Why I Followed Three Young Girls Last New Year In Goa

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.

First published on Women’s Web. Pics credit Pixabay.


Bahubali Reminds Of Kumbhalghar Fort

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


What Will You Talk About To A Camel Rider In Rajasthan

Sam is a village in Jaisalmer district close to the India – Pakistan border, Sam is known due to the popular Sam dunes which is a tourist spot brimming with dessert camps and tents. The dunes themselves are amazing when it is quiet and natural and sans the hustle of tourists. I know at the time we were tourists too but one can always hope to have a place all to ourselves.

When we reached Sam dunes and our desert camp, we were briefed by the manager who proceeded to tell us with precision what our next 24 hours would look like down to the hour. It was a good thing that we did not listen to him after the first itinerary point because who wants to be told what one should be doing during a vacation, I can’t put up with such pressure (*sigh).

The first thing on the itinerary was a camel ride, it was hilarious for the camel rider as he watched us flip and flop as we tried to mount. After a few attempts he offered us his salwar clad knee so that we could scramble up the camel. He was an old man who said that he is farmer and some of this land belongs to him but this year there were no crops. Considering the sand around us it was difficult to fathom any type of cultivation there. He wore a turban loosely tied on his head and a pastel colored loose salwar kurta, his lips were pan stained and his camel wore polka dots with distinction.


He led his camel almost stoically across the sand towards the dunes where the desert air carried the sounds of people squealing in merriment on the sand buggy rides. One of the first questions he asked us, after asking where we were coming from was whether there were muslims in Bangalore. He spoke Hindi with us but with a distinct tilt to it much different than the accent one hears in the marwadi heartland. I wanted to know what his camels name was because after all the camel was carrying us two city folks and I felt obliged to make a connection. Turns out that the camel was called Pappu.

At the dunes, we met a kohl lined camel rider who insisted that we try the sand buggy or jeep ride, he seemed amused by my apparent disinterest that he took it as an affront. He spoke at length at how all the tourists who came had ‘majaa’ on the sand buggy. Soon the conversation turned to when Bajrangi Bhaijan was shot at location near there and how the crew did not allow locals to see the shoot. The locals apparently decided that this was their land and no one can keep them off it and barged in at the shoot to which the crew amended that the locals can see the shoot but needed to be quiet which was something more amicable to locals there.

Sam Dunes Lone camel
Watching the sun setting at Sam dunes over the fairy tale that is Rajasthan

The conversation also took us to their village in Sam and how it was off limits to tourists because of permits that were required as a border town. A specific village that had gone to Pakistan during the war and then came back to Indian territory. He also insisted that the dessert camps are a sham and are only manufactured experiences. I was quite on board with this particular assessment as I found that the dessert camp experience while good seemed a bit forced with its banjara dances to Bollywood music, rich food and alcohol while the dessert lay silent and the camels hmmphed all around us.

We continued talking as our camel was ferrying a few other passengers and our elderly camel rider promised to come back for us shortly leaving us alone on the dunes. It gave us a chance to soak in the cold dessert air, the stars beginning to twinkle above us and an offer for tea from the kohl lined camel rider. He then spoke about how we should actually stay at a village where people will be more than welcoming and sleep on a charpoy under the stars and then claim to have had an authentic dessert experience. The premise was very tempting but unfortunately we weren’t the type to walk into a village and ask to be fed.

As we watched our camel rider come back for us with the camel against the backdrop of the setting dessert sun, I felt grateful for having stolen this moment away from the regular tourist trappings and feel the sand run down my fingers.



Coming Across An Abandoned Village- Kuldhara

After having spent a ridiculous amount of money on a silver earring that I was probably going to wear twice in my lifetime, we went to a restaurant to have lunch. The idea was to spend some time relaxing in the restaurant before driving to the dessert camp at Sam. The decor of the restaurant was a bit overdone with all the mirrors and artifacts and was getting a tad bit claustrophobic, so we decided to push off to the dessert.

Since we still had some extra hours in hand, we searched online for nearby places and found the description for Kuldhara, en route from Jaisalmer to Sam sand dunes. Kuldhara is also known as the ghost village or the abandoned village. Kuldhara owns a spooky tale of a beautiful girl and a king who fell in love with her. The villagers opposed the union (not sure if the girl had a say in all this) which angered the king. The king then attacked the village and the villagers were either killed or they deserted the village en mass. It is said to be haunted since.

The road towards Sam dunes and Kuldhara is an arid dessert with the bright yellow sand reflecting the golden rays of the sun in all intensity. The road snakes across this flat sandy land rendering itself to mirages. A rickety sign on the road says turn left for Kuldhara, we quite animatedly asked our driver who ran a non coperation movement for the 9 days and 2000 kms across Rajasthan, to take a turn to Kuldhara.

Kuldhara was derelict as one can expect from an abandoned village, the tourism board is working on recreating some of the buildings, complete with the intricate stone work which is characteristic of Jaisalmer. This haunted village plays right into the fairy tale that is Rajasthan. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Inside a house in Kuldhara
The well laid out but abandoned village roads
A glimpse of Kuldhara
A window into another era and the lives of people who lived and loved.


The sand stone against the blue
Watching the sun setting at Sam dunes over the fairy tale that is Rajasthan

Pictures credited to Razor Rasu. Copyright material do not re purpose without permission.