Goa, two years later - Part 1.

People who've been reading this blog for a few years (my father basically) might recall a trip to Goa I wrote about a couple of years ago. If not, here you go, lucky you.

Anyway, last week, I decided to take a couple of days of work and go there again for four days. For my cousin's engagement obviously, since I wouldn't have been given permission otherwise. On account of how I'm the only copywriter left on my team, but let's not even go there. What a happy coincidence though - thank goodness my cousin decided to get engaged to a boy from Goa, and thank goodness that it was a completely informal ceremony that took up no time at all, leaving me to explore Goa with my friend. So I won't write about my cousin's engagement - it was no different from any other ceremony. In fact, for your sake, I'm going to pretend it didn't exist and write about the other, infinitely more interesting things I did.

My friend HR (Holy Roller - don't ask) accompanied me. It was the first trip I'd been on since my four day break in Calcutta over New Year. Left straight from work - practically ran out of office at 6.30 - met up with HR and went to the bus-stand near Majestic. It was a sleeper bus. I've never been on a sleeper bus, I didn't even know they existed. They're brilliant. Train set-up but in a bus. Conducive to sleeping, as the name suggests. We'd booked a Non A/C so we could smoke on the way, but it turned out to be an AC bus. Wasn't a brilliant start to the trip. We were both sulking. But after the first hour, we fell asleep, so it didn't really matter. I woke up occasionally, over the night, my face turned towards the window (which was the length of my body). It was pouring with rain, so dark you couldn't see anything, except bursts of silver whenever lightning decided to make its presence felt, which was often.

And then suddenly, I opened my eyes, and this time it was morning, and the rain had stopped. The sun wasn't out yet, the sky was a soft grey, and, outside the window, all I saw was a canopy of green. I remembered the time Mawii and I had driven from the airport, and it was just like that, except more. And then I began to recognise the road, and the bus stopped, and there we were.

We took an auto to Palolem's main road ("main road" - haha) and it was as if nothing had changed. I even passed that goddamn CCD, I don't know why it's there, I've never seen anyone inside it except a defeated looking behind-the-counter-man. We got off at the entrance to the beach and there it was - the sea.

What is it about the sea? Most people I know prefer the mountains - the calm, the winding roads, forests on either side, that sense of being above the world, and away from it. The sea doesn't give you that feeling, it gives you something else. A sense of vastness, like the mountains, but a different sort of vastness. There's a lingering danger to it, you can never know the sea the way you might know a mountain trail. It's always a stranger, it doesn't want you to get to close to it. But it's also reassuringly familiar. Unlike mountains, where towns get bigger and people more numerous, and even unlike the beach, where the same thing occurs, the sea itself can't ever really be conquered. It can't be built on - though Hong Kong's made a valiant attempt. And it holds life and it holds death, and no matter how much technology advances, at the end of the day, people just can't fuck with it. You can explore it, and swim in it, and play in it, and exploit it to a certain extent, but you will always be at its mercy. Not the other way around.

Because it was off-season, all the shacks were closed, or had been taken down. Which is one of South Goa's saving graces, I think. It protects it from what's happening in the North. But there is a place called Silver Star - also known as Cocktails and Dreams (I know, I know) - and that's open 365 days a year with a 24/7 bar. The shacks were shut, and the cheapest room was absolutely terrible, not worth 500 bucks a day, but we decided to put up with the ugliness and the dinginess for just one night.

"We'll get so drunk tonight," HR said to me, "That we won't even notice the room. We'll just come back to crash and look for a nicer place tomorrow."

That was okay with me.

Changed into our swimsuits, put on some shorts, and went to the Silver Star bar. Like all the places right on the beach, it overlooks the sea. We got a table right in front - it was relatively empty, just an overweight white man, who had the redness of someone who drinks too much beer and eats too much steak, at the next table.

"We've got to have Kings beer," HR said to me, "I can't believe you haven't had Kings beer."

So we ordered a Kings each - and this was at 10 in the morning, what a perfect way to start the day - and sat there quietly, talking sometimes, reading sometimes, and drinking, well, constantly. But slowly. No hurry. It was only Thursday morning and I smugly thought of people at work, sitting in front of their scenes, shouting at each other over deadlines and briefs. Terrible, I know, but it added greatly to my contentment.

HR rolled a joint and we smoked that, but the thing about joints by the sea is that they don't get you stoned, not really. There's no dizziness, no heightened sense of humour, no 'faaaak, I'm so stoned' feeling. It just marginally adds to the peace. And I was feeling peaceful, a kind of peaceful I realised I hadn't felt in a long time, not even in quiet nights outside my flat when the rest of the world is asleep. The sea was a greeny-grey, lapping at the shore, the waves tipped with white, slightly more energetic than I remembered, but still fundamentally lazy.

And I was dying to get into the water, to taste its coldness and its saltiness, and to feel the spray sting my eyes, but I was also postponing the moment. Anticipation is sweet. But the sea began to recede, and the sun came out, and I couldn't wait any longer. I took off my sarong and I walked towards it, slowly at first and then faster and faster, and I felt the familiar weight of the water pushing against my legs, and then I was thigh-deep in it, and I dove under a gentle little wave, and opened my eyes to a murky, mysterious underworld, and then I broke through the surface, gasping for breath, salt-water up my nose, sun in my eyes.

It always feels like coming home. Always. As familiar as the sound of my feet pounding through Calcutta airport and the sight of my mother's face and outstretched arms behind the airport's metal railing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Second para, first line "..days of work...", should read 'off' instead of 'of'.

That said... a rather interesting post... is this the same beach you went to as in your earlier posts of your trip in 2012?

If so, did you revisit some of the places described there?

Waiting for part II and more... :)