Guys, let me first complete my exclamation and elation over having seen the Indus Valley River with my own two peepers!!! Like really what can even come close to having seen this bountiful river which… More
This post is written in absolute angst. These are some things that I have actually heard and have had to process in my brain, such a waste of neural energy!
I have heard some ignorant remarks from certain tourists which have rubbed me in all sorts of wrong sides. I am presenting some of the select few here for your reading pleasure.
Sambhar in South India is not good. They should learn from North Indians
Like really! Sambhar is not good in South India? Makes me wonder about the ‘sambhar’ you have been having!
We went to the animal sanctuary and did not see any animals, this sanctuary is a sham!
Well maybe this is THE encounter you deserve 🙂
Why would girls want to go to Thailand. People go there only for ‘one thing’.
Considering Indian men go to Thailand in throves I am now questioning your morality. Also folks in Thailand definitely don’t have ‘only one thing’ on their mind, it is mostly the folks who go there who need education on a knowing more than ‘one thing’.
There is nothing to see at Niagara Falls except lots of water!
Well, I can’t even…..
This place should have a swimming pool! (Insert place with water shortage)
Well you traveled all the way to Rajasthan for a swimming pool? Makes me wonder about your priorities and what you learnt in geography!
There are no malls here, it is so boring!
I heard this comment in all places in GOA from a guy from a North Indian city, I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes so won’t mention where he was from!
Yeah…let’s leave the beaches, the coconut fronds, the amazing food and shacks and go searching for MALLS!
Will we get Indian food there in (insert foreign country)?
I can understand old folks or people with specific dietary restrictions. But when groups as a default, pride themselves in taking sometimes even a cook so that they do not have to take part in any bit of the other country’s culture.
To be kindly noted, I am a tourist too when I am traveling. I do not consider myself better than anyone or anything (or so I think).
A week of laying on the sand and counting waves started by one day of continuous itchy feet and an ad for a Spice Jet flight which promised flights to Maldives for Rs 8000 which got me all excited. That flight was the last cheap thing we had Maldives barring a free octopus magnet that a Maldivian shopkeeper gave my pre schooler.
We landed in Maldives after a short flight from Sri Lanka. We had gone berserk shopping in Sri Lanka because it is rare for Indians to feel rich while converting money. Along with beach ready clothes I also bought a Buddha statue in black stone. I also bought two small statues in brass. We took the flight out from Sri Lanka after an amazing time in Sigiriya, Kandy and Colombo.
The descend to Male airport was amazing as I could see coral reefs and turquoise islands. At the airport a customs officer who saw me with a sleeping child called us on priority and helped us enter the country smoothly. After picking our bags and feeling grateful to the officer we made our way to customs, where we were pulled over. Our bags were checked and they asked us if we are carrying a Buddha statue, we said yes.
Well to my astonishment Buddha was held at customs and we were given a ticket to claim Buddha back when we left Maldives as Buddha was no longer welcome in Maldives. Maldives being a 100% Muslim country has a past entrenched in Buddhism which changed in the 12th century with the conquest of a Turkish Muslim ruler. Maldivians are quite proud of being a 100% muslim country right behind Saudi Arabia.
I was immediately on guard as my swim suit was definitely not islamic. Customs in Male holds things like alcohol, porn, LGBT and other religions at bay from the Maldivian islands. We reached Maldives on the day of Eid and immediately had mixed feelings about this island paradise. Recently an islamic group had destroyed all remnants of Buddhist history of Maldives from the museum at Male.
Once outside the airport we were whisked out of the airport island in a speed boat that our resort had sent. At resort nothing reminded us that we were in an islamic country. The island could very well have been in the US as every transaction was in US dollars, I did not see Maldivian currency this entire trip. As a traveler I am used to merging with the culture of the country I am visiting, understanding their history, way of life. I felt a bit cheated in that sense as resort islands operate on a completely different way of life and are intentionally separate from the local islands.
After the first day of trepidations the sea came calling. The coral reefs, aquatic life, wild dolphins and the joy of shallow turquoise water and days of being beach bums are the memories I took back finally. I also did my beginners PADI scuba dive and had one of the highlights of my travels as the realization that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to traveling became further apparent.
As we left Male after a week of some hard core tanning, Maldives looked quite different to me as I saw women in hijabs working in posts that were usually male dominated in India. Met locals at Male, made friends with a Maldivian kid who became bum chums with my 4 year old from the get go.
The beaches of Goa are a lot of things for a lot of people in India and abroad. It is a ritual, a place where you can let your hair down, beaches, sand, sea and unfortunately – the marketing also includes babes! Babes just like the sand, the sea shells, the shacks; said in the same breath as if they are kept there for male enjoyment; babes who wear their swim suits so that it adds to the ambience!
