Blame none but stupidity for the killer selfie trend. Are we ready to discipline ourselves?
There they were, the couple framed against a sunrise on the beach boulders off Fort Aguada in one moment and swallowed up by a raging wave that crashed on the precipitous rock in the next. The tourists were too busy taking their selfie with their back to the sea, more engrossed in composing a frame than being mindful about the strong undertow that breakers often hide. One that can tug at anything and anybody on the beach and sweep them away into oblivion. Responsible tourism, as a concept, is only partially interpreted or selectively applied to operators in the business and the infrastructure they provide, apportioning to them a larger share of the safety and security of tourists, howsoever unruly they might be. Yes, the business is dependent on a service counter module that paying tourists have a right to demand answers of but the bigger question is, therefore, are we keen to be the responsible tourist in the first place? Or behave like one? Do we want to obey guidelines or forget them like we do fundamental duties in our clamour for fundamental rights? For Goa, which is the spine of our tourism economy, a selfie death, beach drowning and missing people at rave parties damage its sanctuary appeal in one blow and reduce it to some kind of forbidden zone that’s intended to seduce the worst aberration among us. Everybody forgets that nobody can police extreme and dare acts, cliff and beach deaths due to individual abandon a common bane along coastlines across the world. Expectedly, the authorities, embarrassed by the viral images of the death spot, that too in front of the prized Fort Aguada, red-flagged popular beaches, reinforced vigil, put up more dos and don’ts and increased life guards, of course within permissible friendly hours. But as many beach deaths in Goa and even the secluded stretches off Mumbai like Madh Island and Aksa have shown, it is the victim who chooses to wade out wild, often out of a misplaced sense of adventure, choosing odd hours to avoid being seen and heard. In fact, things have reached such alarming proportions that maybe authorities might consider spot-training of beach crawlers about rip currents or shorebreaks, both of which can scoop us out unknowingly.
Apart from being unruly tourists, Indians are also not always fit or skilled enough to attempt dare acts, whitewater rafting being a case in point. Hardly a year goes by without youngsters being lost to the rivers that they have attempted to tame without guidance, swimming drills or understanding. Most tourists think that they need to display some bravado on a holiday or that proceeding with wisdom is being ninny about engaging with your free spirit. Which is why Uttarakhand, the hub of whitewater rafting, now faces the brunt of severe strictures. The High Court has banned all water sports activities, including rafting and paragliding for two weeks till a law is codified by the State Government on regulating adventure sports. Observing that “sports and pleasure cannot be permitted to end in disaster,” the court highlighted the need to have a uniform licence for operators that will be issued after vetting skill sets and expertise of guides, safety mechanisms, equipment tests and assessment and preparedness of rescue tools. Of late, unregistered operators have leased land along the river banks to run camping and rafting sites, causing pollution and unvalidated river runs. Unsuspecting rafters are not even equipped with the knowledge of the river’s flow patterns. The season’s ban is undoubtedly a huge blow to the state’s adventure tourism economy; rafting in Uttarakhand is valued annually at Rs 75-80 crore and engages about 8,000 locals. However, even if a system does come up, are we willing to discipline ourselves for a healthy engagement with nature rather than challenging it with our stupidity?