Much as it might seem like I am the cool girl, living the peachy-beachy life, with a visit to the sea-side every day, glorious sunset watching, beer drinking and a myriad other hipster beachy things to punctuate my days, the truth is I don’t take advantage of the outdoors in Goa nearly as much as I should. Living here is different from holidaying here, and I suppose it is normal for life to take over. It makes sense for things to fall into their natural framework and that doesn’t usually include a daily beach jaunt. Thank God for that, because I’d never get any work done, if I had the opportunity (and the willingness) to lounge on a deck chair seven days a week. I suspect I might also get a little bored of it, at some point.
Life isn’t really a beach all the time, even though I sometimes say it is. So it is extremely refreshing when friends come to town, because its a ready-made excuse to get out and be tourists on home-ground. I have come to loathe doing the really touristy stuff that I once did every trip down to Goa, so it is even more refreshing to have like-minded friends visit us, even more so when they were once Goa-immigrants themselves. So when Shashank came a visiting, I had no idea what the week held.
As usual nobody had any concrete plans, things would be freewheeling and I decided to go on vacation too. A staycation of sorts. Turned off regular life and work, and took off doing all the simple things that our lives in Goa once included. Lunching at old haunts, indulging in one too many intoxicants, getting sinful stoner-special desserts just like the old days, listening to good old music and basically doing all the things we used to, when he lived here not so long ago. It was a week of pretending like nothing had changed, so we lounged around, watched a good share of movies, cooked, cycled around and then even took off for two days to the beach farthest away from us.
There was pretty much something new to do every day, and it just kept getting better. Each day progressively killed it in terms of fun and memorability — something that’s so hard to do with just about anybody. So for one week, at just the time I needed it, I did get a shot at the peachy-beachy life, with a visit to the sea-side every day, glorious sunset watching, beer drinking and a myriad other hipster beachy things to punctuate it. And it was the best kind of break I could have had, without having to travel too far, without having to constantly do things and be social.
It’s easy when your friends believe in the same kind of things to make a break, a good break.
It was impossible to skip the Anand Bar rice plate. Even though prices have increased and this thali is now Rs 90 (as opposed to 60 bucks about a year ago), it is still 100% value for money, with 100% flavour and seriously packs a punch in terms of satisfaction. There was also a Maaza on the side. Election day was a dry day, and we were quite happy to go, er, dry.
We took off to an unnamed beach around mid-week, which is to say we didn’t know exactly where we were headed. Just rove out as far north as we could get away from pesky tourists, and as close as civilization still permits shacks, restaurants and life to persist. Not that we needed much, and thankfully the season seems to be pulling the curtains down earlier this year.
Bang in the middle of the afternoon we found ourselves on a sweeping wide stretch of empty beach. At times like that I don’t even need conversation.
The weather had miraculously turned pleasant for a couple of days, so even though it was sunny, there was a light breeze, a couple of beach beds and beers in our hands. Perfect to just do your own thing, so I finished a book and took a looooong nap.
I woke up in time to catch just enough time to sneak in a long swim, before the sun set. Since it was a couple of days after the biggest full moon I have seen in a while, the sea was mad-rough and not really swim-able, but this time of the year the water is just that perfectly tepid temperature which is just so right to loll about and gather sand in places sand must never go.
It didn’t help that the 600-rupee hut we rented had no bathroom door. Just a curtain separating the room from the bathroom. Wow how fancy, we thought. Inside though, the bathroom had a geyser and hot water. There’s always room for surprise in Goa.
April skies have this peculiar way of staying grey and muggy, hot and dull for the most part, and when you’re least expecting, it can go from lifeless to this in five minutes flat.
This happened at sunset.
Dinner was had at a quaint little Italian restaurant, that I highly recommended, but unfortunately fell short of even my own expectations. But little things some times make up for minor disappointments. Like this heart-shaped chilli-chocolate in the spiced chocolate-fondant that I had for dessert.
It was small, spicy, chocolate-y and made my dinner worth it.
