My dad blogs from Goa:

View from my Balcao

Everyone knows that Christmas-New Year in Goa is special.

Indubitably it is the time to look out for tradition leading to the holy night when Christ was born. Goans indulge in festivities and every nook & corner of this tourist state is lit up with merriment. Goa remains at the cusp of tradition, history & belief in the divine one.

The best, and possibly the cheapest way to enjoy the festivities is to head to the beach-shacks, not the ones serving expensive taste-alikes, but to the thatched make-shift rooming that sprouts up in season and folds up thereafter when the fury of the monsoon comes roaring in. Staying at the beach allows you a hop-in hop-out of any of the many beach-front eating-shacks that dot the beaches in the North (Baga, of course, Anjuna and all the way to Morjim) and nowadays, also in the South (from Majorda to Palolem and upto Cancona).

I chose to hit the relatively less-crowded south beaches and found Cancona quite a refreshing change from the over-run, dirty, populous hip-beaches of the North. Apart from the swank seven-star luxury hotel looming over in the distance, the sea-side remains relatively private and not infested with tourists from all parts of India and the globe. Goa has remained India’s best-known destination since the swinging 60’s and continues to capture the imagination of toursts of all ages and nationalities looking for fun-in-the-sun.

But this is not what I am in Goa for. History beckons, tradition pulls and I end up in a heritage homestay in Mala-Fontainhas, the Latin-quarter of Panjim, close-by to Old Goa, the shrine of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa’s large Christian population. I decide to visit the St Monica’s Museum next to Se Cathedral in Old Goa, the 400-year old St Sebastian Chapel right in the heart of Fontainhas, climb many steps to the magnificient white-washed Panjim Church that is always lit-up at night. This apart, there is lots of carol-singing on the streets of Mala-Fontainhas that spills over to Panjim city proper.

The streets are chock-a-block as are the beaches and the highways and a place-to-rest-your-head-at-night is always at a premium, like everything else in goa during this period through the new year. Do what you will in Mumbai or Bangalore, but if you want to make the grade, you’ve got to be in Goa during the year-end scene. Its one big party that stretches from sundown right upto and past sunrise, with nary a hiccup about closure-timings and all that jazz. I notice that the Goa government goes into over-drive in cleansing away the last-night’s garbage so that the roads do not eventually disappear in the mounds of trash generated by party-hoppers. I settle down in a small beach-shack with a fiery feni and watch the dancers sway in the moonlight … nay, early-morning light !

Goa spells timelessness, merriment and wild abandon, making it the most-preferred destination at this time of the year. I choose to drift in and out of over-crowded bars, (drinking home-made local feni), many of whom have started playing Bollywood tunes to please the numerous patrons that emerge from Mumbai like a deluge, by car, by plane or even by bus or train. Everyone, but everyone, girls and ladies included, feel free to sport shorts & tees, maybe even a hat, to signify departure from the strict confines of everyday life. Their radiant faces mirror the innate wish-fulfillment of a life waiting to free itself off shackles of daily-norms. Those with a taste for intimate, may prefer to meander on the quieter stretches, not worrying about safety, which is taken for granted, barring an odd blown-out-of-proportion incident. Goa has seen its share of nudes to be stirred up by a pair of lovely legs in short-shorts and a revealing top.

City-kids have gathered in hordes, coming as they do for all-night shindigs, beach-combing, flea-markets, fun-in-the-sun. Goa opens its doors to open-minds and an all-pervasive camaradarie prevails everywhere you go.

One of the downsides of Goa at the year-end is that you do not get enough space to stay or roam freely, thanks to the perpetual jostle in public spaces. But nobody, with the exception of some of the oldies & prudes, seems to mind this metro-isation of an otherwise sleepy state of Goa. You will get to know quite easily, that the local people are fun-loving, love to mind their own business and are friendly without being intrusive. They proclaim loyalty to their beloved state, fiercely protect their Goan identity, but throw open their arms (and homes) to the tourist influx, and are happy in the realisation that tourism is a nice way of doing business and making a decent living. A sparkle in the eye, a smile on their face, its the people of Goa that make it the most exciting place to be in during Christmas and through the new year.

I’ll be back home in Goa for Christmas – thats for sure. Thank God I have a home there !!

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