teachers have generously shared their wisdom, friends have helped me in numerous ways, shop owners have invited me for tea, pilgrims have shown me how to enact rituals … and on and on. You don’t have to understand Hindi or even know who Aamir Khan is to get this heart-warming video, a true story:

2. Indian men

I have long felt that I had a special connection with Indian men. I meet them often on my travels of course, and some have become very important to me. Of course there are a lot of “badmashes” (hooligans) in India; there is no denying. But there are lots and lots of wonderful men who really do respect and honour women and I would like to mention just a couple. First and foremost is Ajay, who I often mention. He was my boyfriend for five years and has been one of my best friends since then, for the last three years. I think of Ajay as my guardian angel in India. I am also very fond of Ajay’s dad, Satish, who is warm and wise and a like a second father to me.

Indian yoga teachers, Rishikesh

Swami Brahmdev and Yogirishi Vishvketu.

I have two yoga teachers in India, pictured here: Swami Bramhdev of Aurovalley Ashram and Yogirishi Vishvketu of Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram. I have known them both for years and benefited from their wisdom, kindness and the special places they have created in north India. This is the only time, to my knowledge, that these two gurus have met, one wonderful day in 2010 at Aurovalley Ashram.

My friend Vinayakan, who I call “V,” was a loyal and supportive Breathedreamgo reader who later became a friend. He has very generously taken me out for dinner in Delhi and Bangalore too many times to count and I owe him some great dinners as well as gratitude for believing in me at some low points in my journey. I have lots of other male friends in India, too, for example Sunil Vaidyanathan, an excellent photographer in Mumbai.

Within the travel & tourism industry in India I have met many hard-working, committed men who are good at their jobs and also very supportive of me personally and professionally. I will just name two, Venkat and Vibhava (though there are others). These men seem to me to embody the ideal in every way for they are also loving and committed family men. Venkat has hosted me, and Vibhava has arranged trips and meetings for me. I really, really appreciate them both — both personally and professionally.

And finally, I want to mention Ramu Chezhian, who started an organization and homes for street kids in Tiruvannamali. You can read about this amazing man in Holding hands with children in need.

3. The adventure of travel

India is not for everyone. That is true. If you simply want a vacation, go to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean. But if you want adventure, if you are a seeker, if you want to really see the world and experience it in all it’s raw and colourful glory, go to India. There is simply no other country like it. Every moment is immersion in culture shock, an assault on the senses, an opportunity to look at the world, and yourself in it, in a totally new and unexpected way. India is not two countries, as the title of this post suggests, of course, but a million, billion. India bursts with life in every conceivable — and many non-conceivable — variations.

The Beatles ashram, Rishikesh.

A Sadhu at the gates of The Beatles ashram, Rishikesh.

India has always been the destination of most serious seekers, from Jesus Christ (apparently) to Mark Twain; and The Beatles to Ram Dass. I once asked Swami Brahmdev why India is considered the most spiritual country on earth and he said it was because the extremes could be found in such abundance: extremes of darkness and degradation to extremes of lightness and beauty. “India is the soul of the world,” he told me.

To travel well in India, I think you need to adopt a certain attitude. I think you need to see yourself as an explorer and a student; and to see everything that happens as an adventure and a teacher. If you are ready, willing and able to open up to what I call “the magic of India,” you might find yourself falling hopelessly in love with the country as I did. I wrote about this love affair in The Dust Of India.

And many others have written about their Indian love affairs too, like Candace Rose Rardon in Woman Traveler in India — who makes an excellent point about the power of smiling — or Catherine Taylor in this Facebook note: “But I do often wonder why I’m here, especially when I’m tired, teary and homesick, my phone has been disconnected for the 19th time despite promises it would never happen again, when it’s raining and no taxis will take me home. But then a willing ride always comes along, and we’ll turn a corner and be suddenly in the midst of some banging, crashing mad festival full of colour, where everyone is dancing behind a slow-moving truck, and I won’t have a clue what’s going on but a mum holding a child will dance up to my window and point and smile and laugh, and I breathe out and think, really, my God, this is fantastic. This is India! I live in India! She hugs me, she punches me, and she hugs me again.'”

