Thursday came around faster than I thought it would- I can’t believe I had already been alone for almost a week! Within that week, I’d met some really cool people including Jacyln, a German- American model who I really wish I’d met sooner! I went out with Addy and his friends and once again I was bowled over by how welcoming everyone was.
That Thursday, I had a pre-farewell with the guys at the office since Aakanksha would be away on leave by the time I came back from my travels and I wouldn’t see her before I left. We enjoyed some Krispy Kremes in the office whilst finalising the issue. After the meeting I made my way down to the coach station to meet Niki, a half French, half Indian who did part of his studies in India and then decided to work there. After some confusion as to which bus was ours, whether it would arrive and whether we’d ever get to Goa, the coach did arrive only a little late. Good going for India. It was a sleeper coach so apart from the horrendous roads which bumped us about no end, we slept pretty soundly and woke up in the Southern state of Goa.
A little worse for wear after the 14 hour journey, we got scooters straight off the bus and made our way down to Anjuna Beach. The sun was beaming, the waters sparkling and the Goan atmosphere of super relaxation was already buzzing through my veins ridding me of the hectic vibes of the hustling, bustling Bangalore. As we sped down the hills to the beach, butterflies fluttered and birds tweeted in the surrounding forests. It’s easy to see why Goa is the go to destination for paradise seekers.
After freshening up at the Paradise Hotel in Anjuna, and of course a cup of chai, we scooted to a nearby Indo-Thai restaurant and had the most delicious prawns in garlic butter. After that, Niki attempted to teach me to ride a scooter. The conclusion from the experiment was that I wasn’t a natural. At all. Within minutes (seconds), I’d confused my accelerator and brake, lost balance and scooted straight into another bike, a wall and right in front of some boys playing football. They found it hilarious but I was wigging out! The other bike was badly damaged, the bumper had come off, the lights we’re completely smashed and I was in a state! Luckily nobody was hurt- or rather I wasn’t. Niki had a bit of a burn on his leg- but we probably got off very lightly. Nobody was around the injured bike, but me being a big believer in karma left our numbers and email addresses with the restaurant owner. We’re yet to have a call so think we got away with it!
The rest of the day was spent on Anjuna beach soaking up the sun. Oddly, we let a man massage us for Rs.200 too. Not sure if he was a certified masseuse but I was too chilled out in the Goan horizontal fashion to make too many enquiries. In any case, it was a good massage, even if he did spend a disproportionate amount of time on the top of my thighs.
Later on, we went for dinner at Oasis bar and grill which did a mixture of everything and was really too cheap for us to even compute. Whilst there, we met some English guys, Ryan and Matt, who were taking a year out of life and seeing the world. I envied them. A Lot. Even if I was lucky enough to have landed my dream job. It was nice to catch up with some English people, share some British banter and stay out past half 11! We went to the infamous, trance blasting Curlies and partied till pretty late.
The next day, we made the arduous journey to Old Goa to look at the Portuguese inspired architecture. Goa was one of the main targets for the missionaries and so a lot of their influences are left not only in the strong Christian presence in Southern India, but also the food, music and culture too. The cathedrals were beautiful! tall, whitewashed and very Catholic. They were gilded with glittering statues of Madonna and Christ, candles and chandeliers sparkled in dingey archways and graphic images of Christ bleeding on the cross stood with garlands of bright flowers around their necks. It was weird to see something so European in such an Indian setting. Almost like Pondicherry and the French Quarter. If you squinted, you could be in Europe, but it was the nuances of India which made the cathedrals all the more beautiful. The carvings, for example, would be wearing Indian clothing, there was Indian smelling incense burning, bright saffron strings of flowers decorated the church and the Indian sun shone through the windows illuminating them instead of the usual dark, oppressive feel churches sometimes have,
On the way to Old Goa, the romance of the place died a little as we came face to face with one of the uglier aspects of India- corruption. The police were stopping anyone on scooters who looked vaguely un-Goan. After stopping us, the sunglasses donning sheriff demanded our Indian papers (which he fully knew we would not have) and after some long lecture, commanded us to pay a fine so as to not report us to the authorities. Luckily, we’d just bought a lot of souvenirs outside our hotel and had a massive breakfast and so we had very little money in our respective wallets. I only had a measly Rs.20 and Niki, Rs.400. Luck was on on our side again and instead of a Rs.2500 fine (about £25) we got away with Rs400!
Wherever I went in Goa, it struck me how the place would be the perfect setting for a tragedy or a romance. Or something gothic with it’s lush green landscape and crumbling, streaked churches. You could almost already see the doomed brides’, veils fluttering in the wind, framed by the cathedral doorway waiting for the grooms that would never arrive. The sugar cane fields stretched on beyond until it touched the horizon and ushered in the setting sun every night whilst birds and butterflies flitted in and out and people lazily strolled about without more of a care in the world as what would be for dinner that night. It was so refreshing to feel a clean wind on my face, through my hair and not be choked by the smog of Bangalore. The yellow yolk of a sun ebbed through the forest trees and the smell of rainfall and fresh flowers perfumed the air. Goa was heavenly, it really was, but as I got on to my sleeper bus to Hampi- I would be taken aback by Hampi’s beauty of a different kind.
Namaste for now!
- Prof. G. Venkatraman with All Goa Devotees (saiyuvagoa.wordpress.com)