Goa is a state of mind

(Aug 10 – Aug 13, 2017)

1. Stay:

Narrow roads with rice paddies swaying on either side, the rustling of palm trees, chirping of birds and hornbills flying in pairs, stretch of backwaters with men fishing around, some on bicycles selling poi and pao from house to house, women hanging outside their homes in their nighties and saris, old abandoned Portuguese style houses,where peacocks dance in open meadows in the rains, locals gather at neighbourhood churches to pray and socialise, a light drizzle on your faces, a nip in the air, warm sunlight pouring through the dark clouds. That feeling of being in Goa.
It was early morning. Savio (My Goan host at Aldona, a hamlet in North Goa) and I were sitting beside the swimming pool, looking across the backwaters trying to find the hornbills when he said, “But why would I need more money? I have a roof to sleep under, enough food for the family, enough to have a vacation once a year, my kids are studying well, great neighbors who grow with us and then I have people like you who come over to stay with us. Life is good.” My stay with Savio and Pirkko made Goa complete for me. We did kayaking, fishing, ate together, spot the hornbills flying in pairs and watched the sunset. In between beautiful conversations about life, our cultures, our dreams and passions, I found my home in Goa.

Recommendations: Stay at the Olaulim Backyards or at the Cancio’s house to experience Aldona.

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Narrow lanes, rice paddies and thar

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2. Music & Dance:
As I enter the club, I see beautiful yellow lights spread across the area, covering the green plants and lighting up the white walls. As I move in, I see a group of around 30 beautifully dressed women in gowns and men in smart casuals tapping their feet together on a song (watch the small video clips below to tap your feet too). The ‘tap-tap-tap’ sound and the beautifully lit smiles were enough to make me jump on the floor. A band of old musicians were playing the classics. That moment, while trying to match my feet with the rest, and going 1-2-left and a 1-2-right, I didn’t realize when 3 hours passed away. I was there, at that very moment; and it was beautiful!
You know what was beautiful about the locals? The ease they were carrying, the confidence with which they would make everyone comfortable around themselves, ask people for a dance and have a sheer fun time! I took back a lot of freedom and simplicity that evening. Learning how to jive has definitely gone up in my learning list 😀

Recommendations: Cavala, Cohiba, Cantare, Calamari for the best musical evenings in Goa

<Click here (1), (2), (3) for a glimpse of the party>





3. Food:
As flavourful as Goa as a state is, the food here is equally flavourful! Most of the local food is primarily dependent of flavourful curries, beautiful in look and burst into multiple tastes. You talk about Xacutti, Cafreal, Tonak or Uddamethi, one bite and your mouth till head is full of different flavours. Trust me, it’s heavenly!

Recommendations: Gunpowder (My favourite), Voltaire, Sanil’s for the best Goan thali and Andron Restaurant for fantastic curries and goan food

At the same time, Goa is also full of small cafes and bakeries which hold multiple stories untold. It was raining when we picked up our thar and began the drive. Driving through the narrow roads and crossing Aldona, we reached a beautiful yellow building which we could not resist climbing up. Benches and tables were spread in the verandah, with a view of hills, rain and a wind chime adding to the sound of the rain. We were welcomed by a dog who took us around and got us to our seat. That’s when Mritika came in. Whispering cafe is a small boutique cafe at the top of a hill near Mapusa, run by Mritika who moved from Mumbai a few ago, enticed by what Goa holds. Next few hours were spent talking about the 2 extreme world existing together in Goa (of alcohol and parties to the a peaceful unexplored Goa), of learning how to pronounce the places in Goa correctly and just getting present to another human being’s world. What a beautiful evening!

Recommendations: The Whispering Cafe, Ruta’s Roadhouse, Mum’s Kitchen. And don’t miss to try Poi at a traditional bakery

4. Sunsets and all things beautiful:
As far as you can see at the horizon, sky changing it’s color from orange to a hundred shades of pink to a dark navy blue, sun-rays dancing over the water, it’s mesmerizing. Times like these makes one realize of the little things that matter.
Other than the standard beach sunsets, my favourite is the drive from Panjim to Pomburpa. Rolling green meadows, stretch of backwaters on one side and old portugese houses on the other, local men selling poi and tea shops around. It’s a beautiful stretch if you take the inner route from Mapusa. Also, drive towards the Aguada fort from Candolim and stop anywhere in between. The view of a beautiful sunset will remain with you forever; like shades of red, orange, yellow and pink infusing into each other with time.

Recommendation: Here is my favourite route from Panjim to Pomburpa. It’s going to be worth it, I bet!

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5. A heritage walk to Portugal
By the late 15th century, upon the discovery of a new route to India by the bank of Portuguese adventurers, including Vasco de Gama, Goa became the ideal base for the seafaring Portuguese who determined to overcome the manipulation of the spice route from the East. Fontainhas (or Bairro das Fontainhas, in Portuguese) is an old Latin Quarter in Panjim, capital city of the state of Goa. It maintains its Portuguese influence, particularly through its architecture, which includes narrow and picturesque winding streets as found in many European cities, old villas and buildings with projecting balconies painted in the traditional tones of pale yellow, green, or blue, and roofs made of red coloured tiles. Fontainhas’ heritage ambience represents the traditional Portuguese influence in the area
I stayed at Mateus’. Mateus is a restored 1879 old Portuguese mansion within the boutique and restaurant lined area of Fontainhas. The moment you enter the house, the warmth of the space and the smell of flowers and beaten earth will take you on the journey back to the world of colors, warmth and everything old and beautiful.

