In recent times Goa has been a popular tourist destination
About 60 years ago before Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule , it was a quiet place . Fields , rivers and its beaches were serene and beautiful. Goans were at peace and mingled easily with the Portuguese .
My journey commenced when I was aged 9 years . As a family we sailed from Bombay (now Mumbai) by one of the steamers namely Sabarmati which operated between Bombay and Karachi. We stopped at several ports until reaching Karwar . Due to the size of the ship, we disembarked into a smaller boat to take us ashore . The highlight of the voyage was the service of meals in the cabin . It was a typically Goan meal with fish , curry and rice or an option for a Continental meal . But the dessert was a grand finale as the waiter announced ‘ Caa.ra..mel , in a long drawl , making it sound the most delicious sweet . Yes the Caramel dessert lived up to its name.
In the evening an announcement was made for housie (tambola) and passengers flocked to the upper deck .
This voyage lasted for about 20-22 hours
We spent a day and night at Karwar in a quaint hotel with just the basics . The proprietor told us about a beach nearby . This was a disappointment, as it was only a stretch of sand near the sea.
Next morning we got ready after an early breakfast to cross by ferry to Sadashivgad .
At the jetty a poor blind beggar sat at the road side, singing a song ‘ Bombai cho Babu Goiem voita ani Goencho Babu Bombai voita’ with small hand cymbals to resonate.( a song for the travellers passing him to and fro). I vividly remember him with sadness.
From there , we travelled a 7km journey by bus to the southern border of Goa.
The next stage was to cross over ‘No Man‘s Land ‘, so called as this was a stretch between the border of India and Goa . We walked for about 5 minutes and reached Polem the border town of Goa
I don’t remember whether passports or visas were required , possibly a permit. The Portuguese soldiers manning the Goan side were quite impressive. They had smart uniforms ,with shorts , and revolvers at their side.
I recall a few interesting memories , at the border. It was a hot summer , and soft drink and soda bottles were being sold . While opening these bottles a loud wheezing sound would emit . Something like jaa-een -ka . It really amused me . The bottle had a marble at the top, which prevented the aeration to escape until the marble was pressed down by a special opener like a cap
My grandfather from Goa, waited patiently to receive us in Polem. That moment was an emotional one for us specially for my mother who was seeing her father after some years .
Another thrill awaited us as my grandfather had engaged a private taxi to drive us all the way to Bardez, in North Goa. The taxi was of brand Peugeot , which thrilled us.
We hardly saw any foreign cars in Bombay at that time, except the Fiat , Standard or a Morris Minor. Our family car was a hump backed Dodge. I was surprised to see so many foreign cars and buses in Goa
Our taxi driver was well attired like a royal chauffeur , and a hat to top it all .
Goa was so beautiful as we passed forests , fields , homes and many , many churches and chapels . I still remember our chauffeur doffing his hat as we passed every church or chapel .
In those days , we grew up making the sign of the cross as we passed the church. I was quite scrupulous in doing this and would remind my brothers to do the same .
Crossing the river by ferry became a moment of curiosity and tension .
After a long drive , about 3-4 hours we reached our home in Goa . A warm welcome from my grandmother awaited us . She cried tears of joy to see us . So started my first holiday in Goa.
I dream of those days , going river fishing with my grandpa, and playing hockey in the fields with the local boys . We returned home to drink those fizzy beverages made by dropping a tablet in a glass of water. The evenings ended with stories of Africa by my grandpa .
He had a wealth of stories for us , about his time in Kenya, East Africa while serving with the District Administration.
I will leave that for another time to relate these to you dear reader.