Sleeping on the overnight train from Bhopal to Madras, India was a challenge. The night time air was crisper than the warm January days and the *punjabi clothing I wore was just substantial enough to keep me comfortable for sleeping. With my sheer **duppatta over me to give some semblence of a blanket, I finally drifted off to sleep as the train clacked along the tracks.

At some point in the night I awoke with a start. I saw the back of an Indian man, dressed in a khaki travel suit, walking away from my berth. I was stunned to realize he had just kissed me on the cheek!

Far from enjoying this as a travel adventure, I was afraid. The best I could do was call out “Hey!” as I watched the man’s retreating back. Mukesh, who was in the berth across the aisle, sleepily sat up. He realized something had happened but was not sure what. So much for protection! Kari, also a part of my travel group, heard my cry as well. She told me the next morning that she had spent the rest of the night afraid…wondering what had happened.

It is now over a decade since this memorable kiss and I smile and laugh now as I tell the story. I’ve actually begun to wonder if that was an angel, giving me a sweet reminder that even in the darkest and remotest places I am seen and known by God. But, at the time, I had no such thoughts. I felt violated, afraid and unsafe. I spent the rest of the night with the duppatta over my head.

They say that time heals. I disagree. It is not time that heals, but what takes place over time that makes the difference. What I know now that I did not know then, was that a true sense of safety is something internal and not something dependent on my circumstances or who I am with. 

When do you feel the most safe? The most free to embark on adventure or try new things? Please share.

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*aka salwar kameez – long, knee length shirt and matching pants
**long length of material worn around the neck, meant to cover the chest