Intersectionality is one of the core tenets of our brand and in this age of heightened individualization, one important lesson from the pandemic has been a deep realization of the strength of solidarity! That the world belongs to not just us, but to our sisters and brothers as well! What affects one, will affect the world as a whole. And we can only protect ourselves by protecting others sharing the table with us!
As part of our on-going campaign where we are capturing the stories of Indian women from all walks of life, on how they are coping with the effects of quarantine, we were approached by Shalini, a travel journalist based out of Kolkata but quarantined in Amritsar since the past one and half months. She started her career at the age of 16 and got addicted to travelling wherein she couldn’t stop herselfrolling from one city to another. In 2015, she took a resolution that she will travel all the states and UT in India before 2025. She loves to explore new places with the locals and write stories about real people. Her story highlights the spirit of togetherness as an insulation from tough times!
While recounting her journey, she spoke about how she came to be quarantined in a Christian guest house in Amritsar with strangers belonging to different countries, ages, genders and communities. She wrote, “On the 6th of Feb, I started my long waited pre-planned trip across 3 states and 1 UT. It was supposed to be a 74days backpacking trip. I completed Rajasthan and reached Amritsar. Around the 14th of March, I decided to cut short the trip and get back home but meanwhile, the lockdown was announced. I got my tickets for the 18th of March was well prepared but life had something else in store for me. The sudden panic among people led to an unfortunate event for us. On the 16th of March, I along with my foreigner travel mates from respective countries Iran Italy and Egypt were thrown out of the travel hostel followed by much more unfortunate events.”
Standing up for others and making our circle bigger and more inclusive are humanitarian values that inspired us to connect with women like Shalini who carry these values in everyday life. She told us about why she chose to stay back with her friends even though she had an easy option to go back home. She wrote, “I decided to not get home but to stick by them. We found a Christian guest house In Amritsar. They opened their doors for us and willingly gave us shelter. We got our health check-up done and stuck by each other in every way possible. Bunch of strangers became family overnight, we became each other’s support system.”
Human beings are social animals. Meaning, if we are locked in a room with strangers, we will find some common interests to talk about. All we need to do, is extend a hand of friendship. For Shalini, her quarantine was an opportunity to deepen the connection with her travel-mates. She wrote, “As it's been sometime now we have been learning Persian and French. I have been teaching them Hindi and some Indian cooking. From playing chess to working out together. We even binged watched a few movies till morning and slept in all day.”
Shalini and her friends not only used their time to help each other but also managed to rescue many stranded foreigners around India and relocate them to safer places. On her learnings from this experience, she shared, “We are happy and thankful for each day. As we are waiting to get home and for everything to get back to normal.We also know that we are in it together and we stay strong for each other. We experience our low days as we anticipated the extension but this lockdown has definitely taught us patience, understanding and adjustment.”
Standing by each other in times of crisis has a huge potential to teach us to be stronger and Shalini felt the same. She concluded by sharing the highlight of her experience, “We haven't been out of the guesthouse campus since the 17th of March but we have been travelling to each other's world every day by learning something new and embracing it as our own.”