2004 by Nayanna Chakrbarty
Have you thought what it would be like to get lost? Just go away and never come back to your routine life. Being detached from deadlines, promotions, household chores or meeting the expectations of your spouse and family? But we are so entangled in the web of our own created problems and environment that we never really pay attention to our physiological or emotional needs. One activity to the other, our mind constantly focussing, competing either for approval or to prove ourselves to others, in the quest of satisfying our ego.
My mind was in this kind of turmoil and I wanted to run away. The thought of escaping from this maze seemed pleasant but not logical. Specially when you are used to a set and planned life, where every second counts. I couldn’t forget 9:30 am meetings on Mondays or my aerobics class at 7:30 pm three times a week.
The next idea that excited me was going for a vacation. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But that too requires planning- the best deals, the cost effectiveness etc. Back into the labyrinth of organizing, using all the energy in decision making and evaluating the pros and cons of the plan of action.
“So how do you really get lost?”
I carried an overnight bag with the basic necessities for survival and headed to the airport. I asked the attendant to give me the first available flight to nearest city with beaches.
“Calling all passengers, going to Goa to board the aircraft,” announced the airline staff.
“That was my destination.”
Goa is an emerald island on the west coast of India. It’s well connected by road, railways from different parts of India and by air. Several chartered flights land at the Dabolim airport from Europe. The city is known for its rich architectural history and a cultural blend of religious beliefs. Tourists adorn the city throughout the year for relaxing under the sun on its variety of beaches. There is no shortage of places where one can stay. The people are friendly, hospitable and helpful, suggesting you rented rooms, beach cottages, guesthouses and different grades of hotels depending on your budget.
I decided to check-in to one of the leading leisure hotels of India. The hotel premises are built around the fort- Aquada that was built in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese. The hotel took up a section of it and the remaining parts are still intact today.
I was given a map of the layout of the premises with a detailed list of all the restaurants, bars, recreational centers, gym and fitness section, boathouse area, and the spa. The first thing that got my attention in the lobby was the sign saying ‘Activity Desk’. They organized excursions, jungle adventures, and a visit to the spice farm.
“Spice farm? Now that’s something I never thought existed.”
The other activities conducted in the hotel premises were rock-climbing, jummering and rappelling. These required prior bookings and the guests were provided with special gears along with trainers. Their team also supervised treks to the lighthouse of the fort, bicycle rides around the property and many other events.
This time I decided to approach the whole experience in a novel way. I’m usually accustomed to reading local maps, making a list of the places to visit, and asking the travel desk to schedule the day’s itinerary according to the distance that can be covered in one day. But now I was going relax and take in the experience. Hiring a two-wheeler from the hotel, I decided to explore the enchanting city without any travel brochures, just my instincts.
Goa located in the coastal belt of India is adorned with coconut trees, swaying in the golden sunshine and cool breeze that tickled my skin all through the day. The environment is noticeably pollution free as the trees have fresh-green-color coated over them. It actually looks like plastic. My bike ride took me through small lanes, which were laced with cottages and bungalows of various architectural styles. Some had the distinct Victorian touch and some were traditionally Indian. Most of them had beautiful gardens with a variety of flora and fauna and plots cultivated for growing exotic herbs, spices and vegetables. This city has flourishing fishery and spice industries which are exported around the world.
Modernization has touched this place as dish antennae were commonly found on rooftops and it has reliable cellular connectivity throughout the city. But the rustic charm prevails, and the fast paced lifestyle has not swept through the sands here.
I was amazed with the history of this city as I had no idea that the Portuguese governed here even after the British rule ended in India. They built various churches and this used to be called “Rome of the East” in the sixteenth century. I breezed by Basilica of Bom Jesus where the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier are enshrined in a silver casket. Each church has its own history and differs in their architectural design, like St Cajetan Church built in the style of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Admiring these structures like the church of Reis Magos built in 1555 invoked spirituality in me. I felt peaceful and blessed in this environment.
The next trip was a visit to the Hindu temples. The oldest one of them is the Lord Brahma Temple that was built in the 5th century AD. The Mahadev temple built in the Kadamba-Yadava architecture was made in basalt stone dated to the 13th century. It’s a marvel to see the shrines intact. I guess it’s the burning faith in the hearts of the people that these monuments endured the battles and weathering through the centuries.
Goa or the city beaches lives up to its name with their well-maintained and commendable facilities provided for sun- bathing, swimming and massages. The beach chairs are available with nominal costs, with restaurants serving local seafood delicacies and drinks. The famous beaches are Calangute, Vagator, Anjuna, Colva and Palolem. The flea market on the way to the beaches entices every passerby to indulge in purchasing a variety of trinkets, handlooms and handicrafts as souvenirs and even I wasn’t spared from this temptation.
Seeing people relaxing around me and enjoying a good tan had already soothed the knots in my system. I reclined on a beach chair and let my senses take control. The clear-blue sky floating with white cloud puffs resembled a frothy mocha frappe, laced with whipped cream and speckles of crushed ice. The birds flew together in a line like they were trained in a military academy and displaying an air show. They swooped down together to catch fishes, never breaking their order, at equidistant with each other with same speed and accuracy.
“Who trained them?” I thought, excited with the marvels of nature.
My evenings were spent walking on the beach adjoining the hotel, watching the sunset and excited people participating in the paragliding. Some of them zoomed with jet skis trying to reach the horizon and catch the setting sun. I have always ignored the astronomical wonder of the rising moon that takes place daily. But here I appreciated and basked in the glowing enigma of the dome-shaped-satellite with the background score of Beethoven’s symphony played by the orchestra at the poolside.
A visit to the Shakahari Spice farm was an experience to remember. The aroma of fresh spices tantalized my senses and I was warmly welcomed like I was part of their family. It was a whole day event which included beverages, snacks and a traditional Indian meal. The people took great pride in explaining how the spices were all grown organically. This was first time I witnessed how a Gobar (cow dung) gas plant worked and produced methane gas used for lighting and cooking purposes at the farm. Tropical climate here facilitated the growth of the abundant varieties of spices and I was also explained the medicinal values of each of these spices had on our body. The place was buzzing with activities of a variety of exotic birds and I got to see how some of them built their nests. At the end of the day, every visitor was given a sample pouch of a variety spices to take home.
The next day, was the time for an adrenalin rush. The ‘Activity desk’ provided me with a trainer and safety gear to trek to the Fort Aquada. The guide explained that this Portuguese fort built this in 1612. The structural wall was made in two layers so that if they were attacked, the outer wall could perish but the secret inner wall would still protect the soldiers. The ramparts provided hiding places for the troops in case of aerial attacks. The Portuguese were famous for using cannons and the center of the courtyard had small openings through which the gunpowder was supplied. This fort has a reservoir below, which stored and supplied fresh water to the ships. We were not allowed to go inside the lighthouse for safety reasons but I was told that it could cover a distance of twenty-five nautical miles in those times.
A section of the fort projects out into the ocean and recaptures the glory of the past era. Now it stands as a sunset point and a picturesque background for travelers. It’s hard to visualize the horrors of the war that took place here so many years ago, as the fort surrounding the sea on three sides creates a magical and a romantic ambience.
My mission was accomplished. I got lost in the tranquility
and serenity of the beaches, the rich cultural heritage and the slow paced
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