As a member of this section of society who has been reduced to an object, the gaze that followed me bothered me greatly on this trip. I hardly got into the water this time around, much to the chagrin of my husband who had hoped for a lot more beach hopping. All around me on the beach I found men leering, with video cameras tuned to the sea to capture women in their swim wear. The argument which they have completely internalised is that good women don’t go out, don’t enjoy themselves and are always covered even if they are in the water and hence they are ‘allowed’ to do what they please with the ‘bad’ ones.
Since women from many other countries have not grown up in this oppressive culture, their natural point of view is of freedom which these men take for granted as they partake in their yearly ‘boys’ trip to Goa away from their families and (preferably fully covered) wives.
My last trip to Goa was on a New Year when Goa is packed with tourists both from within the country and from abroad. Goa this time around seemed different to me with tourism and its effects creeping up on menus, sign boards and everywhere possible. On New Year’s night we decided to go to Calangute beach which was a stone’s throw away from where we were staying. The shacks were brimming with families, men, women – old and young; however, closer to the water the scene was slightly different. The beach had many groups of men drinking, all the way from Calangute to Baga. It was New Year’s and I am not opposed to the drinking or merriment, but why does the merriment have to be at the expense of someone else?
In front of us three young Caucasian girls were walking, possibly on their way to Bagha beach and as they crossed, every group of men either catcalled at them, called them sweetheart, darling, or tried touching them as they strode past. Possibly because we were walking right behind them, it was some protection for them but not enough. The men however seemed pleased with themselves by calling three random girls minding their business darling or something more ludicrous. The glee the men had on their faces was what disgusted me the most.
As a responsible traveler I am not of the opinion that India is unsafe in its entirety or even that Goa is unsafe, because it is not. Many women and men travel across India and the tales of good times outweigh the bad and horrific incidents. I hope that we are able to shed these twisted and hypocritical rules and stereotypes that we have for women. These notions are causing damage to women every single day.
In preparation of watching Bahubali 2, my household was watching Bahubali – The Beginning as revision. I went and watched Bahubali 2 in Telugu even though I don’t understand the language completely because a lot of the meaning and emotions get lost in translation in the dubbed versions. The one thing that struck me was how many scenes from Bahubali had similarities from the folklore we heard at Kumbhalgarh. Ofcourse the stories of Kumbhalgarh, Chittor and Maharana Pratap Singh are different no doubt but certain scenes evok familiarity.
The stories surrounding Kumbhalgarh fort is a genius in architecture and warfare. The scene where Bhalladeva’s son walks headless after his head is chopped off by Shivdu is one such scene. The genesis of Kumbhalgarh fort has a story of a saint whose head was chopped off and his headless body kept walking on till it reached a point and there his samadhi was made. In this day and age these stories seem horrific but they lived in different times.
The scene in Bahubali with his foot on an elephant is another such scene as the battle story of Maharana Pratap includes the legend of how his horse Chetak stood with its forelegs on the elephant as Maharana Pratap killed the invading enemy. Maharana Pratap was known for his brilliance in warfare and not just using brute force or the might of the army.
In Bahubali 2 (*spoiler alert) Bahubali goes and lives in exile and his subjects follow him. Similarly in Maharana Pratap’s story he lives in exile leaving his kingdom till he gets back his kingdom, in both stories the reasons are different and Maharana Pratap is history and folklore and Bahubali is brilliant fiction but I can’t stop but see parallels. Maharana Pratap had tribal soldiers in his army as he went to war against the invading forces much like Mahendra Bahubali has tribal chiefs on his side and uses guerrilla warfare tactics in the second part.
Kumbhalgarh fort similarly has seen its fair share of trials and conquests, the fort is hidden in the Aravali mountains and can not be seen by an approaching party, unless one is a mere 5 kms from the fort. The fort also boasts of the second longest wall in the world which still embraces the fort and holds strong even after its inhabitants have long left. However there are two small hamlets still inside the fort where villagers stay. The fort also has 100’s of temples inside the complex.
The fort has also stories revolving around how a prince was bought to the fort when his life was in danger and he grew up inside the fort training to avenge the wrong. Kumbhalgarh and Chittor is full of such amazing plot lines, twists, treacheries and fates that changed the lives of the people in Mewar in modern day Rajasthan. I got goose bumps in watching the epic that S.S Rajamouli and team have captured on screen and to think that there were actual people and kingdoms who lived through similar experiences and extraordinary lives in Indian history is just amazing.
Pics Credit : Photos of Kumbhalghar Fort credits Traveling Noodles and Razor Rasu. Photos of Bahubali are from screenshots and movie posters.