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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The inclement climes of work make one land up in faraway, unseen lands, having taken some big steps and some little ‘uns. While most places look like something the cat dragged in in a fit of petulant spite, some rare ones accord the weary traveller bliss, bounty and beatitude. But these also make the w.t. wonder why that w.t. is working in the first place !

Goa featured rather high on many indices that ostensibly gauge Human progress—a low population of thirteen lakhs forty three thousand ( 68% Hindus, 27% Catholics, 5% Muslims )ensures plenitude and pomp—a per capita income of over Rs. 26,000 per annum next only to Chandigarh, Panaji has the highest telephone ownership rate and highest exposure to television in the country, a staggeringly high urban income per household, smooth roads and greenery to add to the pristine white sands, and you know you have something very special.
The major money-spinners are Mining, Tourism and Fisheries in that order. The major foods are Fish, more Fish, Meat & Bread in that order. The major beverages are Pheni, Rum, Whisky, Water and Tea in that order.

Didn’t get the time to sift through my regular research on the state visited, and so persisted with the erroneous notion that Margao was North Goa till my colleague ( Ed—And some seven strident co-passengers !) put me right. I can now safely aver that the state can broadly be divided into North Goa ( Panaji/Panjim ) which is the state capital and South Goa . There are five such Municipal demarcations—none of which have a population over a lakh—Margao, Panaji, Vasco, Doan Paula and Ponda.

The ride to Panaji was a delight designed to make one acutely aware of the therapeutic benefits of Ma Nature, running parallel to most of the coast line on one side and verdant abundance on the other.Bracing crisp air made me vacillate between a somnolent gaze and a wide-awake appreciation of the scenery around me. Passed Dabholim & Bicholim en route and could have done with more time for exploration and less for work.

I am sure that most schools of evolutionary thought, Intelligent Design notwithstanding, would have some space in their epistemology reserved for vividly capturing the raison d’ etre of a people, land or community. Hence, by inferential logic, there must be some force, some lode star, some superordinate objective that propels the inhabitants, galvanizes motion and spurs on past the point of pain or inertia, whichever comes first.
For example, for Delhi, it would be power, prestige and visibility; for Madras it would be education or the States, for Bombay, it would be catching the 7 50 fast between Borivli and Churchgate , and so on.
I am sorry to conclude that Goa is blissfully ignorant and gapingly devoid of such a purpose. There is a hypnotic cadence in its languor, magnetic rhythm in its stupor and a stolid confidence in its immobility.

Every single human, canine, feathered friend, furry friend, leaf, microorganism, lamppost must have their siestas between 1 and 4 p.m, so for all practical purposes, Life with its multifarious dendrites,( Ed-You mean 42 !), stops. Not a gently lolling loss of momentum, but a trenchant, firm, cessation of all motion. As Tilak said here ” Siesta is my Birth Right, and I shall have it “ . Nobody, nothing can alter this. Lilting finality and all that !

In fact, some claim have to seen a restaurant at 2 pm “closed for lunch”. Indeed !

Lovely pure sands on the Miramar beach. Kept wondering where all the folks were in Panaji, turns out that was the entire population. One of the tidies bus stands I’ve seen in years and the fact that the capital is only three kms. wide helps.
Found time to walk along the Mandovi river, but lest the reader think that this was a pleasure cruise, also visited the bustling Margao market, the emptiness of Consaulim and its orchards, Verna, Vasco, Agarcim, Porvolim and Mapusa. Actually walked past a six-lane built by the Portuguese, designed for fresh produce and transactions, not aesthetics. After work hours, sat under the Church Ora Pro Nobis ( whatever that means), gazed at the stars and an apologetic moon and tried to forcibly imbibe peace and calm. Didn’t work.

A memorable visit to the chocolate factory at Ponda—reminded of Willy Wonka, and all of us were enthralled as we gazed,mesmerized, by the intricacies in chocolate production. Honest attempts to pay attention to the Tour Host’s explanations were sadly in vain, all of us were waiting for him to dispense with the prolix verbosity and ask those magic words “ So if you’ve understood all, can we go into the Tasting Room? “. Needless to say, all had understood the entire recital in fullest imaginable detail, as we shook our heads to underscore the depth of our grasp. After half an hour of chomping on wafers unabashedly, non-stop, our comprehension was even better.

Many a time, across the country, in classrooms, queues, homes and fields, I’ve been asked to pipe down “Stop shouting as if you are in a fish market”. Cowed down by ignorance, burdened and unsighted with the fog of nescience, not knowing what they meant, I have kept my silence. After all, I’d never been in one myself. Now, at long last, I know. I have felt what it is to be in a fish market so I’ll have a suitable riposte ready for the next chap who says this. I’ll be candid however, the fish market was markedly quieter than I usually am !

Two cine memories kept coming back over and over. Understandably, one was Benegal’s Trikaal which of course is set in Goa, has a fine cast and is still considered a master class in set design. The other, less understandably, was Vijay Singh’s Jaya Ganga, especially a shot that ethereally pans away from Smriti Mishra’s boat to the azure skies above.
Timeless !

Goa is a speedy biker’s haven. No traffic signals and although roads are wide and clear, the propensity to speed has cost folks dear. People are largely parochial inspite of the relative levels of affluence and the local newspapers NavHind Times, Gomantak Times wax eloquent about the state’s affairs. Sports-loving people –an entire page devoted to local sports I also encountered a city business tycoon, Chowgule, for whose anniversary celebrations, there was a haranguing diatribe against the decision to go separately from Maharashtra. Curious !

Still, most consider themselves and their lifestyles as Uber-Indian, money flows from the Gulf and the Cruise Liners where the overseas citizens are employed and I dare say Goa Liberation Day ( December 19-1961) is bigger than August 15.

And yes, I am now in the anguish-laden throes of reason trying to comprehend why one needs to work, if one has what Goa can offer. How much land does a man need ?
What is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare?—


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