Wednesday, October 20, 2010

South Goa - A Story in Pictures - Part 3

Our beautiful sunset ride on a motorcycle took us to the heart of Agonda, a fishing village comprising chiefly of local fisher folk with foreign visitors happily slumming it in the middle of nowhere. Riding through the village, looking at the tourists hanging out in the rustic shacks and stores, I wondered why someone would take the trouble to travel all the way from far off places to end up in the boondocks, especially in a country like India where you can spend years travelling and still find out there's more to see and do than what you have done already!
While still pondering this question, we came upon Agonda beach and all thoughts of the primitive village flew from my mind to be replaced by awestruck admiration. I could have happily lived in a cave wearing skins if I could wake up to this view and sleep to the sounds and sights of this magnificent expanse of water, sky, hills and sunlight...

...If ever you feel a overwhelming need to experience absolute beauty and innocence, go to Agonda Beach during the monsoons at the hour of the sunset...

Friday, October 8, 2010

South Goa - A Story in Pictures - Part 2

Another Day in Paradise

1. Our first morning in Goa began with another stroll on the beach to a food shack for some breakfast. We sat there in a sunny dream watching the azure blue sea, devouring banana pancakes, thick sliced bacon and steaming hot coffee.

2.     Another short walk on the beach to watch some men wrestling with their fishing nets…
3. …the colorfully dressed women beach cleaners…
      … Men clambering up coconut palms to pick coconuts...
 Now, we were ready to take on the town and the first thing we did on going into town was to try to rent a scooter for easy mobility and ended up renting a motorcycle instead. VJ had a ball zooming us around the twisted little roads and lanes, pretending he had finally bought his dream machine!
             After spending the day exploring Palolim and Canacona town on the motorcycle, we decided to ride down to Agonda Beach, which is about eight kms away from Palolim. We had an unbelievably glorious ride through unspoiled countryside wrapping ourselves in the cool evening air and chasing the golden sunset. I thought I had found perfection in Palolim and then I saw Agonda…but that as they say is another story…for another day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

South Goa – A story in pictures - Part 1

(Note: After the recent spate of cynical writings here, I thought I would write about one of the many beautiful experiences I have had while exploring this country of mine over the past few months).


1. Towards the end of the monsoons, my husband and I spent a couple days in South Goa, in a little fishing village, which also attracts a ton of tourists seeking quiet beauty and warm sunny serenity during the winter months. We stayed on the beach in the village of Palolim, which is a gorgeous place nestled between the Arabian Sea on one side and thickly wooded Sahyadri Mountain ranges, on the other.
2. We landed at Dabolim airport in the early afternoon and driving south for about 60 Kms, we reached Palolim in the evening. After finding a little place to shack up for the night, we walked to one of the places on the beach for some food. Therefore, our Goan experience began with some delicious crusted calamari and a tall bone colored mug of the world’s best coffee served black with steamed milk and sugar on the side.
3. After lingering lazily over coffee n’ calamari we decided to go for a sunset stroll on the beach and never have I seen such a breathtaking glory of colors in my life before! The western sky was a searing red gold, the waters a lustrous silver gray, the mountains a constantly darkening green black and it being the monsoons, dark clouds were gathering in the horizon promising us a stormy night.
4. We showered and changed into fresh clothes and went back to the Dropadi bar and Restaurant for a late dinner. The waiter displayed the fresh catch of the day for our benefit and it included a giant lobster, snapper, red snapper and bass. We chose a snapper and had them spice and grill it in the Tandoor (clay oven) for us. The prepared fish with a garden fresh-spiced vegetable salad and hot steamed rice on the side was especially scrumptious due to the freshness of the ingredients.

5. Having satisfied both our palates and our tummies, we decided to explore the town of Palolim. The town is a curious mixture of the indigenous and the sophisticated, as it needs to cater to both the local fisher folk and farmers and the international tourist. Then, our first evening in Goa culminated with us going to bed to the sounds of a stormy night outside our window.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Living the American Dream in India...

I think I am beginning to get a glimmer of understanding into the secret for contentment in India vs the US. India has much to offer the person who plays by the rules whereas the US has a lot to offer the rebel rather than the conformist...OK this is some pretty strong stereotyping, however, consider this;
In India, if you belong to the very poor or the very rich classes, you can get away with a lot, either because you are poor and you have to do what it takes to survive or you are wealthy so you have a right to behave the way you want to and use your money to smoothen the consequences, not so different from the rest of the world!
If you belong to the great Indian middle class, your duty is to get a degree, a job, a spouse, a car, two kids and a maid and spend the rest of your life saving your money for your children and your retirement and raising your kids without breaking the mold. Majority of the people who follow this formula appear genuinely happy and why not? Society beams its approval and makes subtle allowances and adjustments to enable the family to continue this lifestyle without becoming dysfunctional. People talk about rising divorce rates in India but it is still relatively minuscule compared to the US and the biggest issue seems to be that the woman has moved on while the man continues to struggle in the caves...don't expect me to sympathize with that!!
In the US, playing by the rules appears golden but for the most part seems to end in two or three mortgages, a spouse without the "sparks" or "chemistry", unhappy kids, stagnant career because you are too busy running the circus to focus on yourself (this happens in a land that worships individuality...go figure!) obesity, divorce, stress and burn out, drug or alcohol addiction, as how else would you cope with steadily increasing disillusionment?

