Today is the last day in Goa. I have watched a movie or two. Harold and Maude, a cult classic, and a Hayao Miyazaki movie called Howl’s Moving Castle that gave me a headache or two. True to nature, it’s hot again today. Not a cloud on the horizon. All that blue in the sky does not reflect on to the sea though. The sea is a curious mélange of grey and dirty white. It seems tired. I would be too. It’s non-stop exercise all the time.
I have time before my bus leaves in the evening from Panjim. So, I take the bike out again, and just meander down. The sun is a ray of heat on my arms even early in the morning. I find that my camera lens has fogged up with the humidity. Vagator is close to Anjuna and that’s where I head to. The scene there is much different. As I park in one corner of Anjuna beach, stalls are just being set up. Gorgeous sarongs and bracelets dance in the wind. Women ask me, rather curiously, in perfectly accented English whether I would like my hair braided. Cornrows even. I shake my head, startled. Are there many foreigners wandering around Anjuna trying to get cornrows or their hair braided? I dislike this aspect of tourism development. To travel is to seek, not to expect to find. There are pancakes in Vietnam and Laos because that’s what the Western tourists come seeking. I wonder though if we will find soymilk counters in Paris just because Chinese tourists come visiting? Something tells me that won’t be the case. But we will find pancakes in Hampi and cornrows in Goa.
The sea seems angrier here. I stand near the flea market and watch as it crashes into the barricades below. The bike goes further into what seems like Anjuna village. There are more Indians here as well. More of everything. Past pools of puddles and muddy trenches dug deep by last night’s rain. And as I walk past startled cows on their way to someplace important, I spot one cow that doesn’t want go anywhere. He is lying there, gazing not quite out to sea. The coconut trees in the distance. Surf behind. Shacks promising the best beer in front. A shop that sells T-shirts in garish colors. It’s all there. To be a cow in Goa. Nothing comes close.
I realized I love rickety old buses. The kind that come with no windows and look like they might break down any minute. There is something of the old world that always makes you forget the discomfort. It doesn’t matter when you get fresh sea breeze blowing into your face. That’s why I think when we travel abroad, it’s sometimes the best traveling experience you can have if you travel on the buses that locals take. Here’s why I see school kids clamber on to the bus. Uniforms of blue and white. Teachers in their skirts looking wearied already from the day’s classes. How many times have I seen women in skirts on Bangalore buses? Umm. Never. The bus is a local one that goes between Vagator and Mapusa. As I get down at the bus station in Mapusa, I walk around rather disoriented. There are buses going to Panaji, and in that moment of disorientation I wonder if Panjim and Panaji is the same. The sun is relentless. And I can’t think anymore. I take a taxi to Panjim.
I have one destination in Panjim on my mind. The Black Sheep Bistro.
Ranked the number one restaurant in Goa on Zomato. It’s almost half past three and never have been I so grateful for the Internet and Google Maps as it unerringly guides my grumbling taxi driver to the bistro. The door is shut and my heart drops on the street. Not again. I can’t bear one more restaurant shut for the off season. I step closer and try peer inside before it opens by a steward who smiles at me. “I thought it was closed. Are you open?” I ask, rather stupidly. It is open and I step inside air-conditioned comfort and thought of great ‘globally inspired cuisine.’ The Black Sheep does not disappoint. I ordered a non-alcholic version of a paan-infused drink. It was divine. Sadly, their menu is not available online and since I did not write down what I had, I am stuck trying to remember what I had. Only the taste of it still lingers. My mushroom starter was scrumptious and then the grits with veggies had a light flavor of what seemed like smoked cheese. Desert was a base of white chocolate with mangoes. Simple. Exquisite. By far, one of the best restaurants I have been to anywhere in the world. Don’t miss this restaurant if you are ever in Goa. It’s beautiful glorious celebration of food.
That’s what I would like to remember as I head back in the bus. You wonder why some celebrations are short. There are more ways to lead life and my corporate life is not one of them for me right now. Celebrate your life. It’s all we have.