It was a warm, somnolent day on Baga beach, Goa, when my dog decided to transform from Lassie to Cujo. The lazy December sun looked down gently on the sands buzzing with winter vacationers.
Interspersed among the usual crowds of foreigners were dark-skinned locals, offering oil massages, chatting up flaxen-haired young things, and selling all kinds of trinkets (best described as ‘beach junk’) in at least five different languages.
My husband and I were sitting on the sands with Simba, our mixed-breed mutt who had a dachshund and a German shepherd in the DNA mash-up (no idea how they managed that). We fondly referred to him as ‘the long and the short of it.’ He didn’t mind. Simba had better things to occupy himself with than such ethnic slurs.
We were enjoying the sun, the waves and the sand. The faint strains of reggae wafted over from Britto’s beach shack, a few meters away. Meanwhile, Simba ran into the waves, wet himself thoroughly and then ran back to roll in the sand. He was covered with the stuff from tip of nose to tip of tail, until we couldn’t tell where sand ended and dog began.
Always a sweet, happy mutt, he was especially excited on this visit to the beach. The crowds of foreigners and Indians milling around had got him a little worked up.
In those days, Baga was well-known for the topless foreign women who chose to make it their personal tanning booth. Pretty young (and also not-so-young) things that would probably not have dared or cared to bare back home, readily shed their bikini tops and lay down to tan themselves on Baga’s benevolent sands.
Back then, no one objected to such behaviour, and a lot of Indians appreciated it thoroughly. The cops ignored the impotent ‘No Nudity Allowed’ signs in favour of watching the topless girls, jostling for a better view with other Indian males.
Indian women like me were, depending on the width and depth of our personal perspectives, either mortified or indifferent to these goings-on.
A generously padded, curly-haired redhead – possibly an Irish woman seduced away from all dietary strictures by Goa’s wine and vindaloo ethos – walked across the beach in front of us.
She too was topless and it was hard not to notice that, as she scurried across the sand. For some reason, my otherwise sweet, docile Simba decided to take offence. He chased after her, nipping at her ankles.
The lady (let’s call her Sadie) squealed at the sight of a furry, brown dog apparently determined to take a chunk out of her leg, and scurried even faster. I watched her work up the sand trying to avoid my mutt, and I wasn’t sure whether to be mortified or mirthful. A little bit of both, I decided.
I chased after Simba and leashed him. I had no idea what set him off – her size, state of undress or some other impulse known only to Dachshund-Alsatian crossovers. Either way, he had no way to communicate to me why a topless, white foreigner would merit such a reaction from him.
Sadie rode off into the sunset at a fairly decent clip, never to be seen or heard from again, while my husband and I returned to our spot on the sands laughing and wondering at Simba’s unaccustomed behaviour.
Perhaps he was overcompensating for the lack of policing from the cops gawking at women on a beach where toplessness was clearly not allowed.
For the rest of our vacation, we kept our canine fashion critic on the leash as long as there were foreign women around. It was a needless precaution, though – whatever had set Simba off, Sadie had taken with her.
Note: As this is a family website, we are unable to provide images of topless redheads. Not that we have any…
Also read: A Road Trip With Dogs To Murud Beach, Dapoli