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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

13 December, 2004

My Travelogue ( for Writer Headed for Goa )

Last year's trip. Last year's travelogue. The Haiku made me post.

Blurred memories of romantically dark beach shacks at Bogmalo and feni hangovers, harsh, sand-scrubbed bodies and Michael’s band were hardly reasons to go back to Goa after 20 years. Over time, I had also built up this vision of masses of sun-seeking tourists defiling the coastal town with plastic and commerce and nothing seemed to shake my cynicism. But the boys insisted, and so last week I found myself flight-hopping to Goa via Mumbai, prepared to stay in my room or by the hotel pool with a good book, maybe watch a sunset.

But Goa, irresistible Goa, seductive insistent Goa, disarming Goa would have none of that. Completely unprepared for the way Nature still reigned lazily supreme, I was bowled over. Even the multitudes of hoardings enroute to Panjim (“What you can do today, leave until tomorrow. Just Chill in Goa”) couldn’t steal the show from the Sky and Sea event. There is no horizon where I live and here the blue met the silver everywhere, beyond the vast expanse of unruly green and brown growth and coconut palms. And wherever the trees grew thick, I just had to peep between them to catch another glimpse.

I can’t say what time of the day entranced me more. Quiet dawns with magical sunrises – the night-revelers are all asleep – a cool healing breeze and the ocean reaching out promisingly towards exotic eastern destinations. Lazy afternoons walking down pathways past charming houses, shabby and genteel with grandmothers lounging in shady verandahs and tourists, the ubiquitous paying-guests hanging out by the gate. There’s either a tulsi plant or a crucifix in the front yard of every home – we play a game looking for these. Then there’s the strumming of a guitar or the happy lilt of a mouth organ you hear wafting from many a house, as the day gets older.

The day gets more boisterous and tourists drive past us everywhere on the motorbike and scooter taxis. I wonder who these people are in real life. Here we are all beach bums. Of all ages, sizes, colours and nationalities. Clad in bright sarongs, shorts, tee-shirts; tanned, friendly, not worrying about what that monster tattoo is going to look like back home during executive meetings; ready to eat the squid and mussel and prawn in whichever mysterious seasoning is suggested – Portuguese or Konkani; ready to kick football with the sun-blackened youth (all in Vodafone, Arsenal and Manchester United tee-shirts available in that amazing local market at Mapusa) on the sensuous wet sand, drinking various versions of cocktails through the day, chatting with the women feeding us coconut and pineapple – all dressed in bright men’s shirts like a tribal uniform over their local garb; marveling at the gypsies from Karnataka in all their finery in an attempt to sell us ethnic garments and bandanas and caps, all of which we buy pretending we are going to live in Goa forever.

And then as the sun is well over the horizon we ride the breakers, timid at first, reckless eventually… staying in the water doing nothing for hours except feeling that undulating rush flow over us. It doesn’t even matter that the sea is muddy - we ooh and aah over each shell and starfish our toes pick up, and then we flop exhausted and happy on those beach chairs lining the long stretch of Baga, Calangute, Candolim…. the names are familiar yet enticing. Lawrence tells us he’ll give us a good rate for the chairs and we return to him everyday. He shifts the umbrella every hour to protect us from the sun and we talk about how the season is slow and how many languages he can speak and we wonder how he can tell the Finns from the Brits from the Germans in a glance. We are hungry all the time – Antony’s gives us good value for money and his shrimp curry and rice are hourly meals for us, Britto’s has the best lasagna and a seafood platter to die for. We plan to read, but instead gaze meditatively at the sea and the sun and the sky – their hues change constantly.

And as the evening comes around, we head back, past candle-lit café’s, bars and restaurants strung together to create a charming festive sight. We head for Souza Lobo’s famous for it’s food and music and warmth. The shacks at the beach move their chairs out in the open and light candles on each table – we are tempted and vacillate - each shack looks more inviting than the next; the tourists have dressed up and the candle-light warms their tanned faces, they sing with the crooner, soon they will dance. …knowing tomorrow is another day … and hoping they could really stay here forever.

I come away, resenting the aircraft that carries me home, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about how to get there, which resort is better than the other, what the taxi cost us. I’m sure the guidebooks will tell you that. But when you reach Goa, like me, you will forget the details. And Goa will take over.


Blogger Max Babi said...

This is one of the meatiest travelogues and
that too on Goa where I want to retire and
spend my days under palm trees and nights at
the clubs... amazingly lucid and evocative.
Great work, scribe !
cheers !

14 December, 2004 09:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To sit there in the sun against a garden wall, with the exotic smell of figs ripening overhead and salty whiff of sea breeze, drowsy with the hum of bees and light scent of carnation and incarnation of flowers now gone.. I could ask for nothing more then this moment...

17 August, 2006 07:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is something distinct in the air, a connection to another world that dwells in some corner of my consciousness and every now and then a certain smell, sound or sight triggers a stored memory to resurface enhancing my crave for Goa ever so strong once again…

25 August, 2006 19:38  

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