Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tere mere beach mein

It seemed like a surefire way to catapult this beach into the ranks of Bali and Waikiki: a 10% discount for anyone in a bikini.

The scheme was cooked up in 2003 when South Korean officials were looking for a way to attract tourists to a stretch of sand on the western coast of the country. So they renamed it Byeonsan "Bikini" Beach.

Alas! A name change + discount offer was not enough to change attitudes. Barely 10% of beachgoers are estimated to have opted for bikinis - and even that number was probably on the inflated side.

So why don't Korean women patronise bikinis? Broadly I would think the same set of reasons that Indian women don't -
a) They feel self-conscious esp. if their bodies are less than perfect
b) They have no interest in getting tanned - fair skin, after all rules in Asia.
c) Add to that possibly the lech factor - don't know about Korea but in India even wearing a one piece swimsuit attracts gawkers. Goa mein bhi!

Itsy bitsy teeny weenie - no thanks

I think it's all about 'safety in numbers'. The standard 'beachwear' for women in India is a hiked up nylon sari or salwar kameez. The more Westernised junta will roll up their jeans or perhaps wade into the water in shorts.

So the tiny minority which does don Speedo automatically attracts eyeballs.

Now as far as feeling awkward in a swimsuit goes - that is a very real problem. But again, it's more about cultural context and not just a body image issue.

Even perfectly endowed Indian women would feel uncomfortable wearing a bikni in public. In our culture it's akin to being 'nanga'.

Are all bikini wearers in phoren countries perfect 10s? Looking at the
the Baywatch beach you might think so but hey - those washboard abs are on hire.

On real beaches in Florida or even Goa you will see plenty of old, freckled and less-than-shapely ladies soaking in the sun in their one or two piece swimmies.

They don't care what anyone thinks! Sun and sand is meant to be enjoyed in this clothing - so why be inhibited and spoil one's fun?

Which is exactly the attitude of Indian men at the beach. Paunchy, extra-hairy, stick-thin - the Indian guy has no qualms about stripping down to his Rupa underwear.

Yes, sadly you see plenty of those on public beaches - along with guys in proper swimming trunks. Doesn't make for a pretty sight but hey - one must admit this is an area where the bhaarat putras are not lacking in confidence!

They don't even bother to suck in their stomachs while sauntering by...

Hope floats
There is however an interesting new development - Indian women are finally embracing a uniquely desi version of the swimmming costume: Nylon tights with oversize nylon tees.

Visit Esselworld's Water Kingdom - where 'swimming costume' is compulsory to enter the water - and you'll see women short, fat, young and old all togged out in this somewhat strange but socially acceptable adaptation of the swimsuit.

The tights come in ankle and knee length versions; the most popular colour is navy blue.

The suits are available on hire but I'm wondering why doesn't some smart company market the concept? Nike or Adidas could actually sell such costumes - and make a success of it.

This in turn might encourage more Indian women to actually take up swimming instead of the standard sight you see at all but the most upscale holiday resorts: women watching their husbands and kids splashing around in the pool from a safe distance.

Even that would be a big enough revolution... Bikinis? Now that will take another hundred years! Unless some secret ingredient is added to our morning milk which mutates the ogle-ogle gene in mankind.

Ashton Kutcher being voted American President sounds rather more plausible...


  1. :-)
    Even here ( in the US ) I swim in a one piece with cycling shorts
    :-S. Even though no (american)cares, the indian guys here still seem to do!

  2. Hi Rashmi Iam a great fan of ur blog and a regular visitor. The topics u choose to write r amazing and interesting.

    @ TheDQ

    The mentality of Indian boys staring at you when u wear a bikini is bcaz, they aren't used to such an exposure as compared to their western counterparts who actually stare agaped when they hear a person is still a virgin at 22 years.

  3. The west never got to where it is now in a jiffy. There was a time, if you need reminding, when nothing short of ankle length skirts were permitted at Wimbledon. The reason there has been relatively less clamour in the west about women's clothing becoming skimpier is that the process has taken place over the course of decades. For over a century now, women have been wearing successively fewer clothes - the current "norm" being the lower than low neck.

    Contrast that to Bharath where in less than 15 years, western wear has become ubiquitous (atleast in the Metros).

    A decade ago, a jean-wearing lass would have been "ogled" at (your term, not mine). Today the jean is so commonplace that it takes more than a jean (or rather, less than a jean) to attract attention.

    The human mind has a problem accepting changes even if the change were positive. The pace at which our society is transforming right now is certain to cause pressures and tensions that only the next generation will be rid of.

  4. Chanced upon your blog today, makes great reading. You write very well. I am blog-rolling you.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Yeh hain India ma'm ! The gene you talk about is definitely impervious to any change :p The flock of those who stare and gape and half-clad females will flourish for longevity.

  7. You are an amazing writer....
    It shows that you are a journalist!
    Great variety...Keep blogging !

  8. Excellent Read Rashmi.. Really good. Makes my day reading your stuff.

  9. hmm..Should Indian women wear bikini just because Americans wear them ?

    Cool stuff ...especially the rupa underwear part :-)

  10. while i laughed at the ridiculous, I think men even western men will ogle at Indian women wearing bikinis as we r more "endowed" than the average western female. And everywhere I meet men from different parts of the world, they truly believe that Indian women are the most beautiful! So, maybe, just maybe, we should perpetrate the myth further! not expose everything!

  11. Way to go girl...

  12. I was hoping to see some cool hate comments about you making fun of Indian guys or maybe telling good Indian garals to wear bikinis.

    Was most disappointed :P

    Love your blog.

  13. Hey! new user btw. Really? no one in esselworld water kingdom wears even one-piece swimming costumes??? what about oysters appu ghar in delhi??? i thought mumbai was a real modern city.
    i mean the films from bollywood...

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