For many women, solo travel is the ultimate expression of independence and empowerment, and arts & cultural festivals are just one of the many exciting adventures they’re pursuing. From backpacking through uncharted territories to getting up on stage for impromptu poetry slams and moshing at underground music festivals, women are defying old stereotypes that travel is best done with a partner. Festivals offer a means for self-expression, but they also impart a sense of community and togetherness among audiences and participants alike. In fact, Valentine’s Day is now the perfect opportunity to celebrate the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself.
Festivals From India (FFI) reached out to three amazing women who defied conventional expectations and travelled far and wide to attend and participate in festivals around the world. Tune into the untold stories of these festival-goers who stepped out of their comfort zones to explore the unknown, learn about new cultures and rediscover themselves along the way.
Sleeping bags and Google Maps for the win.
Cris – Journalist, The News Minute
“Many years ago. I went to the Ooty GoMad music festival on a whim. I remember someone selling me a ticket because they couldn’t go to the festival themselves due to some reason. I quickly applied for leave from work and headed to Ooty. I took a train to Coimbatore, a bus to Ooty and reached Fernhills Palace on an auto rickshaw, where the event was taking place. It was nearly 10 in the night and freezing, so I crawled inside my sleeping bag within one of the tents they had put up for the attendees. Today, I look back on these experiences with a sense of warmth because it is these unplanned spontaneous escapades that make life worth living.”
“One fun advice while travelling to a festival alone would be carrying a sleeping bag so that you always have a place to sleep, and make sure you take a ticket for the train before you board it (but you probably already knew that!). Serious advice, be as prepared as you can: read experiences of women who have travelled to the places you intend to, know what you must have with you. Have a phone with a good internet connection and Google Maps, charger and money. And also do remember that you actually like your own company, so it can’t get so bad.”
Embrace total freedom. Challenge Yourself.
Aishwarya Das Gupta – Professor of English Literature, Calcutta Girls’ College
“The biggest upside of being a solo festival goer was not having to worry about being separated from my friends or looking out for someone else, I was present there for and with myself. There was no one bombarding me with unnecessary explanations about art showcases, so I was free to interpret things in my own way. You could be anyone you wanted to, in the middle of strangers. You could make friends if you wanted to, or else slink down the shadows and listen; see, feel, be yourself completely.”
“Being a film buff and a lover of art and literature, I have been to various book reading festivals; the latest one by Shehan Karunatilaka organised by the Kolkata Literary Meet— “Calbunka”, which is a youth art fest where young people showcase their talents. There are exhibitions of art pieces, as well as exposure to small businesses, pottery workshops, musical jams, etc. I recently went to the Youth Art Scene and the Behala Art Fest as well. Both were engaging and visually captivating, with an attempt at encouraging the audience to participate actively in the process of creating art. Going to these festivals alone gave me the space to think and come up with new ideas of my own.”
Try something new. Surprise yourself.
Shefali Banerji – PhD researcher, University of Vienna
“In my hometown Kolkata, I have regularly attended the Kolkata Literary Meet, the Kolkata International Film Festival and the Kolkata International Book Fair. I have also performed at the National Poetry Festival in Kolkata, and performed at spoken word events by Kommune (Kolkata chapter), Airplane Poetry Movement, and so on. In the UK and Ireland, I have attended the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway, Jasmine Gardosi’s show in Birmingham, the Loud Poets Showcase in Edinburgh, and so on. The reason I attended many of these events alone over the years was because my friends’ schedules often did not have space for these events.”
“Once I attended a poetry and music gig alone in the UK and randomly signed up for and performed at an open mic. The experience was so thrilling and thankfully the poem was well received. I made a few connections there as well after the performance! Would have surely not done any of that had I attended the event with someone. The reason? Fear of judgement, expectation to behave a certain way around people you know etc. Attending alone meant no one knew me so I could let go and perform whatever the hell I wanted! Something similar had happened when I attended Kommune Kolkata’s poetry slam once alone. I ended up bagging the second prize! Wouldn’t have happened if someone was with me.”
For more articles on festivals in India, check out our Read section of this website.