Service to Goa by the sea route may start again. The author recounts the charm of travelling to Goa by this mode and life in Goa
“Ahoy! “Ahoy! Goa Ahead! Captain of Ports, Goa announces the liner to set sail again between Mumbai and Goa.” This is delightful news. I took this journey many years ago aboard a steamer service of Mogul Lines that departed from the Mumbai’s ferry wharf in the evening. It was quite a ceremonial setting sail, from what I remember—comfortable in pace and manner. Each group embarking would be directed to their beds for the night journey by the colour of the ticket. A sonorous whistle would hasten the latecomers and departure announced with much waving and fanfare.
Through the entire journey, the sea-liner route took the coastline. And as the winter sun hung low in a golden hued setting, it cast a honey brown halo in the faint mist of the surf in the distant horizon.
The coastline was dotted with colonies of thatched roof briefly swathed in twilight and the swiftly descending dark in the tree-lined expanse. Birds, perhaps they were sea gulls, their sounds in a soothing lull of waves and the heavy salt-laden air. Small fires and lamps, now visible amid a flurry of coconut trees, all like a miniature set in a backdrop, mesmerising, to say the least.
For a moment, I actually wondered if Captain Haddock and Tintin with Snowy felt similar goose-bumps on that Red Sea voyage. But then such are treasures of childhood memories. Raigad, Malvan, Ratnagiri, Vengurla, perhaps. We passed by that night. The upper-deck cabin-level foyer, fairly comfortable for a winter journey, had a few people who gathered for a brief aperitif—ice-cubes tinkling as we rolled along gently, with passengers in lively conversation and anecdotes, until dinner was announced with the ceremonial bell at 9.00pm.
It was far more thrilling and delightful than flying or any other mode of transport. If the liner sets sail this winter, as announced, please consider me booked to travel with the wife—Pax 2 | Cabin_Upper-deck | Mum-Goa-Mum.
Of course, whether you fly in, travel by the Konkan Railway via an equally picturesque track, or drive, Goa welcomes you like no other. Fresh green fields, endless turquoise waters, flaming golden sunsets, swaying palms, lush paddy fields, temples, beaches, sea shells, churches, fish and sol kadhi (nectar for the soul), a concoction of coconut milk and kokum (a tamarind-like fruit, Latin name: Garcinia indica).
A simple life, that is how the locals live and that is what Goa offers in unabashed plenty. Goa has been referred to as Aparanta (land beyond time), sussegad (the typical laid-back life) but, frankly, what do you do, once you are in Goa?
Anything else would be out of character for a tropical haven. Soak in the sun, try to make peace with the unhurried pace of life, and just be. For the explorer, wanderer, adventurer, there is a lot that Goa has to offer other than a rich history of world cuisine, architecture and crafts. It has some of the finest Goan-Portuguese cathedrals and churches, innumerable shrines and temples.
For places to see and visit, you have Sinquerim, Candolim, Saligao, Anjuna, Mandovi, Zuari and the famous Dona Paula. You cannot but be overwhelmed by the sheer expanse and beauty. The Wednesday flea-market at Anjuna has taken its place on the world map, so to speak. One of the most exciting times to visit is during the annual carnival in February-March. Thousands pour into the streets in peace and merrymaking, with colourful floats, street dances, music and festivities.
For people, there is Remo—the man who made Goa famous with his music—who lives there. The house of Mario Miranda, a legend is worth a visit—although I am not sure of visiting facilities and rights but you need to check and not miss this man now living somewhere in ‘Aparanta’ (the other world).
When in Goa, preferably get your own transport. You can hire motorcycles and scooters by the day (most recommended, safe and affordable) or, if you are a blithe spirit, bicycle is the way to go. Of course, you have taxis on hire (unfortunately they are no longer the Benz).
The local lingo is Konkani and English; but you can get by with Hindi and Marathi. When to go? Anytime of the year is paradise found.Winter and monsoons are the best; summers can be rather warm and humid. Goa in the rains is nature in full and complete glory. It has mist, drizzle, thunderclaps, forked lightning, torrential downpour—all orchestrated with croaking frogs and spine-tingling tumultuous roar of the sea. Like they say: widescreen and stereophonic sound.
The most preferred food—Konkani fish thali: The fish in this coastal state is aplenty; fresh rice comes from the lush fields; and fruit is a given in nature’s haven of bounty. So whether it is crab, mussel, clam, prawn, and fresh water or sea water foods—bliss is for those who eat fish; all this to be washed down with the manna from heaven, sol kadhi.
Many (not only Goans) have chosen to lead a retired life in this blessed land of peace and plenty.
Come. It is not going to remain this way forever.