This tiny little curve of serenity lies just minutes away from the beach joint where we are having a party. While many are busy grooving to “lambada”, strolling on the beach or simply being distracted by the crashing waves; this little oasis is oozing with stark lush green, completely isolated yet unaffected by the happenings nearby. The crystal clear emerald-hued water glistens under the mid-morning sun. This could easily be a scene coming out of “The Blue Lagoon”. “This is my favourite place in all of Goa. I love coming here and just forget about the world outside”, says Anjie, my new bff. I can easily imagine why a Mumbai-nian like her with a stressful job loves coming here and busting stress at Bogmalo.
I would definitely hashtag #SpectacularSunsets for Bogmalo. The generally quiet beach, in comparison to Goa’s other famous beaches, lies 9 km from the port town of Vasco da Gama, also a mere 4 km away from the international airport. It is situated in a small bay with just about 2-km stretch of sandy beach and palm trees. Basically, that’s IT but IT is more than enough to be claimed as paradise. Soak up in the warm Arabian Sea. Let the gentle waves carry you through. Catch your spirit’s glow. Think nothing but just be.
They are known as Tuk-tuk in Thailand. Similarly, in India, auto rickshaws are a common means of public transportation. Instead of taking a 20-minute walk, I opt for a ride in the black and yellow three-wheeler. “Can you take me to the church?” I ask the driver who’s reading a newspaper. I don’t know the name of the church but there’s only one in the city that tourists go to anyway. “Church In Panjim?” he confirms and we agree on the fees of 70 rupee, which is probably more than he would charge a local but I don’t intend to argue or negotiate further when the amount is not even 2 dollars. He drives me through the hectic streets of Panjim, Goa’s largest city with a population of nearly 115,000. Driving in India is definitely not for the faint-hearted. No one stays on the lane, everyone weaves in and out as though they were in a Vin Diesel movie, honking furiously at all times. But I have yet to witness an accident. They all somehow manage to manoeuvre well within any given space and finally reach their target destination unscathed. Soon, we are on the two-lane avenue that leads to the glorious “Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church. “You can stop over here. I’ll just walk up to the church”, I request. “May I take a photo of you?” I push further. And succeed.My driver is a man of few words but he’s kind enough to pose for my camera, although without a smile. Perhaps he’s shy.
While passing in front of the Military Hospital in Panjim, these boys on the truck say "hi" to me, all of them in jolly good mood. I ask if I could take a picture of them, pointing at my camera. They all gleefully agree. As I approach near,I hear the engine start and the truck begins to move away. The guy in purple T-shirt, an extrovert clearly, shouts "Indian Army. Wonderful!".I give them two-thumps up wholeheartedly.The purpose of their hospital visit remains unclear; medical exam perhaps.Their smiles fill my heart. The reason why I travel with my camera. Always...
First, it is the buffalo that catches my attention. Then it’s this young boy who climbs on top of it, proudly showcasing his cowboy skills to a family of tourists nearby. He and his two other friends approach as I walk past and ask me to take their photos, which I happily oblige. The youngest of them all flashes a smile that could light up a dark grey sky. He is a superstar and he knows it. But the little cowboy has a better idea. He leads me back to the buffalo that is tethered to a tree. He swiftly hops onto the animal that is at least 10 times his size and poses for the camera. An older boy, about 15 or so, appears out of nowhere. Possibly the minder of the bunch, I am not quite sure. He slaps across the little cowboy’s face so hard and starts scolding him in their dialect. “Hey, stop it! Why did you hit him?” I ask. The boy answers me back in his language with a few English words thrown in. I gather that the little cowboy could have made the buffalo angry and therefore it’s dangerous. Obviously the teenager is jealous of the attention these three young boys are getting. Big bully! I sternly tell him one last time to stop hitting the boy and walk away from the scene, sort of feeling guilty.
Street vendors in Panjim can be quite persistent. And I easily stand out in the crowd as a tourist with a big camera. They try to sell me bananas, handkerchiefs, sunglasses, Kulfi (Frozen dairy dessert or Indian Ice-cream) and even women’s handbags as if I need one. I then come across two ladies in beautiful multi-coloured saris selling bananas on the street. They are sharing a chat sitting not far from each other. When they see me walking past, one of them points at the bananas laid out on the piece of cloth. “No, thank you! I am not hungry”. But she keeps insisting me to buy them. I squat down in front of her and politely ask if I could take a photo of her. She shoots me a look that probably means, “I’m an old woman. Why would you want a photo of me? Just buy the bananas” The pink and pale orange hues of her sari against the bluish purple door behind is simply striking. And how I adore the cynical look on her face!!! I later, on my return to hotel, see her again as I take the same route. She still insists I buy her bananas. And I still say no.
Although many houses and buildings are painted in vibrant colours, yellow is one dominant force in Goa. Old buildings, some dated back to the early 16th century, reflect Goa’s colonial past. Elegant buildings such as, the Baroque style “The Immaculate Conception Church”, existing since 1540 and "the Goa Medical College", built during the British Raj, are painstakingly restored but many structures in Panjim are sadly crumbling apart or hanging by a thread. But “old” is definitely “gold”. Not to sound cliché but it’s the truth;‘they don’t make buildings like this anymore”. Strolling through narrow cobbled streets with Portuguese names and witnessing gorgeous old villas or various business signs that have stood the test of time, it is easy to imagine the city as it once was in full glory but hard to fathom at times that this is actually India, not Europe. Oh, well, garlands of Marigolds that adorn the doors and windows of shops and residences or the incessant images of Lakshmi or Ganesha will certainly serve as the reality check.