Recommendation: Meet Raj at Mateus, the one who takes care of the place. One conversation with him and you will feel home, I promise!

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The world is a safe place – Excerpt 1 from my trip to Pondicherry

I was climbing the stairs to my room when my mobile phone vibrated. I took it out and saw an interaction in a couchsurfing whatsapp group that I am a part of but had never participated in. Not having booked any hotel for Pondicherry I was leaving for the next morning, I also dropped a message there asking for a place to stay at and got occupied in packing my bag. Little did I know what was in store for me.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of couchsurfing. The idea of having a home wherever I go. Having an opportunity to host/stay with somebody absolutely unknown, in a new place, experiencing local food, people, cultures. Doesn’t it sound exciting? The whole idea brings along a possibility of a world being home and that’s beautiful. At the same time, it’s scary. I have no idea who the person is; what if something happens? I have my valuables, it’s an unknown place. No, I can’t trust this.
It was around 11PM. I was about to sleep when I saw a reply in that group addressing my request. It said something like, “I went to Pondicherry last year and stayed with a couchsurfer, Imran. His contact number is XXXXXXXXXX. Contact him and he will take care of you.” My heart was excited to see that; I would have someone there to take me around the new place. At the same time, my head said, “Are you mad? You do not know the person who has replied, you do not know the person she is referring to. Stop being stupid, stay in a hotel”. I dropped an sms to Imran letting him know that I coming to his town tomorrow before I slept that night.
I was at the airport when I received a call from an unknown number. The excited voice was of Imran. I didn’t have his number saved. You remember, when you were young and some relatives would come to your house, how you would take them around the whole house, showing them every toy you have? That was the kind of energy he had over that one small phone call. As if someone very own is coming to see him. As if we have known each other since ever. He informed me that he has booked a room in a guest house next to his house and will send someone to pick me up at Pondicherry bus stop.
My beautiful, little brain got functioning again. “Something is not okay. Why would he do all that for me, we don’t even know each other. He even said no to charge anything for the room. On top of that, he is even offering to send someone to pick me up? No, can’t be a coincidence”. I thanked him and told him that I will see him there. I was almost sure by now that I will never take a phone call again from this number.
I was about to reach Pondicherry when my phone rang. It was a message from him with name and contact number of the person who would come and pick me up. It also had an apology for not being able to come himself as he had some work, and an apology for the guy who would pick me up doesn’t know english and hindi much and I may have some trouble communicating. I decided that I will meet him. There was something about him which was stronger than my inhibitions and I had to meet him.
I reached Pondicherry in the afternoon and found his friend standing at the bus stop to receive me. He took me to the guest house. The room was already booked by my name and they handed the keys of the room to me. Ensuring that I am comfortable, his friend left. While I rested in my room for some time, I got a call from Imran, checking if I was comfortable and inviting me to meet him whenever it works for me. He stayed right next to the guest house. I went to meet him right then.
When I moved out of the guest house, I saw a tall, dark man standing outside the house with a wide smile. That was Imran. He welcomed me to his house and took me around this beautiful French house he stays in. The house had a verandah with rooms on all 4 sides. There were beautiful pillars in the house and old french windows, giving a touch of an ancient one. For the next few hours, we spoke about how his father who used to serve French army moved to India back in 1950s and their struggles then to find their living in India. Imran lives with his parents and wife and teaches French to make a living. Meeting people is what he enjoys the most (without a doubt!) and is passionate about astrology. Not only that, he helped me getting a transport to roam around, got me a map of the town, took me around the town and ensured I am comfortable. For the next 2 days when I was in his town, he called me thrice to check if I need something and if I am fine. Imran did not just call the place his home, it was his home.
Something moved that day. To me, that was a demonstration of the world being home. I could only wonder of the opportunities I would have missed so far only because I did not choose to trust another human being; of what the world can be if we begin from “The world is a safe place”.

Ek aur ghar mil gaya tha shayad. 🙂

*Name has been changed to maintain the identity of the person

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The dilemma of this or that

I am lost in the contrasting thoughts.

One part asks me to stay with family, support them, be with them and cause work around; the other part asks me to move out of my small town and work hard so that I can take their responsibility.  Is work the centre of life?

One part makes me wonder about simple life in a small town, everything available easily, no time waste in travel and focus on people; the other part makes me wonder of the difficult life at a city, lessons it would teach, recreation in holds, friends it has accommodated.  I know I will have to make a choice.

One part asks me to focus on what I want to do, make myself happy and only then will I be able to make others happy; the other part asks me to focus on supporting people around, take them along, and win together. Am I stuck in the vicious circle of right and wrong?

One part asks me to take up any job and manage my survival, and keep doing what I want alongside; the other part says to identify what I want to do and make it living. Am I being too significant and idealistic?

Actions are missing. Or sensitivity is overloaded. I am sure lights will guide me home.the-road-less-traveled