Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gone to Goa

After a hectic week of interviews and presentations, I boarded a SpiceJet flight from Delhi to the former Portuguese outpost of Goa. India is full of linguistic pockets, both local and foreign. Pondicherry hosts blue tile street signs listed in French and Tamil; Cochin boasts its Dutch heritage; Goa contains Catholic relics for the Portuguese presence, and it's one of the few places in India where Christiano Ronaldo is more popular than Sachin Tendulkar!

A bumpy hour north of Panjim, the Goan capital, we arrived in Anjuna and checked into our humble hotel which cost 600 Rs per night. For an extra 200 Rs, we reserved motorbikes. A few King's beers into the night, we walked slowly down the country roads under a canopy of stars and silhouetted palm frawns. Whitewashed churches watched dimly from aside the dirt roads.

The weekend commenced eventfully with me crashing my bike on a sandy stretch of road. Having watched a number of Shah Rukh Khan movies (SRK), I launched myself from the bike and managed to escape with but a scrape on my elbow and knee. Perhaps Maverick might be a better comparison. Nursing my wounds with sun, sea, and beach soccer with a dozen British kids and their coach, an expat New Yorker who graced the beach in a Knicks jersey, I recovered by weekend's end, and celebrated with a henna tattoo.

Goa is India in a crucible. It's all and nothing at once. What it retains in the constituent cultural elements of India, it loses in its pandering to tourists. To an undiscerning eye it's all just India. But beneath the puppets is Rajasthan; beneath the Kathikali is Kerala; beneath the laborer's story is Bihar. Judgement aside, it is a beautiful part of the world that is free and wild. It's a barefoot Royal Enfield motorcycle, a canopy of palms, a melange of nations, and a fish dinner. And who complains about that...

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