Travelling is the new diamond. Everyone wants it, but not everyone can afford it. National chess champion Anuradha Beniwal however, is a pro – at not just her sport, but also in travelling on a budget. She travelled to 10 countries in Europe on a budget of just about a lakh. But that is not the only thing she intends to espouse through her book of travels, Azaadi Mera Brand. “It’s more than just the story of a girl from a village in Haryana who travelled on her own abroad,” she said in a conversation with Bollywood songwriter and singer Swanand Kirkire at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2017. “It’s about breaking the thresholds defined for a woman – by her family, by her society, by herself.”
Talking about how it is largely considered unsafe for a woman to travel on her own, Beniwal said that unless you get out, explore and reclaim the spaces, you cannot make them safe. She said: “Step out. It’s not necessary for you to travel all the way to London or America to find freedom. Just go anywhere. Even till the next town. And when you do that, you’ll not only find a lot of new things about yourself. You’ll also break the threshold and make that previously considered-unsafe place safe – not just for yourself, but for other women too.”
The engaging speaker had her audience enthralled and applauding with her views on women’s safety, and on the need of dialogue with men towards this end. “Men in India are never taught from childhood on how to interact with women. It is considered unnatural for men and women to converse, to be friends,” she said. Even Bollywood films, she pointed out, used to champion the idea that ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte’ – harking to the famous dialogue from the film Maine Pyaar Kiya. “So you see, when they grow up and have these natural feelings to talk to women, they don’t know how. So they resort to whistles, catcalls, jeers.” The times are changing though. And to foster this change, women need to have a dialogue, a discussion with men, she asserted.
She also interspersed her conversation with relevant excerpts from her book. Few lines which stood out went thus: “Meri trip yahi khatam hoti hai, lekin meri yatra abhi shuru hui hai. Aur tumhari bhi… Yeh duniya tere liye bani hai. Ise dekhna zaroor. Ise janna. Ise jeena… Iss duniya mein gum hone ke liye ghoomna, aapne aap ko pane ke liye ghoomna… lekin tum ghoomna.” (My trip ends here. But my journey begins now. So does yours. This world is for you. Make sure you see it. Know it. Live it… Travel to get lost, travel to find yourself… But do travel.)
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