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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Goan Journal

The Monsoon Magnificence

You’ve got to be a hardy soul to come to Goa in the Monsoon. It rains incessantly and does drumbeats on the roof; the percussion is as good as anything Max Roach did, especially on his album, Money Jungle, with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. Still, as Credence Clearwater Revival sang, the rain keeps falling. And I don’t really wonder, amid the sophisticated Roach-style beat of the rain on my roof, who’ll stop the rain.

Goa in the rains is a sight for sore eyes and a balm for troubled minds. It has a calming effect: nothing really matters, except the drain of stress. We start from the chaotic airport. You can deal with it because in minutes you can get in the car and leave India behind. Goa is our foreign destination where people are civilized, traffic is orderly and everyone looks out for others. The skies open up with huge rainfall and all you want to do is stop the car, jump out and let yourself be drenched in the Monsoon rains.

We arrived in Goa on an afternoon in July and later that evening drove to Chicalim in the north to celebrate a friend’s birthday. His place is approximately in the middle of nowhere. I may be wrong but even the Portuguese didn’t venture there. And so we’re in our car, negotiating the twist and turns to get there. Once we reach his people-friendly house with its inviting “come, hang out” charm, we forget the world. The only bummer was Germany destroyed Argentina in South Africa; the South Americans were the team I picked to win the Cup.

Goa in the rains is a magical mystery tour. Green is the operative color; moss is your ground cover and the world stands still. Here, you add years to your life. Time is stretched out. Read a book, listen to music, and drench yourself in the rain: you can do stuff you wish you could do in the stressed out reality of India.

In the rain-lashed season, Goa can also be an adventure. There are few places open for lunch or dinner; all the beach shacks are closed; in fact, even the beaches are run over by the sea. You have to be resourceful and find spots that are open. You may have to travel a fair distance or experiment with all manner of local places. But the best thing is to eat at home and then find a rock on a beach, sit on it and watch the thunderous majesty of the sea in the rains.

We’ve had a place here since the turn of the century. More important, this is my sasural; my wife’s family is from Goa and our place is just 15 minutes away from her family home. Also, we have other family here in Chicalim and Aldona and good friends in Panjim, Anjuna and Colvale. For us, this emerald haven is not a vacation spot; it is our second home. We feel we belong here.

Plus Goa is full of random surprises. At dinner one evening at a local diner, a bunch of people showed up. There was this handsome guy sitting in a chair right next to me. He pulled out a bottle of scotch and offered to share it. We demurred but he was insistent. So we had a drink from his bottle. He said his name was Kumar Gaurav, son of the famous Bollywood tragedy king, Rajendra Kumar. He said he was married to Namrata Dutt, daughter of Sunil Dutt and Nargis. As such he is the brother-in-law of Priya Dutt, the Congress MP and Sanjay Dutt, the actor of Munnabhai fame.

We struck up a conversation in this diner called Starlight and he was insistent to take us to his house in Parra, a suburb of Mapuca. It turned out to be a gorgeous place, slick and breathing of wealth. He showed us around and when we left after 15 minutes, we drove away impressed. In the end, we marvelled that something like this could happen in such an impromptu fashion. But that’s Goa for you. You meet some guy in a restaurant or in a market or a grocery store and you become friends.

That’s the social part of Goa. And it’s wonderful. What is equally spectacular is the majesty of nature here, especially in the Monsoon. As I sit in my verandah, surrounded by a cathedral of coconut trees and watch and hear the rain falling, I am struck by the bounty of nature. As the rain stops, the garden is awash with fireflies everywhere, lighting up, for a brief moment, the darkness of the clouds.

My friend Aasif, an architect, who lives here, having come from 30-plus years in London, tells me that the glow in the fireflies is about sex. “It’s their penis that lights up with a view to attract to females,” he says. He also added that fireflies are rapidly becoming extinct with growing urbanization. Because of city lights, their glow doesn’t show and they cannot mate.

Aasif can identify bird calls, butterflies and constellations in the sky. He lived for 30 years a busy life in London but now he is a connoisseur of Nature. What a wonderful way to spend the rest of your life.

So you live and you learn. When all’s said and done, you can be alone in Goa in the rains and have the soothing and disturbing sounds of the falling water to keep you company. Soothing because it lulls; disturbing because in a 250-year-old house, you never know where water will drip. You simply feel at the mercy of nature. So we look at the bounteous aspect: green, blue and grey.

We all know from the news media that Goan politics is all about rent money; corruption is rampant and crime starts in the cabinet. And so it is everywhere else in India. In Goa, though, our local primary health care center has doctors, nurses, ambulances, medicines and diagnostic equipment. The schools have teachers; the roads are well paved and the traffic is orderly.

Sometimes, I think we should just move here and be done with the chaos of the rest of India.

Copyright Rajiv Desai 2010