A Taste Of The Real India

I live in an urban area of Goa, a tourist paradise of India, that has all the stuff that makes life easy. Which means that weekends we end up on a beach or pay a visit to the mall and throw in a movie. Or we occasionally check into one of the beach or nature resorts in the state and spend a night or two doing stuff people all over the world come to Goa to do.

I decided to spend this weekend a little differently. I wanted to give my boys a taste of the real India. When traveling within India we have always flown if its far or driven if its close enough. As a family we have never traveled by bus or by train, which is the way most Indians do short and long distance travel. So today I decided to take my wife and kids on a short train ride (a first for the boys) to the neighboring state of Maharashtra and do stuff that regular Indians do just to give them a sense if what life is beyond our urban walls.

We woke up this morning and drove to Tivim, the closest railway station, parked the car at the station, booked second class train tickets to Sawantwadi, the first railway station in Maharashtra with no idea what exactly we were going to do there and started the journey. The boys enjoyed the train ride and were absolutely fascinated by the bridges and tunnels that our train came across.

Sawantwadi is actually a pretty decent Indian rural environment. I hope to take my kids to the real rural India. But I guess I think I’ll do that one step at a time.

At the Sawantwadi railway station we realized that cabs were non existent and the only way to get around was rickshaws. I looked at my wife, then at my 8 year old Reuben and finally my 4 year old Russell and quickly figured that a rickety rickshaw on a typical India village road wasn’t going to be a good option. So I settled for this.

This is a Tata Ace, allegedly “India’s first and only mini-truck”. Resourceful Indians have been able to convert it into a passenger carrier. Since we Indians like to make full use of our vehicles I wasn’t surprised to find a couple of stools thrown in for a extra people to sit on.

I asked our cabbie to take us to some place of interest in Sawantwadi. He looked at me bewildered and started laughing. I told him that I was serious and that we had come from Goa to check out Sawantwadi. I asked him what a tourist would do in Sawantwadi. He began scratching his head and then mumbled something about visiting temples, which I brushed aside. I had come here to have fun. He then told me that there was a beach at Shiroda, about 25 kilometers away, but since we had come from Goa, the land of absolutely exquisite beaches, it wouldn’t make much sense for us to go there. The train back to Tivim was at 4 pm. We had to kill time and also find a place to have lunch. So I told him to take us to the beach at Shiroda.

The ride in the Tata Ace to Shiroda beach was …well, how do I put this… interesting. The kids actually enjoyed every bit of it. It was like a roller coaster ride with a complimentary deep tissue body massage.

This being a Sunday, there were a lot of people at the Shiroda beach. But much to our amazement we couldn’t find a place to eat. Everyone had come with their own food and some where even cooking on the beach. Any beach in Goa is littered with shacks selling food in a multiple cuisines with live bands, performers, etc.

I asked around and someone told me that there was a resort somewhere. I thought to myself, “Really, not a single restaurant here, but someone decided to open a resort?” I proceeded to look for it and eventually found it. This board reads “Silver Sands Beach Resort“.

And it turned out to be this.

A resort has a restaurant and thankfully this one also did. The food was authentic Maharashtrian food and it was amazing. I had something called a “fish meal”.

It cost me 50 Rupees ($1) which I learned is pretty expensive for this part of world.

The beach itself was beautiful, just like the beaches of Goa, but completely devoid of all the commercialization.

As I stood on the Shiroda beach I began to faintly recollect the beaches of Goa as I remembered them as a child. There were just like this one back then. Virgin, peaceful and beautiful. But now all I see is beach shacks each blaring their own loud music, jet skis, etc. Basically, a whole bunch of people making a whole bunch of noise.

The only form of entertainment that you had to pay for on the Shiroda beach was this.

After lunch the boys played on the beach for a while and we finally decided to head back to the Sawantwadi railway station. The train back to Tivim was running Indian Standard Time, which meant that it was an hour and a half late. The good part of that was I had enough time to walk my boys around the Sawantwadi railway station and show them a number of thing that they shouldn’t do. Stuff like making your way to the next platform by walking across the tracks instead of using the over bridge.

As we drove home, I asked my boys if they enjoyed the day. They said they did. Which is a good thing because I have some other plans in mind. Such as stopping by a random house in an Indian village and paying them to let us spend the night with them, eat the food they eat and do the things they do. But I guess for that the boys will need to grow up a little. Not sure if my wife will want to be part of that plan though. 😉