It is around midnight when we pass Colva Cemetery.
I had arrived in Goa earlier that November evening and after settling into the service apartment I was staying in, head to Colva Beach for dinner with my friend. A delicious dinner of Italian food later, it is time for a leisurely stroll back to the apartment under a moonlit sky and a gentle sea breeze accompanying us.
We pass restaurants that are still serving dinner, tourists walking back to their hotels, sleepy dogs, shops shut tight… And then quite suddenly, a large angel looms out of the semi darkness, startling me for a second. That’s when I realise that we are passing a graveyard, the Colva Cemetery, and the “angel’ was part of a tomb.
We stop to look over the low walls of the graveyard. Of course, we can’t see much in the darkness except for ghostly outlines of tombstones and tomb sculptures. Also visible is a rather sinister and spooky-looking barn like structure with no doors or gates. Since the moonlight doesn’t penetrate inside, it is shrouded in darkness.
“What’s that?” I ask. “It can’t be the church, can it?”
“No. The church is behind us, and across the road. Maybe a chapel?” my friend suggests.
“Maybe. But why is it so dark?” I shiver involuntarily.
“Let’s come back tomorrow morning and find out, shall we?”
We come back in the morning and see one of the most beautiful graveyards that I have come across.
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.
For me, police stations and hospitals are places that are to be seen only when needed and ignored when not needed. Such places are good to have nearby, but not too close, if you know what I mean.
It’s not like I’m scared of them; just that I’d like to keep my distance from them. Most of the times I pretend like they don’t exist !
Last week was one of the times that I didn’t ignore the presence of a police station. I was in Colva (Goa) and the local police station was close to where I was staying. Housed in an old and traditional house that looked really quaint and cute, the Colva Police Station was a landmark in the area. But what caught my attention was a huge pile of papers stacked on an open shelf in the station’s verandah and clearly visible from the road.