It took me 4 trips over 27 years to come close to understanding what people say about you.
It is said that you are not just a destination or a place, but a state of mind. Rarely a day goes by without coming across a write-up about you in a newspaper or a magazine or a blog. Many of these write-ups are so gushy that it is almost embarrassing to read them. But it does reveal one thing: it was love at first visit and an almost instant attainment of that “Goa” state of mind for those who wrote the articles.
Not for me though. I visited you 4 times between 1986 and 2013, and you have always been a destination for me, and memorable for all the wrong reasons (for the first 3 trips, at least). I wasn’t impressed with you after the first trip or the second or the third trip… As for the fourth trip, we’ll come to that a little later. Let me tell you a little bit about the first three trips.
The first trip was organised by my school in December 1986. It was a road trip and I was one of the 90-odd students who travelled in 2 MSRTC buses from Pune to Goa. My recollections of that trip are largely of motion sick co-travellers and vomit all over the bus; smell of fish, wherever we went in Goa (yeah, I’m a vegetarian); a blur of church and beach visits, each one indistinguishable from the other; diarrhoea and the hunt for public toilets with water… It was a poorly organised trip and I know that you were not entirely to blame, but… I didn’t take to you at all.
The second trip happened four years later in December 1990, a mandatory field trip in my third year of college as part fulfillment for a BSc in Geology. This time I travelled by train with 20-odd classmates and 3 teachers.
My memories from that trip revolve around some of my male classmates sneaking off in the middle of field work to take in some touristy stuff (Read: running off to the nearest beach to ogle at bikini-clad international tourists) and my teachers forever going in search of them; another confusing round of beaches and churches; and hunt for reasonably priced vegetarian food. In fact, the last one is the most enduring memory considering that my food budget was approximately Rs.50/- per day and a plate of dal and rice would cost Rs.40/- (A plate of fish curry and rice was cheaper at Rs.10/-) ! No, Goa, I still didn’t warm up to you. You didn’t give me any reason to.
Let us now travel to January 1995 when I visited you for the third time. This was an official trip; in fact, it was my first ever solo official trip. I used to work for a publisher then and I was sent to Goa to promote our line of Konkani books in select schools there. There was only one problem: I didn’t know the language.
I don’t need to tell you what a nightmarish time I had travelling from school to school attempting to sell Konkani books to bemused and amused Konkani language teachers without speaking a word of that language. And the search for vegetarian food continued, though admittedly it wasn’t as bad as it had been in 1990.The one huge positive of this trip was the journey — I travelled by sea from Mumbai to Goa and back on the now defunct Damania Catamaran Services.
After the 1995 trip, I pretty much ignored you. When I went on an almost month-long hop on, hop off trip along the western coast of India in 1998, I pretended you didn’t exist and jumped straight to Karwar (in Karnataka) from Ratnagiri (Maharashtra). Any meetings, conferences, reunions, etc. in Goa was passed over or declined or ignored.
Fast forward to 2013 to my fourth visit and after a gap of 18 years. There was an important consultation in Goa and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t persuade the organiser to shift it elsewhere. This time I travelled by air. If anyone had noticed me on that November evening in 2013 at the Dabholim airport, they would have seen a glum and resigned look on my face, instead of the excited “yay-I’m-in-Goa” expression that most people arriving in Goa have.
Four days later, I was back at the airport to board the plane that would take me to home to Mumbai. I had a glum and resigned look on that day as well, but for different reasons. For the first time, I had enjoyed a trip to Goa and and I was returning home with the realisation that I was going to miss you.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to have a good time (there was just too much past history), but I did. Presenting a sneak peek at what I did (detailed posts coming up soon).
Spent time at the Beach: Just an ordinary day at the beach with some not so ordinary companions !
Worked hard at Souza Cafe, Colva. This is where the consultation I came for happened and a lot of the Cafe’s excellent and incredibly cheap sandwiches, rolls and coffee got consumed.
Saw many churches, none of which blurred or merged into one another. I still remember their names and individual details after 9 months ! 🙂
Visited a couple of graveyards, but only during the daytime !
Dropped into the Museum of Christian Art. What can I say. I love museums and I loved this Museum’s collection.
Drove to the other side of Goa to see a temple in the heart of a forest. I visited the Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla, which is located within the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary followed by a long walk in the forest.
Got lost in Fontainhas. Not literally, but in the beautiful and colourful houses in that area…
Spent an Afternoon in Aldona, exploring the smallest fort I’ve been to and cruising the backwaters there.
Wondered at signs like these. Why? Oh why do you have signs like these? And so many of them too. 😦
There are other memories too like dinner at Baga Beach under psychedelic lights, giving directions to our direction-challenged car driver, my first stay in a service apartment, long walks, some delicious meals… and a growing feeling that I needed to come back again and again.
Initially, I did wonder about what was so different about this trip that I changed my mind about you. Was it because I’m older and (ahem) wiser, and maybe you too? Was it because I had changed and you had too? Was it because I was in charge of the trip where I decided when to work and when to play? Or was it because…After a point, I asked myself whether a reason and an analysis was really necessary and if I couldn’t just enjoy the moment, in this case the trip !
And that was it. While you have not yet become a state of mind for me, you are definitely the State on my mind, and I can’t wait to visit you again. And on that note, have you realised that I’m probably the only person you know who has travelled to your state by four different means of transport?
Tell me, are you surprised or shocked at my turnaround Or just smug with the knowledge that you knew I would join the legions of your fans eventually? 😉