And with this attitude of explorer firmly in mind, make sure you use common sense and follow safe travel strategies — read and follow My top safety tips for women travelling in India.

4. Spirituality

Elephant blessing in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Elephant blessing in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, India

As a westerner who grew up in Toronto, I was struck by the open and overt spirituality in India from the outset; and as a long-time yoga student, I was ready to open up to it. Over time, what I discovered is that the Indian spirituality I encountered taught me a very different way of looking at the world — a way that I think the western world could really use. It pains me to see that India is intent on adopting western materialism when I don’t think that’s the answer to the world’s dilemmas. Yes, everyone should have enough to eat and shelter. But how much stuff so we really need? A few years ago I wrote a blog called Sharing India’s wisdom with the world, in which I quote an article Dr. Deepak Chopra wrote in the Times of India.

Dr. Chopra believes that in spite of India’s infatuation with the west, India “possess the seeds of a viable answer to the human dilemma. A single concept plucked from the the teaching of yoga, ahimsa, fuelled massive political change in the Gandhian era.”

He says that “for 20 years, I have sustained myself on the belief that that the ancient rishis were the Einsteins of consciousness. This shift in perception implies a revolution in how we live our lives.”

“Whoever shapes reality shapes the future. What India offers is the breakthrough idea that reality is shaped in the mind… Aham Brahmo Asmi means I am a cell in the body of the universe… The universe thinks, acts and perceives itself through me… It responds to my intentions. Could any concept be more radical, more Indian?”

In the article, Dr. Chopra explained that any form of constraint can be overcome through inner transformation. “To be transformed, you must extricate yourself from the idea that externals define you. You are defined by who you are inside, by your level of awareness.”

Chopra believes that the world could be transformed if people followed the ancient wisdom of India, the teachings on inner transformation. “India reigns supreme in the area of consciousness. It holds out the best hope for reinventing the world by reinventing our inner aspirations.”

I completely agree with him. This is the premise of yoga, the reason I go to India and what I want to dedicate my life to understanding and sharing. Each of us is much more powerful than we realize. We can change the world by looking inside and changing ourselves.

The Indian masters have long known that we, each of us, manifest our life and our destiny largely through our thoughts, words and deeds. It is indeed worthwhile to bring more awareness and consciousness to what we think, say and do.

5. India Chooses You

Women in saris at the Kumbh Mela 2010, Haridwar, India

At the Kumbh Mela 2010, Haridwar, India

Learning to look inside for answers is one of the gifts of Indian philosophy and spirituality, and it’s a tough one for many westerners. And perhaps one of the most difficult lessons of all for a westerner is the idea of karma , or destiny; the idea that we are not in control. For to try and control India, when you travel there, is an exercise in extreme frustration. In fact, I have often said that you can learn more about the philosophy of yoga by travelling in the country than you can at any ashram. In the end, perhaps the difference between those who have a hard time in India and those like me, who love it, is that India chooses you. Below I am quoting from one of the best pieces i have ever read about India on the Internet:

India leaves little room for in-betweens. No middle class. No maybe. And just like that, you either loathe it or love it. To hate it is easy. You choose it. Like anything else. You choose absolute repulsion. But even choices are difficult, if only consequentially. To love it is far easier. All that’s required is the slight dumbing down of the senses, (in some cases, you may have to dumb these down to a very large degree), an exaggerated sense of objectivity, (fake it till you make it), and an opening up of the self to such an extent that you seek less to understand and more to just accept (in a very Mahatma Gandhi sense, naturally). India Chooses You

I went to India at a time in my life when I was at my lowest ebb, and my travels there healed and revived me in just about every way possible. I have written about this many times in articles like My Story. Obviously, not everyone has the experience I had. I am very well aware that India is not an easy place for women, foreigners and Indians alike; and I hope and pray that attitudes will change within my lifetime. Om Namah Shivaya.

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66 Responses to A Tale of Two Countries: India

  1. Barbara August 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your love of India.

    • Mariellen Ward August 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Yes, I have to tell my truth. This is how I feel.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Four years of dreaming and doingMy Profile

      • neha November 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

        Great you have written very well about india. Thank you for expressing attraction with India.

