The book was good, and the bus was late. The music was my favorite sing-along-in-the-bus-kind. But I could see that sheet of blue glinting in the heat of the day and I had to stop. I took a deep breath. Through the air-conditioner, the doors and windows shut tight, I smelt the warm salty breeze of a summer sea. "I'm going home" ran through my mind, over and over and over again.
It's quite irritating to be late when you're getting to a place you love, when you know what's in store for you and what you want to do. When the driver trundled along like he had all day, I wanted to get out of the darned bus and push! I willed the bus to go faster, overtake the bullock-cart and get on with it. When we passed the border into Goa, I smiled. The first thing I saw was a well-stocked bar!! That's the problem with tourists. They think the bar signifies being drunk all-day, and when they come to Goa, presume they shouldnt be able to walk straight until they leave. The 'taverne' is meant for your afternoon 'cop' and pre-dinner shot, not for guzzling anything that floats by in a glass!!
Finally, at Panjim bus stand, four hours later, I spotted my brother miles away. He stepped out of a red van with a white jersey saying 'v.Persie' and walked to the wrong bus. I knew then how much fun he's been having without me. He'd grown conspicuously wider and he grinned! Brothers do not generally do that when they have to play chauffeur. The ride back was amazing. I couldnt stop taking deep breaths of clean air and an even deeper breath when we passed the fish market.
The vacations seemed like the shortest one ever. I had so many things to do and people to meet. It felt like I was coming back after years and I was so excited to say, "Hey! This was what it used to be!" or "Wow! That's changed", even though the building just had a new coat of paint. My cousins were there to greet me at the door and scream "Hi! Dielle!! We got fed up waiting for you and had lunch already!!" I had to pretend that it was ok. How could they finish MY lunch? Fortunately, my mother remembered I was coming home and kept some fish, curry and rice for me. I walloped the lot.
Food was my main agenda during the hols. The 'sorpotel' with that hint of feni that goes so well with the 'sannas' with the hint of toddy, the yummy fried fish in 'reicado' masala, Goa rice and prawn curry.... I can still taste the 'ambot tik' dripping from the hot 'unde', the bombay ducks, and the prawns done every mouth-watering way possible. Jonathan graciously funded our trip to Pastry Cottage, that favorite place in the world where you must never go if you are even thinking of a diet. There's something I've noticed about all Goans. Even if they are away from home for a week, they'll come home and gorge on food like they've been starving all their lives. And I'd been away for six whole months!! Maybe now its easier to imagine the kind of work my oesophagus was going through.
And what is home without the beach? You twiddle your toes in the dry sand and let the wet sand get all over your feet before you strip down to your swimming costume and run down to the inviting sea, the sea that's cool to the skin and once you're in you never want to leave its warm caress. The sun falls on your face and you turn towards it, wallowing in its rays. Then you leave for a snack of yummy chutney and cheese and ham sandwiches, go down to the sand to play. There's a golden tan that you can get only if you enjoy all these things at the beach, not the kind that comes of lying in the heat all day getting parched and spotted, only to have your skin peel off two days later. It gets to be a rather reptilian feeling then. What's the difference then, between you and a croc? You sunbathe all day and when the hunger pangs call, waddle your way into the nearest restaurant and eat your fill until you waddle back to the beach and sunbathe until the sun goes down.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to attend a wedding too, where you dance to all the 'mandos' and sing along when you know the words, you see people you know and when you're tipsy dance with those you dont know. It's family! Meeting up with friends makes for more great memories, when they look at you and say "Wow, someone's putting on weight!" while you try very hard to suck your tummy in!
Goa is a place you enjoy only when you know how. I wouldnt like to be a tourist there. It's so fake, and the clubs, night and flea markets, cheap drinks and hippie life-style are only a small part of it. You have to live Goa to feel the true 'sussegado' spirit. I had the best time I could hope for at Home. It's a pity I had to leave so soon.
'Dev borem korum' to Mum, Da, J, Nans, A Lee, U Hue, TnTnT, U Selwyn and family, Pete, James, Lori, Dharmesh, Neha, Kim, Keith, Jesh, Karl, Licio, and the rest of those who made my vacation something I still speak about and will till I'm home again! I love you guys....