Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The World in Goa

Goa is the land of beaches, is situated in the lap of nature and is steeped in history that is inclusive of both Indian and Portuguese culture. Well that is an understatement actually because over the years, as Goa has increasingly developed as a tourism hotspot, she has amalgamated cultures from all over the world and accepted them as her own. In the heart of Goa, I can truly see the world!

People from everywhere come to Goa to enjoy her sandy seashores, soak up her sunshine and devour her savoury sausages. Travellers from the UK, France, Germany, USA and Russia are a common sight here, mingling with the locals and even speaking a little bit of Konkani to get into the Goan spirit. A lot of shops in the bustling markets of Mapusa and Panjim have signboards inscribed with English, Konkani and Russian as well. It goes to show how well the state has learned to cope with the influx of foreign tourism of which they seem to have an endless flow throughout the year.

Calangute beach, Goa, India

‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ is a slogan that is close to the Indian heart. As hosts, we attempt to be most gracious and welcoming, for that is what we have been taught through the ages. And I saw the best example of this Indian hospitality in Goa. We travelled in city buses everywhere since we wanted to get to really ‘see’ Goa. The conductors in those buses, when they realized that we were tourists, kept asking us to take seats that weren't occupied. They kept asking us please be seated. It was… new and a very refreshing attitude. I now know another reason why tourism is at such a high in Goa, its people.

Since we went there for Christmas, we were invited to a house for Christmas lunch and I didn't feel detached from my family here in Gujarat at all. It was as if our hosts were our own, so freely did they mingle with us, talking about everything from cuisine and culture to national and international politics over single malt scotch. They served us a mix of Portuguese and traditional Goan cuisine that I had not tasted in a very long time. Christmas really feels how it should in Goa. Fabulous!

There is no dividing line between western and eastern civilizations in Goa. National borders blur when everyone is just trying to have a good time and relax. Religion, race and colour refuse to be barricades in this wonderful place and perhaps that is why Goa feels like the last bastion of world unity in India. Identities are not important, nor are languages. People speak with smiles here and that is what enamours anyone who ventures into this land.

There is a saying in Goa that people very rarely go hungry at night but are never denied a drink. This does not mean that liquor is very important here, it only goes to show the generosity of the people here. If someone is standing outside a bar, it is not possible that nobody will buy that person a drink. It does not in any way imply that the people are drunkards; it is to say that these people enjoy the good things in life and help others enjoy it too.

This is my toast to Goa, the place where the World is One entity and lives and breathes as One soul.

Viva Goa!