As I mention later, Goa is a country of commissions. Did I say “country”? Well, yes, it’s a country by itself. At no point during the day and a half I spent there did I feel like I was in India. It was like I’d briefly moved to this new country. Where I was going to holiday.
Well, coming back to the commission, our taxi driver decided where we were going to stay. Sathya suggested one hotel. “That’s too expensive saar”, waved away the taxi driver. “I’ll take you to this cottage next to Tito’s. Excellent and new place. And it’s cheap.” Sathya confirmed that Tito’s was the hotbed of activity in North Goa so it would make sense staying in it’s vicinity. Not that the driver gave him any choice.
As the taxi driver had promised, the cottage was right in front of Tito’s. A cricket ball’s throw (i.e. < 22 yards) away. Was run by this guy called Francis who had pulled down his kuchcha house and built a few rooms which he would lend out. It was a basic room with two beds and a functional bathroom. Seven hundred a night for the three of us. The price would go up to three grand during christmas, we were told. A few minutes after we checked in, Sathya and Kodhi were fast asleep. Visibly exhausted after the long bus journey.
When traveling with friends, it is imperative that the objective and style of travel match. If you are the kind that decides to do maximum justice to the place you visit, and want to travel a lot, it is no fun to go with guys who just want to spend time in the hotel. If you are the types that likes to be active during a holiday, and keep doing something, you should avoid going with people who decide they don’t want to expend any energy. Making a mental note of this, I put on my cap and headed out, hoping to figure out the geography of Calangute village.
The twin beaches of Calangute and Baga are filled with shacks. It’s perfect competition out there. The menu is supposed to be the same across shacks, as are the prices. Each shack looks the same. They serve the same drinks. Each of them have put out some sun beds for those that want to get a tan. And they have these extra-friendly waiters – even these guys seem to make extra efforts to network. They take hours to get you your order – they know that being in Goa you are in no hurry. And they let you sit around for hours even after you’re done. No one asks you to get up. If only the food were to be better…
They serve the standard English breakfast fare. Bacon and eggs and sausages and baked beans and toast. And pancakes. They also attempt to make pizza and pasta and some tandoori shyte. I happened to eat some pasta and it was downright horrible. By the looks of it they didn’t seem like they were capable of making good Tandoori stuff either. I’m longing for my next visit to Little Italy or Fiorano. I need to set right the pasta taste.
One of the most depressing thing about Goa’s beaches is that naked female skin loses its value. The place is brimming with old and fat firang women, the more conservative of whom wear bikinis. It is not an uncommon sight to see women topless here. However, you’d rather not look at them. One look at the bare skin and you’ll notice that it’s mostly wrinkled and sagging, with lumps of fat underneath. It is impossible to walk ten meters here without seeing some such skin. Horrible. And maybe it would make sense to shoot an “only the balls should bounce” ad here.
Then, we happened to see some stereotypes that we had only read about. We noticed a number of old firang women flirting with young Indian guys. There seemed to be an unnaturally large number of such couples on the beach. “Gigolos”, explained Sathya. On another occasion we happened to spot this old firang guy walking to the beach with his arm over the shoulder of a little Indian boy. “Bloody firang pedo”, exclaimed Kodhi. A lot of stuff that we read in the papers or see in the movies is actually true, I thought.
One fashionable thing to do nowadays in Goa is to go to the “Dil Chahta Hai fort” and get photographed there. For some reason we assumed it was the Aguada and planned an evening visit. Sathya was getting too many calls from his girlfriend and put NED. So it was Kodhi and I who ventured out at five thirty, hoping to rent a bike and get to the fort before dark. I had to pawn out my PAN card so as to rent a Honda Activa (at the usurious rate of three hundred for twenty four hours). I’ve just about taken possession of the machine when the lender tells me that there is no fuel, and no fuel is to be found for another twenty km and so it would make sense for us to buy fuel at highly inflated prices from him. There was no choice there.
For someone who usually drives a geared bike, it’s tough adjusting to an ungeared one. Every time you accelerate, you hold down the left brake (actually the clutch) and press down the left heel hoping to change gears. When you have to slow down, the left hand comes into action only later. It’s the right toes and right hand that move. And by the time I had got acclimatised to this ungeared beauty, we were at Fort Aguada. Only to see a wall with a huge door and padlock on it. There was some signage by the Archeological Survay of India. And it was getting dark. The fort was closed for the day. We had missed the DCH moment. I had even planned the caption we were going to give the photo on orkut – “we wanted a DCH pic but Sathya ditched us”. All in vain. We cursed our luck and took a few snaps anyways. And began the descent, hoping to return the next morning.
For dinner, we decided to abandon the shack and go to some place on the Baga causeway. “It’ll be the same food”, Sathya warned us. “And ambience will be inferior”. We didn’t care. Alfredo’s was where we were going to go. However, at the last moment we saw a live band in action at the neighboring La Calypso and entered that. Decent Indian food. And good music (they played the Doors, Hendrix, etc). Not much conversation. And in the meantime Monkee had called us and told us that DCH was shot in some fort in south Goa, and that Aguada had nothing to do with it. The Aguada visit got promptly deleted from our calendar the next day, which was eventually spent just lazing at St. Andrew’s shack.
Our last few minutes in Calangute, before we got picked up by Paulo’s complimentary shuttle, had a filmi angle to it. Just when we were about to leave Calangute, VAK Kanti had landed up there and wanted to meet us. We told him we were at the Calangute bus stand and to meet? us there. He got somewhere close and called us saying he couldn’t see us. I took over the phone (I pride myself for being an expert with directions) and proceeded to direct him. And he seemed to be going round and round in circles without ever seeing us. The shuttle got ready to leave. We loaded the luggage and Kodhi, and I was standing outside still barking out directions. And there was still no sign of Kanti. Things were getting desperate. And unlike in the movies, the bus left before he could turn up. I sometimes think I saw a bald bespectacled figure chasing the shuttle as it pulled away from the Calangute bus stand. However, Kodhi refutes this claim, and hence I’ll just credit it to my imagination.
As much as I would have loved to end on this filmy note, my essay about Goa will be incomplete without mentioning the scene that to me symbolized Goa. It happened a few minutes before I left, while I was walking to the Calangute bus stand. A couple of dogs (yes, a couple) were fucking. From what I have seen in Bangalore and other places, when a couple of dogs are fucking, the others just move away to give them their privacy. No one hangs around. Clearly not the case with Goa. As these dogs fucked, there were some four of them around them. Watching. Open eyed and open mouthed. Tongues hanging down. And while they watched, the fucking dogs went on about their business, totally unmindful of the attention. I wanted to capture this on camera, but the camera was in the bag which was with Kodhi at the bus stand. This great moment thus goes uncaptured. My apologies for the same.