Now Reading
An Aunty in Goa: The Uncommon Privilege of an Indian Woman Traversing the Lonely Planet

An Aunty in Goa: The Uncommon Privilege of an Indian Woman Traversing the Lonely Planet

Goa has river dolphins that one can see from boat tours that depart from Miramar beach. The tickets for the tour are sold by a couple of guys sitting under a large umbrella, on plastic chairs, with a small stool, right on the beach, about ten meters away from where the boat takes off. 

When I arrived, around 11 am, the large boat was just sitting in the water, right at the edge where it meets the beach, without any pier or dock. The boat was not fancy but more like a large well-used water bus, twice as wide as a land bus. There were about four steps to climb into the boat, hanging from it, reaching just above the sand. 

The boat was large enough to accommodate about a hundred and thirty passengers and was mostly full. It was covered on the top but open on all sides, with a meter high balcony around the seats that all faced one way. The boat was full of tourists from other parts of India, mostly families, some with young children and some with teen-agers, a few couples and a group or two of young men out for adventure. 

As one of the last passengers to board, I sat in the corner seat on the last row. I saw a crew member pull up the steps and fold them into the deck of the boat as the captain on the other end started the engine to pull the boat away from the beach, and played loud Hindi film music to get the party started.

Not far from where I was, a man stood away from other passengers, with a basket full of cucumbers and raw mangoes. Soon a few people wandered over to buy a snack from him. The way he deftly peeled and sliced up the fruits with a long rusty blade was an experience to behold. He served it wrapped in a sheer plastic bag, sprinkled with a spice mix. 

Everyone seemed excited and most were busy taking photos of each other with their mobile phone cameras, as the teens posed or the young parents picked up their kids to hold them high enough to be in the selfies.   

In less than ten minutes, someone spotted a few dolphins as they surfaced periodically from the water and disappeared just as fast. The excitement on the boat shifted to another as everyone left their seats and crowded towards the side of the boat from where the dolphins were visible. 

The crowding and the fast moving dolphins made me decide to not bother with trying to capture them on camera, as everyone else was doing. I was having a good time, watching the dolphins as well as all the commotion around me. 

It is not usual for this Californian to be with a boatload of Indian tourists. There was a young couple, probably on their honeymoon, striking the Titanic pose, and the group of young men had started to dance to the popular Hindi song, to shoot for sharing with those who were not on the boat, as to how much of a good time they were having. The dolphins had already disappeared. The fruit seller continued to peddle his business amidst the merriment. The vibe was of a sunny holiday on a mini cruise. 

As I was enjoying people-watching, there was a young lady who kept looking at me, frequently. She was the only one dressed in shorts paired with a bright fuchsia top with spaghetti straps. Everyone else was dressed far more conservatively, including the lady in a saree that this young woman also talked with. 

The young lady periodically spoke to an elderly gentleman, who was dressed very traditionally, in a crisp white dhoti with a white shirt and layers of warmth on top of it. He sat upright with a strict demeanor, displaying none of the excitement of the rest of the passengers. 

After looking at me a few times, she came over and sat on the bench beside me. For some time, we both stared at the beautiful scenery, sitting side by side. I smiled when I caught her looking at me again. This is when she blurted out what was on her mind: “Aunty, are you traveling alone?” 

It had not occurred to me how odd it must have seemed to her and everyone else on the boat that I was alone. They all had travel companions, family or friends with them.The only other person traveling solo was the snack-man, but he was doing his job. 

I must have cut a strange figure as a lone grey-haired woman tourist on this boat. I nodded and replied to her: “Yes, I am used to it.” I am so accustomed to going solo, be it on my travels or to the movies or to eat out that I had not been confronted by the oddness of it until she asked me the question. 

See Also

She felt the same concern and pity for me that I feel on the rare occasions that I see a senior in California shopping alone on their mobility scooter or crossing the parking lot in a walker, all by themselves. India, with joint families still common, will typically send companions when the elders leave home. 

My response further fueled her curiosity. Soon, the usual questions followed, as we both continued the dialog. As it turned out we both were teachers, me from the U.S. while she taught high-schoolers in Hyderabad. She was originally from Calcutta, and had brought her parents for a holiday in Goa. Her father was a cancer patient, and the family had seen struggles as his treatment caused worse side effects than his disease. The concerned daughter had started alternative treatments and brought them on this holiday as everyone needed a break. 

This caring daughter had been so curious about me traveling alone because it literally blew her mind that this was possible. She lived in a culture where folks with grey-hair had to be taken care of, especially when traveling. From her perspective, my not having any travel companion was pity-worthy. I appeared to be wealthy enough to at least hire a companion to help me, rather than go solo. 

As the boat turned to return to the shore, mostly to reassure her further that going solo is a viable and fun thing, I told her about my lunch plans for a special Konkani Thali meal at a very popular restaurant, where I had a reservation just after the boat ride. I invited her, with her parents, to join me to enjoy the local cuisine. They were committed to staying with the organized tour they had come with, so we bid farewell and went our separate ways after we got off the boat. 

This encounter was a reminder of the total freedom I enjoy to travel, and the privilege that it is. It was then that I made up my mind to write about my adventures, since it made me feel a pioneer woman, which I suppose I am, as an early immigrant to Silicon Valley from the ancient land of India. 

Dr. Jyoti Bachani is a Full Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is the co-founder of the U.S. and India chapters of the International Humanistic Management Association, and a well-published scholar. She is the founder of the group Poetry of Diaspora of Silicon Valley. She translates Hindi poems and has published three poetry anthologies. Amongst the many awards she has earned for her teaching and research, are the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship and Outstanding Lasallian Educator. She earned her degrees from London Business School, Stanford University, and Delhi University. 

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2020 American Kahani LLC. All rights reserved.

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
Scroll To Top