Quiet villages, quaint cafes, riverside paradise, Susegad and more: Revisiting Goa away from the beaches
Due to the coronavirus outbreak across the world, tourism will look different for everyone but at the same time, bring about more responsibility towards travelling sustainably and getting to know the city like a local. Here’s an ode to all things Goa in a hope to revisit its vast heritage in every nook and corner pretty much like a local.Updated: May 16, 2020 16:57 IST
The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Goa is the thriving party scene, loud music, beach shacks, great seafood and people high on life who love to live at their pace in peace. But the smallest state of India is a larger-than-life experience and has a lot more to offer than the views of the mighty Arabian Sea through its abundant beaches and all the stereotypes the state has come to be identified with, albeit wrongly so. With the changes brought about by the coronavirus outbreak the world-over, tourism will look different for everyone but at the same time, bring about more responsibility towards travelling sustainably and probably even being aware of being one with the locales, just like a local.
In an impromptu travel plan to the state, earlier this year before our normalcy was questioned and shuffled about entirely, the compulsive solo traveller in me arose to the need to explore Goa through the lens of an art and culture enthusiast wanting to see the small state with its vast heritage in every nook and corner pretty much like a local. But here’s a catch, impromptu or otherwise, solo travel needs some planning and a whole lot of courage. Fancy as it sounds, it comes with a baggage of its own that may sometimes even go awry and leave you astray and probably unnerved.
Why solo travel?
While the concept is nothing new, it’s been gaining a lot of momentum in recent years yet women are usually discouraged from travelling all by themselves in India. The reasons might be aplenty, but the main one is fear of the unexplored mired by unnecessary suspicion. India is a melting pot of cultures offering a blend of experiences that can’t not be tried.
Speaking of Goa, a destination that appeals to all age and interest groups is also one that’s linked with several memories - from college to the beginning of careers to clandestine relationships and even chaperoning for others, the state has witnessed it all.
It is, however, a location that deserves attention and focus towards its real self, the way the locals seize their day, living at their own pace with a benign smile on their faces at all times regardless of how warm and balmy it gets or sees a long period of incessant rainfall.
Goa for the art lover:
The popular artist Mario Miranda epitomised Goa in its rawest expression. There are scenes from the fish market, a Goan traveller playing the guitar, a view of the Mangeshi Temple and Bom Jesus Church in Old Goa along with creating relatability to characters such as Minister Bundaldas, Miss Fonseca, Miss Rajani Nimbupaani. His works have been published in books featured at exhibitions and are also an important part of the interiors at South Mumbai’s Cafe Mondegar. Architect Gerard da Cunha has made great efforts in preserving Miranda’s work through versions of the Mario Gallery in Panjim, Porvorim and other places in the state. The notable architect is also the brains behind a one-of-its-kind museum in Bardez called Houses of Goa, celebrating the confluence of architectural styles in this state that is home to a mix of cultures and people.
Where to begin?
If you are standing facing the iconic Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, take a 360 view of all that you see around, from a lively square where travellers and locals can sit and chill, shops that sell summery clothes and trinkets and also has bookshops and restaurants. On its right is the popular Sunaparanta Centre for the Arts that hosts exhibitions from participating artists most of the year. In a vintage building that stands bright and blue, the art gallery is given company with the lovely and lively Cafe Bodega, a chef-run enterprise that you’ll fall in love with while eating some of the delectable savoury and bakery items.
Designer Wendell Rodricks, who made Goa his permanent home since retiring from the world of fashion was also working on the first-ever museum dedicated to costume heritage in his home - a 450-year-old heritage property in North Goa’s Colvale. The Moda Goa Museum is expected to open in December 2020 now due to the coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent effects.
Both North and South Goa have a lot to offer and it may not be possible to explore it all in one day, so try and keep a few days handy for Goa to reveal her real self to you. In various trips over the years, I’ve much preferred walking around but cycling on a Southern Goa beach to doing a road trip, have all been a part of a box of memories that I love revisiting.
