Archive for November, 2009

If there are two Indian seaside destinations that have always whispered to my soul, they are Goa and Pondicherry. Pondicherry is my favourite of the two, and yet Goa has also always had a charm of its own.

If Pondicherry has been the place that I have visited to find myself, I have always been drawn and then lost in the magic of Goa only to discover myself. So if Pondicherry is my destination when I need to hear my soul speak in a still clear voice, Goa beckons when I need my own touch of magic.

For me, more than any other Indian location, Goa reflects the spirit of endless travel and adventure. For it is here that travellers from around the word congregate, each on a unique path to self discovery, and their stories intermingle into the fabric of a land that is both tolerant and all accepting.

I first visited Goa nine years ago on a solo journey, just after I had turned 24. Today, nine years later, it was a riotous journey made rich by the glory of friendship. In the intervening decade, it was interesting to see that nothing much had changed, except perhaps my perspective.

Spread across these many years, there are lingering memories of adventures and places. As it is with all places, there would certainly be more to Goa than just these remnants of my experience. But these are the places ands things that made my visits to Goa special and will have me returning again. I record them here lest I should forget and also so that my memories may serve as a guide to fellow travellers.

Chapora: I missed Chapora on my first visit to Goa. But this time I did stop by, thanks to my friend UU, who has made Goa her home for the last few months. The Chapora Fort was first made famous for great moments of friendship captured in the film Dil Chahta Hai. But there’s more to Chapora than just that. Truly, you’ve not experienced Goa if you not had a whiff of the special madness of Chapora village, experienced the still tranquility of Chapora Beach, gazed down the heights of Chapora Fort or even possibly caught a Chapora sunset. The last one eluded us and is a strong incentive for me to return yet again.

Old Goa: I first discovered Old Goa on a bike 9 years ago. I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the ride that took me past winding paths set against the sea, finally stopping at St Catherine’s Chapel. Old Goa is better known and has even been declared a world heritage site for its monuments like the the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The later is the first Basilica in India and is also said to house the mortal remains of Francis of Assisi. But St Catherine’s Chapel remains my favourite shrine. Away from the touristy hordes, it carried its own special touch of the stillness of the divine.

Mango tree… May the music live on: It is true that over time, Goa has come to be associated with a large number of intoxicants. It is also true that all these intoxicants abound in Goa in no small measure. Yet, it is also true that the most potent and less talked about intoxicant in Goa is perhaps its music. Jazz and blues, often played by multi-cultural bands, abound in Goa more than in any other Indian destination, playing no small part in the influences that give Goa a beat of its own. For the musically inclined, two must stops are Mango Tree on a Thursday evening and Take 5 for some Saturday night fever.

Candolim, Calangute & Baga Beaches: I literally stumbled upon the Candolim, Calangute and Baga beaches on my first visit to Goa. I remember my surprise at discovering that these three beaches lay adjacent to each other. So you only had to walk in one straight line to cover all of them. Even then, I remember noticing that Calangute took the impact of the tourists, while Baga was quieter.

On this visit, we began with lunch at Brittos, overlooking Baga. Amongst the three beaches I found that it still took the least of the tourist impact and blended the madness of crowds, with a stillness of its own. On our final day here, we also experimented with water sports between Calangute and Baga. While we had our adventure under the morning sky, there’s no time like evening to go parasailing. You could be suspended 100 feet above the ground, with the glorious orange ball that is the sun falling across the horizon to sink into the eager waiting arms of the Arabian Sea. It’s a moment to live for.

Anjuna & Vagator: If Baga taken less of the tourist impact, Anjuna and Vagator are even more remote. While Vagator is spectacular in its own way, Anjuna has its own touch of serenity. On this visit, UU and I sat late into the night eating salmon at Sunset Cafeteria overlooking Anjuna. Bright sparkling lighted shacks stretched as far as the eye could see looking down on the darkly tossing eternal Arabian Sea. The stillness in turbulence and the power of the moment lingers on, and will always remain amongst my unforgettable travel experiences.

The Markets Candolim & Calangute: The road to Calangute Beach and Fort Anjuna takes you past the bargain laden shacks of Candolim and Calangute. Few markets epitomise the magic of the bazaar like they do. All of Indian influences seem to find their confluence here. But be warned that nothing must be bought at face value. Here, more than at any other place, prices are named with the expectation of a good bargain. So you haven’t shopped at Goa, if you haven’t haggled hard and long.

The Saturday night market: But if there is one place where the charm of Candolim and Calangute can possibly be outdone, it is at the Saturday Night market. All of India seems to come together again, but this time sparkling under the night skies. The buzz and atmosphere is to be experienced to be understood. It’s true. The Saturday night market has a life of its own.

