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Benign demons

There?s nothing quite like ?doing? Goa on a hired motorcycle. After all, how often do you get to lose your way in a maze of narrow sun-kissed roads cutting across green farmlands with not a soul in sight, while the love of your life holds on to you for dear life?

india Updated: Jan 02, 2006 01:55 IST

There’s nothing quite like ‘doing’ Goa on a hired motorcycle. After all, how often do you get to lose your way in a maze of narrow sun-kissed roads cutting across green farmlands with not a soul in sight, while the love of your life holds on to you for dear life?

It was during one such ride that I encountered a demon. Me and the aforementioned love of my life (read wife) decided to spend our Diwali vacation in Goa. We checked into a lovely little resort by the Anjuna beach. A little asking around led us to Savio, the friendly neighbourhood guy, who got us a bike. After beach-hopping through effusive north Goa, we decided to experience the grace of Old Goa. Buffaloes yawned at us as we rode on winding roads flanked by sleepy houses and sleepier dogs. Spotting hectic activity at a roadside temple, we pulled over. We were startled to find a 15-foot effigy of a demon squatting in the temple courtyard. “Who’s he?” my wife asked the priest tentatively. “Narakasura,” he replied, eyeing us suspiciously. The name was familiar but we thought only Ravana and corrupt politicians deserved such mammoth proportions in their effigies.

Narakasura, it turned out, had made life hell even in heaven before succumbing to Krishna’s might on the day before Diwali. People in this region usher in Diwali by burning effigies of Narakasura amidst fireworks and revelry.

During our ride, we came across all sorts of Narakasuras — from life-size to mammoth three-storey high effigies. We even spotted an all-pink Narakasura at Candolim. Although the effigies looked distinctly different from each other, their faces were all remarkably benign. Goa was too large-hearted to have cruel faces, we concluded. Narakasura was no exception, even though he was a demon.

Just outside the Basilica de Bom Jesu in Old Goa, we were greeted by another benign-faced demon with a faraway look in his eyes. Probably he was contemplating the irony of life. Inside the Basilica, St. Francis Xavier’s body had withstood the elements for centuries. Outside the Basilica, Narakasura faced annihilation the day his effigy was completed. Perhaps he wanted to atone for his sins, but it was too late. Residents of Old Goa had already stuffed him up with firecrackers.

We came back to our resort at Anjuna late in the evening. It had been a tiring day, but retiring to bed early is never an option at Goa. So we plonked ourselves by the poolside. The nip in the air grew sharper as evening rolled into midnight. Suddenly, the nightly calm was shattered by loud noise of firecrackers. The dark sky lit up with dazzling fireworks. The Narakasura of Anjuna had just been slain. We raised a toast. I felt a little sad for the pink Narakasura of Candolim.

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 01:55 IST