Saturday, May 20, 2006

In Goa

Just realised that the last post was way back on the 28th of March – that’s a month-and-a-half back. Jeeze! Bad form, completely.

It’s been an absolutely crazy whirl in office these days actually… from what has always been a small channel without ‘going big’ and competing with other English channels, we have decided to become bigger. It’s no longer a fight against just one more English channel. It’s now a four-way scrap for what is a relatively small market, and we have thrown our hat into the ring. Fair enough. But that’s increased responsibilities as well as the physical and mental stress big time. Not complaining. In fact, I am sure that’s the way it should be. But it’s meant very little time at home with Ajitha, very little time to do anything else, and obviously no time to blog.

But it has had its share of exciting times…a three-day stopover in Goa for the one-dayer against England. 10 days at home in Calcutta. A 14-hour trip to Bombay. A lot of movies seen…ONE WHOLE BOOK read. Lots of good food had. And summary other stuff.

Goa first…

The England-India one-day series had the matches scheduled in Delhi, Faridabad, Cochin, Goa, Guwahati, Jamshedpur and Indore. Cochin, Guwahati and Goa were obviously the interesting picks. The second two more so, because being married to Ajitha, Cochin had been covered in fair detail a couple of times earlier. But I had pretty much decided that I wouldn’t be covering any of the matches – preferred to stay in office, having just spent a good month-and-a-half in Pakistan and having a fair few competent cricket reporters in office.

Didn’t happen. Chappie who was supposed to go to Goa had to rush to New York instead, and I had to go to Goa. Not a bad idea at all, except that Goa is probably the last place in India where you should go on work. It really is as fantastic a place as it is made out to be.

The beautiful sea is just a stone’s throw away from wherever you are. We were in Madgaon. Big, fancy hotel with suite for me and colleague. And a private beach that’s about a two-minute walk from my room. Bathing was never in my scheme of things. But walks were. Which I could only manage on the last morning. Woke up at six in the morning, set off for a long five-kilometre stretch…walked for well over two hours. It was quite memorable. Realised that I hadn’t actually been to a proper beach in over two decades. The last was probably Puri back in 1984. Have been to Bombay a few times, but while Bombay has the sea, it doesn’t really have a beach. And the trips to Kerala don’t count, because while there have been beaches and stuff, I haven’t really been able to soak in the beach part. Neither do river beaches count – it’s not really the same thing. River beaches are probably more interesting in some senses, but it’s not the same thing.

Aside: despite the really nice time spent that morning, I still can’t seem to figure out people’s fascination with seas and sea beaches. Yes, it is vast. Yes, is gives you that sense of being really small and powerless…but why would that be fascinating? I agree that going to sleep with the noise of the waves crashing and the surf (crap-foam in India mostly) receding is quite an experience, but that’s about it.

Anyway… where Goa really scores is in the way it is generally. Most of Goa – apart from sections in Panjim and the Fatorda area, it’s all quite beautiful. We were in South Goa. Roads so narrows that two normal-sized cars have to slow down when crossing each other, trees all over the place, and lots of greenery all over. And the houses! These are all cottage-like establishments. There’s very little difference in the rich people’s houses and the poor people’s houses. Mostly ancient constructions from the Portuguese times. Rather beautiful, made all the more interesting because almost all of them are painted in the most garish colours…provides quite a contrast to the over-riding green all over.

And when streets are called Streptim Stretch and Rodrigues Walk, it all takes a different dimension! And hey, the pubs are called things like Mario’s and Geoffrey’s and Penny’s and stuff like that. Isn’t that like totally cool!

But my favourite part about Goa – South Goa at least – is the dining out thing. Done with a long, hard day’s work, all you need to do is head for the nearest beach (I forget the names of the two big ones near Madgaon), and while the beaches in North Goa are the ones that attract the New Year’s Eve revellers with its high-end dance-music-party atmosphere, South Goa is more laidback. Just a lot of shacks on the beach – very basic – and loads of good food. I had mussels, squids, pork, some fish, some feni, lots of vodka…the works. It really works. It really, really works.

And now, despite having scoffed at the idea of going someplace that’s so hyped, Ajitha and I are seriously planning a trip across. About five days is more than enough – rent a bike, ride around all day, stop and eat when you want to, get back in the saddle, stop and eat again, soak in the sun…and keep the phone switched off.