Architecture: Few states in India celebrate old European architecture in the way that Goa does. Historic houses and churches dot the countryside. You never quite if you are looking at just another building or a bit of history. Every nook and corner reverberates of yesterday.

The Corjuem Fort at Aldona: It’s a fort in the middle of nowhere and not hyped in tourist guides. So the adventure to this fort lies primarily in discovering it as you cut past Mapusa and the village of Aldona. Once you get past the tangled vines that block the entrance, there is the special feeling of privelege when you discover that you are the only person in the monument that you are visiting. On my return home, I did some research on the fort and discovered that legend has it that “One of the defenders of the fort was Ursula e Lancastre, a Portuguese waif. Determined to succeed in a man’s world, she disguised herself as a man and travelled the world, eventually serving as a soldier. It was not until she was captured and stripped that her secret was discovered. This did not put an end to her military career, and she married the captain of the guard.” It was perhaps fitting then that I discovered this fort with my friend MC on a bike, on our girl’s day out. It was a highpoint amongst my many adventures with my buddy of the last 15 years beginning in high school.

Fort Aguada: A ‘must do’ destination on tourist “to do” lists, this seventeenth-century Portuguese fort set against the Arabian Sea is not as spectacular as the journey to get there that also takes you past the magic of Candolim. It’s reputed to be one of the spots in Goa that give you a beautiful sunrise. But on both instances I visited it during the sunset, and I remember it more for the journey to get there than the location. The fort seems to have been built as a defence against the Dutch and Marathas and was the chief defence of the Portuguese in India. The freshwater spring at the fort was also a source of water supply to Portuguese ships, and so the fort got its name of “aguada” or “water”.

Dona Paula: Another ‘must do’ touristy destination, a visit to Dona Paula usually ends at the Dona Paula jetty. It’s beautiful in a typical touristy way. Yet, this trip was special for my my first Goan bus ride that had a charm of its own. There is also an interesting romance to the story behind Dona Paula. It’s named after the daughter of a Portuguese nobleman who threw herself off the cliffs after she was not allowed to marry a fisherman who she loved.

Miramar Beach: Away from the rhythms of hippies on beaches, it is here that citizens of Panjim make their way every evening for their own special touch of sea and sky. Far removed from the Goa of tourists, this is the beat of normal everyday Goa. I stayed in a hotel opposite the beach on my first visit to Goa, and I remember spending an evening here amongst the wonderful people who make the magic of Goa possible.

So these then are the travel moments that make my memories of Goa… Here’s looking forward to many more.

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Sometime ago, in an earlier post here, I’d written that a piece of mine had been accepted for Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul.

I missed out on contributing to “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul”. But later, sometime earlier this year, I also sent two other pieces for “Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul”. One of them was accepted again.

Then Raksha (the author compiling the book) got back to me regarding one of the pieces that I had sent her for the first edition. They had not used it at that time, but they would be using it now.  

So that’s three pieces of mine that have been accepted for Chicken Soup. In all the current gloom, here at least is something to cheer for 🙂

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am creating a separate blog for “I’ll do it my way”, which is going to be a separate thinking space that is distinct from my personal blog.

You can find the new homepage for “I’ll do it my way” here

Thoughts and comments are welcome.

Full stop

Posted: November 6, 2009 in Aamir Khan - I'll do it my way

There are times in life when you reach a full stop. This happened with the work on the book as well. I have reached a full stop, from which I must begin a new paragraph.

 It’s finally official, and has been for the last week now. The meeting that I have been trying for with Aamir will not happen. The book must continue without any of his involvement.

Of course, this is a huge blow after an eight-month long wait. But I have invested too much in this book to pull out now. Also, as a writer, I believe that I have a wonderful story to tell and beautiful perspectives from many of Aamir’s significant directors to share. Some of these may not told again, in the same way, if I do not proceed.

So after taking some time out to think about and understand how I felt about this book, I have decided that the show must go on.

Also in my mind, is each of the directors, colleagues and people that I met in the journey of writing this book. The involvement that each of them put in, even if it was for just 45 minutes, demands that a story finally be told.

This book was conceived of my love of cinema, and must still be written. Both as a tribute to Indian cinema, and the incredible contribution that Aamir Khan has made and will continue to make to it.   

The interviews with his directors have also been concluded, refused or seem to be poised at points from which they cannot proceed further. So even here I have the closure required, however disappointing this might be in some cases.

All that remains now is for me to finish writing the book. I am hoping to bring this to a close by the end of November.

I also plan to start a separate blog for the book, which will be separate from my personal blog 101dreams. I’ll share the URL with you as soon as it is up.

But meanwhile, the struggle has almost ended. And yet, the struggle has only just begun 🙂