After having a relaxed and hearty dinner in the musical setting of ‘Canacona’, I could not resist the temptation to take a gentle stroll in the gigantic lobby of the Grand Resort. By a sheer chance, I met Arif, Nusrat and Ghulam. While chitchatting, from nowhere, we were attracted towards a Golf cart parked in one corner of the portico. When casually requested, the hotel watchman, a tall, hefty but helpful Sardarji agreed to arrange a free ride for us. Seeing the dimly-lit vast compound of the Portuguese style hotel and its golf course turned out to be an interesting experience. Towards the end, we were dropped outside the main gate. A group of well dressed village young men wanted to speak to us. They followed us gently when we wished to have a cup of tea at the only Dhaba of the remote coastal village. The owner was polite but his time was up. He was in the process of closing the shop. In the meanwhile, the young men approached us again.
Interaction with them revealed that many of them owned taxis and motorcycles, available for hire at any time of the day. Either the visitor could drive them to a location of choice or else one of them would do the job. The system sounded pleasantly different from other tourist spots of the country. One could sense a degree of trust reposed in the tourists. A number of nearby tourist spots were spelt out in addition to the packages available for Aguada Fort, the beaches of Anjuna and Candolim, Old Goa, Panaji, Margaon and a glance at the newly introduced casinos. Upon listening to the whole commentary, we decided to contact Yash, one of the owners, the following day. But he succeeded, then and there in persuading us to visit the Palolem beach, located at a distance of barely five kms. He promptly agreed when I expressed a desire to pick up my mouthorgan.
What a refreshing drive he gave! The cool breeze from the Arabian sea provided us the relief from the fatigue of a packed training day. While ensuring a smooth drive, Yash also gave us vivid descriptions of the life under the Portuguese, transforming villages, unabated construction boom, communal harmony in Goa, system of hiring rooms and cottages and an Annaconda snake which lived about three kms away from our hotel. When I finished a tune on the mouthorgan, he was quick to add that the whole area looked quiet and isolated as the tourist season was still a fortnight away. According to him, the foreigners who visited this part were mostly bag packers or the budget tourists from England and Australia. They had no worry in life. Most of them happen to be scantily clad drug addicts.
Hearing these accounts we reached the small settlement of Palolem. It was already 10.pm but the shops were open if not doing brisk business. Without losing time we walked to the beach. It was heartening to see some do’s and don’ts made prominent on a board of the local Municipal body. Though it was dark, a few steps over the sand made us aware that it was a clean beach. A few more steps took us closer to the sea waves. The mere touch of sea water lifted our spirits. A few couples were already enjoying darkness. After taking a few snaps, including of a parked fishing boat, I persuaded Ghulam to have a brush with the solitude .We sat down on sand which was partly wet. Feeling the sound of the waves for about fifteen minutes turned out to be more pleasing experience. Later we resorted to star gazing. Soon Nusrat and Arif rejoined us. We began walking towards the restaurants located along the beach. As expected, a bunch of foreign tourists were seated in funny postures. Some appeared normal, some were half asleep, while a sizeable chunk was found waiting to dance to the tune of English and Goan disco numbers, two hours later. For strange reasons, all the discos of the area become actually functional from midnight.
A peep into the Draupadi Restaurant revealed that a variety of food was available-Goan,Tandoori,Chinese as also continental. The menu offered was affordable. Having witnessed the scenario there, we proceeded to the market.
While a garment seller was calculating his day’s earnings, a Dhaba owner was busy getting a sumptuous item prepared. It was educative to talk to a curio shopkeeper and later listen to his explanations pertaining to the gems and precious stones before three deeply involved middle aged tourists. But what actually stole the show was a serious game of Billiards played between the waiter of an eating joint and a foreigner, whose bulky companion, smoking like a chimney, would occasionally curse him for ignoring her.
Seeing all this, time frittered away. Though the prescribed time of two hours was about to expire, Yash was conspicuous by his absence. Ultimately, he was located at the main entrance to the Palolem Beach. Of all the things, he was seen relishing a fight involving a few stray dogs. While we reminded him of his assignment, we were, at the same time, rather impressed with the frantic efforts of a teenaged tourist in resolving the dispute between the dogs. Her partner, unmindful of the developments taking place, stuck to their hired scooter till she succeeded in restoring peace. By admiring her concern and animal handling skills and bidding her Goodnight, we began driving back to Canacona.
I was too drowsy to play the mouthorgan again. While we did experience the cool sea breeze even around midnight, Yash switched on the tape. What a treat we received! While attentively listening to the Ghazals of Ghulam Ali, we never knew that we had returned to the hotel and it was not the hefty Sardarji but a make shift thin watchman who was unprofessionally welcoming us back. Even though we had exceeded the time limit, Yash was polite enough in realising only Rs Two Hundred. His infectious smile and good nature, won our hearts. While walking down aesthetically lit corridors, we decided to avail of the services of Yash again to discover other enchanting spots of Goa.