"Have you ever been to Goa"
"Oh! then you haven't experienced anything."
Finally it was time to put all those questions to rest. Jo and I decided to meet in Goa in the second week of October, just before the beginning of the tourist rush. I woke up when my bus entered Karwar. The dawn was yet to break; the sidewalk and everything that met my eyes seemed to have bathed in the silvery moonlit night. I wasn't sure what woke me up; whether it was the continuous banter of my co-passengers or the warm moon rays that teased me through the window pane.
The initial excitement was replaced by disappointment with unnecessary delay. I decided to take the bike ride to Baga from Panjim. The salty sweetness of the fresh catch, friendly smiles, and colourful houses infused with Portuguese and modern architecture was enough to lift my spirits. A clean 1-BHK apartment at Gypsee's Cove and a visibly excited Jo were waiting for me. The next 3 days in Goa was like a beautiful dream. The delicious food, awesome weather, friendly locals, carefree visitors, neat but narrow roads, and a dash of history infused with modern lifestyle.
I did not spend much time on beaches, night clubs or on the poker tables - the reasons why people flock to Goa. I roamed around in the streets, interacted with the locals at restaurants, juice shops and those numerous shops that sold souvenirs. I didn't feel like a stranger from the very first minute I landed in Goa. No, it has nothing to do with the place but the people - the locals. They mind their own business; the locals are neither in awe or feel intruded by you. They maintain a neutral stance towards the hordes of people that flow in and out of Goa. You are completely on your own, and this feeling is so liberating. May be that's why everyone feels at home here. The invisible shackles of certain 'obligations' are broken. I remember telling Jo that I could ACTUALLY live here. What's the reason that makes Goa so different from all other tourist destinations? You are made to feel like a visitor/outsider in most of the places no matter how long you live or how well you know their language or culture.
What makes Goanese unique? Is it the Portuguese that made Goa their home till late 60's? Is it the cultural upheaval though marred with a dark history but eventually evolved as a balanced culture imbibing the best of East and West? There may be more than one reason but I know for sure that I have fallen in love with Goa and thus, begins a long affair with it.