There’s a lot you hear about Goa before you land into its surprisingly tiny Vasco da Gama airport. The idea of this holiday city and the endless clichés that follow – a place for travelers & tourists, honeymooners & hippies alike – there’s nothing I could possibly add to the elaborate guides and blogs that rant about its beaches, architecture, churches, parties and more. I have been on that side of the spectacle, and it’s both breath-taking & distant. However, the Goa that I’ve seen in the past month is different, and dwelling into the heart of this city to feel the pulse that runs through it has been a discovery of sorts. Here’s a little descriptive journal of my stay that’ll help you smell Goa for the living & breathing city that it is – far unlike any other.
I truly believe it’s the little things that make up a city – little things like the interlock tile roads of South Bombay, or the swings in the front-yard of every home in Ahmadabad. For Goa, it’s the hand-painted tiles for name plates that fit in beautifully with its Portuguese architecture, the sweet, salty breeze with the hint of sour fish-whiffs in intervals and the visual sundae of sloping roofed homes that complement the local upbeat melodies that I frequently overhear at the local restaurants, churches or supermarkets and am amused by how well they suit the colors of this city. It’s a far friendlier city than I’d imagined – the cashier who gave me an extra chocolate, the lady returning from the church who gave me directions, the neighbor with a dog who smiled at me this morning, the local who helped me park my scooter or the shopkeeper who accepted my bargain so cheerfully.
It’s a pleasantly mixed brew of a city with winding hilly roads right across riverside-walks, loud crass party crowds & fish-markets alongside stretches of absolute silence besides cricket noises. Most fascinating of all are always pockets of beauty (or amazing food) waiting to be discovered here. No matter how mainstream a reputation Goa has earned, there’s an air of honest individuality about this place. It’s a cocoon of its own relaxed pace – a wonderland of sorts.
Since I spend most of my day in the yellow bungalow studio, I’ve become more acquainted with the midnight Goa than the sunny-side Goa. It’s a hauntingly quiet one. I recall riding past neon signboards & lengthy roads void of lights, starry hills reflecting into still lakes & casino ships abandoned in mid river waters. I’ve met a few people I could call friends and I’ll remember sneaking into the Marriott’s pool-side lounge listening to the gushing waves, that post-midnight with the waves at our feet whilst listening to out-of-tune karaoke over bottles of Tuborg. I’ll remember the cajun-chicken-pizzas, pineapple-juice-vodka conversations and collecting green mussel shells out of fish thalis.
I’ve not lived in any place for over a couple of years, therefore learning to find home in little nooks. Here I’ve found a yellow swing in the balcony, and right about now (four thirty in the evening) there’s a photogenic beam of sunlight that illuminates this corner. The sounds of a few chirps and distant motors shuffle and the smell of sweet poi (bread) baking in the house behind is successfully distracting me from wrapping up my write-up.
It was a little unnerving the first time, being in an unknown city with naive expectations and excitement, but it’s just as liberating after a while and it’s worth everything.Traveling alone has its own unique high which contributes massively to an unparalleled feeling of independence.