Vive La Goa!

So, dear readers, I am in Goa this week after nearly 23 years. Although much has changed in the years gone by in terms of growth and development, Goa continues to enjoy pretty much the same reputation of being a tourist’s paradise. Every Indian aspires to visit Goa once in a lifetime to experience its free-spirited air. In fact, much before disposable income came into being and newly- wed couples started heading to Mauritius and Maldives, Goa was the favourite destination of honeymooners (I myself was one).

Even those who flaunt their Guccis and Pradas and fly to Europe and Africa, keep coming back to Goa and they book their tickets to go there almost at the drop of the hat. Indeed, Goa grows on you, there is something about it that makes you want to keep coming back here.

Among the many changes in Goa is its brand-new airport at Mopa bringing travellers closer to the city. The prosperity on account of tourism is visible in the mushrooming of high-end restaurants and bars and the skyrocketing rentals and buying prices of land and property. I will leave it to Google to enlighten you on the number of tourists Goa attracts, its economy, population etc and focus on the vibes that the place exudes.

For many Indians, I will speak for the north, since I come from there, Goa is their ticket to freedom for the period that they choose to visit it. For women and girls, the preparation begins months in advance to buy the ‘Goa wale kapde,’ which comprises shorts, skirts, tees, hats and oversized goggles. For men too, it’s pretty much the same, minus the skirts of course. Here I am referring to those whose conservative families do not allow them the freedom to wear clothes of their choice back home. This was true decades back and holds true even today. Newly-weds from the north who can’t afford Maldives and Mauritius still come to Goa for their honeymoon and can be easily spotted with the wife wearing all the trappings of a new bride (mehndi intact) like a ‘chooda’ ‘mangalsutra’ ‘pajeb’ ‘toe rings’ etc and a tacky shoulder bag to complete the look. It seems they live their few days of freedom here and then go back home to spend the rest of their lives in making others happy.

I don’t grudge them their ‘Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi’ moment.

I do have a problem with another lot. While on my walks amidst the bounty of nature that this place offers, I hear a familiar sound. Yes, yes, there is no mistaking, it is Punjabi and Bollywood songs that I get to hear everywhere back home. They are belting out from a rented Thar full of revellers who are out to show the world they are in Goa to have a lot of fun ‘their way.’ To them, I request with folded hands, please spare Goa. Don’t try to convert it into another Manali, Mussoorie, Shimla and Nainital.

Let Goa be.

For that is the spirit of this place. Everyone lets the other be. No one here tries to outdo the other. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone here. Please wear what you want, merge with the local culture, and not intrude on it. Enjoy the local music and savour the cuisine.

I love the languid pace of Goa where you can work, live, eat and dress as you like without seeking validity from others, where shops open late and then shopkeepers down their shutters again post lunch, returning rejuvenated in the evening.

Even as I write this sitting in a cottage on a sultry day, I can hear a multitude of birds chirping among the lush green trees. From the window, I can also spot gora families with bare-chested fathers, scantily dressed mothers and little kiddos with only diapers to cover their bodies. Fathers carry the children on their shoulders or pull their prams while mothers either chat among themselves or with some locals. I see this both in the morning and evening. Haven’t seen such a sight back home in many many years.

This is the spirit of Goa. It allows you to live. To breathe.




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