Notes from Goa: A blend of amazement and frustration

Each time I live in Goa, I’m amazed at some sights but also saddened by many experiences. Sights to look forward to are Goa’s greenery, bird life, flowers and sea waves. Just a two-hour drive gets us into thick forests and to colourful birds. In contrast, from Delhi it takes 6-9 hours of driving to reach Morni Hills or Corbett for any remarkable change in flora and fauna so those drives have to be consciously planned. Some fruits available here are most certainly sweeter than those in Delhi and yet they are affordable. Papayas come at Rs15/piece if I avoid the tourist zones and track down the lone woman seller on the Parra road or go over to the Mapusa Friday market and, if I’m lucky, I also get some smiles and a chat. There are big supermarkets like Newtons or small shops like Viegas, both of which make shopping for Kodai cheeses and fresh herbs a pleasure. We love to use the local produce and try to learn about it some amount on each stay. That includes Goan breads, kokum, chorizo, bakery products and more.

Sights and experiences causing frustrations can be far too many though. First of all, here I’m treated as a tourist so get fleeced by helpers and service providers with a disturbing regularity. Based on my basic belief that we humans are the same species with the same basic needs, I’m friendly with any human being I come across, irrespective of one’s caste, language or physical appearance. These include Goans, other Indians providing services and non-Indians. And yet, I can’t be sure why people are so superficial in some cases, remote in some more and arrogant in so many more? Just because they know Goa more than me, does it entitle them to a boorish behavior?

Coming to some seemingly mundane aspects of life, Goa’s humidity seems to result in too many ants everywhere. I’ve to keep absolutely everything in the refrigerator for even raw rice or dal attracts little ants here, leave alone cookies or breads. Humidity also causes namkeen and crisps to get soggy no matter how airtight a container. Soaps too remain soggy and don’t retain shape unless placed consciously propped up or on surfaces allowing a flow of air. Clothes take 6-7 hours to dry. Closed and even open wooden cabinets get moldy. We’re extremely careful with what we leave behind in the flat for any leather footwear left here will presumably acquire layers of mold and be unrecognizable some months later! And…more such stuff. The place seems to call for a different strategy to living one’s life than the one I’ve grown up with and I’m wondering how non-Goans adapt to Goa’s humidity, ants, mold, lack of vegetables or a short-lived memory among its long-term dwellers?

 

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