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'Where on earth is there a safe haven for women?'
Sunday October 13, 2013 12:11 PM, Shilpa Raina, IANS

Where, oh, where is there a safe haven for women, wonders Australian writer Braja Sorensen, whose debut novel "Lost and Found in India" traces her 13 years in the country - not as a tourist but as someone adapting to the lifestyle of the natives. The experience, she says, has enriched her and she strongly believes it is unfair to label only India as being "unsafe" for women.

"To begin with, I would like someone to tell me where in the world is a safe haven for women since we see rape, abuse, and violence everywhere," Sorensen told IANS in an email interview.

"The one very major difference between the West and India is: the West is an expert at presenting a polished facade: clean, efficient, smooth, safe, and quiet. I am not fooled by the west's clinical, disinfectant-scented reality. Every possible thing you can imagine - and worse - is going on in the West. So how is it suddenly a superior choice for living?" she asked.

Recently Michaela Cross, a University of Chicago student, in an open letter penned her experiences in India. While she elaborated on how she was harassed, she even described India as an "extremely dangerous place for women".

Indian males being obsessed with white skin is no secret, and Sorensen, who has made the sleepy village of Mayapur in West Bengal her home, too has met these curious gazes every now and then.

"I didn't ever really feel it was an obsession for people to know me. They were, and still are, curious about where I was from and what I was doing and asked all the normal questions," pointed out Sorensen who speaks fluent Bengali and has spent most of her adult life living and working in London, the US and New Zealand.

"But when I told them I lived here, then their curiosity changed into a very real desire to understand why a Westerner would come here. What they saw in the country? Why they would leave the West," she said, adding she has always noticed that Indians loved hearing a Westerner praise their culture and country.

Nothing has deterred her spirits. In fact, her flexibility and adaptability had given her a different perspective.

"I feel safe on the trains. It is easy to ask for help, it is comforting that you are always surrounded. While there is always someone trying to cheat you, I am kind of comforted to know they are also trying to cheat the locals, not just me," said Sorensen, who has adapted to Indian ways with her husband.

While penning her experiences, Sorensen was clear about not narrating a tale told from the Western perspective, but by someone who has embraced the intoxicating ways of Indian colours, tradition and festivities and made it a way of their life.

This is why the 232-page tell-a-tale published by Hay House is about her experiences in India: How she fell in love with it when she first arrived in 1993, sipping tea at a roadside stall, finding solace here after heartbreak, love for Shah Rukh Khan and when she struggled to buy a box of tissues - it all makes for an interesting read.

For her, India is a place for spirituality, a melee of meditation, peace, food, love, family, duty, food and yoga. And she admits being in India is an adventurous journey, and the adventure continues.

"When you live in a foreign country, everything is different, all the time, in every way. I don't think anything ever becomes "the norm", and most especially in India, which is so colourful and ever-changing and alive," she admitted.

"I am not a visitor, though western by birth, I am a local. Thank you for letting me stay," she concluded.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at


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