Monday, February 20, 2006

24 hours in Goa


A day visit to any city goes without realizing when it started and got over. This did not happen with Goa. 24 hours in Goa with new locations let me decipher new facets of Goa that I had not experienced earlier.

This was not my first visit to Goa but one I made after 3 years. This gave me chance to realize the change in these years. One thing that struck, Goa does not subscribe to an apt phrase ‘some things never change’. Goa has changed and for the better. Roads seemed immaculate, with white shoulder lines clearly marked. Dabolim airport has been spruced up but still looks woefully inadequate to handle tourist inflow. The outside gate of the airport is about the same size as that of porch of any hotel. Familiar cacophony of cars can stupefy most foreigners who have flocked to Goa seeing pictures of beaches. When I arrived, humidity was overpowering and so was the heat. Chaos was everywhere and amidst all that , this goan guy was holding soft drink and wet towel for his european clients who had arrived by chartered plane.

My first and only official stop was at Verne, a place close to Madgaon. It has sprawling industrial estate with big names as Kodak, Siemens. I stayed at Majorda beach resort- whose advertisements – I had seen for many years in magazines. The place is nice but old. Most hotel properties never spend any money in modernizing the fittings. So even though, fittings are functional they are worn out. Rooms are big, resort has lot of greenery around it, and b’fast is served in poolside garden. I reached the place at 2.00 am and left by 9.00 am next day. I only had a chance to look at hotel property when I went out for b’fast. I wish I had avoided ‘welcome drink’, it looked exotic but turned out to be excessive sugary that it took bitterness of beer to take out traces along the digestive tract.

My best time started when we decided to go for ‘baga’ beach for dinner. Baga appears to be an extension of Calangute beach. Paddling our legs through an avenue between tall palms, nestled with shops selling handicrafts, Kashmiri shawls, watching hoards of white foreigners .When we arrived at the Baga beach, it was past 10.00 pm. Beach appeared neither as serene as Colva nor as turbulent as Kalangute. That day, sand shone under starry night giving an impression of clean beach. All along the beach, restaurants had laid out the tables with candle light to savor seafood overlooking foamed crest waves of Arabian sea with a backdrop pulsating crushing of waves. Music was blaring and crowd was still thin. Some restaurants were more crowded than others. One such restaurant ‘Tito’ seemed favourite spot. All along the coast of baga, vagator, anjum and kalangute, fireworks at intermittent interval was on display – it seems this was a ‘pooled’ effort by restaurants to put their map on skyline of Goa. The quality of fireworks surprised me. When we left at 1.30 am, nighttime revelers were still having a ball at most of the watering holes; places were still packed up with western travelers with free flowing beer and feni. This place looked like limmasol in Cyprus.

Goa at this unearthly hour displayed flamboyance freedom. A freedom from fear of being beseeched while walking barefoot on the sands at late night hours, freedom to wear skimpy clothes and not being confronted by community moral police force. Freedom to travel without risk of being mugged. Goa’s acceptance of carefree style of living on beaches combined with somber religious, cultural ethos in temples, churches makes it a city of tolerance. The laid-back lifestyle, the afternoon siesta, the friendly simplicity of chatter loving Goans makes it a unique place in India.

Being in the middle east, beaches and sand no long interest me yet I yearn for Goa monsoon, its wild rains make even huge coconut trees swing to its mercy, small rivulets filling up with sullying with red soil to form giants streams only to get submerged with gusto in Zuari and Mandovi rivers. Watching the fury of lashing rains from the sloping rooftop mud houses, filling the nostrils with aromatic waft of fried prawns… Goa is exotic in rains!!!

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