May 12, 2013

A TRIP TO GOA... FINALLY


GOA DIARIES: THE JOURNEY TO GOA


It had been around one and a half year since I had last been to Goa and all this while, I was dying to be there. After all, if you have spent a decade at such a beautiful place, it becomes an integral part of your life and the emotional bond that you develop with it runs quite deep. I had come to Goy (as we Konkanis call it) in June 2001 as a twelve year old boy who was just about to step into the teenages and walked out, little over 10 years later as a computer engineer recruited by an IT company from campus.
The Kali Bridge, Karwar
Though, I have hundred and one reasons to like Bengaluru, there are times, specially when I am struck in lengthy traffic jams on a Friday evening at the Silk Board junction that I get reminded of the many magical moments spent in the beach state - the evening walk at the sprawling promenade along the Mandovi river in Panjim; searching for rare books on Indian history in the Central Library at the Menezes Braganza Institute; playing cricket outside the Maha Lakshmi Temple after school; spending time with friends in the GEC campus after bunking a monotonous lecture; watching the sun go down amongst wilted coconut trees at Bhoma, just before the Banastarim bridge; the simple yet captivating architecture of the temples around Ponda; the tourists flocking to the 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa, housing the mortal remains of the patron saint - St Xavier; munching on delicious Squid battered fry in Hotel Texas and so on. Though I may not visit Goa often, my affair with the state is still strong - I make it a point to speak to my friends on the weekends, read the local news on the Goa News website (which figures on the 'Most Visited' page of my browser), listen to Konkani songs on Youtube - Lorna's Yo Baile Yo, Manoharai Sardesai's Shobhit Amche Goem and my favourite - Reinaldo Fernandes' Adeus Korcha Vellar and keenly follow Rajan Parrikar's photo blog which has some breath taking images of the Goan countryside (Link). 


While Da and Bhabi have been kind enough to invite me to Goa each time the two of them go there to spend time with the latter's parents, I could never accompany them as I was preoccupied with some or the other stuff. However, when mom asked me if I could take her for the wedding of her friend's daughter in the last week of April at Bicholim - some 30 km from Panjim, I simply couldn't say 'No'. The timing was perfect since May 1 (Wednesday) was a public holiday. My application for two days leave was approved instantly and the two of us - me and mom went on a five day trip to Goa; 5 days of revisiting those places that we so dearly miss; 5 days of catching up with our friends and a few relatives and most importantly, 5 days of a much needed break from our daily schedule so as to rejuvenate our minds. 

We were to board the bus from BTM 2nd Stage at 7:00 pm in the evening on 26th April. Not so surprisingly, some urgent work came in at the last moment and I left office at 4:00 pm (exactly one hour later than what I had promised Mom) and reached home at about 5:45 pm. Though she was fuming, she had already packed my bag and surprisingly, still found time to prepare Palak Paneer and rice for Pappa, Da and Bhabi. To be frank, I find it difficult to believe how she makes so many sacrifices 
Fire in the Sky: Morning sky at Ankola
for the  family, going through so much trouble each day just to make sure that all of us are happy. Coming back to the topic, we hired a rickshaw to reach the pick up point which is around 4 km from our home at Devarachikanahalli via the Madivala lake road. The notorious Bengalauru traffic lived up to its reputation and it took about 35 minutes to travel this small distance. The bus - VRL Non A/C Sleeper was not well maintained and was late by 15 minutes. However, we were not complaining because for us, the destination was clearly more important than the journey. After occupying our seats, I messaged my friends, fine tuning the plans for the coming days. In fact, few of my friends - batch mates from GEC (that is Goa Engineering College for all of you who don't know) were to come down over the weekend from Pune, just to meet me. Some other had either cancelled or adjusted their preplanned schedules to make time for me. After all we all were dying for a reunion since a long time so as to relive those precious moments that we had spent in the past, those Gazalis (Goan Konkani word for 'Incidents') and Fokana (Goan Konkani word for 'Leg-pulling'). I hardly slept for about 4 hours that night, clinging to my laptop bag in which I had kept my camera, looking forward to enjoy the upcoming five days to the fullest and hoping to return to Bengaluru with a bucketful of memories and of course, lots and lots of photos.


The next morning I woke up at about 6:00 am, only to find that we were still at Ankola - a coastal town in Karnataka, nearly 130 km from the Goan capital. We had our breakfast - Idli Sambar at a road  side eatery. I spotted a Cormorant perched on a leafless tree at a distance while peeing and took few
In Deep Thought: Cormorant at Ankola
snaps - the first ones on this trip, once I was done answering the call of nature. Though the destination was quite far, I was happy to be along the Arabian coast, where I have spent a majority of my life. This place is typically characterized by unspoiled beaches, sleepy villages, paddy fields, towering coconut trees, fresh fish and hot and humid climate. Our bus breezed through NH 66 (formerly known as NH 17), arguably one of the scenic roads in this part of the country which is sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, cut into several segments by fast flowing rivulets. In fact, we used to travel through the same road while going to Murdeshwar - our native village to spend time with my grand parents during holidays from Goa. At one point of time, I even wanted to get down and head there, which is 80 km from Ankola and spend some time with Dada (my maternal grand father). Soon, we crossed Karwar, famous for the naval base - Project Seabird and entered Goa at Pollem. DRS who is my friend since Std IX, sent me this message, borrowed from a popular Ajay Devgn movie shot primarily in the beach state: 


"Welcome to Goa, Singham!"

They say that 'Change is constant'. However, Goa continues to defy this to a large extent; while cities like Panjim, Margao and Vasco are fast turning into concrete jungles, the villages and the countryside still hold on to their old charm. I was happy to see that nothing had changed in the last one and half year, at least in this part of the world. Some of the places that I distinctly remember seeing en route include the elegant Nirakar Lakshmi Narsimha temple at Mashem and the MCC building (which stands for Mashem Cricket Club and not Marylebone Cricket Club) in the vicinity, the entrance to the Partagalli Mutt and the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, the blacksmith's workshop near the Canacona bus stand, the majestic church dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary at Navelim, the well maintained Municipal Garden at Margao and the Padre Conceicao College of Engineering (PCCE) at Verna where Da & Bhabi had studied. Since we had decided to stay mostly at Bhabi's place at Goa Velha while on the trip, we had to get down at the fag end of the bypass road between Panjim and Margoa, immediately after the Agacaim bridge. While Da and Bhabi's mom gave us the directions, it was Bhabhi's dad who picked us up at the designated spot and took us home, one person at a time on his Honda Activa. After a wait spanning 18 months which felt like ages, I finally set foot on Goan soil. The journey had ended but the trip had just begun.

Cormorant with the Western Ghats in the backdrop


For more on the Goa Trip:
(1) The Chance Encounter (Link)
(2) Dil Dosti Etc (Link)
(3) An Evening in Vagator - Part 1 (Link
(4) An Evening in Vagator - Part 2 (Link)
(5) Life is a Beach (Link)