      • honey singh September 26, 2014 at 7:46 am #

        fake story of India.The indian women say about them selves that agli janam mujhe bitya na kijo.It does say nothing about corruption, female foeticide,the article is about cinema like Karan Johar It has nothing true about india..

  2. shubhajit August 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    I haven’t read all of your stories, but read many of them. To me till now this is the best!

  3. Vinayakan Aiyer August 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Wonderful post….I was looking forward to it. You read my mind here. When I read what you write about India – it always puts a smile on my face. Keep in mind – the last two months in France…reading about my country from the outside has not been easy on me.

    Not just a writer…you are an excellent conversationalist too. We have had discussions, exchange of ideas, healthy confrontations, your life of travel stories – I enjoy all of that. I will never forget the experience you shared of yours from Tiruvannamalai. It takes a very special person to go there in India…and you did!

    I am tuned into the next million+ words about India that is within you.

    Warmest regards, Vinayakan
    Vinayakan Aiyer recently posted..Pro Single IdeaMy Profile

  4. Linda August 28, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Warmest Congratulations on a post which combines both erudition and passion – not easy to achieve. Like another commentator I’ve read many posts, but not all, so excuse me if I ask something you’ve already covered. I’m curious about the servants you mention near the beginning. Another controversial subject, can you comment or give a link to anything you’ve written please?

    • Mariellen Ward August 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Hi Linda, thanks so much! I didn’t know servants are controversial. In India, it is a very common form of employment, and for many people a much better job option than what they would otherwise have. I also notice that long-time servants become family members, to a greater or lesser degree, and that too is a good thing, methinks.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Four years of dreaming and doingMy Profile

  5. Penny Sadler August 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Lovely story. You know the saying, “Begin as you intend to continue?” Well I think that you had a lovely start and that stayed with you – it became what you expected. And I’m a big believer we often get what we expect.
    Penny Sadler recently posted..5 Multi-Use Beauty Products for TravelMy Profile

  6. Sandy Seale August 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    I agree with everything you wrote so beautifully. You’re right that India chooses you and that its not an easy place. But it’s so worth it if you are the right mindset traveler and not a tourist. I had nothing but positive, caring experiences with people but you must always be mindful of your safety. But that is true wherever I travel or even at home in my own environment . Good article once again Mariellen

  7. Harish August 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    I get a lot of people in my hostel who have nice stories to share about India. Just a little background info in scams and annoyances helps them plan and travel much better in India. Eg: how to dress up in temples, not to indulge in small conversation with over friendly people, raise an alarm when in possible danger, not eat people offering prasad etc especially on trains and so forth, I still believe India is a good destination and that there are a few good men and women (like yourself) out there trying to make the difference.
    Harish recently posted..Implication of Diwali Festival on Travel in IndiaMy Profile

  8. Mayank August 28, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    Great piece Mariellen. You’re right: India’s not for everyone, but India has indeed chosen you.
    Mayank recently posted..Weather Permitting & Other Stories – Pratap ReddyMy Profile

  9. shikha gautam August 29, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    A great post Mariellen. I loved the way you put it in such simple words.

  10. Souvik Ghosh August 29, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Wow… Nice one and some relief as an Indian Male. Thanks

  11. Siddharth Sahay August 29, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    A beautiful article to read Mariellen…..congratulations!! Loved the simplicity and natural thoughts that were put across…

  12. Cathy August 29, 2013 at 2:57 am #

    Wonderful post Mariellen ! Thank you so much for sharing your amazing stories of India . It is so important at this time for people like yourself to come forward and share their experiences . I too have traveled for years in India while never solo I have never had any problems that I couldn’t handle . Love the people of India and will continue to travel there for as long as the good Lord allows .

  13. ravi August 29, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    Dear madam,

    Nice post.Thanks for having love for india&the people of india

  14. Dialoha August 29, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    I’m so glad to read something positive about India. I just returned from India (my 2nd trip) and had so much wonderful experiences. I agree with you that there is no other country like India. It’s truly an adventure! If you welcome India with an open heart for what it is, you will enjoy the best adventure of your life……and it will keep calling you back!

