Jersey Shoreline – Why Indians don’t wear bathing suits at the beach

(photo courtesy Ganesh Sankaran)

(photo courtesy Ganesh Sankaran)

Last Sunday at the beach with big strong waves and seaweed-y waters*, a lady came up to me and said, ” Excuse me, are you Indian?” When I replied in the affirmative, she went on to ask the question she really wanted to ask, ” Why don’t Indian people wear bathing suits at the beach?” Her belief was that it is bad enough that you have to be fully clothed everywhere else, but atleast at the beach people should be able to let their guard down and relax. The lady’s observation while quite accurate, is not entirely true. With time more and more Indians are stepping on to beaches and into waters in swimwear, both in India and abroad, probably more abroad than in India.

I put this question later to a group of friends and got a variety of responses. “They feel cold.” ” We don’t need to work on our tan.” ” Don’t have swimwear worthy bodies.”   ” Body image issues.” “Uncomfortable showing skin.”  The Husband brushed it off saying ,” Ofcourse they do. Go to Goa and see.

Most of this I agree with, some I don’t. The Goa bit is just stretching the truth, because even there it is quite uncommon to see an Indian in swimwear; rarer still an Indian woman. Especially at the more popular and crowded beaches.

So  why don’t a majority of Indian people wear bathing suits at the beach?

Indians are  uncomfortable showing skin and shape. This is changing, but for now it is true. This is probably a big reason why we prefer to just wet our feet at the beach instead of bathing. Even when we do splash around, we just dunk ourselves fully clothed and  dry out on the sand. We rarely drive or travel long distances to spend an afternoon at the beach in India. Having to sit wet and uncomfortable in a car or bus, plus getting the car seat soggy is not a real problem in our world. In a country where even today covering your head in front of an older person is considered a sign of respect, and women wearing western clothes is often made a big deal of, it is quite  odd to be cavorting on a beach in a swimsuit. It is so uncommon that it tends to draw unwanted attention and disapproving stares. This adds to the existing levels of  discomfort and further dissuades public appearances in swimwear. I am not even talking about bikinis, just a tank suit with a little frill, tights and sleeves. One can always argue that modest as it is, the sight of such a garment is bound make heads turn, but it is not that kind of attention that I’m talking about.

There is nothing though that explicitly forbids Indians from wearing anything they chose, so why is it that even in America, where all of the above doesn’t apply we are still so shy? Reason two – Indians are like pack animals. We like to move around in groups. Our groups are mostly comprised of other Indians, or will atleast have some other Indians. Coming from a country where people have reservations being undressed even in front of people of their own sex, it does make it sort of awkward to be  swimwear clad in front of friends of the opposite sex. It may not be as bad if they were your friends, but very often they happen to be your partner’s friends or partners of your friends. While a lot of this is real, some of this is also in our own heads. The people we hang around with maybe totally cool, but in our minds we imagine that just by wearing swimwear in front of them, suddenly the whole equation goes from **bhabhi-ji to WTF!! That is enough to deter us.

Problem part 3 – we judge our bodies very harshly. We are big, and as a friend put it,  bootyfull. We don’t confirm to the skinny standards of sexiness. This makes us extremely conscious.  To add to our woes, since we have always avoided any show of skin or figure we have had no incentive to get that flat tummy, or put in extra effort to rid ourselves of our thunder thighs and wrestler arms. Frankly we don’t want to reveal what we take great pains to hide under layers of baggy clothing. We have body image issues. We don’t have the confidence to say, “Hey so I don’t have a body like Katrina Kaif or Kareena Kapoor or whoever, but I don’t care. If you don’t like what you see, don’t look. Why on earth are you looking at me anyway?” Men are conscious of their moobs and flabby middle region as well. This might explain why a lot of them prefer to wear swim shirts to the pool and beach.

And yes, we don’t need to work on our tan***.

 

 

* sorry, I don’t remember the name. It is along the Jersey shoreline

** bhabhi-ji – very respectful term for sister in law

*** Infact we spend a considerable amount of resources in doing exactly the opposite, trying to bleach our year round tan into milky whiteness.

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A walk in The High Line Park

The High Line Park is a  historic  elevated freight rail line that has been re-purposed as a public park.

The High Line 1

This  mile long  aerial  park runs above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

The Highline NYC

Take a walk/jog/run, shop, eat, nap.Smell the flowers. Steal a kiss. Take in the city.

Lake Minnewaska

Lake Minnewaska

Lake Minnewaska

Last Saturday, we went to Lake Minnewaska State Park in New York. Although the park has several trails, it is recommended to first timers that they do the  2 mile long trail that takes you around the lake. This trail is more like a long leisurely walk  on a grit paved carriageway, with some scenic views. The walk is dotted with picnic spots and has several selfie worthy points.

Mountain Path

Mountain Path

If the mountain goat in you is not satisfied with walking tamely along the lake, take the mountain trail for a real walk in the woods. This trial branches off the  Minnewaska  carriageway and is not a loop. They say it is 1.2 miles to the top, but it sure felt longer.The path down is a 2.5 mile long grit paved carriageway that re-joins the Minnewaska  carriageway. It took us around 2.5-3 hours to get back to the parking lot.

Action

Mountain Man

As always, carry sufficient water and a few health bars.

The Lady is a Tramp

The Lady is a Tramp (Photos courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the Husband)

Bathing is permitted in the lake. Bathers are requested to swim only in the permitted section and when a life guard is present. Had we known this, we would have taken our swim wear along. Beware of leeches in the water though.

