Watching a belly dancer wouldn’t ordinarily be on Kumar Meenakshi’s radar. She is a busy housewife who spends most of her time in the kitchen.
But when the 52-year-old decided to take a break and go to Dubai minus husband, a belly dancer wasn’t the only item on the itinerary. Meenakshi went sledging, took a desert safari, and shopped for gold. “I have never seen a belly dancer before and would never have with my husband,” she says. The last time her businessman husband took Meenakshi on a ‘holiday’, it was to a technical exhibition in Germany.
Meenakshi is now among those Indian women who believe in “women only” holidays. In other words, husbands at home and wives on vacation. It is a route to rediscover themselves. Ask Delhi’s Aparna Pal and she will tell you that it was like being a teenager all over again: “No kids and husband to take care of”.
On the agenda are all night dancing, Turkish hamam, scuba diving and para-sailing. Some even participated in fashion shows or wore clothes which they never would back home.
Anu Madan, who works with Deutsche Bank, discovered this when she was desperate for a holiday but had no-one to go with. “It is a fantastic option because you do things you never would with men or family around,” says Madan, who has travelled to Greece, Turkey and South Africa with women. Among those who plan such tours include WOW (Women on Wanderlust) in Delhi and My Fair Lady in Mumbai, which started less than two years ago. If tour Director Sunila Patil has taken over 1,000 women overseas, travel agents agree that the trend will soon change the way women look at holidays. The mantra seems to be: freedom from men.
Take Radha’s case, a quality control manager at Raymond’s in Mumbai, had she waited for her husband to take her on a holiday, life would probably have passed her by. Because her husband prefers to stay at home and watch television, Radha took off on her first trip abroad and paid for it herself. “If my family had been with me, they would have imposed restrictions: don’t do this, don’t wear that,” says Radha. Bharati Deshmukh, a grandmother who runs a lifestyle management centre in Mumbai dumped the men in the family and chose to travel with women relatives.
Last year, seven of them went to Mauritius, walked the ramp in a skirt and brought back pictures that the family found difficult to digest.
Of course, women-only groups do not necessarily work for everyone. Pune-based Namrata Bhosale, 23, was a little lost on her trip. “There was no one my age and the older women only gossiped. For me mixed trips work better,” she says. But Vibha Bokey perhaps sums up the experience the best. The 45-year-old interior designer from Pune, who went to Mauritius, says family holidays meant taking care of everyone and looking after their needs. “This is the first time someone was asking me what I wanted to do,” she says.