Happily Unmarried

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Goaed, at last

Picture-perfect sunset at Fort Aguada


Thank God. We'll never again have to respond to, "WHAT?! You've never been to Goa?!?!" Went there, saw that and came back with, well, with lots of dirty T shirts. Now we can hold a Cool conversation with head held high in the Hip Circuit about how Goa Rocks Man. I don't mean to sound condescending; for all our obsession with the mountains, Goa is really Happening. The beaches are lovely, the sun and sea are in complete agreement, the country side is lush, the food is (I am told) orgasmic, the shopping is fun, the night clubs are rocking, the people are friendly, the beer is cheap, the shacks are cool and the babes are hot.

Boat on beach

I've been wondering whether to disclose details of the place we stayed in. It's not in South Goa. And it’s not Baga. Not Candolim. NOT Calangute. And surely not Anjuna. Well, it's a place further up North, a few kilometers away from the Goa - Maharashtra border. The beaches are lovely, clean, not crowded, with a fishing village on one side and a hill on the other. Go figure!

I think the best thing I did was to take a bike taxi after getting off the bus at Mapusa. For one, it woke me up after my fitful, cramped sleep on the bus and for another, I got to see some of the country side in the early morning light. I briefly wished I was riding pillion on a Bullet with 6 ft Something Significant Other rather than a Hero Honda being ridden by a Goan bike pilot. Reminds me of the time I rode pillion with Meherchand, my paragliding pilot-turned-biker from Solang near Manali, who had also offered to teach me skiing besides taking me up, up and away in a hot air balloon. But for Rs. 100, the ride was well worth it, Significant Other or no.

The resort we won't name

The resort was idyllic and I am not about to give the name away. I had somehow been expecting to see large numbers of Great Indian Families On Their Annual Vacation; turned out I was the only Indian around besides the people who worked at the resort. At the cost of sounding racist and xenophobic, I was glad when I saw only firang tourists. That meant, I didn’t have to feel obliged to explain why I was alone, who I am, what I did and where I come from. (I am sure many will scoff at this; such things probably don’t happen in Goa).

This also meant, I wouldn’t find a beach littered with Kingfisher and Bisleri bottles, candy and chocolate wrappers, empty packets of Ruffles Lays, Haldiram's bhujiya and Kurkure and other assorted garbage The Great Indian Traveller (term courtesy Jug Suraiya) seems obliged to discard at touristy places as thought to leave behind a trail in case he gets terribly lost.

No Indians also meant there wouldn't be zealous parents encouraging their offspring to take a leak or a dump in the wide open, pristine beaches because there was so much space and so much water at hand anyway.

Bullock cart on beach

But as I sat alone waiting for breakfast, my Indianness sure perked up and I made some small talk about the weather with the woman at the next table. She soon invited me to join her for coffee and then we were on a roll. Turned out she was an American and worked as a Chief Protocol Officer in the US embassy in Baghdad, after having worked in Turkey and New York. After that, the conversation was like any between two single women, anywhere in the world. We ended up bantering for almost ten hours, talking about everything from, you guessed it, Men and Relationships, to life in Bombay, Bangalore, Baghdad, New York and Delhi, to books, music, families, travel, work, cricket and baseball (!), religion, politics, wars and everything in between. (Disclaimer: This conversation sounds more intelligent than it actually was.)

Male companion's wishful snap - that we will walk way into the sea


It's strange how people halfway across the globe seem to have parallel lives.

Tracy left after we jointly figured out various means by which she could leave for Kerala the same day. After calling numerous airlines and railway helpdesk numbers, she finally decided to take an overnight bus. And I decided to call a friend, Vinati, who had grown up in Goa, lived in Bombay for many years, had settled down in Bangalore, and was vacationing in Goa. I met them in Baga, and after a welcome drink of Ranju's chilli vodka, Vinati and her large group of friends and cousins and their spouses, inducted me properly in to Goa. Praise the Lord. I have now earned my stripes and I've partied at Club Cabana in Arpora.

