domingo, 10 de fevereiro de 2013

Old is gold. (Around Goa)

The view of the slum near the airport in Mumbai gives us an effective shock treatment. For a boy from a small town where everything is organized, everything has a meaning, and everything seems to make sense in how things work, that vision does not make any sense. But we realized on the ground that it will make all the sense. Community is something that exists and you live on it, that cannot be bought, and we would realize that the local kindness is the answer: you always prefer to live where you know can confide, and where you can look people in the eyes, even if you´re staring at that person in the urinal in your daily pee. Mombai has Dheravi, the largest slum in Asia, where there is only one toilet per 1440 residents and no enough water supply. From above, we understand the density and fog enveloping. Nobody sleeps alone on this piece of land, and that´s the principle of community.


We arrived in Goa in the evening, at the time of burning garbage. Late afternoon, an additional haze and the smell of burning plastic. The road is a mixture of bumper cars and carnival. If we extend the arm out, we can maybe get a chicken in the arms. We learn quickly that the horn is the compass location. Honk OK Please. Everyone relies on tight distances, and the game is promising. Includes cows and dogs, rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, us and the destiny. In Vagator, Goa´s Mecca, Bean Me Up receives us: an old colonial house with a giant patio, and a good kitchen taken by Tibetans, overlooking the courtyard. The restaurant is open for everyone, with a mixed environment. The rooms are modest, with its mosquito net and adapted fans. It has a beautiful detail: near the toilet there is always a tiny tap to wash the damaged gut.


Vagator was the beginning of the allure of the Middle West: Gandhi, the independence, the sixties and the hippies, and then the trance. The stately colonial homes are an ominous shadow of the portuguese past. No longer perceives from the outside wich are in use. The plot has the typical roofs, windows worked in wood, and large protruding porches leave some pride: they did something right.

We rent bikes and do like everyone else. We got into line at the gas pump and put ourselves on the path. Beside me, a Royal Enfeld flashes me the eye: it is the Indian version of a vintage Kawasaki. As all you can use in you feet around here is flip-flops, the gears in the feet are not trusted.

All owners are patrons: our patron of these bikes occupy a house, on his way. I ask him how I could find a fossil motorcycle like that he has half buried in the garden. A woman washes her clothes in front of their small Hindu temple in the middle of the garden. He´s now barefoot and relaxes his feet on the boiling tar, as we do the business. It is curious to see how the goenses left to do some work and make only what they want. His gaze beneath the mustache tells me: "Tell them there in your text that i changed my class!" 

Looks like a eighties rural scene: we reached the beach on a rusty motorbike, we run to buy a beach towel in the store right opposite the beach, and we have cows in the beach. In addition to composing the photo, is full of rich and laisy Russians, with the usual 15-year time lag. Among the current practice of Vagator, techno and scald outweigh yoga. Vendors (here called hawkers) shout yoga and slippers with the same conviction. Proclaim up yoga but there is no garbage collection, and not even a single municipal bucket for him. Some grafitted walls in Goa say not to throw rubbish indiscriminately, but my ignorance does not allow to solve this puzzle. In fact the only waste treatment are the cows who do that: they ruminate everything. An ecological and beatified investee  from the government recently ordered to build plastic bags thinner so the cows would not die of digestive stop with bags that they could not ruminate. May fate say that children have all better lives than their parents. These sons of the soil continue to have sun, but burn plastic in the open air as their children inhale it.


Saturday night is the Saturday Night market in Anjuna. It's the flea market, with more techno. Remember the old Portuguese fairs, before coming inspectors to confiscate the disorder. The more you go up in the enclosure, which looks like a bullfight arena, the Russians increase, and the shops of things too. There are queues everywhere, buying up tickets, vouchers and tokens for anything. It is curious how the Indian queues grow without any order: if we do not pay attention, we are the last in line in a heartbeat. And it shows so well schizophrenia in large cities. In Margão i'm almost insulted by not being able to raise money as fast as they, and meanwhile, h have a few on my side to look at what I'm doing at the ATM machine.


