HYDERABAD: ln the past few weeks, every time I have spoken to a friend or an acquaintance about to burn out from the corporate grind, looking to celebrate a birthday, or rekindle their romance, or simply get away from it all, the one thought that has floated into my mind has been “Why don’t you go to Goa?” And in an odd multiple mirroring of this thought, they have piped up on cue - “So we are going to Goa...” From the gaggle of girls off for their bestie’s bachelorette to the impulsive weekend partygoers who continue the weekend binge by taking the first bus out to Panaji without a care for Monday morning, it isn’t hard to identify a Goa junkie. And, I would like to think that I am as much of a Goa enthusiast who would like to return to the state over and over for some of that much needed susegad.
What is it exactly about this sunshine state that draws you in? The obvious charms of the sun and the sea don’t quite seem to define it as that is a feature of the entire Konkan coastline and a drive along it would perhaps yield virgin beaches, whiter sands and clearer azure waters than anything you’d see in the often crowded Goa itself. To ascribe the newly slashed airfares with the arrival of low cost carriers also doesn’t quite explain an influx that dates all the way back to the first wave of the flower people in the 1960s. This is a call that is far more primal than the call of the beaches, the parties, the free-flowing spirits, the hippie vibe, the fresh seafood, the spicy Goan delicacies, the yoga and the greenery.
It is all of these things, but most of all it seems to be about a mythic and historical bond between the people and the idea of susegad-a sense of contentment and peace with one’s surroundings, a tolerant approach towards all things and a unique enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life. It is perhaps fitting that each year, the Goan Carnival procession begins with the blessings of the symbolic leader of the proceedings, King Momo. He is the eternal figurehead and an annually appointed actor who dons the crimson robes, accepts the crown and sceptre and then deems all of Goa fit to eat, drink and make merry. His carnival motto is an extension of the idea of susegad.
It is this irreplaceable living kernel that is encased in the many carapaces that form that ancient marine creature that is Goa.
There is a Goa for everyone - from the fiercely protected and private Goa of the locals - the proud descendants of the Portuguese settlers - to the Goa that is the adopted home of all those free spirits who adopted this tropical land as their home and continue to imbue it with their bohemian laissez faire - to the bit of Goa that belongs to everybody from the tourist to the coconut seller, from the hotelier to the student, from the immigrant waitstaff at your holiday resort to the visiting writer on a residency program.
It is a state which boasts a tolerance and acceptance of all - the state in fact has colonies specific to nationalities from around the world.
Despite the potential to turn into a global village, Goa remains fiercely individualistic, straddling its history and modernity with ease -- revering its 16th century Catholic saints as much as it celebrates the arrival of mobile phone penetration and Internet and Wi-fi in the remotest of villages and riverine islands.
Its people are as comfortable doing a folk dance to Konkani fisherfolk’s tunes as they are grooving to the latest electronic mixes from the top DJs in the world. Goa is a state where you can find a fine French stew just as you can find a neighbourhood shack where you can be assured of a hearty rice plate and fish curry even when your bank balance dips to the double digits. You can discover that one jolly aunty who can rustle up a mean sorpotel with homemade pav and a family-run bar where you can always find a friendly ear, some delicious food and free-flowing tipple.
Viewed without a rose-tinted lens, Goa has her share of political, social and environmental problems - and yet she is resilient and ever-welcoming, with a will to turn it all around some day. No matter what the issue of the day is, Goa remains the homing beacon guiding you back to her sunshine-filled heart time and time again.