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Saturday, 01 July 2017

Panjim, India & its Phases - Page 3

Written by Richard Taylor
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Old Goa as it turned out, was a misleading tag, like ‘university town.’ It had looked impressive from the highway, lofty spires and massive edifices topping up the horizon. But that view too was misleading, for the cathedrals loomed splendidly in splendid isolation, connected by roads with no filling between them but trees and kiosks. This was not Old Portugal, quaint shops and red roof tiles and azulejo mosaic. The crowds were here certainly, thick jostling crowds, and the mood was festive, with long patient lineups up for the cathedral ceremonies. There were lots of guards too where the buses parked, by the main entrance, guards along the roads and on watchtowers. Lots of guns. This was India too these days.

A pretty young roadside vendor sold me a bag of peanuts, gave me an extra handful and smiled. I munched my peanuts and pushed through the crowds to where the parishioners, hawkers and golden trinkets started to peter out. Now there were a few children playing and shouting hello. Now there was another road, wending beyond the trees. There was a hint of normalcy to it. A town perhaps? A sort of old Goa? The road was cordoned off though, so I was left to my surmises.

The following day I was in Mapusa. It was my Beach Day. With the tourist map in hand I walked through Mapusa and out of it. Outskirts. Bare road. Bush and wildflowers. Butterflies. Bare-chested party people on rented motorbikes. The occasional crumbling church. Two hours later, the sparkle of sea. Vagator Beach from the signs. Sparse crowd. A red Sea King, some locals bathers. Sage green hills backstopping the sand and surf. Palm trees. A postcard beach.

Over the rocks was another beach, more built up and touristy with tourists and their usual accoutrements: Booze, tank tops, army fatigues, myriad tattoos. It could have been any beach in the world, but for one thing. The bovines were back. India was here too. They’d been absent from Panjim. Now there were fifteen or twenty longhorns, sunning themselves near the rocks. They preferred the tourist side, with its beer and party crowd. The cows of Goa are hip.

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Back in Panjim the festivities continued into the night, the crowds unabated, their parked scooters lining the roadside in a tight interlocking weave, so that crossing the street, always an adventure, was even dodgier, seeking a breach in this barrier while skirting the cars and motorbikes. Our Lady’s church was lit up still, now in bursts of fireworks and flares. There were tourists now, draped in garlands, eating ice cream. Back at the hotel there were knocks on my door and rattling of the door handle and guffaws in the hallway outside. Panjim was a full fledged party town with trimmings.

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Sometimes the shills know best.

On the other hand, my green bananas were ready for eating.

©Richard Taylor


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Last modified on Friday, 30 June 2017

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