India is a land with incredible diversities. Starting with the different climatic conditions she experiences, the distinct topography and terrains she is made of, the myriad of ancient traditions she is home to, the two dozen languages and countless dialects her folks speak, to the wide range of culinary creations she boasts of, India maybe even the most heterogeneous countries in the whole wide world.
Allow me to further explain what I mean. We have Dras in the Kargil district that is considered to be the second coldest ‘inhabited’ place on Earth. Not to forget, we are also home to some of the hottest and arid deserts on this planet.
We have ‘Tamil’ which is one of the oldest written languages used by mankind and yes, we also have Sourashtra – an Indo-Aryan language spoken by a certain sect of people but has absolutely no written script.
This reminds me of what Shashi Tharoor once essayed so perfectly well about India, “How can one approach this land of snow peaks and tropical jungles, with 23 major languages and 22,000 distinct dialects, inhabited by over a billion individuals of every ethnic extraction known to humanity? The Indian dream can be dreamt in Gujarati or in Tamil, dreamt by a Muslim or a Parsi, dreamt by a Brahmin or a Bodo, dreamt on a charpoy or a luxury king-sized bed. The India that was born in 1947 was in a very real sense a new creation: a state that, for the first time, made fellow citizens of the Ladakhi and the Laccadivian, the Keralite and the Kashmiri, and yet divided Punjabi from Punjabi, Bengali from Bengali. How can one determine the identity of an ageless civilisation that was the birthplace of four major religions, 85 major political parties and 300 ways of cooking the potato? The short answer is that it can’t be done — at least not to everyone’s satisfaction. Any truism about India can be immediately contradicted by another. It is often jokingly said that ‘anything you can say about India, the opposite is also true’.”
Maybe no one can explain the diversity of this nation like he does and in fact, the singular thing about India is that you can speak of it only in the plural.
Breaking free from visiting a heritage site, going trekking or holidaying in another nearby country, this time my cousin and I decided to visit the pint-sized Goa. The Goa that is about a lot more than the bikinis and its booze; the land famous for its blazing Sun and its ‘Sunburn’; for its bracing sea air and some succulent seafood.
We reached the bus station in Panjim and decided to walk it to the hotel that my cousin had pre-booked (and got a good deal while doing so) through a reliable website. Upon reaching there and waiting at the reception to complete the formalities before heading to the room, this 3 star hotel, without any undue fuss, let us make an early check in. They didn’t stop there, mind you. Maybe it was their day to do a good deed. 😉 The receptionist went on to upgrade us to a deluxe room and we also managed a 15 minutes spa coupon complimentary for each of us. Yes, and that’s all it took for us to fall in love with the Goans. 😁
As soon as we checked in to our room that opens up to the hotel’s private art gallery, I opened the map of the city that they gave us at the reception and spread it across the table to identify the must-visit locations and route that we could follow for the next two days in the coastal state that colourfully illustrates its diversity.
Right after we got into the cab, we asked our driver Pappu the cliche question, “We would like to see the Dil Chahta Hai fort. Will you please take us there first?”. As if that was what he expected us to ask anyway, he smiled and in his broken English said, “Yes, Ma’am. Sure, we go to Chapora fort then, okay?”. We went there for old times sake. If you are expecting to see something out of the ordinary, then it may disappoint you. Unfortunately for us, we reached this crumbling fort well past 11 in the morning and hiked up to reach the ruins while the Sun was waiting to consume us.
After capturing a few shots of the red stone walls and cylindrical turrets, with the Vagator beach as the backdrop, we stopped to grab some food at the famous ‘Thalassa’.
The cool drink and the great view made us want to linger around for longer than we decided to.
Google suggested we visit the impressive face of Lord Shiva at the Little Vagator beach and I must confess that I became slightly curious. Though we climbed down and clambered up the rocks, we didn’t get to see the ‘Shiva’s Face’, not even anything remotely close to what I saw on the internet. After following the map online, we only managed to reach a pile of rocks with a ‘trisula’ right on top. Believed to be Lord Shiva’s weapon, this traditional trident added drama to the picture. Maybe the place was just called the ‘Shiva’s Face’. I just decided to take it quite literally. 😋
Goa definitely has a separate identity when it comes to the cultural and spiritual values she holds, along with being well-balanced and known as a place that has a lot in store for her tourists to explore in terms of the colourful festivals, little seaside shacks and a number of crazy adventure sports and leisure activities.
We took a silent stroll through this comparatively quieter beach, sat on the rocks among the weeded bushes and watched the Sun set after a taxing day of work.
Since we were no less tired, the both of us decided to head back to the hotel, avail the free spa treatment, get a good night sleep and start early the next morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we hopped on to our cab and drove towards the Candolim Beach. On the way, we stopped to take a dolphin spotting ride near the Coco Beach. They had priced each ticket at INR 300 for a 45 minute long boat ride.
While on our way in search of the dolphins on the 10 seater, the boatman pointed towards the Fort Aguada Jail on the right hand side. But this time, it was not the beautiful sea facing prison that captured my attention. It was the huge mansion beside that. Upon asking, the guide said that it was the infamous diamond merchant ‘Jimmy Millionaire’s House’ where a 1999 Hindi movie (Haseena Maan Jaayegi) was shot. The tycoon is said to be a recluse who lives a solitary life in his palatial European style palace, with absolutely no Indian ethnic references, surrounded by 12 acres of land.
While driving us towards the Aguada Fort, Pappu asked us whether we had watched Ajay Devgn’s action packed movie Singham. Apparently, one of the most celebrated scenes from this movie was shot at the Dona Pauly Jetty. From having 6 newlyweds visit Goa, known to be the go-to place to celebrate ones honeymoon, in Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd to portraying typical Goan characters and capturing their journey in search of a long lost love in Finding Fanny, the film fraternity have time and again shown their love for this seafacing state and its romantic locations.
Did the filmmakers happen to choose this land with a unique blend of cultures and picturesque beaches to shoot and make the tourists want to visit this tiny state? Or, was Bollywood always obsessed with Goa and its architecture that was highly influenced by the Portuguese? We will never know.
Overlooking the wide blue Arabian Sea was the Aguada Fort and its lighthouse – our next stop on Day 2. Lucky for us, the round orange star decided to be nicer to us. As a result, we managed to cover the massive 17th century Portugese fort that almost enveloped the entire peninsula. The four-storeyed lighthouse that stood tall here, is the oldest of its kind in our continent and is said to have been once used for storing gallons of water.
The trip to Goa is never complete without indulging in some water sports, isn’t it? We drove towards the Baga beach, the seaside well known to tourists as one of the best spots to catch the waves. They had an array of activities of which we chose to go for jet skiing and parasailing. Watching people parasailing and being plunged into the Arabian sea lured us and made us want to taste the pleasure they were enjoying. Needless to say, parasailing through the Goan skies took the cake.
We had no plans to change and head for lunch before we made sure we got an exotic Thai massage done at the Sukho Thai Spa near Britto’s. My cousin and I took our seats next to each other on their reclining spa chairs, all set for a relaxing foot reflexology date and this will be on my to-do list during my next visit too. I am sure that explains how much we enjoyed their excellent service.
It was almost 4 in the evening when we walked into Britto’s for a late lunch. But we did not regret this day one bit. Their seafood platter served with some great tasting sauces was all we needed to wrap up a long day.
If we tune in, this state that stretches along the Arabian sea has a million stories to share and we were lucky to hear a few. ☺
We almost forgot to sip on our mocktails while our eyes got glued onto the warm colors the Sun was spreading the sky with while he was setting into the cool blue carpet, right in front of us. 🌞