Annual pilgrimage to Goa

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An acquaintance buzzed me on fb and asked why I was going to Goa and not to Bali/Andaman etc etc. Only people who have not been to Goa will ask something like that. My colleague in Mumbai has been to the place twice in the last 6 months and am not even surprised. I would go there every month if I could afford it. It is my all time favourite destination.

It started in 2008 when I was based out of Mumbai… which means I had a place to keep 1 bag in Mumbai while I travelled to rural towns in Gujarat. KC and I decided to skip Diwali at home and sneak away to Goa. Thats what Mumbaites do… visit Goa atleast once every year… or atleast the Mumbaites I know. In 2009 (after we were married) I was supposed to go my home and KC to his home for Diwali but one week before the trip my mom asked me not to come. So what if the flight was booked and I had purchased gifts for them? Practical matters don’t really figure in my mother’s moods. I was too hurt and quietly cancelled the flight. KC cancelled his plans and whisked me off to Goa and we had a great time. Since then it has become an annual thing. There was no reason to stop once we shifted to Gurgaon. Sure, it costs double now since flights are so freaking expensive but Goa is worth every bit. Like KC was telling me today “Lets shift to the Noida flat, save on rent and we can go to Goa every 2 months”. Thats the only way I would ever shift to UP.

The beauty about Goa is that you can do whatever you want to… there is no pressure. Like water sports? Love to drink and party? Just want to relax and chill out? Want to explore a new place? Just want to laze around on the beach sunbathing or reading? Never want to get out of the water? Never want to get into the water? Anything is possible. Like, my mentor who loves to play cards (to put it politely) and he took a flight in the evening from Mumbai to Goa… went to Casino Royale directly from the airport… played cards all night and took a flight back in the morning. Goa is everything you want it to be.

We generally stay at Dona Sylvia Resort at Cavellosim beach in South Goa. We prefer the peacefulness and privacy of the South Goa beaches rather than the shack hopping in North Goa. Of course, when we have gone with friends/colleagues it is the opposite. The resort has an amazing private beach with a few shacks, good food, decent rooms, an extremely slow room service and lots of activities- badminton, TT, carrom, a great pool and a spa. We have tried other resorts but always come back to this place.

Another great thing about Goa is there is something for every budget. Anyone can afford it. You can stay in the 5 stars or medium range resorts or cheap cottages/rooms dotting North Goa beaches. The flea markets are open till late. I have gone shopping at Baga beach at 11 pm. And its mostly safe. You can wear anything and won’t face eve teasing. Being out till atleast midnight is safe and so is travelling between the cities (Goa is a state so there is lots of travelling between cities/towns).

We generally rent a bike/2 wheeler for a day and explore the North Goa beaches and spend another day relaxing on the beach/pool in the resort.

Goa is where we relax, rejuvenate and truly de-stress. It also helps us connect. There is something so different about even sitting in the room and watching a movie without the distractions of phone/internet/household chores/work.

This year though I wanted to do something different and google threw up scuba diving as an option. I contacted Dive Goa, spoke to a very nice lady Ashwani and booked the dive.

Day 1: Our Indigo flight got delayed (no surprises) and we were exhausted. As soon as the room was given we fell asleep. At 6 pm we had to go looking for a bike since the dive location was an hour away and we had to reach bright and early. There was time to kill before dinner and I convinced KC to go to the beach in the dark. It was very relaxing… looking into the darkness… no sounds except for the waves crashing… cold breeze… some drinks and a very tasty chicken. Life was perfect. How I envy the Goans their laid back life.

Day 2: We left at 6.30 am and reached the resort for a training session in the pool before getting on the ferry for the actual dive. All scuba diving/island trip/dolphin spotting trips take off from Dona Paula Jetty. All these excursions happen around Grande Island. The instructor- Nigel, is from England and living in Goa for the last 7 years. He taught us 3 techniques in the pool- how to breathe in the water.. through a regulator in the mouth, how to release the pressure from the ears… the lower you go, the higher the pressure and how to remove water from your mask. We headed in a ferry to the island and KC and I were asked to go first. Scary!!! We wore the equipment and jumped into the water. There was an anchor line to help us go down after which the instructor would guide us. To go deep down he would remove the air from the life jackets and to come up he would fill the jacket with air. I panicked in the beginning and signalled to Nigel that I want to go up. He reprimanded me; “How does it matter if there is water in your mask? Its not like you are breathing with your nose”. That shut me up and I decided his anger was scarier than the water. While KC was unafraid and enjoying himself. Like I told him later; “You are like one those people in school who act like they have not even opened the book before an exam and then top the subject”. He keeps telling me he is scared of water… am damned if I believe it again. Nigel slowly took us at the bottom of the sea at a depth of 12 metre. I concentrated on 3 techniques to calm myself and after a while it was ok. After 30 mins we were back in the ferry. It was an uncomfortable experience but not as bad as bungee jumping. I wouldn’t mind trying it again at another location. The sad part was coming across liquor bottles in the sea. Scuba made me realize there is so much more to the world and we are a tiny speck in the universe. A thought to keep in mind.

The excitement did not end here. We headed to Baga beach for lunch and crossed Hotel Mandovi at Panjim. 4 years back our RSM had organized an official trip in Jan to Goa… it was work during the day followed by party at the beach at night. We had stayed at this hotel and eaten amazing lunch. KC and I decided to eat here and I told the server “I want to have the exact same dish I had 4 years back” It tasted just the same. By then KC looked exhausted and I agreed to head back. Honestly, I was in no mood to go back but am glad we did. 30 mins into the drive back it started pouring very, very heavily. Slowly and tortuously we reached in another hour. We were drenched… my bag which was carrying our phones was completely drenched… and I was completely red. It was like the rain had given me a good beating. And then my phone died… it wouldn’t start up and I knew it was gone.

Day 3: It was still raining but we headed to the beach anyway. As a kid I would never have stayed away from the rains… why do it now? The sea was rough and there was a high tide. While jumping in the sea a wave knocked me over and I sprained my ankle… again… the same one. This was scary because I have a half marathon to run in less than a month and my legs are very precious right now. Some ice and normal walking helped relieve the soreness. It was like something was trying my patience but I was too happy to care. Thats what Goa does to me… nothing can get me down. I wish I could be like this all year round… patient, optimistic, happy, cheerful.

Day 4: We spent time on the beach in the morning and I headed to Gurgaon in the afternoon while KC took the bus to Mumbai. Why didn’t I go to Mumbai? Like I told him; “3 days in a year in sasuraal is more than enough”. Will be going to Mumbai in Jan to run the half marathon. Yay.

If we were in Mumbai, buying a holiday home in Goa would be a top priority. And I would go there atleast once a month, if not more. Well, if Air Asia starts operations in Delhi and offers the same tariffs as Bangalore/Mumbai, this dream will seem more realistic.

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