Food is usually a big part of our gatherings. I’ve said it before, I was at my fattest, unhealthiest best when I was around these boys I’d eat, drink and indulge like one of them, forgetting that my metabolism was slowing down while they were in the prime of their youth. Of course a lot has changed since then, but it was nice to regress a little bit, to indulge and to not feel so hopelessly unhealthy about it.
Massive, late breakfasts were only made better when Niko (who owned the breakfast place) agreed to whip a scoop of homemade gelato into a shake for each of us. Salted butter caramel for me and Old Monk and raisin for Shashank. With eggs, bacon, caramelised onion and random bhajans blaring from the temple next door, brunch was…interesting, to say the least.
A fair share of movies were watched on days when the heat caught up and we’d retreat quite indoors unconsciously, lounging around. I watched The Armstrong Lie (which piqued my interest in the hugsband’s newest hobby), re-watched Gangs of Wasseypur, something else I can’t remember now and of course the customary Coke Studio video watch, as always.
Aside from catching all our favourite meals (not leaving out one Thai dinner, that fish thali, one Goan breakfast of bun-bhaji and a visit to the chorice-pao adda) we also cooked at home a bit. Beef biryani was attempted.
It was beyond delicious and far exceeded my expectations. My first time buying and cooking beef, I wasn’t sure of cooking time, consistency or tenderness. SInce I was also winging a version of a new recipe, a mishmash of a few things I found online, I was doubly unsure. But in the end it worked out fabulously and I’m going to be repeating this one many times.
With the gym on holiday and the intake going up so much, you’d be surprised to know we also sneaked in some exercise. I lounged around most days, while Shashank managed to diligently go for a run every evening. One day I gave in to temptation and joined him on a cycle ride. My first.
But definitely not the last. I think I’ve been bitten by the bug and I see what makes VC wake up at 6 am every morning and take off the way he does (even on weekends!) while I snore away till past 7 am.
Even though we got so much done in a week, it didn’t feel hectic. It was peaceful and easy, just the way it should be between friends. There was ample conversation with enough space and silence (I’m getting really old with my love for silence), and there was good food and drink, there was chatter and laughter — too much of it, and there was random roaming around town in a way that doesn’t happen very often when you live here.
That is how a surprise holiday happened. A good break ensued. And a good time was had.
I’m at a time in my life where my circle of kinship shrinks every week, with fewer people seeming interesting, and even fewer people to share things in common with, it’s not everyday that a holiday of this kind ends up being fun. I have friends visiting Goa very often, and I only really have a complete blast with approximately 1% of them. Distance. Has a lot to do with it. The relationships you keep over distances, often shock you with how much people change in real life. The surprise is jarring when you meet again, and sometimes it can be downright unbearable, up close and personal.
It could be that we’re all constantly evolving, and the people we are online, on whatsapp, and in our interactions are not really who we are at any given point in time. So when distances suddenly collapse and you’re face to face with the person you’ve so far been madly text-frands with, chances are you might be rudely shocked by how awkward the apparent differences are. My need for space, silence, solitude invariably gets in the way. Where friends want constant conversation, frenetic activity (like it is online, your usual medium of communication), I invariably want to cut back once my threshold of togetherness has been crossed. Where friends want to go roaming to the beach, I want to just kick back with a beer and a book, just anywhere. You get the drift?
Distance is quite the game-changer these days. Absence makes all the difference. And yet some times there are friends you don’t necessarily have to be in touch with every day, and yet you know that if opportunity arises and you happen to meet again, you will have a chilled out and good time. It seems there’s room to be surprised. Because it was good to hang out with a friend who is similar in most ways. Someone I out-talked, for a change :P someone who is okay just chilling out alone, or doing things without necessarily making a big-ass plan or dragging along the entire community. Such a contrast to similar situation I had in February, which turned out to be borderline-traumatic and resulted in yet another fall out with an old friend.
Lots of maniacal laughter and fun later, as I wind down and try and get out of the staycation state of mind, I look back at the week and feel that happy buzz of rekindled joy, re-fuelled memories and the promise of more to come.
Edited to add: It’s ironic that the last time I made a Goan getaway like this was almost the same time, last year. With the same folks. I guess that’s a tick mark for my my annual Goa exploration.