Beaches and bikinis


If you, like me, grew up in India, the only beaches you’d been to (unless you’d been to Goa or gone abroad, of course) would have been where you stood, holding your parents’ hands and letting the waves wash your feet. Your mother would have pulled her sari up to only reveal her ankles, and your dad may have rolled up his pants, unless he’d been the adventurous kind to jump into the sea and have fun.

Until very recently, I had no idea how beaches in other parts of the world could be. Where the water is true blue and breathtakingly beautiful that you could see the sea bed through, where people wear their bikinis and swim.

2 days back, I left for Bintan, an island in Indonesia just an hour away from Singapore. A beach freak, I was excited beyond words! And I wasn’t disappointed – the beach is the MOST BEAUTIFUL I have ever since in my 22 years! It is the kind that you watch in movies and go WOW – do such beaches really exist?

A day after spending a good few hours to going deeper into the water than you can ever imagine a non-swimmer-but-still-a-beach-freak like-me would go, I was quite stumped for a number of reasons.

I sat by the pool sipping a cool drink, watching women well over 50 splashing about in the water in their bikinis. Trust me, they weren’t the fittest babes around – but nothing stopped them from having their fun. And that really, really baffled me – why are we Indians so different? While in India, I used to think it was only the westerners who roamed around in bikinis or wore the skimpiest of clothes – you get the drift. I received quite a shock when I visited the beach here for the first time, slightly even turning red at the sight of young women in their bikinis. Even Asians do this? What surprised me even more was when a Thai friend showed me a picture from the early 80s of her family where her mother was dressed in a swimsuit too. They were just a normal family, and they’d have been like mine, had they been in India. And yet, a world of difference!

Why are we so different? Heck, I don’t even know swimming because by the time I realized I could learn, I was already grown up and the prospect of going into a pool in a swimming costume was frowned upon! Our idea of fun in a beach is so ridiculous – I know it is a LOT of fun and I still swear by it – but how come it is that we don’t know so many things? Like the sheer enjoyment of a piece of clothing that is not cumbersome and gives you the pure joy of going a few more feet deeper into the water than that you can afford to in your saree/salwar kameez/jeans?

It’s just a wholly different world, and it’s one that my colleagues can’t even imagine as I try hard to express them. “You don’t swim in your beaches?” they ask. It’s another thing our beaches are quite dirty and nobody in their right mind would want to swim beyond a point, but the very fact that we women couldn’t do so even if we wanted to is plainly horrible.

I know I should be thankful that I get to experience a lot of things, but I can’t help thinking many a time of the many of us who don’t get to do so. How much are we missing! Will it change? Soon?


tony said...

If you are surprised at seeing bikinis in beaches, then you should come to Europe where topless sunbathing is not uncommon!!! And most people don't bat an eye at this, it being so socially and culturally accepted.

I think Asians consider the body as something to be kept hidden and not displayed, hence the pudeur. They probably have a sense of "shame" that Europeans don't seem to bother about.

When I visited Mahabalipuram with my Swiss girl-friend several years ago, there was always a crowd of gapers surrounding and staring at her bikini-clad body. Hmmm...

Bhargavi sekhar said...

We need to grow up, really.

Suchitra said...

Quite simply, if one wears a swimsuit in a European or even a Goan beach, it won't be looked upon as 'different'. In a country where one gets ogled at if they wear a T shirt, the intrusive looks would be enough to turn anyone off from attempting to just be themselves. Sad, but there you are. Besides, Ramadoss and co would have a field day :P

rsubras said...

beaches are beaches...beautiful placess....anga poitu varumbothu comparison lam thevaiya.... azhagai anubavikkanum aaraya koodathu :)

! ky said...

i guess wearing a bikini in beach is not in our culture... thats y v not following it.
u r right now much impressed with western culture may be thats y u r thinking like this...

Suree said...

Culture varies from place to place, indian culture and tradition are so great and so different from others.

Western culture influence on indian culture didnt yet crossed its limits .. so is your feeling which are a bit grown up and sophisticated

tony said...


So is killing Christians in Orissa and treating dalits and harijans like dirt part of the "great" Indian culture and tradition?

Wetfingers said...

The marina seems just fine...tom we shall head NE in that clean,crisp water. Maybe boating in Cooum after you seeing buckhingham canal.

moved over to

Vani Viswanathan said...

It's probably just the Indian subcontinent - the rest of Asia seems to be fine!
And a Mahab trip with a bikini-glad girlfriend? Ooppps!!

Sigh, doesn't seem to be happening, eh?

Hahaha.. that's true! We wouldn't want to piss him off!

You look at everything like that, we'll never change. Things have to move beyond their superficiality.

Uhm, sorry, I can't call this oppression 'Indian culture'. I think there's so much more to our culture and we're simply degrading it by naming anything as 'culture'!

Apologizing when you step on a book - alright, Indian culture, makes sense. Most of the rest don't, to me! It's just a lot of trash we've added in just to please ourselves!

I can't really follow what you're saying :) but, hey, long time!

You know who this is said...

Bintan.. is it ? nice..

If you say Bintan is WOW, you should really be to some of those truly undiscovered beaches lying along the kerala coast..

iamyuva said...

well.. thatz how first women in india wearing jeans would have felt in 60s/70s.
if ask your mom she might be surprised to see so many gals wear jeans today.!!

increasingly world is become flat..and so difference are getting slimmer. means- you have few friends and relatives to care/worry about thus you achieve greater freedom say your parents had because their social structure is to not to piss somebody off even thou they don't really care about them.
for wear bikinis-- you don't need to be fit. you just need be self and shouldn't be worried about what others will think.

if you thing you are missing something.. then
probably no one in that beach knows you personally to judge you and if you alone(/probably people/person you are with how can understand dont judge you for your habits)..then what is stopping you from bikini swimming at the beach.!?

our habits/lifestyle choices are informed by our social conditioning. all have its own pros & cons.

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brocasarea said...

indians are too narrow minded...they always worry abt others think[includes me also to some extent]....

nice thought of u to bring this topic here....:)

Karthikeyan.M.S said...

indian culture is narrow-minded .. i can't even walk with my girl friend wearing jeans on the road, we get so reproachful stares .. it's really irritating .. when'll these people ever learn to mind their own business .. sheesh