My name is Dinesh Bhatia and I am a teacher by profession and a traveller by passion. I am based in India. I have been born and brought up in Delhi, but my roots are in Haryana. I have completed my schooling from Delhi and my graduation and post graduation from Miranda House, Delhi University.
As a kid, I had travelled a lot with family. Almost every annual holiday, we used to go to some Indian state. It was only when I went to college and became a part of their dramatic society, that I realised the true nature of freedom. I guess that’s what girls colleges does to you – and Miranda House has a lot of contribution in evolving my personality. People do feel that females who goes to girl’s college either are not able to do things on their own, or their families are too scared of sending them to CO-Ed’s. Believe me, that has been the best decision of my life.
With some success and some failures in life, by the time I started working in 2007, I started travelling alone. At that time, it was through public transport only. During the weekends, I remember rushing to ISBT Delhi or Anand Vihar to catch a late night bus after finishing my daily work. And then rushing back to join work on Monday.
Later, I changed from one job to another, teacher, social worker, fundraiser, ghost book writer, content developer for UPSC, and co-founder of an e-learning platform. Travelling has always been in my thoughts and I just saved money from whatever possible way and pursued my dreams through my limited sources.
I had been driving since 2002-03, but within the city. Earlier it was surprising that how I was given the car so easily by my parents while my other siblings were not. I understand the difference now – one has to be self-disciplined and responsible.
When I grew up, I was stuck with no travel for really long because of the lack of a travel company/partner. Moreover, family trips were more like where everyone mutually decides to go and not really where I wanted to go. I wanted to see my country – the lengths and breadths of it, in my own way.
When I eventually decided to take road trips in 2017, i asked my friends whether they would come along for a road trip with me or not. Well, everyone denied! I was hurt because I wanted to go on a long drive, but I knew that whomsoever would hear this would oppose. I tried to search internet pertaining to dos and donts of solo female travelling; leave aside driving. To my horror, I found too many articles about the unsafe situation of travelling in India. I couldn’t believe it because of my experience of travelling earlier in public transports. So I just made my own list of dos and donts, filled my car with some quick bites, energy drinks, etc and did my first solo road trip from Delhi to Gujarat via Rajasthan. While on the drive, I met so many people – both male and females, shocked to know I am driving alone from delhi and exploring the parts of my country on my own. I was surprised because this is my country and I don’t need to be courageous to explore it.
But not for once did I feel unsafe – either on the roads or the tourist spots. Precisely then, the idea of #indiaissafe originated. And I started then. After that I also took all women- only road trip to Kanatal, and we completed it successfully.
I experienced that the picture of India being so unsafe from travelling point of view painted at social platforms, should be changed. Predominant character of our country is goodness – people are generally welcoming, safe, benevolent, and good. They will go out of their way to help you and be kind. “Athiti Devo Bhava” has been practised in our country since ages now. Having said so, there are exceptions too, like any other country. But that shouldn’t stop us from travelling, especially in our own country. Therefore, one needs to prepare themselves for travelling – especially when it’s solo. Solo travelling doesn’t mean anyone can travel. It needs courage and strength – of physical body, emotional and intellectual. Conviction and passion is the prime thing. Courage and strength comes through this only. My passion gave me wings to fly.
At this moment, in my passion for travelling, I found a social message – and I decided to take #indiaissafe to a larger platform – of taking my passion to another level, and sharing my experience with the larger world. This also is a small contribution to my nation, in my own way. I do experience the freedom and easiness that the country has provided me, so many people fought for giving us independence, and I also realise the responsibility and duty I carry as a citizen of my nation.
People do feel safe while travelling, barring some exceptional incidents. I have talked to many and there must be so many of them accepting that on either different FB groups, chats. But again, not on a common platform, that gets to larger population. #indiaissafe is one such initiative. This is not a politically motivated or any organisation supported initiative. I have put all my savings in taking this initiative and will be travelling and exploring India – in length and breadths – in 2019, starting from Sept 2018, and marking the places as #safe and #unsafe.
People do ask tell me it’s not safe or why do I have to prove a point and why not just travel for exploration. I say it’s a difference of perception. I am on a journey, not just covering kms but exploring places and people, their cultures on my own, and want to open it to thousands of others too. I want people to learn to travel responsibly. Travelling isn’t a mindless activity. I am well aware about the harsher side of the society too. But, this is my realisation, based on my experience that it’s not as unsafe as people have portrayed it. I am just living my passion and realisation that India is not unsafe to travel. It might be unsafe through an accident, error of judgement, crime, or many other number of reasons. And it can be anywhere in the world. Thus, travelling safe and #indiaissafe is about travelling responsibly. Always remember, there’s a thin line of difference between courage and foolhardiness. While courage is a virtue, foolhardiness is being foolish.