A Visit to Goa

We went to Goa, once upon a time Portuguese dominion, and now a state within Indian Union. It is admixture of Konkani and Portuguese cultures. Everyone knows that alien powers came to India for its resources like fabled spices of Kerala where Vasco da Gama set his foot and set the process of rat race for the natural wealth of India. Spreading the Christianity was the another motive, although it was never their intention to treat the converted locals as their equals.

The inhabitants of a region who are content and happy with whatever the nature has bestowed upon them. They are not adventurous. This was what the people in different regions of India were. The outsiders easily took control of the resources and subjugated the original people. All the European adventures came in search of spices, minerals, cotton and so many other resources available in India. Goa was taken by Portuguese.

But Portuguese also carved the Goa which is now a days entirely different from other places in India. It is a favored destination of tourists from Europe and USA. Many places in Goa do not give you any indication of being in India. For example, Palolim which has a very beautiful beach, is full of white people. They live entirely a life of complete abandon.

They also gave the world a unique cuisine which is blend of Portuguese  and Konkani food. Usually everything is cooked in the coconut milk. Coconut which grows in abundance in the region. While traveling in the train, one can see a solid wall of coconut trees. Another item on the food menu is sea food consisting of dishes made from prawns, crabs, fish and mollusks. Many dishes are prepared using pig meat.

The cashew nut trees are also another abundant commodity. Portuguese invented an alcoholic beverage from the cashew nuts called “Feni”. Although it does not tastes great and generally not liked by most Indians outside of Goa, I found it to be good. I gargled my mouth with it and my toothache was soothed. It also seems good for body in moderate amounts.

We started for Goa from the Panvel near Bombay by train in the early morning. The train is called Satabadi Express and runs quite fast. It takes about 7 hours to cover a distance of about 700 kilometers. The track is a single track meaning trains running in both the directions run on the same track. The trains which are ordinary coming from the opposite end have to wait on the spare track on a railway station till the faster train crosses that station. Thus the time taken becomes inordinately long.

Konkan railway is a marvel of technology. The track has been made by cutting through the hills, making numerous tunnels and bridges on the many rivers emptying themselves into the sea. All around are lush green woods, dotted with fields and houses. There are coconut trees, some of them bending towards the river waters as if to touch the river. There are hills. Some tunnels are so long that it seems that train will never come out of them. Suddenly you see the light and train is out in the open but only to enter another tunnels. From this pattern, it is clear that there are parallel rows of hills and track is running across them. The trend continues till the train reaches Madgaon station.

We had a training institute located at Betul. It is situated on a hillock. Because we had booked the rooms there, we took a pre-paid taxi for traveling a distance of about 20 kilometers to reach the place. The road is very narrow and sinuous and it seems that people live only along the roadside. There are churches in every locality. Also there are small statuettes of Christ and Saint Xavier encased in the glass boxes. Taxi crossed many rivers small and big and then began the steep rise of 1.5 kilometers leading to the hostel. We checked in and being exhausted waited for evening tea time and after taking the tea and snacks, rested in the rooms and took the dinner at nine o’clock in the evening and retired for the night.

Next day after taking the breakfast, we went out to the gate of the institute and guards told us that there are buses available for going to Betul or Madgaon. There are some shops serving snacks nearby the gate. Strong smell of liquor Feni were issuing behind these shops. Toddy in bottles was kept on the wine shop counter. Bus arrived after a short while and we boarded it. The bus made great noises as its windows were loose . Loud music blared inside the bus. There were passengers inside the bus who made signs of cross every time the bus passed a church or Christs statute. The must be the Christians. Since they don’t resemble the Portuguese people, their forefathers must have adopted Christianity during the Portuguese rule.

