Goa: Part V.

Palolem is shaped like Bombay's Queen's Necklace. It is a long stretch of white beach - a mile, I think - and it curves inwards on either end. We were staying on the curve to the right: during the day, the sea would recede, leaving an island of land, on land, with smooth grey rocks that seemed ideal hiding places, and rivulets of water, knee deep in some places, forming rivers right there in the sand, all eventually trailing their way back to the sea from which they came. At night, the sea would conquer that stretch. It would creep up, swallowing the curves, devouring the rocks, leaving nothing but a calm expanse of black, silver bordered water, with the forested Butterfly Island reaching to the skies from beyond. The sea was never violent. It was never loud, never aggressive, never forbidding. It watched silently, after the sun had set, as people spilled out from one shack, stumbling their way to another. The shacks were all lit with lights and occasionally, music. Rough wooden chairs and tables were set out on the beach, centred by a dim lamp, and human voices. Some of the shacks had colourful divans and cushions, and people would kick their shoes off, and stretch their feet out, as they ate and drank and talked.

Our first night there, we had a couple of beers, before moving back to our hotel (for want of a better word. The set up there comprises these different bars and restaurants, and behind them, belonging to them, are groups of shacks where people stay in.) Ours was called Brendan's, and they grilled a marvellous steak, and the Dubeys, Mawii and I, polished them off along with a couple of cocktails.

Later that night, safely tucked away under a mosquito net, I heard Mawii groaning and making a lot of strange noises.

"What's up?" I murmured.

"I threw up," she muttered, weakly. This was followed by more retching noises, and I winced.

"Do you want me to help?" I offered half heartedly.


I offered a silent prayer of thanks for Mawii's ability to take care of her own vomit, and ignoring my conscience, rolled over and went to sleep.

We didn't eat or drink much the next day.

A couple of days later, as I was heading to the beach, Mawii leaned over and poked me on my butt. "I think you've got a piece of paper stuck there," she said.

I waited for her to take it off, but instead, I received the unwelcome news that it was not a piece of paper; it was a hole.

"Is it noticeable?" I said, in great distress. I didn't want to have to buy a new swimming costume, and I was very attached to this one: it was bright red with a low neck and I'd bought it in Bali, as a symbol of emancipation, and I loved it, even though I was the only person on the entire beach who didn't own a bikini. Even old white women - especially old white women - wore bikinis, showing a lot of unattractive, wrinkled, lobster boiled skin, but cheers to them, I suppose.


Later that afternoon, as I was going in for another swim, I asked Mawii whether my bottom looked respectable.

"The hole's gotten bigger," she said, examining it. "And I think there's another hole as well."

"Does it look like paper?"

"No, it looks like your ass."

Muttering expletives, I tramped to the high street, and went - barefoot - into the first shop I saw. There was a little girl there, and I told her I needed a swimsuit.

"Yes, yes," she said, airily. "We have those. Here."

And she shoved a pile of bikinis at me.

"I don't want a bikini," I said, horrified. My mother had long ago instilled in me the notion that only people who are built like models can get away with a bikini. Recent experience (in the form of those white octogenarian women) taught me she may have had a point.

"No bikini?"

"No." I said firmly.

She handed me a plain white swimsuit, and just as I was going in, I saw a black and white bikini set, that I picked up impulsively. Just to try, not to buy.

I tried on the one piece first. It was a swimming costume and it was white. No big deal.

Then, just for fun, I tried the bikini on. It was black with white patterns, or white with black patterns, either way, it was quite attractive. I looked down to see if I could see my stomach sticking out; I could not.

Then I looked in the mirror and I nearly fell over because I have never seen my breasts look so magnificent. Yes, I know, I'm being vain, but I'm sorry. I'm telling the truth. They're okay enough, I suppose, but that bikini top (it was a cup size too small) just made them, whoaaaa.

