In India “Guest equals God”

April 5th, 2013  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog  |  4 Comments

To say traveling to India was LIFE CHANGING sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly how I feel. There is something super empowering about being able to walk around in a country you’ve never been- and never imagined being. And then… feeling completely welcomed.

Jokingly I’ll say I felt like Oprah, because everyone was so happy to see me. To take pictures with me.To help me. And not all encounters were about getting money from the foreigner. In fact the  majority of the people I met were Indian tourists, from other parts of India.

In Delhi, while in line to go into the Akshardham temple, an older Indian woman tapped me on my shoulder and asked, “Are you African?” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “It is my pleasure to see you.” –I was so thrown! She was so sincere… I almost cried. In the moment I didn’t know how to respond, but in hindsight I wish I would have said something equally as touching. Or at least turned-on my reporter brain and asked her my favorite question, “Why?” What was it about me? Was I the first African she’s ever seen up close in her life? What did seeing me represent to her? But instead I simply said, “Thank you.” That’s all the moment called for… I was completely humbled.

It’s crazy because a few days before I left to fly to Delhi (I’ll admit it) I was afraid. I was getting story, after story forwarded to me, on the dangers of being a tourist in India. Especially as a woman. But as far as I know- I was never once in harm’s way. And I was completely at home.

Being able to walk through the world like I have the authority to belong in any space, is something I’ve heard Oprah or one of her spiritual guests talk about, but it’s usually something I second guess constantly.  In America I am always walking around like a “Black woman.” Noticing when I’m the only black woman in the room. And in Sierra Leone, where I was born- but left when I was a baby, I walk around feeling too American. When I visit, I constantly feel like I have to prove my Sierra Leonean-ness.

In India I could just be me. And to be as accepted as I was… that is LIFE CHANGING! Don’t you think?


  1. Daysi says:

    April 5th, 2013at 2:35 pm(#)

    I’ve always wanted to go to India. All the pictures look amazing and I’m glad you
    got this opportunity. You are blessed. I’m proud to know you and be your friend. <3 GO VERALYN MEDIA!

  2. Ms. Veralyn says:

    April 5th, 2013at 2:42 pm(#)

    Thank you so much Daysi! Knowing you- you will get there. Want to go to Kashmir next time I go. Hear its beautiful there. If you’re interested…

  3. #2: Figuring out the skin I’m in :: Veralyn Media says:

    June 4th, 2013at 3:55 am(#)

    [...] The following night I left JFK for New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport. And on my 2nd full day in India, the day I was leaving Delhi for Jaipur, I woke up with “pustules” up and down my arms. I didn’t want to believe the infection had spread, and not wanting to relay my “skin-drama” backstory to anyone, I let my roommate in Jaipur convinced me it was a heat rash. I continued taking Doxycycline and ignored my arms until after my life changing trip. [...]

  4. CherilNClarke says:

    January 5th, 2016at 4:33 pm(#)

    Thanks for this blog. I’m heading to India in March and found this link while searching Tribe. ;) I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Traveling w/my wife and have a friend who lives there who is going to help us navigate and explore!

Leave a Response

Video Feature

My Latest Podcast Work

SLATE REPRESENT, a weekly show I launched, is a forum to discuss movies & TV created by and/or about women, people of color, and those in the LGBTQ community with critics and filmmakers alike.
SLATE DOUBLE X GABFEST, a bi-weekly podcast that discuss feminism, gender, sexuality, health, politics, Beyonce and other issues of interest to women and their friends.
PANOPLY'S FAMILY GHOSTS, a six-part documentary series that explores the spirits, questions, and secrets that haunt our family histories.


Tweets by @VeralynMedia