Visiting family friends, we spent in the neighborhood of Fontainhas in Panjim, where a Bollywood videoclip is being prepared, in a colonial world scenario. There is a certain nostalgia in the air, and the site claims to have the best stores that have ever seen painted. It's smart, and notices a beautiful arrangement in typography, but sees itself as the brands have taken advantage of it. Stores whole painted with the brand, and even whole houses. A beautiful villa Kingfisher alongside a warehouse Vodafone often occupies the landscape. Even the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição seems to have been painted by a paint mark, with a gaudy blue and white. Inside, the service at the height relieves the eternal smell of late afternoon, while the guy in front of the bar peeks at the girls between the aquarium in the window.

In Mapusa, the market sells everything. Expected to see more items according to tradition but the garbage that is sold on the beach of Quarteira also arrives here. And the chickens we had in doubt are here, all over. In terms of wildlife, just have not seen live rats. When we arrived in Hampi, we first cows trapped in the courtyard of houses. Someone wrote on a wall a mobile number and drew a chicken. Here definitely they eat up everything. 

Anything that is less than 4 or 5 hours is still a regional train. To Hampi, takes 7 hours, which behaved well. What was not included in the price and we appreciate was the mini-show of transvestites with three teeth, meddling with the private parts of the boys in our compartment. Bringing notes curled in the fingers and asking for more notes, until the shame of boys is higher than a grade of 10 Rupis. Along the way, our places are upgraded and we have to pay an extra for it.


In the Hanuman temple - the monkey god of hinduism, an avatar of Shiva - someone lying inside and wrapped in a blanket is being healed by the prayers, groups of ladies that just climbed the 572 steps. A Buddhist monk tells us that the slippers stays outside. Inside, two shamans sing and play a beautiful mantra, and try also try to reverse the fragile condition of the patient. I believe in the power of music more than the chatter of ladies. Had to bite the words a bit later, when Khali, after inviting us to know his place and his miraculous plants, blesses us with a strip of orange pigment on the forehead, in the almost private temple of his village. Everyone respects him, and us too. It seems the Indian cousin of Snoopy Doggy Dog, but goes beyond. We were touched by the gesture, and we are let to go with a warm star in the heart. Overlooking the end of the world, nor the monkeys dare to change the fate of diseases.


In Arambol, plastic bottles and glass get us courteously, neatly in a corner of each house. The houses on the water remind us Meia Praia,  and their indians. The Indians here are selling saris across the street, along with the Rom ladies. Today is Sunday and the Indian pilgrimage comes to see women and drunk up. They ask again and again for a picture of us, a beautiful reason to collect, and throw themselves into the water completely drunk.

Walking a bit further we ran into exclusive beaches as we had not seen until now. Mandrem is still a good stretch of sand, here and there with touches of Costa da Caparica. The cloudy water
in the Arabian Sea is what receive us. The body is in cod mode, such is the amount of salt that the body gets after a bath, but the temperature is perfect for snorkling. From the streets we see the flower of cashew, which later we would get in the shape of Feni, similar to our aguardente. The crab is the regional snack, grilled in tandoori oven on skewers. The biryanis are a mountain of rice with an explosive filling, and samosas are sold at the beach with coconuts. The crepe filled with fruit is a splendid beginning to any boring wake up any.

Finally, we come to paradise. Paradise Beach, deserted beach, camels, Hondas skiding in the sand, the Catholic families doing picnics. The Portuguese were here and built a fort that is now a resort. No, not yet.

The guy who works at the bar is raising money to open a cafe in his homeland. Almost everyone who works in Goa is not from Goa: Nepalese, Tibetan, Himalayan and many people here spend the summer season to survive. I show him the place where I work, to give you some suggestions, and he tells me he had never seen a bunk bed. To be with a woman in a hotel room in India have to have proof of marriage, he tells me. If you have, you can now sleep peacefully. I do not know the veracity of this, because he tramples English grammar often.


And once again, the animals are dictating the rules of the game: the turtles protect the beach of Agonda, last redoubt of a small paradise protected. Hawkers are not allowed on the beach, and between us and the water there is only sand and the turtle eggs. Here we have silence like we never had until now. Privacy notices less when space is too busy: busy for people, bikes, rickshaws, noise and smoke. India is gentle, even when we are in the queue for anything and someone leans against us for no apparent reason. India is gentle even when that space is at risk of imploding.

Suketu Manuel 

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