Pity I was too pooped to stay long or party hard. But it was Wednesday night and it was free entry for women AND the drinks were on the house. But after hardly a puff of Ranju's joint, I started craving for a bed and I tottered out and hired a cab for an astronomical sum to take me back. The heightened sense of safety that one feels in Bombay makes one want to be just as reckless and carefree in other places, but I can’t say I wasn't worried and scared through that drive. I am amazed at the thoughts that kept surfacing in my head: I prayed very hard while I tried to stay awake and hoped that if the driver decided to rob me, or worse, rape me, let him please do it nearer to the resort as I was in no state to walk. Stoned and in high hells.

Though the previous day was overcast, the morning was crisp and sunny. While I was hungover. But after a large breakfast, I went down to the beach and lay down with my book and felt very, very cool indeed. All by myself, lying on a beach in Goa, with a book in hand and the glares propped on my head. The stuff Wednesday afternoon office fantasies are made of. When I thought I was turning to toast, and considering that my very Indian skin tone doesn't need any more of a tan, I decided to lie out on a beach chair under a canopy instead, with a beer AND book in hand this time, and a lunch of beer and salad (I repeat, I am a vegetarian.)

Three shadows

By evening, my company arrived from Bangalore and then it was Goa routine all the way. Drinks at Mambo's followed by a joint on the beach and dinner at a shack. Again, morning at the beach, beer though the day, bike ride to Baga, lunch and wine at Britto's, dinner at (hear, hear!), a vegetarian place called Bean Me Up and night under a star-crusted night sky. All this peppered with lots of girly banter about life, universe and everything else, when our solitary male friend silently, languidly, resignedly stared in to the distance and sighed. The last day before we left, I shopped at a place called - here's a giveaway about the title of this blog - Happily Unmarried - and did just one touristy thing - Fort Agwada. It's an impressive place; if only it wasn't for the wrapper-and-bottle strewing Great Indian Travellers again. After pizza dinner at a semi open bar with a view called 9 Bar on Anjuna we followed it up with Goa's very own King's beer at a rather classy shack called Zanzibar, and rummy back at the resort, where I was beaten silly.

The day of return was pretty uneventful, and felt heavy the way all return journeys do, when all the concerns of city life come weighing down even before you are physically back. After a trigger happy morning on the beach when we hurriedly took pictures after putting it off for three days, it was a dash to the chaotic airport and an even more chaotic boarding exercise for the Go Air flight, operational barely two days ago.

This post turned out way longer than I thought, but it's not a bad way to spend my second week in a new job, on a Tuesday afternoon.

To wind up, I'll say Goa Rocks, too. But then, to those of us living on the plains and obsessed with the heights, the sea always seems beautiful, but unidimensional. And threatening too sometimes, for all that it keeps hidden in its depths.

As opposed to mountains who wear their shapes, stature and size and brazenly invade the privacy of the skies.
- H
Shadow, starfish, sand

Completely with H on Rocking Goa! I now, sort of, even understand why the hype and why so many people I know make it their pilgrimage (We loved Goa, but pilgrimage will always mean the mountains. Something about those impossible heights that keep pulling us back). To add my 2-bit to the 3 day Goa weekend, my Jet Airways bag decided to go jet-setting to Bombay, Delhi and finally back to Goa! Thanks H, for the generous use of your over-packed wardrobe. And yes, I finally don't look as blank as I used to when people spout names like Candolim, Calangute, Arambol... And all thanks to our sole male companion who not only ignored our girly banter, but also put up with very be-sur renditions of old Bollywood songs. And the other highlight of our trip - we are finally moving beyond boundaries. We have identified the place we are going to discover on our first trip beyond the sub-continent. No, we are not disclosing the place till we have been there or atleast till our tickets are booked.
- I

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