I have been a regular in Goa since 1988. Back then, Baga beach was actually a beach and did not have women in salwar kameezes in the ocean. Tito’s was the only hip club worth its feni. Brittos was a small shack, overshadowed by the lesser known Anthony’s Bar and Restaurant next door that served the most delicious seafood platters and mackerel and omelettes for breakfast.
Goa, until the tequila sunrise of the new millennium, was really an extension of our small Bombay apartments and a spot we could escape to when we needed respite from long city commutes. We only wore sarongs and tank tops and chappals. No one ever wore mascara. “Going to Goa” meant ‘chilling’ in the real sense of the term. Be nothing for no one for the next few days and lie back and enjoy it.
The last 15 years have changed all that. December and January in Goa have become extensions of the social lives of the nouveau riche socialites – of the likes you now find in the newer societies of Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. It’s not like they can’t afford St Tropez, but Goa is perhaps easier to pronounce.
In the din and dinners of the high season, there are things that never fail to amuse the seasoned Goan. In no particular order of chuckle value, here they are:
The Invasion of the ‘My’ Parties
Now that Vijay Mallya’s party is over, visiting contenders to the crown throw parties in beach clubs or their new Goa homes. Restricted entry to these parties make them very desirable. You meet the same people you would meet back home, even the ones you prefer to avoid. And you wear a lot of Cavali. The Bottega knot qualifies as a beach bag. Gigantic solitaires are mandatory. Ho hum.
The No-Tan Beach Bumming
Socialites can barely be seen behind their gigantic Louis Vuitton handbags and Prada sunglasses. I have actually seen a woman in Louboutins on Morjim beach, having a ‘day on the beach’ in La Plage, fully clothed and covered under a wall-to-wall beach hat. Not a toe is wet in the ocean. But she’s been and been seen at La Plage. And perhaps tomorrow at Marbela. Too well heeled, I think.
The Partygate Crashing
The true elite of Goa entertain their friends warmly and with personal style. City slickers pile on to residents of Goa with sudden affection just to wangle their way onto the guest list, even if just for the Facebook photo upload which will perhaps enhance their social status back home. “I was there” you see. Instagrammed and tagged. Wow, ya. So HS.
The Chicken Tikka Shikka
The only thing worse than saying “Goanese” for food is to ask for tandoori chicken in a shack called Fisherman’s Cove. Between ‘vandaaloo’ and ‘naan-shaan’, the ‘I hate coconut’ phrase makes its rounds repeatedly amongst the Northies who ‘love’ Goa. The legendary A Reverie serves superb food that their palates can’t understand (what’s a deconstructed chocolate dessert to a jalebi fan?). “Chorizo? Who is he?”
The Property Hunt Vunt
Every season, while hormones rage with Sunburn, testosterone flows into the property market. “Mine is bigger than yours” is still the factor for a choice of home. No matter that the average well off Delhi wala lives in a farm house larger than a Goa wada, they will end up paying silly sums of money to buy a gigantic home in the middle of nowhere. They have clearly not come to Goa for the ocean. They have come to feel ‘beeg’.
The Sudden Friendly Appearance
Social climbing reaches peak season in December. Sudden phone calls from acquaintances with a clear eye on moving into your home and a clear agenda to invade your privacy as a Goa home owner, without remorse. House them and regret it. For once they are back home, you will no longer be a priority. Reciprocity is unheard of. Be ‘home user-unfriendly’ and be safe.
The New Year’s Eve Stress
Goa is a day place. Yet people believe they must only step out post 10 pm and invariably get stuck in a stream of traffic and end up wishing each other via their smart phones. “Get there early and come home late” is a lesson most are yet to learn. They haven’t quite got the ‘caancept’ right. Tempers fly and alcohol yells. The December 31st scene in Goa is clearly the most overpriced and most overrated night by far.
Better stay home and watch bad TV. Perhaps Goa is now too gentrified for me.