Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mumbai to Goa

So it seems, as is with most summer holidays, many of my friends are presently in Goa. That makes me very nostalgic.
Of all the places, people and memories in Goa that I have been recalling, one is this concrete fish at Miramar beach. I took this picture in 2009, afraid it would be demolished soon. I have no idea if it’s still there.
Back in the 1980s, Panjim where I lived, was a small place and almost everyone knew everyone. The Miramar beach was a 20-minute walk or seven-minute cycle ride from home. But mostly I walked there. It was, and still is a pretty road to walk by up to Miramar past the old houses, residential buildings, the Kala Academy, the football stadium and the indoor stadium. There was also an abandoned house which we kids had dubbed the haunted house and tried to enter once. Some of my friends lived nearby. I knew someone or the other who lived there or they knew me. Someone would always wave out to me. Or I would pass by the one-legged bicyclist, a woman who I was always embarrassed to see, because I couldn’t ride my bicycle properly!
As children, we would play around and in the concrete fish, pretending it would come alive and swallow us. Of course everyone who stepped in got that distinct smell of urine inside – many drunkards probably used it as a toilet at nights – but for children, these are minor glitches. We would continue to play undeterred, screaming, yelling and jumping from its open mouth.
My favourite author, Ruskin Bond, says one cannot leave the hills after living with them for a while. I feel that way about beaches, which were never far when I was growing up in Goa. It’s at Miramar where I learnt to build sand castles and hills. It’s at Miramar that I would gaze at the horizon and day dream about the foreign lands I learnt about in school and pretend I would sail to them one day. It’s where we kids would run around trying to frighten small crabs back into their homes and marvel when we spot an occasional starfish. It was at Miramar outside singer Remo Fernandes’ bungalow that my friend and I once loudly spoke in French (we were learning it in school), hoping his French wife would hear us and invite us in! Many of our school picnics were at beaches. It was at another beach in Goa that I nearly drowned, but other memories of happy times at beaches outweigh this. Like a contest among my friends to find the biggest shell, or many similar small ones, to make jewellery from! I still am fascinated by them and have many shell earrings.  
It has been years since my family returned to Mumbai. But I haven’t entirely. I am in touch with friends. Some I’ve reconnected with through facebook. We talk about our childhood haunts. Like Miramar and the fish. In Mumbai I jump into conversations if I hear Goa. I smile at people in
local trains if they are speaking in konkani. I advice people travelling to Goa on where to eat.  
Many of my Goan friends in Mumbai think I am more Goan than they are. When in Goa, I would say I am from Mumbai. When people in Mumbai learn for the first time that I grew up in Goa, they always ask me if I am a Goan. I say no, I just grew up there. They are not convinced. I wonder what else I can say to explain. There isn’t any term like ‘India-born’ or ‘originally from India’ for people like me who have grown up away from their home states and returned there. But I think I now have figured it out. I will just say I am a Maharashtrian with a hint of Goa.