This Eid, many of you will have planned trips to your desher bari with your family, but the lucky few of you will have managed to ditch your duties and plan a holiday elsewhere. With quick and cheap local flights, Sylhet and Cox's Bazaar remain some of the popular destinations at home. Some of the more adventurous of you may have even planned trips to other countries, with India, Nepal and Bhutan being the top destinations nearby, as well as Thailand (especially Bangkok), Malaysia and Indonesia for those wishing to venture out even further.
If you are a woman traveling abroad with friends or family, there are some hilarious (and some not so much) incidents that are bound to happen to you on your travels, especially while traveling in the subcontinent. Here are a list of the few best (or worst) questions/comments of which yours truly has been on the receiving end.
Are you his wife or sister?
If you happen to be traveling with male companions and come across some inquisitive aunties or uncles on your trip, you are bound to be asked this question. Because of course, is it possible for a man and woman to have any relationship outside that of matrimony and family? And surely, a young lady like yourself couldn't possibly be here on her own, without a husband or family member to supervise her? It doesn't matter if said companion happens to look nothing like you, the sibling question will almost always arise. If/when this does happen, look them straight in the eye and tell them you make a point to travel without someone 'to look after you' – it's high time people realise that it's okay for friends of all sexes to travel together. And in case it actually is your brother or husband, make up a wild story just for the heck of it. My favourite is claiming we're fugitives escaped from an asylum where the government was using the latest genetic technology to turn us into mutants.
Are you a tour guide?
This tends to happen if you're traveling with companions who are a few shades lighter than you (which is usually the case for me) or happen to not be as obviously Bangladeshi-looking as you are. Also if most of your companions are male. I actually prefer this question over the above – I assume that the inference is that I am the leader of my pack, and not some helpless creature clinging to her aforementioned fake husband or brother who looks nothing like her.
Madame you must try this whitening cream
Especially in parts of the world that are known for growing natural herbal ingredients and producing ayurvedic products that can cure cancer while helping digestion and improving your complexion, all at the same time. Bonus points if you're traveling with a fair friend who can then be used by the engaging salesman as the ideal that you aspire to - “just use it for a few days and you will become as white as your friend madame, believe me!”
But you can do the easy one
I don't know about you, but this has happened to me a lot when planning treks or other outdoor activities that require physical exertion. Especially on trips planned by tour companies, there is always a know-it-all guide who takes a look at a tiny deshi woman and in all good will, offers the easiest activities available. Dodging traffic and walking from Bailey Road to Shantinagar would probably be less stressful.
The truth is, most people just aren't used to deshi women like us traveling alone or with friends. It can be frustrating to see the surprise you inspire when you order from the menu, sign the bills and call the shots, but that doesn't mean you should ever hesitate to do just those things. If anything, you can pride yourself in breaking social taboos and setting an example of independence for others. And if you do it with confidence and a big smile, you'll be amazed at how quickly even the most conservative people will warm up to you. At the end of the day, traveling is the best way to expand your horizons, not just for yourself, but those who surround you as well. Bon voyage!