Most rewarding I find those little roadside chats in India. Just sit down at the local tea stall and chat up some people. Indians are always friendly and happy about chatting away for some time. especially if you make the effort to learn a few words in one of the local languages.
India is in spite of all the recent news about rape and crime still a safe country to travel. What unfortunately has changed over the last year is that single woman travellers have more difficulties than in the good old days before the internet reached all nooks and corners of the country. Sadly the consumption of porn (and India is apparently one of the biggest consumers of online porn) has given a complete wrong picture about western women. In the eyes of many man, western women seem to be perceived as willing to have sex with any man. As a friend of mine recently told me after visiting India a dozen times or more that for India modern development happened too fast and that therefore so many cultural values are left behind, or being adapted to western concepts. I do agree on this perception. Working with India for nearly 3 decades there has been a tremendous change, considering that till 1984 all the development was influenced by the former Soviet Union. Only after the death of Indira Gandhi in August 84 the economical development turned to the west. India then fell pray to the abundant western greed to lower production costs, without giving the benefit to its own population. The trend of “outsourcing” productions to low wage countries became a craze among western CEO’s as it enabled them to show huge profits and earn even bigger bonuses. India with its wide spread use of english and cheap, but skilled labour became the paradise for foreign investors. While the west lost strength in its middle class, in India the middle class started booming. Concepts like small family, happy family started to come up, mixed up with the tradition that boys are have the responsibility for their parents and girls leave home. Everybody wanted boys. Today there is only Kerala with a normal male/female ratio in the country. The rest of India is increasingly suffering from a huge male surplus in the population. Seeing this, India will have an increasing share of crime against women. Many men will not be able to have a family and thus feel bypassed by society. On one hand this could highlight and increase the culturally so highly propagated status of the feminine energy (Shakti, Laxmi) historically recognised as the source of wealth and wellbeing, or it could very well end up in a disaster for the status of women over the next few decades. Musing about the many possibilities a country can take it leaves me with the conclusion that woman travellers are actually safer in the company of trusted men.