Our first visit to Goa was marred by an unsettling incident.
A thief slid in through the baywindow of the hotel in Gaspar Dias, and made off with money, house-keys, a windcheater and a pouch containing my vitamins,antihistamines and a music cassette - I hope the delinquent enjoyed Harry Belafonte's rendition of "Hava Nagila".
The hotel staff and the policeman were very helpful, giving us avuncular smiles with the sage advice: Never carry money while touring ! It was almost as if they were holding us guilty of malfeasance ; the logic being, if we hadn't carried stuff, the thief wouldn't have thieved.
Thanks, we had to bleat, perhaps the next time we could travel light, take PG accomodation in a fishmonger's hut, in barter for mending his nets . And sing "Hava Nagila " ourselves............
But the "next time", which was quite a few years later, we landed in Fort Aguada Resort. And lived out the holiday without any untoward incident. That is, if one discounts the collective tummy revolt occassioned by the street food in Calangute . But we got to see quite a few sights we'd missed out the first time around. And Gaspar Dias seemed to exist no longer. Its now called Miramar Beach.
And the next "next time", it was Holiday Inn, on Mobor Beach . Truly relaxing because we spent all the time looking at water, hardly venturing outside the blessed Cavelossim location , so far away from everything.
The "next time" yet, took a suite in a more centrally located place........
But Goa is always fun. There are always little surprises. New discoveries.
A healthy salad of different cultures. Get to see Latina-looking women in Portugese influenced attire sitting under mango trees grinding Konkani masalas in rural dravidian stone implements. Picturesque !
TV Antennae sprouting on coconut palms.
A two-lane hamlet with an "Alburquerque" name-plate on every alternate gate.
Fancy boutiques in remote farmhouses.
Ferries ferrying people,bikes, courier packages, cars, vegetable sacks, what have you ,across picturesque , diesel smelling creeks.
Beautiful tiled colonial town houses.
One dozen different songs in the same tune that went to Bollywood as Bobby's " Na mangoon Sona Chandi....na mangoon ghoda gaadi" etc.....
Bom Jesus Basilica is truly spectacular inside, though the exterior looks rather sombre. The spiralling golden coloumns of the alters give a majestic look. In old Goa, St.Augustine's Tower presents an eerie, gothic picture. The 16th century Se Cathedral, with its yellow washed walls, is click-worthy. But the structure that stays long in mind is The Immaculate Conception Church. Very interesting architecture with those symmetrical stairways. No wonder it always gets into movies.
Ponda, the hindu Quarter , has more vegetation and is cooler . The temples are unique because of the hybrid architectural style incorporating Marathi Deepsthambas, Islamic domes and Portugese style curvilinear roofs. They are also coloured like pretty wooden toys. The Deebsthambas remind me of the towers of Nagore Dargha.
On the intrastate highways, young boys turned vendors, line the roadside vending home produce. Calling out loud and waving their wares to entice travelers. Fruits. Feni . Wooden handicrafts. One lad waved what looked like a string of large wilted flowers, which on closer view turned out to be crabs !
The Mangeshi Temple ( aka Mangireesh, Manguesh) gives the feel of being in a medieval fort during a fair. Such a press of tourists. The cluster of shrines - like sculpted cake , in delicious pink and white paint. The Mukha-lingam - handsome with a jaunty topknot, a noble look through half closed eyes,cleft chin, a hint of a smile, all made macho by a regal moustache.
Such a pretty place.
Panjim or -respectful indian name -Pana-ji, is always hot,dusty and crowded. Some very old colonial buildings are still used as government offices. They said the Passport Office is housed in an old palace built for Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur.
The Fontainhas area still retains its European character. Narrow lanes, old villas. And what a splash of colours ! Looks as though some kid freaked out with the paint cans.
The statue of Abbe Faria hypnotising a woman reclining in an uncomfortable angle, near the Old Secretariat, is quite dramatic. I particularly like his wild windswept hair.
Cashewnut shops. Terracotta shops.
And of course, there's River Mandovi.
An optical illusion . After a while, many Goan vistas start looking like Mario Miranda's works in 3D.
He is a genius.
The Mandovi Cruise had to be done. But to me, it din't seem what its cracked up to be.
Getting to our seats in the cruise from the car park kills off half the enthusiasm. Such jostling in the lines. After that, the din ! The music systems don't play anything less than 10 on the volume dial. Obtaining front seats for the show is a mistake. Too close to the performance area, we get a command view of dancers squabbling in the wings, waiters making rude gestures , and the MC, in readiness to enter,digging his nose and spitting into the river.
The ship moves, the band starts, dancers stream in to the familiar " Baila" notes . Harvest dance. Portugese dance. Wedding dance. Feels like sitting in a high school annual day function. Sooner than later, the unavoidable-as-death-and-taxes song bursts forth to the lusty cheering of the tourists : " Na mangoon sona chandi...." Feni -fuelled members from the audience join in the jig.
The dancers, in garish costumes and make up, keep smiling throughout, but also keep chatting with each other as their limbs execute the moves & shakes mechanically, like robots. Well choreographed, well executed. But something is definitely lost as the groups perform the same act 365 nights a year.
The skyline of the city on the banks of the river at dusk does not hold attention for long.
The Mandovi Cruise had to be done. It was done. Thats it.
Beach hopping is more exhilarating. The little hamlets on the way to beaches look blissful. Life so calm, peaceful. No signs of any "hurry-burry". Life is , snoozing in a hammock under gently rustling palms.
Beaches of course are overrun with migratory sunworshippers . Varied and exotic as birds ! For record, we never visit Anjuna, keeping our Bharatiya samskruthi in view.
Always love browsing through the little shops that cluster around "Places Of Interest" and places of worship. Interesting merchandise. But never understood why people would want to buy hairclips or Vegetable peelers or inflatable duckies as souvenir of a historical place !
Once, outside a temple ( Shanthadurga, i think) a young girl latched on to me and put on a melodrama in full force, to emotionally blackmail me into getting a temporary tattoo from her. In her voluptuous native attire, she looked like she had stepped out of a picture book. I gave her my hand. For Rs.10, she dipped her wooden stamping block in a reddish orange dye and pressed a stylised peacock into my arm. It did look pretty, like fine embroidery. I was expecting it to wash off with the evening bath. It dint. It merely ran colour and got smudged. It was a full two days before it disappeared fully. Before that, even though i tried to hide my arm, at least five strangers had visibly withdrawn from any proximity, fearing ringworm infection . So much for my experiment with body art.
So far, we have not had a go at the two much touted "Definitive Goa Experiences": 1. The Carnival and 2. Goa in Rains.
The Carnival does look jolly in video clips, but i don't find mingling with boisterous crowds very enjoyable.
Monsoons on the beach does sound inviting.
Sitting in the tiled patio of an old colonial bungalow amidst lush cashew groves and watching the rain lash the sea could be a pleasurable , dreamy experience. Even if the neighbouring saloon played : " Na Mangoon Ghoda Gaadi." Perhaps..........
There's always the next time.