After about an hour the bus reached the bus stand in Mudgaon. By this time at about 11 o’clock, it became very hot. We again boarded a bus to go to Palolim beach which is in the extreme south of Goa bordering Karnataka. This bus was very slow because as soon as it left a stop the bus conductor blew a whistle to stop for another. Interestingly we saw the bus waiting for passengers to come out of house and lazily board it. So after 2 hours it reached the beach. The beach was full of foreigners and women attired only in undergarments were lolling on the beach. They were soaking there sun starved bodies lying on the sand. Along side the beach, there are shops offering wooden platforms for lying down in the sun and watch the beach. The steamers owners pester you and tell for taking a ride in the boat. After bargaining we boarded a boat propelled by an diesel engine. The pilot took us into the deep blue sea surrounded by the rocky mountains. He had promised to show us the dolphins which he did and we could see three four of them diving in and out of water. Then he took us further away to a place called butterfly mountains so called because of its shape resembling a butterfly. There we saw a kite which was holding a snake in its talons and flying away to a tree in the rocks where its chick was waiting for the food. The guide also pointed to a very small beach  in front of the rocky hills and told us that it is called honeymoon point. Eventually we returned and somehow jumped out of the boat on the shore. After this we searched a shop for the lunch. In Goa if you order vegetarian fare, it will take a long time since most people eat the sea food. We return by similar kind of bus we had come in. Again it took 2 hours. Then again we caught the bus to return to hostel at Betul. Since it was evening and night fell soon, the bus was crammed with people. The bus conductor see to it that not a single corner remains unfilled. Again the loud music. There were fancy lights every where on the way as if some festival is permanently on. We reached the hostel tired and exhausted. After taking the dinner, went to sleep and rejuvenating for another tiresome day.

Next morning we left for Madgaon by the same bus and reached Madgaon bus stand. There is a bus service called Shuttle bus service to Panjim, the capital of Goa, which is really very good. No standing and no stops on the way. The road is NH-17 which goes to Bombay via Panjim. There are hills on the way running parallel to each other and bus road crosses each across each of it. The route is very beautiful. There are fields of paddy dotted by coconut palms. As such there are dense palm groves. Bus passes through an industrial area. The bus arrived in bus stand of Panjim. From there we caught a local bus to market and alighted in front of the Mandovi river. There were barges ferrying the huge amounts of sand from the old Goa side. It was pleasant. We tried to hire a self driven car for visiting the interesting place near Panjim but the plan did not materialize. It was lunch time so we entered a hotel which was doing extremely good business and we have to wait for 1/2 an hour for the table. We took the Goan thali which consisted of prawn curry in coconut milk, mussels, crab in coconut curry and a big piece of fried fish called surmai (king fish)and rice.

After this we roamed around and visited the local vegetable market. On the walls were sketches made by the Goan painter Mario Miranda depicting the life of Goa vividly. As he is a cartoonist, he does not draw the figures exactly but exaggerates the points he wants to emphasize. For example, there is a fisher woman carrying a basket of fishes. One of the fishes is trying to jump out of the basket with its open mouth with teeth visible. Crows are sneaking in and pilfering the smaller fish. Similarly there are women with elongated breasts.

We sat on the banks of Mandvi river. Sun was shimmering in the water. There was a partial moon hanging in the sky and it seemed to waiting for the Sun to hide away in the West. It did not know that by the night will be there, it will also have traveled away from the sight. There were three or four ships which have been converted into Casinos. They come alive in the night.

After this we decided to go to old Goa to see the Basilica of Bom Jesus. It is about 10 kilometers from the Panjim. The roads runs along the river with small ships faring on the water ways. It was all in haste. First we went to the side of museum but it was closed that day. But we saw the big hall where the large sculptures of saints are placed. There is a artillery piece of olden times outside the museum building. So we took few photographs and proceeded towards the church where the body of the saint is kept. So many people kept clicking the cameras. The church has been declared World Heritage Building by UNESCO. It deserves to be the one. Credit goes to the Goa government for keeping the place in spic-n-span condition. In many states of India many heritage buildings are in the ruinous condition and may be lost forever.

The saint who spread Christianity in the Goa performed many miracles. The local people were awe stricken and many of them adopted the christian religion. He died in 1552 at Sancian from fever. His body was brought back to India. One of his arms is displayed in a reliquary in Rome and other was intended for Japan but was kept at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum of  Colane island. The saint is called “Goencho Saeb” by the local people in Konkani language.

The saint is accused of heading the Goa inquisition which was established to punish the heretics especially the new converts which were believed to be reverting the practicing their old faith customs.

In a hurry to go to Madgaon and Betul we left the place and followed back in same route buses. Next day, we called a taxi for which we have to inform the receptionist a day before, for going to railway station for catching a train for Ratnagiri. Again, there were sketches by Mario Miranda at the station. The train rolled out of the station and I was left with a sense of unfulfilled desires because I could not see many places of interest in the short time. If you go to such a place as Goa where things are spread across a large area and you have a short time then you have to buy the time with money otherwise most of your time will be wasted in the journey only.

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