The New and Improved Goa Post!
Before getting to Goa we had been worried, because the only mention of our Goa hotel was on a few internet hotel sites. No printed guide knew of it or even included Bambolim Beach itself on a map. The big Indian hotels directory in Agra didn't list it, and the number wouldn't go through. I did get to place trunk calls, though:
"I would like to make a call to X-location."
"Thank you, I will call you back when I have put the call through."
Even when the girl then calls you back five hours later to explain that the number was not functioning, and would you like her to keep trying all night? it's still a blast!
Once we left the 106-degree Delhi weather and heard that the weather in Goa was 70 degrees, we were happy, even if there weren't a hotel. The taxi (Goa's nice in that there's a prepaid taxi stand in the airport -- no hassles, no telling you your hotel is burned down, no other problems for exhausted travelers) informed us that our hotel did exist, and we settled in at a nice, calm, very remote little beach on the south side of Panjim, just opposite the airport and the city of Vasco. It was beautiful. Peaceful, empty beach, cool and humid and quiet. Well, until the drunk Indian tour group comes along!
They were on a company-sponsored vacation, about 50 men and one woman, and the majority of the men were awful. Drinking to excess, dancing in the restaurant, harassing the restaurant's live entertainment girl; the restaurant staff didn't like them either, and moved us and the woman in the group out to the balcony for our comfort and protection. Our fabulous waiter stood back a bit from our table just making sure nothing would happen; when one of the vile men came over and took a napkin from our table (as pretext for coming over to us), the waiter went and yelled at him. There are some wonderful men in this country. (More on that later, in a forthcoming post on gender interactions.)
As I've said before (and you'll have to forgive me if I get repetitive, posting occasionally over several months), one of the main divides between the British and the Indians lay in their attitude towards women. Nevermind that European chivalry was only a few hundred years old -- many of my octagenarian friends (and I have quite a few) are horrified by the racial attitudes they were brought up on. When you've improved, you can look down on all who refuse to, as well as yourself in the past. Well, some things the British were fine with (and we might be critical of them today). They were generally very understanding of seclusion of women, for example, holding it to be simply a cultural practice, especially after British women made friends with women in purdah and reported that they said they wouldn't have it any other way. That's as may be; I don't know. But beating a woman for violating purdah, or forcibly burning young widows (or making life hell for unburnt ones) -- not as acceptable. (And yes, sati/suttee became more popular after the British outlawed it and made noise about the practice, but I kind of feel that speaks more to the depravity of those who would hear of it for the first time and think it's a grand idea, or those who would defend it as necessary to Hinduism (and, if they spoke the truth, to the depravity of Hinduism as well), than to a false step by the British.) We have the same problem today, with Muslims getting in trouble in non-Muslim countries for advocating the socio-religious practice of wife-beating! And many people date the souring of Indo-Brit relations to the mass arrival of English women in India. The women ensured that the men spent less time on Indian friendships, they typically learned only the rudest Hindi, and they made very little attempt to adapt to India, demanding instead that India adapt to them. India saw this, and saw that Englishmen were often acting subordinate to their wives, and lost much of what respect they had for the manly Englishman.
But not all Indian men are awful. Our waiter here in Goa, and the hotel man in Jaipur, were both fabulous. People would probably see sexism, racism, and so forth in both of them, but it's nothing menacing in either one. There, it's simply upbringing. And, as Bob's learned, that can change! As I've since learned, from talking to someone who runs study-abroad programs across India, "eve-teasing" (sexual harrassment of women) is the worst in and around Pune, although it's pretty bad across the north. Men are brought up to believe that it's acceptable to menace women who dare to be independent or interact with men! In the south, it's different. But, I'm not there yet. Back to your regularly scheduled travelogue...
Goa has the dogs that are found all over India, the little pie-dogs (the British called them pariah-dogs, then pie-dogs) with a curled-up tail, usually brown or brown-and-white shorthair. We went for a walk on the beach, and one came with us. Wish we could take her home to our dog! Last time I was here, one adopted me; she would walk me to class, walk me to friends' houses, walk me to shops, and then wait outside for me. I never petted her or gave her any food, but she was happy with my company. On the beach, there were three Indian women in one-piece western bathing suits, along with two large pre-teen girls in odd skirted boy-legged suits. That's something I didn't see four years ago.
After a fabulous night (drunks notwithstanding), we went into Goa's cities the next day. You can tell the tourists who have been around for a while -- as we were leaving one church, we saw a fellow walk up; his guidebook was falling apart, his clothes were a bit the worse for wear, and he looked greenish-brownish-gray all over, and not at all well. It's similar to the fabulous comparisons between incoming and outgoing soldiers from England.
Our first stop in Panjim was the lovely white zig-zag-staircased Church of the Immaculate Conception. We caught the tail end of mass, in Portuguese, then went outside and met a German tourist! She'd been in the country since late April, and was leaving in mid-June. Her boyfriend had been with her, but he had to go back early, so she was all along -- and it's no fun travelling alone as a girl. So, she palled around with us all day, arguing with taxi drivers for us and seeing the sights of Panjim and Old Goa until we went back to the hotel. It was so nice to meet someone who speakd English (and German) without an Indian accent! She also taught us the most accurate term, "tourist catcher."
We saw St. Francis Xavier, who's doing the Snow White thing up in a glass and gold coffin -- except he's somewhat green. But he does look quite good for someone who's been dead several centuries.
Back at the hotel, there was a guy who didn't look Indian. Dark hair, brown skin, and India-made pants, but something was different. His hair was very short; he walked differently; he drank only Bisleri water; he travelled alone; and he read novels through designer eyeglasses. As we checked out the next morning, after another beach stroll (with strong wind in palm trees sounding for all the world like rain, which is disconcerting when there's not a cloud in the sky), we had him in our car to the airport -- he is from Bombay, but I was right, and he lives in NYC. Not Indian. Bob would approve.
We changed planes in Bangalore -- such cool air, such western (and often fat) people, such bizarre shopping malls that look like Disneyland. India Wins Again: to change planes, you have to leave the airport by the arrivals exit, dodge the taxi men and suspiciously helpful where-are-you-going men, and walk around to the main departures entrance! But we finally made it to Madras, where you can see the air. Pollution's definitely gotten worse!
Next installment coming soon!