Apart from the Beautiful landscapes, Breathtaking sunsets and Rava fried fish with beer , it’s a relaxing set up to converse with strangers. I am awful at starting conversations but the whole set up helps to lower the inhibitions and you can have long discussions about earthly affairs and hear fascinating stories. I usually record my excursions through visual imagery and my fascination with the landscapes but this time I had some interesting conversations which need to be documented. Most of them are stories of seasonal migration, families, food, politics and a yearning for home and sometimes finding a new home in remote places.
Let’s start with Vagator (Butterfly beach). Me and my hostel mate went to Chapora fort and from the fort climbed down to the extreme end of Vagator beach. It was early morning and not crowded in the shacks, plus it was overcast. The shack waiter told us that he was not expecting crowd as there was no sun and we can take whatever seats we want to take. He was from someplace near Darjeeling. He said he has changed his name to Joy so that people can easily pronounce it. I asked him why he is not working in Darjeeling ? For him, it was a sensitive question. He served us the fish fry with beer and took a seat nearby.
He described how political turmoil has ruined the tourism industry in his home state and people have left with no option but to go to other tourist destinations in search of decent paying jobs. According to him, if the West Bengal government had taken steps to ensure well-being of small tea gardeners then the demand for Gorkhaland may not have been so strong. He owns a small tea farm and cultivates tea which is organically processed for home consumption only. He doesn’t sell in the market because the rates are too low from middle men and he doesn’t want to sell good quality tea at such low price. He now only harvests tea just enough for domestic consumption, rest goes waste and same story for other families who own small tea gardens.
Mobile has connected families but still he misses the local cuisines. He told us that he makes excellent Momo but the owner in Goa doesn’t want to add them in the menu. He also misses the local brews from his land. He described drink similar to Chaang where boiling water is added on fermented grains. He sometimes brings these grains to Goa. He worked on Chinese food stalls in metro cities (that’s why he makes excellent momo) as well but he prefers Goa as environment is better and so are the living conditions compared to the metro city.
We were hungry. So in between the conversations we ordered plenty. After 2 and half hours approx. we decided to move. He bid us goodbye and wished happy journey for rest of the journey. The thing I vividly recall from this conversation, he never expressed his longing for his home openly but it was evident in every argument he made.
I left Vagator and started my journey towards Agonda. I had no fixed plan about where I was going to stay and for how long. I stayed at a guest house with shacks near the sea shore. They had a nice restaurant. I love the Middle Eastern drink Limonana and they made quite good limonana. The food was fresh and delicious. I liked the surroundings and the set up. I saw Dolphins jumping against sunset and decided to stay put for the rest of the vacation. When you stay that long, you start conversations with the people who are running the show in the establishment the owners, the waiters and the cooks. I was there just before the peak season and the establishment was gearing up for the seasonal rush. The waiters after the work hours will stroll on the beach and call up their families. The mobile connection is not that great so they would end up talking loudly. I came to know a bunch of them are from places around Manali. Again, an irony. These guys have left their hometown, a tourist spot, in search of better opportunities and wages. Most of them are in early 20’s. They go back when the tourist season in Goa gets over and come back again when the season begins. They prefer this area as not many cranky domestic tourists travel this far. In their opinion, serving typical Indian families is a horrible experience and I agree. I always thought the tourism industry will generate local employment but this was something new and strange.
When I reached Goa, I had a pretty good crop on my head. The sea water and humidity made them entangle and haircut was the only option left. I located a barber and sat for my hair cut. This guy was from Uttar Pradesh (somewhere near Azamgadh) and been running his shop in Agonda for a long time. He has family members are settled all over India and he himself took up different occupations before settling as a barber in Agonda. He has got used to the lifestyle of the coast and prefers to be here. The barber in Agonda is not the only one, many outsiders have fallen in love with this laid back , serene and joyful state and settled down.
My hostel in Vagator was run by enthusiastic team , members coming from different parts of India. In their late 20’s, these guys choose to take break from corporate jobs and run a hostel. Converting an old bungalow into hostel, they are running a decent set up. I crossed path with millennials traveling and taking break from regular work, searching for new meaning in life. I met a lot of techies doing freelance work while they were roaming around India and enjoying life. Most of them are living away from their families and trying to figure things out on their own. The conversations here were more about work, life and future aspirations. It was refreshing that aspirations ranged from owning organic farms to helping Indian youth in technical education. It was a common trend among mos to document the experiences online and share it with like minded individuals. I think this is a healthy trend and an efficient way to exchange ideas and knowledge. The travel trips shared are really helpful while traveling to remote areas and also to explore the hidden treasures in mundane places.
Konkani and Marathi language have similar words , the pronunciations are slightly different , but you can get the jest of the conversation. My favorite thing about Goa is the food and nature. Fishing is still an important source of livelihood, directly or indirectly. Locals need to be credited with preserving that heritage. Goa was a Portuguese colony and the influence is evident in the culture. You can go to almost any place to eat and the food will be good. (Avoid Vegetarian only restaurants, they are not meant for Goa.) I stayed in Agonda in Dersy Guest House and Resorts. The place was nice and had interesting conversation with owner, who used to work in merchant navy and now is back to grassroots to work. Like every millennial he had aspiration to integrate more technology into the business and make things grow and get better customers. We had interesting discussions over coffee. The tourism industry is the backbone of the economy for the locals and it reflects on how well the tourists are treated. The locals are reserved , polite and helpful in most cases. One of the better states in India, cosmopolitan and liberal. Goa, please don’t change !