Goa, the eclectic zone

I wrote this back in 2004 after a month long road trip from Delhi to Goa.

Goa…the destination that speaks of holidays…of relaxation and of letting down your hair. The golden beaches of north Goa, the white sands of South Goa…the shacks and sun beds that dot the beaches, the colourful sun umbrellas…the white bodies that lie here desperately trying to tan themselves under the soothing Goa sun, the gallons of beer that are consumed daily here.

This was not my first trip to Goa. I had been to Goa quite often before, but all the previous trips had been on business.

I had stayed at the best of resorts then – filled as they were, with ageing international tourists, who prefer to sun themselves by the swimming pool in the Hotel, than be tossed by the waves. This time round, I dreamt of hanging out in a shack on the beaches at Anjuna and Vagator, mingling with the “foreign” locals and living my own life.

There is about Goa a feeling of freedom…the freedom to rediscover the lost you in the timeless existence of waiting and watching the setting sun, sipping a drink, while biting into a spicy Goan sausage chilli fry or a freshly caught pomfret, grilled to perfection. Whatever one does in Goa – be it hoofing from beach to beach, zipping along on a carefree motorcycle ride with the wind in your hair, or negotiating the narrow roads – one enjoys.

There is the freedom of walking barefoot on the sands, of wearing shorts for dinner, while wearing nothing at all on top. Riding bikes, racing down the quite streets at 3 o’clock in the morning! Goa oozes out a tolerance and acceptance that comes with the many cultures that rub shoulders as they pass through it’s many meeting points. The laid back pace of living, the tradition of afternoon siestas, the friendly simplicity of the Goan locals is the ability to embrace all while retaining their own unique individuality.

The Government has been making an effort to attract higher paying travellers and Calangute and Baga seem to be the swivel around which their efforts rotate. These beaches have been neatened up and made touristy with some really nice shacks. The stretch outside the Government Tourist Resort where we eventually stacked up cause we couldn’t find any other place, sports colourful sun umbrellas with a lot of souvenir shops and roadside bars. My favourite hangout zone was Alex’s. Not surprisingly, it was always full because of the ever so cheap booze and over friendly staff. The skimpily clad, soul seekers frisk at Calangute. As one progresses towards Baga, the amount of clothes they wear steadily decreases till one crosses over the hill to the nudist stretch of Anjuna.

Every once in a while, we would manage to get up early in the mornings and bike up to the Vagator look-out, where we would ponder over to the sea stretching into the horizon. We would track time not by the hours but by the position of the sun. In Goa, it’s either morning, afternoon or evening. All shops close for afternoon siesta from 2 to 4pm. The atmosphere is “laid-back.” which is not to be mistaken for lazy. The tranquility has within it, a dormant state of activity. Thankfully the activity never hits the pace of the cities and if there is a God above, it never will.

At Planet Goa, our favourite shack at Calangute beach, the waiters break into joyous laughter when they see us. This shack has been there for many years. It consists of a semi permanent structure, which can never be improved upon due to coastal developmental regulations. We lunch here most afternoons, as it is quieter and more welcoming than the other shacks that dish out techno music, which gets a bit much before lunch. Tilak, our regular server updates us on the local rave parties, which there is no way we are going to miss. These parties go on easily till noon the next day!

Finally, Goa is a flood of memories, of affiliations and of images. Long after I have returned to the city, I still want to taste the salt on my lips, feel the sand between my toes, smell the aromatic waft of seafood, hear the waves as they crash, and know the joy of living. The glorious colours of light as the sunsets into the sea, nights under the complete universe…. Tranquillity, at its best.