There are changing rooms and restrooms near the swimming area. The restrooms are dry toilets. They do not use any water. All waste is composted in pits below the building. A good green initiative, but it does make the toilets stinky.

Yunhi kat jaayega safar saath chalne se..

Yunhi kat jaayega safar saath chalne se..

Once you’ve worked up an appetite with all the walking and swimming, Mountain Brauhaus is a great place to sit down for dinner.This restaurant features traditional German food but includes  some  American dishes as well. We stopped by at 7:00 PM on a Saturday evening and the place was packed to its gills. There was a 1 hour 40 minute waiting! There is a self seating section outside with a limited menu. The bar is self seating as well, with full service. So try to grab bar stools if you can. The food was quite worth the wait. However they bungled up our bill payment. Although the place was not as full anymore by the time we finished our dinner, and despite having brought out the correct check, when the card was charged and the receipt was presented for signing, the amount charged was 10 times the billed amount. When this was pointed out they were quick to correct their mistake, but I strongly recommend checking before accepting the bill and signing the receipt.

Bushkill Falls, PA

Bushkill Falls, PA

The Falls

The Falls

On Sunday we drove down to the Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. The Bushkill falls are a series of 8 waterfalls. These falls can be easily accessed through well maintained trails. There are 4 trails, colour coded based on length and difficulty level.  We took the Red. This is the longest and is supposed to be the hardest. If you are even reasonable fit, this trail is not hard to do. Just make sure you have good shoes on your feet.

The Husband

The Husband

We saw young children, families with babies strapped on and even pets on this trail, so it is definitely doable.  There isn’t much water in the falls right now, and there are boards all along the way warning you of this. The woods however, are lovely; dark and deep, and the walk to the falls, despite the crowds, is quiet and enjoyable.

The Trail

The Trail

It is a pity they don’t allow dipping in the waters here, probably a blessing too in terms of safety and cleanliness. I am not sure about the water quality of the creeks, so it would be wise to carry your own water on the trails.

The Poser

The Poser (photos courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband)

I liked the path we took as it builds up well. We started with a view from the top of the Main falls, went on to see the Bridal Veil falls, Bridesmaids falls and Lower Gorge falls, and ended with a view from the bottom of the Main falls.  Had we done it the other way round it may not have been as exciting. We skipped the part of the trail leading to the Pennel falls.

How can you NOT fall in love!!

How can you NOT fall in love!!

They say the Red trail is for avid hikers, but it more of a long walk through woods and stairs really. Word of warning, there are plenty of steps/stairs.

Our route, follow the Red trail and the big black arrows

Our route, follow the Red trail and the big black arrows

Cycling in Liberty State Park, NJ

Liberty State Park, NJ

We thought we would go to Watkins Glen State Park, NY this weekend. Hiking and camping were on the cards. Saturday came and found us fast asleep till high noon. When we woke up, we settled on cycling in Liberty State Park instead. Now the cycle rentals there shut at 6 PM. By shut, I mean you have to return the cycles by 6 PM.  We reached the park a little before six, thinking you just had to rent out before closing hours, so we couldn’t  rent  cycles. This turned out to be not such a bad thing after all as the park does not have too many trees, so there is no shade so to speak over the cycling lanes and even at 6 PM the sun was still going strong.

The highlights of Liberty Park are – you get a great view of the NYC skyline; the Statue of Liberty cruises from here are way cheaper than the cruises from Battery Park NYC; a lovely shady family picnic area that can be reserved. As far as cruises go, you could take the Staten Island ferry from Manhattan, which is absolutely free, but the ferry does not take you as close to the statue as tourist boats do.

 

San Diego – Betting at the Horse Races

Remember how I said there is always something planned  for me in SD. This time it was the races. I have been wanting to go to the horse races for almost ever now. This experience was quite an eye opener. Firstly, the horses do not run multiple laps like I had imagined. Horses are not cars. They run 1 round of 1 mile or 3/4ths of a mile. At the club, there were as expected, ladies in their dresses and hats, and unexpectedly, there were children, some so young that they were in strollers.  Unlike casinos, there is no age limit to enter the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club was also our introduction to Uber – the fixed rate call taxi service. We called Uber to be dropped and picked up from the club. We had Groupons to enter, but when we got there, there was a promotional scheme going on, and now I think we have some kind of membership to the club. The membership card gets us free entry. It also gets us discounts on food and beer, but as we discovered not on all beers or all foods.

When I reached the counter to place a bet, the lady on the other side asked me, “To win?” A little confused about the question, I nodded yes.  When I was asked the same question while placing a bet for the next race, I asked the gentleman across, if it was possible to bet to lose. He laughed and explained that there were 3 types of bets that could be placed – win,  place – that is to come second and  show – to come third. I now understand that place means the horse you bet on must come either first or second and show means your horse must come 1st, 2nd or 3rd. I have found out that there is yet another type of bet that can be placed – exacta. This means you play two horses. They must come in first and second in exact order to collect.

Horse Racing

Each race  ends in less than a few minutes. The races are spaced about 20 mins apart. This gives you just about enough time to saunter up to the counter and collect your winnings, decide on your pick for the next race, place your bets, grab some food/drink and get back to the stalls. You need reservations for the tables in the balconies, but the stalls are open seating or standing. People had brought their beach chairs to sit in the stalls.

When we left a few hours later, we had made a net profit of $3 on our meager bets.