  15. Ashok Trivedi August 29, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    Good to read a warm, positive story of India. I think you have made a true connection with India. Wish you have great times every time you visit.

  16. Destination Infinity August 29, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    You should take up one challenging assignment sometime: Write a blog-post filled with your negative experiences in India.

    Destination Infinity
    Destination Infinity recently posted..The Banyan: Rehabilitating Homeless Women with Mental IllnessMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward August 29, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      I have written posts like that — The Light and the Dark in India, for example. But the point I am making here is to transcend notions of positive and negative and take a more spiritual attitude to travel and view everything as adventure and teacher; learn from it and MAKE it positive.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Four years of dreaming and doingMy Profile

  17. Shivangi August 29, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    I think you’ve got it so right. It’s definitely the tale of a million contrasts and the miracle is that they exist in harmony (sort of) !!

  18. Girish Sivaraman August 29, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Dear Mariellen,

    I read about you from India Today Magazine. Still then am waiting for your blogs. Loves you for loving our India. Wish you all the Success. Thanks

  19. katka August 29, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I have only heard negative things about India from the media (and some friends who got stomach-sick along the way). From those who have traveled there, I have never heard nothing but kind words about the place. I don’t doubt that there are women who receive unwanted attention from men in India – it happens in the US too. I saw the CNN special and wondered what the cause was – sensationalism for a particular event? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time (not that it is an excuse)? The attention of the media, the misunderstanding of journalism…I am glad your stories are here to encourage others as we never really know what will happen to us until it happens. Thank you!
    katka recently posted..Planning not to plan…I may go crazy!My Profile

  20. Liesbeth August 29, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Couldn’t agree more! Just got back from three weeks traveling in Rajasthan! It was my first time in India, but gosh, how I love that country :)!
    Liesbeth recently posted..Nieuwpoort – BelgiumMy Profile

  21. Bob August 29, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks for writing this. India at present is going through a phase. There have been rapes, (It happens all over the world, but depends whether its brought out in the open), the Rupee falling and many other woes. As far as Rape is concerned, every Indian citizen would like to see the Rapist dead, but as a democracy the law takes its own time, which we need to correct. The best of all, for a country called India, is having (as a person who has stayed in Middle eastern countries) the freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion and overall freedom to live, whereas there are many countries that glitter, but with no freedom for their own citizens. When we live in such countries, then only we come to know how great my motherland is. Its, chaotic, dusty, smelly, but at the meantime its beautiful and there are beautiful and kindhearted people too. There are bad apples everywhere and they can be here too. Just one womans blog in CNN is not going to make me hate my country, but it can be an eye opener too. Lets look at it that way. There are countries in this world, where people are so rude with foreigners, looks at your skin and snigger and think that you are something which the cat brought inside the house. Arent there racism in America, rapes in America, murders etc. So once more lets thank you for writing this beautiful article. “Athithi Devo Bhav”, we welcome that girl once more to India and to see India and its culture through the eyes of the Indians.

  22. Omkar Koul August 29, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    It makes an interesting reading. Please have a look at my travelogue on my recent visit to Pakistan entitled “In Search of Peace” placed at

  23. Patty August 29, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I am so glad I found your blog! I am getting ready to go to India and I am so tired of hearing all the negative voices. Reading your blog brings me joy and excitment and I am so looking forword to exploring India. I am a solo traveler of a certain age that has learned not to pay too much attention to the negative, I just wish my family and friends would do the same.
    Patty recently posted..Italy in Photo’sMy Profile

    • Dilip August 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      Dear Patty,

      Please feel free to visit India. Nothing will happen to you. Please remember to follow indian customs as far as possible and you will automatically be accepted into the main. stream

  24. Prashant Nautiyal August 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I am so thankful to you, you wrote so beautifully over India and its people. We actually need this type of positive thinking inside of us to overcome from the current situations unfortunately appearing in country and to establish a environment again where “Athithi Devo Bhavh” can be quoted again with the full of pride.

    by the i specially like your heading ” India Choose you” and thats true..:)


  25. Sand In My Suitcase August 29, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Beautiful post about India, why you love it, and why others will want to visit there…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..Peachy beach hotels on MykonosMy Profile