How is it different when a person refuses to play by the rules?

In India, all hell breaks lose...everyone from your nearest and dearest to the stranger in the streets who strikes up a conversation with you is worried about the "lack of progress" in your life. Any attempts to explain why you have deviated from the norm simply results in a lot of arguments, counter arguments and snide much so that you feel like catching the next bus from here to nowhere! The really bothersome thing about this is the way it can drag you down and prevent you from accomplishing your goals, thus inevitably provoking "I told you so" comments. Whew!
In the US, as long as you are "doing something" with your life, nobody cares if you are playing by the rules or not. For the most part, people are too busy running their own show to have much energy left over for yours! In such a sanguine atmosphere, you can focus on you and accomplish your dreams without going through the enervating process of justifying them every step along the way and collapsing in a heap before you are halfway there!

Although the American Dream is a much maligned concept, it still attempts to pervade the country in its simple essence, To quote James T Adams from "Epic of America",
"The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class"

It is just too bad that the American Dream is a travesty of its true meaning today and has generally come to signify expensive and exhausting house keeping within the borders of the white picket fence!It is even worse that there is no such thing as the Great Indian Dream! However, what really takes the cake is trying to live the American Dream (in its true sense) in India!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Battling tropical organisms and dreaming of epic journeys...

After deluding myself that a walk in the dust and rain was delicious, I paid for it by falling sick immediately and getting admitted to the hospital which forced Vj to reschedule his trip to the US...and as if that wasn't enough, the virus got into him as well and he had to reschedule the trip a second time. Now that I think of it my biggest accomplishment to date since I moved to India has been to fall ill to a precise schedule every few days...It has been four months since I moved and I am still going strong and accumulating a record number of sick days...beginning to consider writing to the Guinness book of world records, after all we should make hay while the sun shines no matter what the nature of accomplishment!
On the other hand may be I should pay heed to what my cousins say and consult an astrologer and find out if and why the stars are aligned against me...
Or better still maybe I should simply walk out of this dreaded land and seek my fortune in some friendly corner of the world...that is assuming that there is a friendly corner somewhere for me...
I wonder...would it be foolish to start on an epic journey to find the most conducive place to live in for me?

Grappling with tropical delights....

Currently sojourning in Mysore, generally pronounced to be a beautiful city with plenty of parks, gardens and historical monuments to attract people.
What is not so famously known is the peculiar mixture of sensory "delights" that can change this place from heaven to hell within a matter of hours.
You can wake up to soft sunshine and bird song, walk out of the house with a cup of coffee and sigh in pleasure when your eyes meet with a profusion of greenery and flowers both wild and cultivated...
And then, before you realize it you are wading through thick tropical heat, struggling with prolific allergens released by all this tropical glory and you have the beginnings of a sore throat, runny nose, itchy eyes, all wrapped up in sickening heat...
Cope with it all day hoping for some respite at least from the heat at such luck. Nights belong to mosquitoes on coke, worsening allergy symptoms, sleeplessness from all this discomfort, all wrapped up in sickening heat again.
Wake up again...look at the morning glory, which now feels like the proverbial salt on the wound and curse the stars that brought you here.

I guess no amount of beauty in the world can make up for the bleakness within...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Distance is not just a matter of miles...

Why do we even have the concept of "world peace"? Granted that it is just a term popularly used in beauty paegents but I have come across related terms and hopes in other places too. If repatriation after a relatively short time of geographical distance can get this complicated, how can people think of living in peace with other people who resemble them only in being human beings and whom they have never met?

Culture is deadlier than the nuclear bomb!

After coping with questions and comments ranging from why we have no kids despite being married four years (people are openly skeptical when I say it is from choice and that we do not have infertility issues) to the finer details of the reasons behind hiring a cook...
(Apparently it is automatically implied that I can't cook and we have plenty of money to throw around. Neither's true...what is true is our priorities are radically different from that of the people around us...another reason to feel out of place!)
... and everything else in between, I am beginning to develop culture phobia, unfortunately towards home country. I thought material homelessness was painful....wait till you begin to experience cultural homelessness!

This takes me back to my last few days at my workplace back in Cleveland. I informed a client that I was moving back to India and she asked me "Why? Don't you love our freedoms here?" and I replied, "I have pretty much the same freedoms in India". I am beginning to wonder if I had gone to work in a doped up state that day...same freedoms indeed! I'd bet you my last pair of boots that like everything else in this darned place even freedom comes in disguise...either that or individual freedom of thought and acceptance of differences is pretty much non-existent.