I first visited Goa as a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. The students of only one department (Urban and Rural Community Development), were privileged a second study tour. Almost everyone who heard, including inside and outside of TISS chuckled “Goa, yeh, study tour!?” This near universal expression, we the privileged (URCD-ies) interpreted as envy, a second study tour that too Goa!
Like many other, the good thing about the tour was also the background work. We read up Fish Curry and Rice by Claude Alvares, we read up about Du Pont and the controversial Asia’s largest Nylon 6.6 plant, tourism and how it impacts local culture, five-star hotels, and what they are doing to the fishing based livelihoods, the sea, the waste they generate, privatisation of common properties like the sea face and the beach and most importantly the projected image of Goa “Wine, Women and … (song, food, sun, beach, drugs..You name it), and why that is just not right.
We have been there one more time after almost more than a decade with friends and stayed closer to the beach. Contrary to the Sun, Sand and the Sea, this time we went to experience the rains, forests, rivers and peace.
Our visit in early July was to watch it rain. Once you love the rains, you will watch them, hear them and feel them very differently. The rains change from place to place, the sound they make on the roofs, tin or clay, on rivers, on hills, on roads is so very different. From the tiniest drops that stick to your hair like sparkling diamonds, the big fat drops, to the sheets of rain that come crashing down to cover the earth, they bring such joy and happiness.
So, we followed the progress of monsoon (been inspired by Chasing the Monsoon/ Alexander Frater). Sadly there was very little to follow. It had rained earlier on, but as we got closer to the date of travel, there was not even as much as a drizzle, neither in Hyderabad nor in Goa! We were waiting like the Chataka bird (as we call it in Odiya – the cuckoo, Clamator jacobinus), that waits for rains to quench its thirst.
Still, we went with hope.
As your cab turns inwards leaving the coastline behind, and you enter into the inside, curved roads, leaving the city behind, you know you have chosen well. The lush green of paddy fields, shadowy trees, cashew plants engulfs you into a different side of Goa.
We were staying at a place called Arco Iris (which is Portuguese for rainbow) at Curtorim. A 200-year-old Portuguese house renovated as a homestay. The house faces the unending paddy fields. The walk around is surrounded by similar old houses, some abandoned and dilapidated, some locked up and some being still lived in, surfacing issues around property, ownership and the migratory status of most of us. We do not know where we belong; whether where we physically are or where our heart yearns to be.
The quiet that our countryside offers is amazing. No sound of vehicles, hardly any honking and one can walk miles without being interrupted by any sound that is not local. There is the local fish man/woman who brings in fresh fish. There is also the local bread (pui) which is delivered twice daily.
There is a peaceful rhythm to life. The paths, the river, the cats, dogs, birds make for excellent walking and living companions.
At Arco Iris, besides the lovely family of four, there is also Feni, a beautiful Labrador. The first time she saw us, she barked and then immediately became friends. We also bribed her with tiny bits of pui every day, so that we develop affinity quickly, without wasting the short vacation time of two days, expecting she will come and sit with us in the balcao and walk with us.
As it happened, Curtorim is a good friend’s village and this fact added to the fun, that we were going to be staying in her village, walking those same paths! On a Sunday morning we went to see the old village church, nice atmosphere of familiarity of Sunday mass. Since Sunday is also church day, when everyone steps out to go to the church, I noticed during our walks, two persons on the road who looked mentally challenged. But unlike in urban areas, where we see them uncared for, destitute and living off the road, these persons looked like they were being taken care of. Struck me what we had studied and experienced in community organising (TISS course work) that a close knit community takes care of its difficulties and problems together. It may just be out of charity, but in a country like ours, with multiple and multi-layered issues, we need to exercise both, Charity and Rights.
It rained that night, so we woke up to the rain washed surrounding, looking at the plants and trees, holding last night’s rain drops on their leaves. In no time, it poured! Lovely lovely heavy rains! Our friend (Gouthami works on Responsible tourism and has set up, Travel Another India, she suggested experiencing this side of Goa, other than the beach and sand) drove us around in pouring rain through nice long undulating empty roads. That drive is etched forever as one of the brilliant drives spent in the rain.
Since we were that side, we drove around looking for Usgalimal rock engravings, which is one of the most important prehistoric sites in western India. When we got there, about one km down from the main road between Rivona to Neturlim, on the banks of river Kushavati, the river was flowing full since the rains, it took us sometime to find the engravings, but as soon as we figured out one, we found them all! These petroglyphs (rock art) are approximately 20,000 to 30,000 years old and belong to the Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic eras. More than 100 distinct figures in an area of 500 sqm, with images of bulls, labyrinths and human figures are carved on laterite stones. The fun part was that there was nobody around; and jamun (Syzygium cumini) trees in plenty laden with fruit, no one to eat or guard. Feast!
We also stopped at the beautiful Braganza Mansions, nice, old furniture, knick knacks, the mansion presenting bygone days and ways of a household.
|An old toilet at Braganza Mansion|
I have often longed for Rain tourism! May be for us, Rain has come to mean either floods, when too much, or drought when none. But to go from place to place, to be in the rains, to cleanse the summer dust, to fill the lungs with the fresh smell of wet earth and to sit down and watch, to rest and to be in peace, ah!
Thanks to Travel Another India and Gouthami, and Arco Iris, it was wonderful two days spent in a renovated Portuguese house, with Goan food and Feni.
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