Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Goan Odyssey

Think Goa, and one's mind immediately switches to the five B's - beaches, babes, bikinis, boobs and booze!! Or maybe the four S's - surf, sand, sun and sex!! (It's an unpardonable offense to omit Sorpotel, but...!?) However, what Goa is probably less renowned for is its weddings. And by Goan wedding, I don't just mean a wedding of two Goans (which is amazing, in any case), but more specifically, one held in Goa. I haven’t been to Goa for a year now, so here are memories from my last trip – for a wedding.
The bride, Desiree, was my cousin and an NRI living in London. She'd only been to India once before, quite some time back. The groom, Lee, was British and was making his first trip to India. What surprised me was the fact that even though most of the guests were from the United Kingdom, they still decided to hold the wedding in Goa. Financially, it turned to be almost the same, even inclusive of the costs of flying down. The entire entourage was staying at the Taj Holiday Village, and the reception was held at the same. (Damn these exchange rates!!)
I left from Poona the day I received my results. My family couldn't make it for some reason or the other so I was alone. I couldn't sleep for most of the night in the bus because I was too excited. Next morning, when I reached, I checked into my hotel, which wasn't quite as posh as the Taj Village. I happened to notice a rather large number of couples strolling around arm in arm or sitting in some corner and making out. "Sickos! Get a room!” I thought to myself. Only to realize later that the place I was staying at was also hosting some sort of marriage counseling convention.
That evening was the "Roas". A typically Goan pre-wedding night-tradition. It was to be held at the Bambolim Beach Resort (yeah, you guessed it - another 5 star establishment!) I had borrowed a motorbike from my Mom's friend (since he was in Bombay at the time) and enjoyed the pleasant ride down to the seashore and BBR. There I got my first surprise of the trip. All the Brits were in kurtas and I was in a Versace shirt and cargos!! They had forgotten to inform me of the dress code!
"Screw it!" I thought, and wafted over to wish the couple. I wished Desiree and Lee, and then BAM! Second surprise - the guy I thought was Lee, was actually Adam, the best man! By now I had turned redder than a sun burnt albino. After finally managing to locate Lee, I headed straight to the bar, knocked down a vodka and tonic, filled up a vodka and orange juice and decided it was time to mingle.
The first people I met were Arnold, my second-cousin from Toronto, and Mrs. Smith, Lee's Mom. Just as I was catching up on the latest with Arnold, it was time for the formalities to begin. They lasted all of about 10 minutes. A few words from one of the older ladies explaining the significance to the whole ceremony to the Poms followed by the ceremonial blessing of the bride with (coconut) milk and finally a (damned good, if I may add) speech from Adam, the best man. Then it was back to the dance floor again. Or the bar if you preferred.
The evening was pure bliss. Got to meet a lot of new people - Martin and Heidi (Lee's sis), Ian and Fran, Peter and Anna, Franz (Des' bro), Ronnie, Jappi (short for Japhinder), Aruna, Aviva... to name a few. And of course all the relatives, most of whom I'd never seen before. The party was on the beach so that made it even better. Imagine a bar on a beach - can anything beat that?
I remember I didn't have dinner that night. The booze and the starters filled me to such an extent that I headed straight for the desert later.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was - since I was meeting them for the first time. Anyone seeing us then would have been forgiven for thinking that we had known each other forever. I really miss that in most people I meet normally in day-to-day life. It's really hard to talk to strangers sometimes.
We also sang a remixed variation of Bohemian Rhapsody in which we had changed the lyrics to suit the occasion. And I think it got a better response than the songs played by the band itself!! Finally at about 2 in the morning I got back on my trusty ol' bike and headed back to the hotel room - drunk, tired, sleepy.
The next morning I was up rather late and since the wedding wasn't until the next day, I decided to pay my old friend Tino a visit. Or rather my Dad's old friend. Or to be even more precise, my Dad's ex-room-mate, from his early working days, in the '70's.
Now Tino Gasper is one the guys I have the most respect for. Simply because the guy knows how to enjoy life. He's the only one of my Dad's old friend circle who didn't get married. Now he lives in this shack in Goa - rather he lives just outside the shack, and is an artist by profession. He has a huge workshop and an expansive estate surrounding it all. He mainly prepares stained windows, sculptors, pottery, paintings and other such stuff. He's also an exceptional writer. No corporate tensions, no project deadlines, nothing. That's the life. He smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. One man I truly admire.
Tino normally has a paying guest or two living with him - mostly in relation with something 'artsy'. This time there was this French artist couple - Guy and Melissa - who were staying with him. As soon as I arrive, he offers me a drink - feni. I'm not surprised because that's the way things are in Goa. Personally speaking, I'm not very fond of feni (it smells rotten, and in fact that's exactly what it is), but like I said - this is Goa. You simply don't decline a feni offer. I'd get to the scotch later.