  26. Dilip August 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Dear Mariellen ward, What you have said is heartening to read while when India’s image is being portrayed outside badly. You might have been received and treated well in India by a few families and you are lucky to be able to acquaint with them. I too have friends in the west who have been known to me for more than three decades. They all love India, visit india often -though some of them too have had bitter experiences here. Luckily they haven’t made an issue of it yet.
    Many people from the West come to India with a mind set that India is still the kind of land it was some five of six centuries ago. The tourism department may ‘adithidhi devo bhava’ to lure tourists but the tourists blindly believe it they will be in trouble. But no ‘adithidi’ will get molested
    if they are cautious and follow the tips you have been mentioning in your articles.

    • Mariellen Ward August 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      You are right,my teacher in India Swami Brahmdev says many foreigners in India get into various troubles because they come with “fixed notions.” Better to see India as she is, with all her infinite variety.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Four years of dreaming and doingMy Profile

  27. OCDemon August 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    I find it fascinating how certain countries are so huge that no matter how connected they are to the global stage, they’re still their own thing. China and India seem the most obvious to me; they’re so massive that if the rest of the world ceased to exist, it’s almost like they’d barely lose anything. They’re a whole different world.
    OCDemon recently posted..Why Chacos are the Microsoft of the sandal worldMy Profile

  28. Sameer Singh August 30, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    The biggest disadvantage of being born/living in india is that you don’t understand the value of it .. becoz you are not able to see the difference ..I have never seen this country in the angle you have shown .. Thanks so much ..I am loving my country again .

  29. Debartha Bag August 30, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    “you seek less to understand and more to just accept “- What could bring more peace and transformation if we could follow these words to the core. But then question is, after realizing the first spark of awareness, should we force ourselves to follow these words, or should let this transformation happen in it’s own course? Well, once again I am seeking to understand instead of surrendering!

    I can relate so closely with everything you have written in this blog. I did not know about you. I just happened to find your blog by an act of grace at a time when I am going through a strange realization and maybe a transformation. It seems so funny or intriguing that I am witnessing or experiencing transformational stories or incidences at this time, apparently by chance, but in reality, I believe by act of grace by the same energy source which connects all of us. Thank you.

  30. Irina August 30, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    Very beautifully said! I guess, you wouldn’t be coming back to India if you had a really bad experience.
    Irina recently posted..Everything You Need To Know About Traveling In North KoreaMy Profile

  31. Irene August 31, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    I’ve been travelling in India since 1991, solo, then with children, now solo again. Just returning from my 9th extended trip. I do love this country, of course, and have made very dear friends there. I’ve done sightseeing, walked and walked to discover a place’s character, I’ve shopped till I dropped, gone to ashrams, found romance, done many different things. I agree that India has the good and the bad etc etc but… I can tell you that India does not feel safe anymore. I found myself being glad that I am no longer young, trim and pretty. Criminality and disrespect for women have definitely gotten much worse. And all Indian people, not to mention newspaper stories, confirm this. Why? I attribute it to more exposure, through satellite and internet, to how the Western people live or supposedly live. Pornography, which to an untrained and new viewer might suggest that this is what people routinely do, andvthat’s what you are entitled to. Hollywood films also give the wrong impression. All this has made people less accepting of their present conditions and has created a thirst for more. More wealth, more sex, quickly. The brazen attitude of the Indian rich class is not helping. I don’t know, I’m no sociologist, this is just my personal impression. Fact is that bad things can happen much more easily to a woman nowadays. The poor photojournalist recently gangraped in Mumbai at 6 o’ clock in the afternoon is only the most recent example. And she was not alone, a male colleague was with her, as in the case of the Delhi rape. What to say… I understand where you’re coming from, and your desire to reassure people, but frankly I think that Dilip’s statement “come to India and nothing will happen to you” is at best irresponsible. Nobody can guarantee that, neither for India nor for anywhere else.

