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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Goa Goan Gone…

mumbai Updated: Dec 28, 2018 01:07 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Hindustan Times
mumbai news,malavika's mumbaistan,goa

Vijay Mallya (HT File )

“You know the hierarchy of holidaying this season, don’t you?” It was our friend, the oolong tea-serving SoBo hostess (OTSHF) bellowing over the airwaves as was her wont.

“Huh, the hierarchy of what?” we responded, having been woken up by her morning call.

“Oh come on, where the glitterati choose to spend Christmas hols,” she said.

“The A-listers go skiing to luxury resorts in Courchevel Cortina and Klosters, the B-listers choose Bali and Bangkok and the C-listers go to Goa,” said the OTSHF, quite emphatically. This got us thinking about the sunshine state and its tryst with Mumbai’s movers and shakers, and how things had changed over the years for what many considered another God’s own country.

There was a time when only the city’s best and brightest planted their flags in Goa. This was in the 80s, when Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor had already been renting their charming fisherman’s cottage at Baga, and the Taj Village was not even a gleam in Frank Simoes’ eye; when the likes of Maureen and Nusli Wadia, along with bestie Sunita Pitamber and other members of Mumbai’s jet set like Uma and Adi Dubash, and Parmesh and Adi Godrej would spend their end-of-the-year festive season at Goa’s Fort Aguada. Goa was an innocent, undiscovered territory then and these were part of Mumbai’s most glam circles. Along with them would come INLAK’s heiress Bina Shivdasani and her husband Count Nicolo Sella di Monteluce; Rajan and Nina Pillai; Captain Satish Sharma with wife Sterre; and socially-ambitious politicians like Hyderabad’s Subbarami Reddy and Pune’s Suresh Kalmadi, to make friends and influence people.

“When I would visit Goa as a teen in the 80s, there was nothing besides the Taj. No clubs, eateries, except for St Anthony’s and Brittos,” says actress Kim Sharma, an old Goa hand. “We used to see a lot of the advertising crowd, Mitali and Prahlad Kakkar, the Surendranaths etc. Tito’s was one of the first nightclubs before it went big and commercial,” she says .

“When Goa was still relatively unknown to Mumbai’s jet set, there were people like Charles and Monica Correa, Habiba and Mario Miranda and Gita and Frank Simoes who had their roots in Goa, and who really embodied the spirit of the place,” says our sister Devieka who, along with husband Suresh Bhojwani, have been early Goa lovers and now own a home there.

“Then, Jimmy Guzdar’s New Year parties became the parties to go to. That was before Vijay Mallya built his Kingfisher Villa there,” she says.

“By far, the best New Year parties were VJM’s,” says Rishi Acharya, Mumbai’s current nightclub king. “From top ministers to tycoons, everyone was there,” he says, adding, “And it was the done thing to stay at the Taj Village. In fact, anyone who stayed at the Taj in those days would get invited to Subbarami Reddy’s party on January 1, regardless if they knew him or not.”

Ah, those heady Goa days! How could we ever forget them? The country’s most powerful men schmoosing over bloody Marys in their swim trunks at the Village pool bar, while in the shallow section, you’d see mega Bollywood hunks preening with their kids.

Mumbai’s young and restless had made Goa their go-to place at that time: Lawyer Mahesh (Tony) Jethmalani with besties Raja Dodhy and Dr Farhad Taroporewala along with wives and kids would book adjacent cottages at the Village and VJM would drop by with all manner of his aquatic and territorial toys for general amusement. Everyone would end up at 21 Coconuts for late breakfast and Casa Portuguesa and Coconut Inn for meals and partying. Later came the Haytstacks (where Remo sang) and of course, the raves would go on all night at Hill Top and Anjuna; who would have imagined that the party could ever end?

“Goa is the most overrated place ever! Sadly. I’d rather be in Sri Lanka than in Goa if I wanted brown sands and a feel of the subcontinent,” said designer Krsnaa Mehta from Seoul, yesterday, when we asked him for his thoughts on Goa.

“I have not been to Goa since a decade. I spend all my New Year eves in Rishikesh,” says Yash Birla, who at one time had been a regular at its raves. As for son of the soil and long-time Goa resident Wendell Rodricks, he’s just as tired. “After the Jimmy Guzdar and Vijay Mallya days, I stay with a few friends for dinner at home on New Year’s. They were elegant days of beautiful people, restrained elite charm and true style. Later, it became more vulgar, noisy and commercial. Big on bling, fireworks and no emotion.”

So, has the sun set on Goa and does the snobbery of our OTSHF hold?

Depends on who you speak to.

“Christmas in Goa is special churches play Christmas carols on loud speakers. Stars are up in most houses. All the bakeries are selling Christmas pastries. The beach shacks in Candolim have Christmas BBQ with DJs and firework. There’s a lot happening: from the Friday market at hilltop Vagator to Saturday Cohiba live band at Lazy Goose and Cantare for jazz blues and serious jiving,” says Helmet Girl, Lisa Sadanah.

“Thalassa has opened at Tesso’s for the season. Olive is there, of course. Bomras has reopened and for NYE, the legendary Hotel Hill Top party is probably numero uno,” says restaurateur AD Singh.

“Yes, I am in Goa for 29/31,” says designer Narendra Kumar, who is staying at a villa with a heated pool in Anjuna, Bardez, and sharing it with friends. “I’m looking forward to sundowners at Micky Punjs house on 30th and then to the W hotel rock pool for late nights,” he adds. “And then, there is Sabina and Anil’s house party and Olive included in between.”

“There’s only two places to go to in Goa and that’s Soma Project and to the all-new Thalassa,” says DJ Vishal Shetty.

But, it is the other son of the soil, adman and wordsmith Rahul Dacunha, who has the most temperate view: “Russians, ruffians, hipsters, wannabes, air kissers, wind surfers can come and go, the heart of Goa remains untouched. The susegad, the unhurried pace will never change. The chill is in the air.”

To which, as a long-time Goa lover who has opted to sit out the season, what else can we say, but Amen?

First Published: Dec 28, 2018 01:07 IST