Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time Turtles

If you asked for a time line of my sojourn in Goa, I fear I may not be able to furnish one. You see, as I found out, that one great Goa cliche is really quite true — time really doesn't seem to have much meaning here. It only turtles along and wraps you in gelatinous languor. I cannot tell you which day precisely was spent tramping about Colva or which day in Panjim. Nor can I say which days were spent watching the sea or simply staring at it, sometimes idly, sometimes glassy-eyed.

Beer at Brittos

What with it being my first trip, I was labouring under both my own expectations and too many recommendations. So after some deliberation, we decided upon North Goa with a day in South Goa thrown in. A miserable bus journey later I arrived in Baga — in the middle of the Eid weekend. It's true, you know, what they say about Goa in season. There really were far too many people already down in Baga and most of those from bloody Bombay! Of course, things settled once the throng left on Monday (but still!): we got lazy, discovering Baga, Candolim, and Vagator in the silence of the early season.

Goa's the most beautiful country — lush and green and truly, quite like Kerala. Both so abundantly flaunt the blessing of the South-west monsoon in their waving palm trees and mid-harvest fields. The Baga, the Zuari, and other rivers meander across Goa with elephantine grace as do so many rivers across Kerala. Both states also carry the unmistakable stamp of familiarity with the Portuguese. This is especially true of Panjim with its brightly painted buildings in Fontainhas, the Latin quarter, so greatly reminiscent of Jew Town in Fort Kochi.

Fontainhas, Panjim

Along the Zuari River

Another intriguing similarity — you can't go five kilometers in either Goa or Kerala without some symbol or house of religion!

Goa's also amazing food and alcohol country. It's at least a mildly disorienting experience to be in a decently fancy eatery and find that Smirnoff's only 45 bucks to the large. And you know that we're doing something right as a country if we're producing a liquor as fine as palm feni and a beer as mellow and easy as King's. It's such a pity that neither are available in Bombay. I'd like to rant about the food because God knows Goan food deserves the paeans, but then I won't have a next post. But I will say this: as it is usually is with hearsay, I was disappointed with some of the restaurants so long hallowed.

Live in sight of the sea for most of your life and you may begin to take it for granted. I, on the other hand, have learned its true value in the last three years. And so, I rediscovered the sea in Goa. There is such a pure and beautiful joy in sitting in the deepening twilight, reading or writing or talking or being silent, letting the sound of the waves wash over you. In the North Goa stretch, Candolim is the best beach for those evenings. Candolim is also where I walked the sands of my childhood: where memory nibbled in small tendrils of nostalgia. Some roads were familiar and some vistas beloved.

Fort Aguada

The elder sibling warned me that because of the length of my stay, I might just end up being disillusioned about Goa much sooner than I need be. And perhaps, I was. In season, I don't think there is much of a difference between Baga-Calangute and Juhu Beach. Unthinkably irritating, don't you know, being kept just too far off the beach. Also, since I don't see a point in partying in Goa, I take at least some manner of exception to the loud, intrusive Bollywood and other "music" and the speeding cars along a road wide enough for two bikes!

Over that week, I came to realise that I like some of the big things, like the restaurants, but otherwise Goa is in the quieter and smaller things. In the little "bar and rest" that no one notices. In the genial, rumbling patrao who checks three fish markets to get your crabs. In the homes of people who don't know you from Adam but welcome you warmly at their tables just the same. In the stark, deserted beaches that bring you back in touch with your penguin roots. In the run-down bungalow down a green lane in Colva selling sausage-pao for 10 bucks. In the old, friendly and pushy aunty who sells chorizo at the Mapusa Friday Market but owns a flat in Napean Sea Road, Bombay.

Chorizo at the Mapusa Friday Market

Finally, I'm glad I went with the ex-reviewer. I doubt that I would have seen so much of Goa otherwise - a fact the elder sibling corroborates. Or had such a completely indulgent vacation. He watched me thumb through the guidebook only to finally gleefully let the susegaad win me over. He stopped obligingly on rattling and busy bridges for photographs. He laughed when the feni made me mad in my toes and very, very drunk. He also stole my camera every now and then only to make me the unwilling and tortured subject of too much wasted camera battery. And yes, those will never see the light of day!


Parth said...

Nice pictures, and your writeup summarizes your trip well enough for me, even though it doesn't go into details.

Kate / Kajal said...

ow babe these are some really neat pictures. Well done . U really need to get urself that DSLR now :)
They really capture the essence of Goa ... makes me wanna go there ...but after the mad rush is out...
BTW my plan got scrapped :((

Extempore said...

@Parth: That's because, my dear Parth, I'm going to tell this tale properly only! More posts will follow and I must tell you, I've rarely had as much fun writing! :-)

@Kajal: If you'll bring it from HK, let me know. It's still a little expensive here in India and a D80 sounds positively yummy! And as for your Goa plan, damn but my heart bleeds for you!

Blue Bike said...

The real essence of Goa can be captured only if you go to the lesser touristy places. Places where people won't pesk you to buy souvenirs... and the best way to do that would be to go around on a Motorcycle ... you can find many many breathtakign views on route and you can stop whereever you want to take nice pictures. Plus eating at small town restaurants can be fun

Plain Jane said...

I approve whole-heartedly of the new template (though I do find it vaguely amusing that you're back to the black backdrop!) for the post and accompanying photographs - well done beta! The ex-reviewer must be proud!

Anonymous said...

The pics in your post brings back wonderful memories. My grandparents (and older ancestors) lived in Baga, less than 50 mts. from the beach for almost all of their lives (when they weren't visiting us in Bombay). I spent all my summer vacations in Baga and have seen it develop from a quaint fishing community in the early 80's to a more tourist-serving place in the late 90's and 00's.

Rajiv said...

man.. i feel so nostalgic. calangute, baga, anjuna, vagataor were my fav. haunts...

Stormy Zephyr said...

Lovely pictures! I would give up a few really important things/people to visit the places you have been to and seen! I am doing well. How have you been doing? Yeah, it has been a long time :).

Extempore said...

@Blue Bike: I quite agree and one season-ish weekend in Baga was enough to convince me. The next trip is South for sure because I think I left a bit of me back in Utorda. :-)

Plain Jane: Thankee - the black is primarily because of the pics - makes for a great background. I should hope he is - after pestering me like that!

@Anon: That would be right next to Brittos and the river part of the beach - wow! Baga non-touristy and quiet sounds incredible. I had a few vacations in Goa as a child and went back only as 27 yr old and the difference was palpable. Thanks for commenting - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :-)

@Rajiv: :-) Didn't spend much time in Anjuna but Vagator was AWESOME. I just loved the beach and the fort!

@Stormy: Thank you, thank you! You should travel a little when you get back for a holiday. Neither Coorg nor Goa are so far from Blore. As you can see from the Goa posts, am doing quite well. Being unemployed agrees with me. Now only if I was a student as well. :-)