I flew into Goa from Delhi and the moment I walked off the plane, I felt light and stress free, as I usually do. This is strange, as I lead a fairly stress free and retired life in Gurgaon. This highlights that stresses ar a part of our lives in the big metros. And the week in Goa was about family and food and chilling out – a well established routine, not associated with the usual picture of Goa that comes to peoples minds. Of course, this time the bonus was that my nephew, Asish and his family were visiting from the US.
A definite part of the week is the visit to Nagueshi, the temple which our Gowd – Saraswat Brahmin (better known as GSB) family is attached to. This is a typical GSB tradition, with GSBs from across the country and the world making the trek to their family deity, even if no family is left in Goa. Our visits are usually on Monday evening for the weekly Palki – the deity being Shiva and Monday being the auspicious day. The ritual involves the ceremonial pradakshana (going around) of the temple with Naguesh (there is separate idol of Naguesh for this) seated in a decorated palki, carried by devotees and accompanied by traditional music. We leave home a little before 8pm, do the 30 km in 40-45 minutes, and reach in time for the 8.30 function. And it is all over in an hour and we are back by 10.30 – to catch a late dinner. I have been going for the Palki, since my first visit as a bride in 1973 and on earlier visits, cousin Dinesh (who was the only one in the family with a car) took these occasional visitors from the North (us) for the Palki. This time it was Rohit, Dinesh’s son who drove us, bringing back memories of those earlier trips. The ritual has not changed in any way over these 4 decades, and the younger generations are taking over where the older have left off …. and it is partly this continuity that makes it reassuring for a generally non-temple goer like me.
The family visits to various cousins, usually with a meal thrown in was curtailed on this visit, as a mid-week get together was organized and everybody got together at one place to meet Ashish. This was held in the large ‘hall’ of the old house where the joint family used to live. The original house as it was then, no longer exists. But parts of it, like this hall,with the traditional wooden rafter roof, is used for large get togethers. Meeting everyone in one evening, of course, saved me some gastronomic excesses as well. The mandatory meal with Shalootai could not be skipped, and was relished. She is a legendary cook – food of the kind that none of the resturants would serve!! Well into her 70s, she is the epitome of energy and enthusiasm, with her stall at the annual Saraswat food festival being a great attraction. I also had a chance to spend a morning with Arnav, doing the games center at the local mall, the book shop and KFC meal.
The daily morning walks on the beach, were specially bracing as the weather was a perfect 18-20 at that time. There was a mgnificent sand sculpture on display – on the “Alice in Wonderland” theme. A part of each visit is also a movie at INOX (a lovely facility in the cernter of town where some of the IFFI films are screened) with my niece – this time it was “Hassi to Phasee”. A dinner out with Pooja and Kedar has also become a part of the rituals. We had a lovely Chinese meal at a new place in Candolim – good food, ambience and price! What more can you ask?
Panaji was also hosting a Wine Festival which seems to have become an annual event – a bit strange as Goa neither grows grapes or produces wines. But with live music and a large number of food stalls, everyone was at the festival – still fairly crowded when we went well after 10pm. The week I was there, the Carnival was also on – it seems to attract more press than people as I did not hear of anyone actually going for it.
And between all these comings and goings, there is always this strong feeling of coming ‘home’. Ramesh and Sheela have a unique and rare capacity to embrace every one and give their unquestioned love. And for me they have been an anchor, a place to rest, the only place where I, even at this age, feel pampered!! And of course, there is the company of my 100 year old mother-in-law – who has a sharp memory but tends to skip decades in her stories. She could start to recap an episode which happened in the 50s 0r 60s as though it was last week and drift to events and people, which on closer questioning happened in the 30s or 40s!!
I know that the status quo will not last as we are all getting on in years. And so I want to savor it as long as I can, which is why I make these trips as often as I can. Already planning the next one….