Stephanie Bahramian:

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Imagine deciding to go for a stroll at the beach only to find signs when you get there saying “No Americans”.  You look into the distance, andArabian Sea sunset on the beach you find different-looking people and you can tell that they are all completely naked. What would be most offensive: the “No Americans”, or the fact that that foreigners are running around one of the best beaches in your area completely naked?

Kerala is not the only state where I have witnessed special treatment to the non-natives over the natives. In popular tourist places for Westerners Indians are either not welcome or blatantly refused entry. In Kochi, another popular destination, signs for bike rentals explicitly state that Indians cannot rent. In shops, I have had merchants tell me that they trust dealing with non-natives but not Indians, so I could take something home and pay later, but oh, no! not an Indian!

In defense of these practices, this is not my country and I do not have enough knowledge of what transpires when natives are allowed these same benefits. I have been to beaches where those in bikinis are stared at, and even harassed. I personally wouldn’t bother. If I want to parade around in a bikini, I would not chose to go to India, but as one traveler said, we want everything. We want the sun, the beaches, the cheap food and merchandise, but we do not want to respect the customs of the locale.

In Kovalam, I was pleased to see many Indian holidaymakers. Of course, there were plenty of locals who did come to ogle, and they were regularly shooed off, but there were also many families who came to stay and frolic in the sea, fully clothed and seeming to be having even more fun than most of us foreigners in the waves! These families were likely from the big cities coming to a get away to cleaner air, the sea and relaxation, but most would also bring packed lunches because only the foreigners could afford the restaurants.

If I did not want to see and be around Indians, I would not keep coming to India.  I hope to see more mixed beaches like Kovalam, because there is nothing prettier than seeing a woman walking along the beach with her colorful sari blowing in the wind.