Text and photographs by Carlton Braganza
We sauntered…oh, one can’t do anything but saunter or waddle in Goa … what with one’s belly bursting with a late afternoon lunch of beer, goa sausages, Vinicolas no.7, tiger prawn, Bacardi breezers, cafreal, more sausages and feni …Did I hear someone snigger??? Go to Souza Lobo’s my dear Thomas, and believe me, you will not find this incredulous. Anyways, it was about eight in the evening and into this quaint little pub (nothing like the ones you would associate with, in the ‘pub’ city of Bangalore) we sauntered. It was called Cavala on the Baga stretch. What had drawn us to this joint was a largish blackboard outside with the text scrawled across in chalk ‘Saturday Nites with August Braganza’. All that greeted us were smiley-faced waiters and a small balding man in a corner tuning his guitar, who we presumed was the man named after Caesar. I’m hardly the kinda guy who would end up spending a Saturday night in a dead joint… definitely not in Goa and especially so when a mere 20 steps round the corner is Tito’s, arguably one of the hottest nightclubs in the country. So we decided to have a drink at Cavalas and then make our way in the general direction of the beach. By this time August had settled down to a rhythm… doing a mix of cool country and great oldies… and we were almost through with our first pitcher.
And then it happened !!! Without any goddamn warning. It was like the Lord said to Moses "Stretch out your hand over the land, so that the revelers may come upon it” and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land and with it they descended. They covered the surface of the whole dance floor not an inch was left uncovered.
By 10 o’clock you couldn’t get a toe in. The place was rocking. August was joined by another guitarist, a trombonist, and there was a line forming of vocalists who were one better than the other. A few pitchers later prompted yours truly also to give the microphone a shot, and in my most modest whimper, I dare say ‘we had that place swinging!!’. All wanted to know who this ‘Bangalore’ boy was. A hundred Goan sighs of relief emanated when they heard the surname, and that I was, in some convoluted way ‘a son of the soil’.
Cavala like its bigger ‘trancey’ brother Tito down the road partied relentlessly till 6 the next morning.
We got a few hours shuteye and horribly hung-over decided to hire a couple of bikes for the day and take in the sights. That’s the best way to travel in Goa unless you want to deal with the Goan taxi Mafioso for whom, reason and rationality is as rare as a Goan who doesn’t have his afternoon siesta.
We started off at the German bakery Infantaria’s breakfast buffet and it’s a miracle how food can still go into something that’s already so stuffed, if you know the secret of washing it down with chilled beer.
So we rode off into the greenfields kissed by the sun, where hordes of charred workers were doing whatever it is they do with the paddy crop, stopped to click a few at Mae de Deus, the Gothic architectural masterpiece at Saligao and went on our way through curvy little winding roads with delightfully quaint houses, bright with cascades of bougainvillea with twittering iridescent butterflies who went about their business despite the sweltering heat. We encountered some Goan folk returning from their Sunday obligation, the women vying with the butterflies for iridescent top spot, gaudy being the colour of the day. We passed some burnt bare-chested machismos playing football in the midday sun, which would either explain their love for the game or the fact that we Goans have a little something missing up there. Across the imposing Mandovi bridge saw us move into Goa’s commercial district and capital Panaji. It does boast of some fascinating architecture and gardens, but personally, it has gotten to be a little too un-Goan for me so we moved on…. On to this charming old residential Portuguese quarter, Fontainhas, a short distance away. Its shady, cobbled streets, picturesque red-tile-roofed houses sporting overhanging wrought-iron balconies, are reminiscent of Latin Europe’s older quarters. We found a little tavern that had… guess what??… chilled beer!!! Had a couple with our fried fish, tucked into yet another glorious lunch, found a patch of shade under a tree nearby and like they say ‘when in Goa, do what the Goans do!’
The architectural marvels of Old Goa can wait, the buzzing flea markets can wait, the wildlife sanctuary at Bondla can wait, the shopping can be done later, the virgin beaches of south Goa can wait… one has to get their priorities right here!!
At the end of the day I’m an ‘S’ man.
Sun, surf, sorro, song, sausages, sorpotel, sosegad and Siesta.
Convoluted or not … still very much a Son of the Soil
(Carlton Braganza is a designer, writer, artist, singer, restaraunteur and lazy goan bum)