    • Dilip September 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Irenes’ words sound really ominous. She might have visited India many number of times but to say that she found that attitude of men towards women has changed during her last visit is strange! Crimes go on happening throughout the world. Here in the US I watch reports on TV about raper of minors, adolescents, shootings, kidnappings etc… There are pockets in many downtowns which are unsafe even during daytime. It is a pity that such centres are being formed in India too. It is decadence I will say without doubt.
      The media has done the greatest damage to the image of the Indian male. When one gets raped in India it is flashed around the world with titles discreetly crying out the the chief occupation of the India male is raping! Immediately the human right organisations take up the issue and the consulates issue notes warning people not to visit india as if a civil war was taking place there! A freak in west shoots down the pedestrians on the road for no reason, a teacher molests his minor student but that country is classified as the safest country to travel into!
      Crimes are always crimes and by no means their intensity get lessened based on the part of the world where they happen. My sole intention of writing this is to say that the citizens and the media-both national and international- work unitedly to condemn and stop crimes instead of trying to convince the innocent public that abominable crimes happen only in the third world.

  32. Shumon Sengupta September 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    I can’t say enough for your blog Mariellen.. suffice to say, it is sheer delight !!

  33. Neoimaginations September 2, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    You love India and India loves you back. Whenever I read you I feel i know India a bit lesser than you. Great post and a wonderful epitome.
    Neoimaginations recently posted..A Shade of LifeMy Profile

  34. Team BlogAdda September 3, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging 🙂

  35. BellyBytes September 3, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Thanks for acknowledging the wonderful parts of my beautiful country. Unfortunately India has become a stereotype and every one loves bashing it…………And we all know that nothing sells as well as bad news…
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  36. Yeshi Dolma September 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    I love your website.

    I have lived in India for a total of 3.5 years. I did get raped twice and sexually harassed several times. Part of it was me not listening to my own intuition and part of it was being raised by a parent who used me as his little sex toy. Part of it was there are some slimy men there. Like there are here, in the States.

    I’m NOT giving up on India. I am in love with India. I am not going to say that ‘all Indian men’ this and that. That is nonsense. India requires one to really listen to one’s intuition and have very strong boundaries. In addition when a western woman travels to India, it’s important to learn what the culture expects of us.

    Indian women and men are taking a stand against sexual violence toward women and children. I recently emailed with a young man in Delhi. He advised women to carry tasers and pepper spray, both readily available in the markets.

    Women are starting to dress like we do and are protesting how women are treated. There was a campaign just this year in India that was all about how women dress and how those clothes aren’t an open invitation for rape or sexual advances.

    I remind you all from having been a sexual assault victim who confronted her abuser, things get worse when the abuse comes out because everyone is horrified AND the abuser lashes out. Things do change when enough people become aware. It’s good to talk about it. It’s good that there are westerners who don’t want to go to India and make public statements. It makes everyone think about how things need to change. It’s also good that travels continue to go back to India, but sit in fear and tremble in the corner? Not me! No way.

    Jai HIND!

  37. Mariellen Ward September 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for your comment Yeshi — it is one of the most powerful I have yet to be privileged to receive on Beathedreamgo. I also echo your sentiments: “I’m NOT giving up on India.” There is so much beauty, magic and warmth in India; and as someone who has also experienced abuse, I found India to be very healing. The media is distorting reality, and making look as if sexual assault is the norm. On the other hand, I am very glad these things are now out in the open and that India is starting to change. Jai Hind! Jai women of India!
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Delhi Guide: My top tips My Profile

  38. Coleen September 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I appreciate that you took the time to categorize the things you love about India. However, it bothers me that it seems you think if someone has a bad time in India, they are karmically imbalanced or choosing to make it a negative experience. I’ve always wanted to travel in India. I always wanted to wear a saree. I always wanted to engage with the many cultures of India that have had positive influence on my own.

    However, when I finally travelled throughout north and south India this year for two months I was sorely disappointed.

    I did not have such a terrible experience with street harassment as Michaela Cross, but I was groped at least twice (with my 6’7″ boyfriend holding my hand). I was terribly ill almost the whole time despite being very careful what/where I ate. I felt ceaselessly uncomfortable and even though I sought to overcome it through meditation/acceptance, it was simply too much. India scarred me, body and soul, and I’ve yet to fully recover even nearly six months after leaving. It made me question everything about my choice to live a global life, and made me feel like a bad traveller, a bad woman, and a bad person.

