Arms wrapped tightly around my driver as he weaves our moped through cars to an orchestra of horns.
The wind whips through my hair and the smells that fill it are heady, awakening my senses with sweet perfumes and spices that quickly flit to a stomach-turning sewer and rot.
The roads are unfinished but the buildings beautiful; brightly decorated with paints of burnt orange and turmeric yellows.
It is Diwali and the country seems to be draped in chains of flowers. Smiles light up the faces of everyone I see.
The days are long and warm – cows, men and dogs alike seek shelter under beautiful sweeping trees that remind me of ones I knew from books as a child: Jungle Book or Pocahontas.
I get the feeling that if I’d visited 50 years ago, the view would be the same. I feel refreshed seeing the respect paid to the land they live on and the animals they share it with.
There is no abundance so things are cherished.
As I whip through these scenes on my humble moped people stop and stare. Other times as I walk by they are frozen in the presence of this white female.
This is not something I haven’t experienced before. I am no stranger to the predatory leers from the men not acclimatised to the scantily clad Western woman. I ease my discomfort by likening their glances to that of a teenage boy – and in India it is no different.
Other places I have visited the women stare too, but with open disgust and disgrace at my little bikini or summer dress.
But here it is not the case. Here something has changed. As I pass the ladies in their brightly coloured saris, a smile creases their cheeks and a glint appears in their eyes. I see hope appear as they take in my appearance, I smile back…I think I know.
Every time I pass I know I am inspiring, affirming. Please do not assume at this point that these women aspire to a bikini (although I think this isn’t necessarily untrue) but it is more what it stands for, it is more the freedom of choice and ownership of her own identity.
In fact, for some I believe it is the identity of her own and not just sharing that of the man stood beside her. I ponder this idea my whole journey, I reflect on my own rights and that of the women of my country … our triumphs and our downfalls.
And I compare it to those that I see around me here, in India.
As my brain chews over this thought I see a billboard ‘educate the girl child to better your country’ and to the side of this two girls in school uniforms stand in a bus shelter laughing.
It is then that I know I am witnessing the beginning of a revolution, I am riding along the wind of change that is propelling India into an equal future.
There is a long way to go but at least the ball is beginning to roll.