It is hot in Goa. I didn’t expect it to be anything less. But even a sultry Goa trumps Mumbai weather by miles. There is a charm about coming to Goa at the fag end of summer; the air is heavy, the sky is overcast, and the anticipation of rain colours every mood. Most tourists have also vacated the state, grumbling about the heat. The locals are languid, spent, having dealt with the onslaught since October. The Goa which was once abuzz with colourful stalls and crowded beaches, is now winding down. Yet, one gets a personalised Goa as never before, and very rarely after.
There are enough roadside shops and restaurants open to tempt one. Of course, the entire menu is not available. So a request for pizza we were warned at the Jaws restaurant near our home, would take more than an hour to fulfil. So we settled for dosas and uthappams. The South Indian chef glowered at us from behind his tava, but turned out delicious food – the chutney was fresh and the sambhar to my very finicky South Indian palate, delicious – a difficult feat in that sweltering climate. And we were satiated.
The very lack of routine is what charms one about Goa. That, and the sheer options for an indolent life that the state provides. Our usual, unvarying routine in Goa is to vegetate – read, get tanned beyond belief in the pool, long evenings at the beach, sumptuous seafood meals, and langorous naps in the afternoons! The break from ringing bells and bustling house help (the norm back home in Mumbai), is such a welcome relief. Even if it means, I have to do a lot more domestic chores. Incredible as it may seem, I don’t mind it. Nirvana is curling up in a chair with a book – this visit I am revisiting Rebecca for well, the zillionth time, and a rather entertaining book I bought at the Mumbai airport, Miss Malini #tothemoon.
Our house has a narrow little backyard. Since the boundary wall is shared with the adjoining complex, the building staff has sown plantain, papaya and bougainvillea to give us a measure of privacy. The plants have grown into stout young trees, and I wait for the day when I will have my own little arbour.
Even as I seek the calm, the Big Vagator Beach nearby has become a heaving, busy beach. Never known for adventure sports, it today offers parasailing and speed boats to eager tourists. Even as my son frolics in the sea, I choose to sit on the sandy beach, amid the surging crowd of sari clad matrons, coy yet bold honeymooners, and bold bunches of men, liberated suddenly in every way. They ignore the lifeguard’s half hearted whistle warning them of the high tide and venture deeper into the sea. I try not to watch them. Young boys with outstretched trays containing ugly jewellery beseech you to buy, even as locals indulge in beach football, and dogs and incredibly, cows, saunter. Far into the distance, on the rocky outcrop, people are stretching out their arms to take selfies. They look so precarious against the eager sea waiting to claim them, or so it seems to my fanciful mind. I try not to watch them too.
Yet, amid all these distractions, I feel the utmost sense of peace and solitude. Most, I confess, when surrounded by people. As the sun sets and we set our faces towards home, there is a deep sense of contentment. A Goan holiday is like an island amidst a surging, wild ocean. It gives life a pause, a chance for the soul to tarry a while and rejuvenate itself. It buoys one to plunge once again into the exciting madness of this, our Maximum City.