And the bottoms were alright too - not too small, so I didn't have lumpy bits of buttocks sticking out unattractively. Everything was covered just right.

I strolled out in the bikini, and told the girl I was taking it.

"Twelve hundred," she said to me, smugly.

I looked at her, hoping I was giving her the same look my mother gives people when they say things she doesn't want to hear.

However, since the girl didn't tremble like a leaf, but looked back at me, her eyes meeting mine, clear and unafraid, I suppose I need to practice.

"Seven hundred," I said weakly.

"Eight hundred," she said.


And then I went back to where the others were, feeling oddly shy, but quite happy.

"I paid eight hundred for it," I told Mawii.


"It was originally twelve hundred," I said, defensively. "I got it down by four hundred rupees."

She shook her head.

"How much would you have paid?"

"Four hundred, five hundred." She said pityingly, and I snorted, and went into the ocean to test out my new swimsuit.

The bottoms nearly came off during a particularly large wave, but otherwise it held up well. Of course, I was already really tanned - but my middle wasn't because my previous swimsuit had covered it - so I was walking around with a brown face, brown limbs, and a yellowish white back, that was in retrospect, probably extremely unattractive, but whatever.

Now about a month before our Goa trip, Mawii and I got drunk one night, and made a list of things to do before leaving college. Getting identical matching tattoos (in a hidden place) to commemorate our college years was one of the things on the list. The other, was to go skinny dipping.

"I want to go skinny dipping," announced Mawii even before we left Delhi. This was a refrain she continued throughout the holiday.


You get the picture.

Our last night in Goa saw just the two of us, forever alone as usual. The Dubeys had gone to another beach to catch up with a cousin of theirs, but we decided to stay in Palolem.

"I want to go skinny dipping tonight," said Mawii decidedly. "Tonight is the night,"

"Meh," I said. I didn't feel like skinny dipping: my enthusiasm fluctuated, and right then, it was at an all time low. I watched her in disdain as she sipped a Bacardi Breezer through a straw, and turned proudly to my beer bottle (no straw, no glass) sitting in front of me.

An hour later, as I swigged from my breezer (ALTHOUGH I DIDN'T USE A STRAW!), going skinny dipping didn't seem like such a bad idea. In fact, it seemed like a necessity.

We stumbled our way to the end of the beach. Butterfly Island rose majestically before us, but we ignored it.

"Do you think it's safe?" I said, looking around. It was a dim area - you could see people lit up by the lights from the shacks from the way we came, but I didn't think they could see us. The only light coming our way was from the moon that was, at the moment, busy sedately occupying the sky. There were a group of people a little ahead of us - but they were smoking up, and didn't seem the type to be too concerned. Besides, we could only see their silhouettes, and naturally, they would see no more than we did.

"I don't know if I can do this," I said, nervously. I'd never even ventured into the sea after dark before - it always seems a different creature at night.

Mawii ignored me and started stripping.

"Oh fuck it," I muttered, and ripped off my clothes, and ran straight into the sea, before she was done.

The water was cool and as soon as I was hip deep, I dove straight into an oncoming wave, gloriously naked. I twirled around, under the sea, seeing only blackness and surfaced, feeling glorious. HELL YEAH, MOTHERFUCKER, my mind was screaming (I use extremely bad language in my mind when I'm excited about something), FUCK YEAH. I AM NAKED AND IN A SEA AND IT'S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I'M A BADASS. YEAH!

"Don't swim too far out," said Mawii, who'd joined me.

I didn't (even in the midst of my euphoria, I was still worried about being snatched by a shark - so much for being a badass). I lay on my back and the sea bobbed me gently up and down, and all I could see was the sky stretched thin over my face, because the lights from the beach made it look translucent, with stars gaping down, and Mawii with a look of glee on her face, and I added it to my list of immortal moments: moments that you know you will see should your life ever choose to flash itself before your eyes.

And so this is where the story of Goa ends: in a black sea, under a white moon, naked and full of joy.