    There is an awful lot of victim-blaming and pseudo-spirituality about travelling in India out there, and this article is frankly no exception. What I saw from people on spiritual journies in India was a decisive lack of awareness. It was as if they were choosing to ignore the problems within Indian society, glaring and pervasive though they are, because of their dogma of detachment and dislike of strong emotion. The philosophy of karma is what keeps the terrible divisions in India alive, and it influences all areas of society. Why should you try to help someone who is poor or sick, when they ostensibly *deserve* what they have gotten in life? It’s shit. It was very disturbing, and that’s not in line with reason or morality.

    I’m tired of reading articles like this one, somehow blaming those of us who struggle in India or who outright dislike it and saying that those who love it are holier, more karmically balanced, or simply destined for India to “choose them.” Bullshit.

    • Mariellen Ward September 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Thanks for your comments Coleen, I appreciate that you had a hard time in India. It IS a very difficult place to travel in, and I could write a very long piece about all the challenges, disasters, meltdowns I have had there over the past 8 years — believe me.

      That was not the intention of this piece, though; this was in response to the Michaela Cross article and I wanted to give a different view. I wanted to just highlight five positives.

      I have read and re-read this blog and I cannot find any phrase or language that includes subjective qualifiers. Please point out where, exactly, I say you are a better person in some way if you like travelling in India. I am at a loss.

      I don’t feel that way, and I was very careful to write the article based on my experience only. India holds up a mirror. Sometimes we don;t like what we see in the mirror. That’s a universal human experience.

      I think, in the end, having compassion for one’s self, and each other, is the most important thing.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Delhi Guide: My top tips My Profile

  39. MUKESH September 13, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    Mam i am happy to here that you have such respect for india and you travel and you love our india, thanks from Pune to Mumbai Cabs Service. Salute you

  40. Arvind Srivastava September 21, 2013 at 2:44 am #

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  41. Nikhil Chandra September 21, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I truly appreciate the way you express your opinion about the country you love. I know there are good and there are bad but they are not just India specific but true for every nation in this world. We all see both good and bad. We have our share of nice experiences and some nasty experiences at the places we travel to.

    But we do have a choice. We can see only the bad and dwell upon it. Or we could also see the good and respect a place for the positives. It is good to see that instead of dwelling upon the negatives of India you choose to share the brighter side of her. It also shows the king of person you are.

    It’s a positive approach and our world view is optimistic. It is said that what goes around comes around and it’s no wonder that with the kind of positivity you have and the goodness that you see, you too get back positive vibe and goodness from the people and places you travel to. Kudos to you for that 🙂

    I would also like to say something to about what Coleen had to say. I hope you won’t mind that.

    I think she is mistaken when she says karma is about what someone deserves. It’s more about causality i.e. cause and effect. And it’s a concept that is not unknown in the West. From Aristotle to Kant and Hume, philosophers have talked about cause and effect.

    Helping poor and sick could be understood with the maxim that what goes around comes around. Even if someone want to take Karma at its most literal helping poor and sick will entail that the helper will receive help in his needs because of his action.

    And when she says that Karma “keeps the divisions in India” what she means is quite hard to understand. According to the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures) what Karma means is “if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil”, in this life or the other.
    Nikhil Chandra recently posted..My Trip to Kumbh MelaMy Profile

  42. Robert October 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Excellent Post.. I’m planning a trip to India next year.

  43. Rachit Aggarwal November 14, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Nicely written.

    Pictures are amazingly beaituful especially the one in which you are blessed by the Gajraj (Elephant)
    Rachit Aggarwal recently posted..MahaShivratri celebrations at Brahma Kumaris, Shanti SarovarMy Profile

  44. chetan November 16, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Dear Mariellen,

    I read your blog and coleen’s comments and your response to it. As a Western exposed Indian, I see that you are in love with India, and you have chosen to leave the rest of the world to continue highlighting its problems.

    It’s like you may not be able to imagine yourself kissing your imaginary pan-chewing red-mouthed Indian boyfriend, still you could be totally in love with his warmth, loyalty, his mother’s love for you etc etc…..things that could rarely happen in the West, things that coleen would hate/not appreciate.

