Wowing all women

Wowing all women

Hobby Club

Wowing all women

OPEN SKIES: In South Africa

Chasing the horizon, being footloose and fancy free is an addiction. The only kind of addiction that clears one’s mind. Sumitra Senapaty had such a moment of clarity. Speaking about it, she says, “In the summer of 2003, I was doing a solo driving trip in New Zealand. I was relaxing in a cafe and happened to speak to some British women who were from a London travel club.” 

This conversation got Senapaty thinking about the need for such a club in India. Without pausing to dwell on failure too much, she planned an all-women’s trip to Ladhak. This was the first trip Women on Wanderlust made. WOW, as they are called, became the first all-women’s travel club in India. The club boasts of more than 3,000 members as on date.

Nilima Srivatsava, a traveller who has been part of WOW ever since the first Ladhak trip, speaks nostalgically about it. She recounts, “I was back from the US and a Delhi newspaper had carried an article about the trip. I signed on. The Sherpa brought ‘chai’ to the five women who had signed on for the trip. We were sitting around and began talking about things like we’d known each other forever. Sumi and I have remained good friends. Neither of us imagined it would become this big”.

Talking about why there is need for an all-women’s travel club, Senapaty said “Even on vacation, a woman still plays the role of the caretaker. And besides, women are different when there is a member of the opposite sex around. They can be themselves around other women.”

When men hear about an Eve’s travelling group, they smirk. Unending comments such as “Estrogen overdrive!” or “Maccha, who will change the tyres, da?” will echo through the room.

Sumitra SenapatyCasting aside this age-old stereotype, Srivatsava says, “Women are naturally fun loving. Sure, men are fun but women have this amazing bonding.” She adds, “Nobody needs to play caretaker but all of a sudden without saying a word everybody is taken care of.”

The members state that the connections formed on these trips are incredibly strong. Many of them keep in touch much after the trip. To nourish this very sense of sorority, the club has launched a new book club as well.

The club travels across the length of the country and all round the world; from South Africa to Greece to Bhutan to Ladhak. These trips are remembered with fondness.

“I’ve made friends for life. Each time we return from a trip, I tell Sumi, that this was the best group of people so far”, says Srivatsava. For some trips with WOW is about companionship for others, it’s the opportunity to try something new.

“I needed a change. Something that’s away from daily routine, husband and children. I’d never been trekking. Seeing the Kanchanjunga from the first time was something else. Initially going to the toilet was difficult. Later we got used to it. Then it became a standing joke,” says Mridula Nagesh.

Talking about why these trips are such a hit, Srivatsava says, “It’s not all about sight seeing. It’s also about relaxation. She makes sure that each trip has something unique.

While we were in Hernannus, South Africa, we stayed at a place that was also right on the ocean; the whales almost came up to our window.”

Nilima Srivatsava Senapaty was of the view that, “Working women are very busy and they can’t run around from pillar to post. They need a single window” and WOW makes this window available, it seems. Other than for the visas, WOW organises the whole trip including tickets, stay, food and everything else you can think of.

A chat with the women who travel with WOW reveals that to them the club makes for a fun get away, an opportunity to leave their comfort zone and head out for some adventure. And boy, do they get themselves into interesting predicaments!

From being chased by a herd of elephants to being stranded in the rain and bunking with the army, they’ve been there done that it seems.

The Club has met up in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai so far, about twice a year in each place. The Club plans to take these meetings to Chennai and Hydrabad, next.

As St Augustine says, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” and you feel like flipping a couple of pages, you can join the club by contacting Sumitra Senapaty on 09891655054.

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