Culture meets travel:
Goa has over 300+ villages that are largely untouched from the effects of commercialisation and a haven to all those seeking mental peace and wanting to wash away the overdose of pollution from their being. Some notable Goan villages include Moira, Casaulim, Sankhalim, Sadolxem, Uccasaim, Corjuem and others which continue to enjoy life like the days of yore. In some parts, the village panchayats have also forbidden the installation of mobile towers and in their drive for peace and tranquillity, dislike loud music and parties that disrupt the joy of a quiet lifestyle. In a story dated May 11 2020, the Goa Herald reported that (the village) “Saligao has shut its door to all such developments and wants it to be known as the Heritage Village of Goa.”
Hospitality industry veteran Mr Kapil Chopra, who started his homegrown brand The Postcard Hotel in three locations of Goa in December 2018, is trying to change the way the world looks at travel. From limited room numbers, a complete experiential at the properties and the idea of comfortable processes through their anytime check-in and check out facility, this is a step towards wellness travel that’s still finding its footing in the Indian travel diaspora. Speaking about Goa as a preferred destination once again for travellers (for when we’re all ready to travel), he says, “Goa has a rich history and a unique blend of culture and design, excellent food, great beaches, churches and temples. With the Indo-Portuguese architecture, Goa has the potential to be the design capital of the country. A growing number of travellers are putting Goa back on their itineraries because they can now get a luxury stay that is centred around a transformative and immersive experience of the destination. Our hotels do not overwhelm the local environment and culture. This lends itself to a minimalist aesthetic, true to the destination, that is inspired by local history and heritage.”
That’s not all, Goa also houses centuries-old forts namely the Reis Magos Fort, Chhapora Fort, Terekhol Fort (Fort Tiracol). A day trip from North Goa can also lead to the lost in time Redi village where a statue of Lord Ganpati is said to have been found during mining.
The Goa Carnival, held between February 22 to 25, spread important messages like no drugs, veganism and more this year along with being an effervescent affair for residents and tourists to the state.
If you’re seeking a treat to heritage, forget your car (and help the environment) and explore the capital city on foot. Fontainhas in Panjim/Panaji is a cultural hub that offers quaint restaurants, backpackers hostels and a feeling of beauty that revives itself with every passing hour.
Sahapedia, that organises heritage walks and experiences annually through its program called the India Heritage Walks, is an introduction to Goa’s rich culture. Vaibhav Chauhan, Festival Director (IHWF) and Secretary, Sahapedia says, This year in February, we hosted a walk and interactive session at the Houses of Goa Museum, a natural trail through the mangroves of Panjim, a walk on the traditional Portuguese architecture of Goa as well as a walk in the Goa Chitra Museum, to name a few. These heritage spaces are often overshadowed by the popular image of Goa as the city of parties and beaches.”
From an unexplored beach to a Goan riverside, there’s ample that the state offers that’s yet to be discovered. It is every creative person’s paradise, whether you’re an artist, a budding writer or just someone who wants to embrace the art of doing nothing. Wake up to the sounds of silence with the chirping of birds serving as a chorus while you sip a cup of homegrown coffee brews or a cup of Earl Grey tea with or sans the complementing flavours of lemon and honey and gift your soul some peace and tranquillity with every breath you take.
Susegad: A Way of Life or Just a Way of Being?
Susegad comes from the Portuguese word ‘sossegado’ meaning ‘quiet’. It refers to the laidback attitude of Goans, one where they seem to live in a perennial state of contentment. I had the chance of speaking with heritage walks guide, Reis Magos D’Souza, who has been helping tourists understand Goa better for the last 20+ years, during my trip this year and wanted to understand this beautiful concept a little more. Is it fair to term it as a laidback attitude or it’s something more spiritual that you want to achieve in life instead of hustling and get nowhere?
Reis explains, “The real life of a Goan lies in the villages and that is what we try to promote to the people. When we say the life of a Goan is Susegad - we are proud of that identity, because that identity makes us, it means that we take life as it is, a day at a time, so that we can be more inclined with our families, friends and everyone. It’s not that we’re lazy, we work hard but we do it at our own pace.”
In the times we live in, constantly stressed with lifestyle disorders aplenty, it might just be time to embrace Susegad and seize the day, or shall we say, Carpe Diem!