    India is a paradigm shift from the Western life. For people living in the Western shell, it is much easier to like a plastic, shiny, rich Dubai than to understand and like India. There are no good roads, no spacious cars, no clean toilets, no fresh air, no wide halls as soon as you are down at an Indian airport. Thus your Western soul is gripped with fear and dislike.
    The same equation works for us Indians – hence we love going to shiny, neat places like Dubai, Singapore, London….If a senior executive takes his family to vacation in the Himachal, his peers assume that he did not get a good bonus! A foreign trip is still treated as a perk in most companies, and it almost always means a trip to a country of better hygiene, especially in Europe or the US.

    We live in a Mumbai suburb and even my wife and daughter complain of being stared at or touched inappropriately.

    Even today millions of Indians dream of migrating to the West or ending up with a job in the Middle East. India is mystical, it is for the seeker (as you said)…it is not perfect, it has not been so for centuries. Going by its speed it will take centuries for it to get free from corruption, bigotry, emotional overdose, illogic, mutual exploitation and lack of hygiene.

    But we have only one life, we can’t wait for centuries for it to achieve perfection. We love it right now!

  45. maureen young December 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I was born in India as was my Father before me. I had the most wonderful childhood ever, my memories of India are just that – loving parents and a peaceful life. I have returned there after 67 years to look again and feel what I have felt all my life. I have now shared India with my six children and I know they will never forget the experience. Thank you for your words of wisdom to all who would dare to travel there – a once in a lifetime opportunity !

  46. jitendra Suvarna. January 3, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    Meryelen…. you have a good understanding heart, as an Indian I think so much of India and our yester era culture, Countless times outsiders invaded and plundered the country.
    A country with such lovely wealth of heritage and culture. But India withstood relentless abuse. Unfortunately now Indians are forgetting the real value of our culture which
    is full of selflessness and love. We Indians are becoming lusty and selfish. It is so heartening to see there are people who still try to preserve these values. Thank you for thinking good of India.
    Jitendra Suvarna

    • Mariellen Ward January 3, 2014 at 9:28 am #

      Thanks so much for your comment Jitendra, It is one of the best I have ever received. I agree with you 100% about preserving what is great about the mighty Indian culture.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Year in review: Return of the heroMy Profile

  47. Anil Pillai March 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    “She hugs me, she punches me, and she hugs me again.”

    Ouch – and I pictured India in a wife-beater t-shirt at this point. Alright, only joking, couldn’t resist writing to commend you on an excellent piece Mariellen.

    May your adventures always sparkle with such joy and emotions.

  48. Devanshu Agrawal March 23, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    Mariellen, I thank you from the bottom of mine heart for the wonderful description you described about India as it helped me a lot me to understand myself. I am an Indian but ashamed of myself as I couldn,t utilized the opportunity to understand India in spite of the fact that I was born and raised in India and let myself flown with the growing notion of having every sort of comfort and luxury.which bought me to the UK after my graduation. But after coming over here, I realized that I was wrong and now I wanted to give myself some real time with India.

  49. animism April 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Waaaaaa really nice sis.. -claps-
    Thanks for sharing your view about India…
    I’m a highschool..student was making a report..what other countries people think about India..and this was really helpful.. 🙂
    Thank u…
    Hope u live long sis take care always and keep smiling 🙂

  50. Sundararajan April 8, 2015 at 4:00 am #

    Will you marry an Indian? That will make your relationship with India permanent. By the way, I loved what you wrote about India. Come to India and live here. You are a true daughter of India.

  51. ajay June 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    thank you,for your wonderful post,iam an indian, though at times i feel this country could have been better,i really know that india is unique and no other country can be compared to india,and india is one of the very few countries in this planet that is closer to nature,nature and technology are at different ends humans want to travel from nature to technology,little do they realize that the world will end if they do so,foreigners have always been emotionally linked to india,for example mark twain said,india is the only country he wished to see again

  52. Aditya May 3, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    We need more people like you who understand that india is more than just poverty and diseases as portrayed by the western media and films. India is indeed an amalgam of the vintage and the modern.

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