Last week, we flew into a weepy Goa. It was past midnight, and the world outside the aircraft window was dark, interspersed with dense, white, cumulonimbus, which obscured the city below. We were descending rapidly and I craved a sight of the cheery lights of civilization. Instead, I was bent near double, the seat belt so tight against my waist that it anchored me to a shaky reality. My head spun in many interesting ways as the aircraft shuddered and bucked with the immense battle it was waging with the elements. Finally, finally, we landed.
Sanjay, the security guard and Man Friday at the complex in Vagator had asked me earlier in the day, “Yahaan toh red alert hai, aap aa rahein hain kya?” My two previously planned trips had been cancelled at the nth minute, and my longing for Goa had deepened into an obsession. Vagator in Goa is our second home, and a place I love deeply. I had looked forward to visiting Goa during the Diwali break so much that even wild horses, or as it turns out, a cyclone, couldn’t have kept me away. I had replied to Sanjay, “Bilkul aa rahein hain”, superstitiously crossing my fingers.
It was rather freak weather for this time of the year, though when we landed it was a suspiciously dry Goan night. We reached home to no power, a backyard in shambles, with uprooted plantain trees. It was a sad sight. It takes some effort to grow these trees. With the help of inverter driven lights, we assessed our home. Except for a pesky lizard which had taken refuge above the main door, there was no other damage. The lizard we soon drove away, though Sachin was sad to see it go. Lizards keep all other insects out, was his sage counsel which I indignantly ignored. He’s always had a thing for reptiles.
I was wide awake, though it was well past two in the morning. I sat in my familiar patio while the rain, which now came down in torrents, lashed the house, and the trees swayed drunkenly. I greedily breathed in the clean air, forcing my body to slow down. Have you noticed, nights in cities are never ever completely dark? I could make out the faint outline of the other villas, and the little path snaking away in front of me. I was alone in the solitude of that world. It was the most peaceful I had felt in a long while.
In the morning, monkeys came visiting. I took photos, while my brave son cautioned from the safety of the patio that they were quite likely to grab my phone! The security guards were mighty miffed. Monkeys damage the trees, and while hopping from roof to roof, dislodge the tiles. But for us, monkeys were a novelty and we tracked them till they vanished over the fence.
In Vagator we behave like locals. Unselfconsciously so. We trade banter with the local restauranteur, and buy our staples from the store next door. The vegetable vendor gives us discounts on the fruits we buy, in the happiness of seeing us after a long while (or so he claims). Whatever, it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy and happy to be here. We often go out wearing whatever we are wearing, and our shades. It matters to no one that we are not dressed to the hilt. Oh, the freedom of it all!
Vagator may be in North Goa, but for long it was the peripheral cousin to the more happening Calangute, Anjuna and Baga. Yet, this also means that it attracted less crowd which admittedly added to its charm. Lately, things have changed. The main Vagator beach has been usurped by outfits offering all manner of water sports, much like the other popular beaches. I have no quarrel with that, we just walk further down the long beach which is more deserted, for our dose of vitamin sea. My son enjoys Goa the beach bum way. He has to be dragged out of the sea with the direst of threats. Back home, after he’s streaked the house with wet mud, we often settle down for a game of Uno or Poker. But this is the extent of our exertions here.
For me, it’s a charmed existence. I do nothing more than sit back with a book or my iPad, and perform the most taxing task – plan the family’s next meal. While I love to whip up breakfast, Sachin and Ishaan insist on eating out for the rest of the meals. It’s so easy toe their line! The choices in Vagator are aplenty. Near to us are the thaali place Goan Spice, Jaws, Tintin and one of our new favourites – Comida Casseira.
The Greek restaurant Thalassa used to be our indulgence, but we have now lost it to Siolim. Go all the way to Siolim? Naah! Sarah Todd’s much acclaimed Antares which had burned down, has reopened in Vagator, but we are yet to visit it. When we feel more energetic, we stir ourselves to visit our other favourites like Ritz Classic in Panjim, Suza Lobo in Calangute and Britto’s in Baga. Post lunch, we often take a walk to the Baskin Robbins outlet near us, whose owner is rather whimsical. When it’s devilishly hot, and we long for that bite of coolness, he shuts down for his siesta. If we are lucky we get our little choice of ice-cream and head home for our siesta!
Truth be told, food forms a big part of our intense attraction for Goa. And of course what Goa stands for – susegad. Goa to me, is a state of being. Being happy, being carefree, just being me. In a perfect world I would live in Vagator. But this is not a perfect world. So all I can do is promise myself to visit this haven as often as I can. I reckon that’s the least I owe myself.