As an actress, model and, above all, a travel vlogger, Shenaz Treasurywala has been a tourist to several places around the world. Sri Lanka has been on the favourite list of countries the 37-year-old Mumbaikar has visited among a 100-odd ones by far. In fact, she was in the island-nation just ten days ahead of a serial bomb-blast that ravaged its capital Colombo on the morning of Easter this year on April 21. Pained by the tragedy, Shenaz wonders how one could ever forget a trip to Sri Lanka. She also exhorts people to stand by its people in the hour crisis.
Tropical Sri Lanka is an emerald country to where one can make an inexpensive tour. Its scenic locales and adventure-boosting spirit have over the years been earning the nation increasing number of travellers from outside. Sri Lanka has this year anticipated a total of 25 lakh tourists from abroad. Shenaz had posted a video of the country's charms before roaming around the country. She specifically tells her followers why the country is special as a tourist destination.
Much of the visuals were shot ten days ahead of what turned out to be the deadliest Easter in Sri Lanka's history. The scenes go on to portray Colombo's hotels and churches, where the fellow travellers are seen beaming in warm hospitality even as Shenaz munches on some of the best food items of the country. She is even seen asking how long people can segregate themselves in the name of religion and race. In a cruel irony, some of these very spots ended up getting razed down in the Easter bombings.
But then, quite a few of the places continue to exist with all their charm. For instance, the nine-arch bridge, which is a 300-feet-long structure of the colonial era and measuring 80 feet in length. Built at Demodera in the Central Highlands, this century-old bridge by the hillside lies not far from the Ella railway station in Badulla district of Uva province.
Shenaz further introduces her viewer to Pinnawala countryside that lies 90 km north-eastward on the way from Colombo to Kandy. The village has a famed elephant orphanage also known for its link with Hindu mythology. Its 25-acre premises, the belief goes, features as Lankan emperor Ravana's Ashok Vatika of the Ramayana.
Kandy has the Dalada Maligawa temple with the sacred tooth relic of mendicant-philosopher Gautama Buddha. Sri Lanka, being an island, has a fishing culture, which is distinct with its local characteristics nurtured by local ethos and distinct nature. Not surprisingly, the island also has a cuisine culture and set of taste habits with individuality.
For more on Shenaz Treasurywala, here are excerpts from an interview with her by Manorama Online's Baiju Govind:
Shenaz was born on a cruiser that her Parsi parents had taken from Mumbai to Suez in 1982. Shenaz's father Homi Treasurywala was a merchant marine engineer. The girl spent much of her time in ships till she was five years old. Her mother would show her the endless expanse of oceans and seas while they travelled in vessels and narrated tales. By when she grew up and became an actress, the culture of travel had well gotten into her blood.
Shenaz preferred not to spend her leisure time at home, instead discover a bit of the world outside its four walls. Samples of such trips can been seen on YouTube once you type her full name. Aptly, she is called a vlogger, which is the short form of video logger.
"I like to live with happiness. Journeys gladden me. I don’t worry about the expenses on that front. I would even say my mission is to travel across the world. I have been a responsible tourist," she says. "I have by far visited more than a 100 countries. I enjoy the novelties they serve for me. This is my tenth trip to Kerala. The taste of the karimeen (pearl-spot fish) hasn't yet left my tongue. I would come here a 100 more times. This place is that beautiful."
The world took notice of Shenaz through the videos she began posting as a tourist from her trips to several countries over the past decade. That has helped her earn the tag of a vlogger beyond descriptions such as actress and model till then. She has lakhs of followers on YouTube as well as Instagram. Her travel-related activities have been a pioneering activity in the world of social media.
Model, actress, vlogger
Once through with my childhood spent in ships that voyaged across the world and then my schooling in Mumbai, I studied at St Xavier’s College in the city. Soon I got a job as a programme anchor on MTV. That gave me a good professional break. Plus, regular income. I began to travel in a big way. It was great to be landing and travelling in places all alone as an adult in contrast to having been there as a toddler with your parents. I stored much of the sights in my camera.
The videos so uploaded began to fetch me remuneration. The money earned that way further prompted me to go for trips around. In some countries abroad, I was invited as a model for advertisements. My vlogs began finding increasing viewership, and around that time (2011) I began to get recurring role (as Rama Patel) in the American soap opera One Life to Live. By then, I had acted in a few movies as well. I began enjoying life in a different way — one that was deprived of the pleasure of travel.
I rediscovered the joy of travel, and this time with my DSLR camera and a tripod. I habitually prepare a list of the places I would visit at any given destination. On reaching there, my first task is to find locales where I can fix my camera at the ideal spots. Besides viewing and shooting the visuals, I would give impromptu descriptions of the sights around in my style whatsoever. Soon, operating a remote-controlled camera made my shoots easier.
As for Kerala, I have come here even as a child, with my parents. Alappuzha and Munnar were my destinations in our debut trip.
Then, as a grown-up, I revisited Kerala, this time as an MTV presenter. For the first time, I saw Chinese fishing-nets. It was also my first-time experience to bathe after smearing coconut oil on the hair. I never knew it was the practice here. The food here is so tasty that I end up gaining at least five kg after every Kerala trip. For once, I won't stick to my diet or follow body exercises.
The boiled tapioca and fish curry combo here is so delicious. The backwaters, paddy fields and coconut-palm orchards alongside the plantain estates are quite a sight. Twice I took Ayurveda messages. The wellness experience was indisputably refreshing.
Visits to 100 countries
I travel with the same attitude while visiting countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Ask me the country I like most, and I have no reply. Every country is beautiful in its individual ways; you can even find scrublands and deserts charming. Personally, I enjoy doing yoga on Mexico's beaches and stand in proximity to the ancient temples of Indonesia.
When I visited the Maldives, I swam in the sea. I did shopping in New York. And clicked photos with the people of tribal communities in Africa. Be it diving into pools or swimming with dolphins or eating full meals, it's fun. Visiting countries can enrich you with intimate knowledge of their heritage. For instance, Greece. Such an ancient civilisation. You need to travel alone to such places take in the experience fullest.
I am a foodie. Be in rice or potatoes, the speciality of a place's cuisine appeals to me. I try the dishes, searching for them after a good study. If it's in China, I begin with a tea — something that has the capability to draw you closer to its people; Chinese tea is special that way. In Canada, it's more about chatting with the people; the hosts there accord importance to talk than anything.
Narendra Modi yet to reply
I don't hail from a financially rich family. I work to earn my livelihood. For my trips, too, I need to be employed; I told you. If you are bold, any woman can travel anywhere around this world. I have never had a bad experience anywhere was a female tourist. But am not sure about the case in my own India. Here, can we as women venture out in the small hours?
When Delhi reported a case of rape by an Uber taxi driver (in March 2018), I had submitted an open letter to our prime minister, seeking security to women. It fetched me no reply, but the letter was shared by 25 lakh people on the social media.
So, how is security in Kerala? "Well, here you don't have to bother about anything… except the mosquitoes," Shenaz signs off.