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Safety is a Space Within- A Train Journey Brought with it Lessons for Life

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Author on the train
Safety is a space within

Have you ever been around people or in environments that either made you feel extremely safe or unsafe? What about them made you feel that way? Or rather, what about you made you feel that way?

You read the question right! How does it make you feel when I say something about you could make you feel unsafe around other people? Have you ever wondered about it? Do you think it could be possible?

Let me tell you a little story from my archive of experiences to break it down. It was the Summer of 2022, I felt called by one of the ancient cities in the world "Varanasi/ Banaras/ Kashi". I hopped on a train and travelled solo to this exquisite yet mundane city (holding myself back from going into the tangent of explaining about this beautiful city and coming back to the point).

Having accomplished a few travel stints by train before and comparing my journey from Bangalore to Varanasi, I had imagined a fairly comfortable trip back home. Little did I know that this trip is going to open my eyes to a reality that'll change my life.

As I waited at what looked to my eyes as an overcrowded railway station at Mughalsarai, I checked my phone for the time, it was almost 11:00 pm, and the train was about to arrive. I, exhausted from the entire day of exploration, hoping to catch some sleep with my RAC ticket. The train arrived, and I saw a wave of people rushing towards it, I joined them too. I ran towards the S3 compartment and when I found it, I froze. My brain interprets the scene as a compartment full of criminals and dead bodies and a gushing fear takes over me.

I mustered the courage to step in, crossing over what looked like a yard of some clothed, some partially clothed bodies laying in awkward positions. Feeling stuffy and anxious, I look through the berths, to find my RAC berth occupied by 7 sleeping men. I look around hoping to find a woman, for some reason, my brain tells me "That's where you'll find safety!". To my utter shock, I find no woman until almost the end of the compartment. A sleeping woman on the last lower berth gives me some hope, I walk up to her, find some space near her feet and sit down to gather myself. I was going to spend the next 36 hours on this spot. Just then the lady's husband from another berth yelled at me asking me to vacate.

The little hope of safety I had seen, vanished! feeling overwhelmed, I pulled out my phone and called a friend to seek some clarity. As he received the call, I went into a rant of "How can they put me with a man?", " How can they put a single woman in an entire compartment filled with men?", " This is crazy, how can they be so irresponsible!" and blah blah blah... Then I heard a calm centred voice saying, "Ah! Looks like too many people decided to travel today. Do one thing, go find the railway police, I'm sure they can help you".

Suddenly, my brain dropped the image that it was showing, from a compartment full of dead bodies and criminals, it become a bunch of human beings travelling for their own reasons. I felt oddly calm, I walked up to the men, woke one of them up and said "Ye mera seat hai" showing him my ticket (This is my seat). He immediately wakes the others up, 5 of them clear the seat to make space for me. I take my space, 2 of them find spaces on the floor while the rest remain standing.

Slowly as my heart began to clear, I saw 3 men standing in front of me, passing awkward glances at each other. Are they going to stand like this for the next 36 hours, I wondered? I offered them to sit beside me and they accepted it. Once I began feeling safe within myself, I sensed the tension in the air vanishing and they began to feel safe too. Soon I became one among them, a co-traveller. Five of us cramped in a single berth for almost 24 hours, some of them shared stories and the purpose of their travel, while some just passed warm smiles and gestures to assure me that I was safe. One of the travellers from the upper berth opposite me observed this and offered me his berth to crash for a night.

Something that could have turned into an awful experience turned out to be a learning of a lifetime, just because I allowed myself to drop my judgements and opened myself to see reality.

Oftentimes, the lack of safety we experience in different situations is the outcome of an unsafe environment we have nurtured within ourselves. That holds good for other people too, if you are feeling unsafe with another person, a part of it could be that they are feeling unsafe within themselves. Unless we build a safe and empowering environment within ourselves, we cannot provide a safe space for others around us.

Reminding myself or acknowledging that what I'm experiencing is my interpretation of reality and not the reality itself, opens up the possibility for me to choose how I experience something, enabling me to create a safe and empowered space within me. You can try it too and share your experience in the comment section below.

Sending you love <3

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