That evening, post a nice afternoon siesta, Guy, Melissa and I decide it's time to hit the surf. So we head to the nearest beach. It's a virgin beach and there were only about a dozen others present at the time. Mel decides to do a half-Monty and there never was a more beautiful sight. I had the greatest trouble keeping my eyes up when speaking to her after that. I'm just glad Guy was too busy swimming to notice what was happening on shore. But then again - they're French - he probably wouldn't even have minded!
That night it was party time again. We decided to go to Tito's for a few drinks before heading out to Club Cabana for the real party. I found out that my Pommie Pals had gone wind surfing in the afternoon and water-skiing too. At Rs 1300 an hour!
We got to Tito's by about 9.50 pm. The place was pretty empty but starting to fill up. At about 11 pm we moved on down the road to Mambo's. Party Central. The place was rocking. Everyone grabbed a drink and headed straight for the floor.
After a while, perspiration streaming down in rivulets, we decided it was time to pay Club Cabana a visit. That's when the real fun started. We were traveling in two cars - a Qualis and a Gypsy. And both got lost. Separately. Desperate calls on the cell phone were of little help since it was about 12.30 and neither car really knew where they actually were. We finally decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, I was up late again. Somehow it's impossible to get up on time when you're on holiday. I head in to town to have lunch and have a dekko around before coming in for the customary afternoon siesta. At 3.30 pm I'm awake again and head into the shower, since I have to be at the church by 4.30. It turns out to be of little use, and five minutes after I step out I'm drenched in sweat again. I throw on my suit, which only makes it hotter, and head off for St. Lawrence's Church, Candolim.
Now, I've seen a fair number of churches in my time, and this one would definitely be the most scenically located. It's set on a hilltop with the ocean in the background. The only problem is I have some trouble finding the place and am about 10 minutes late for the mass. The priest was Father Tom, their Parish Priest in London, who'd flown down for the wedding along with them. After Mass, there was a massive picture taking session. The view was just too good. And with the sun setting in the background - pure heaven!
We then all headed to the Taj Village for the reception. We entered and the first thing we located was - you guessed it, the bar! I think we must each have sculled about three drinks even before the bridal couple arrived. And the appetizers were the most delicious I've ever tasted. It was going to be a fun night.
And indeed it was. The dancing, especially the slow dancing which I love because I can't jive to save my life; the drinks - vodka and orange juice, scotch on the rocks, or just rum and coke; and the food, although I didn't touch it and went straight for the dessert again! Mrs. Smith was on fire on the dance floor, and I remember asking Lee how his Mom could have that much energy and whether he had slipped something into her drink maybe! She’s a dear old lady though. Very lovable and sweet. Almost to a fault. She'd keep buying these things at 5-6 times the price just because she didn't have the heart to bargain with the sad-eyed vendors. I tried to convince her that bargaining is a necessity in India and that they quote their starting price absurdly high since they anticipate some bargaining, but I don't think I managed to drive home the point.
Mr. Bill Smith, Lee's Dad is a character too. I liked his speech at the end of the wedding, and it's not hard to see where Lee gets his handsome, rugged looks from.
We sang California Dreaming onstage and Adam sang a pretty good rendition of Wonderful Tonight. He also gave me one of his special cigars and that's when I resolved never to touch a cigarette again. Somehow it just isn't the same.
By about one o'clock, most of the guests had left and it was time to wind up. Now for most weddings this would signal the end. But this was Goa. We packed the bridal couple off in their room and headed back to the bar. Here we proceeded to make ourselves a couple of 'party packs'. For the uninformed amongst you, I shall explain. A 'party pack' is when you take a 2-litre bottle of say coke, remove some of the coke and put liquor in it. So we prepared a vodka-tonic and a rum-coke 'party pack' and piled into the cars. I pity the dudes driving the two cars because the rest of us sure had fun. I ended up in the Qualis - vodka-tonic. And boy, was it good!
We reached Mambo's but the place wasn't quite as happening as the previous night. We sat down for a few more drinks nevertheless, and enjoyed the trance music. At about half past three, we finally decided to head back. I got dropped off at my hotel on the way and was asleep in about five minutes. But not before sending a text message to all those unfortunate friends of mine back in Poona for whom it had been just another routine Saturday night.
The next day, Sunday, I got up at about 2 in the afternoon. I returned the mobike I was using and headed off to the Bus Station. By 6.30 I was snoozing in the bus and the next morning I was back in this accursed city Poona. With memories of one of the best holidays in my life!


Anonymous said...

dude your screwed

Anonymous said...

Tino Dasper was at one time married to Urmila Menezes ...late 1970's to early 80's. At that time he lived in Pune and was famour for directing plays and othr arty stuff. The marriage ended soon when his wife probably realized he would never hold a steady job. She left him for a Dentist.
...Anyway he was a legend of his time in Pune...and the wedding was something of a Prince Tino and Lady Urmila scandal in Pune ( she was barely 18 and from a prominent ie rich Pune family). Thanks for the update and keep posting !