The Gifts From Prague

Become A True Meaningful Traveler

Become A True Meaningful Traveler

The beautiful, laid-back Goa of old is disappearing amid pollution, over-development and fears over personal safety. It’s time to leave, says resident Deepti Kapoor

Sometimes, when the sun is setting over a village called Aldona, and the evening bread is delivered on the backs of bicycles, you can convince yourself that Goa is all right. When Reginald or Tulsidas or Lata or Maria stand at the front gate speaking to that passerby at dusk, and the urak season starts slipping into the feni days, so all you smell on the road is the arch fermentation of cashew apples: yes, it’s OK.

But then you think about the beaches, the ones with the plastic bags in the water, which you mistook for jellyfish, and the shards of glass from the beer bottlescarried into the waves, which now churn with sewage from the septic tanks. Those beaches; you can forget those beaches.

And the hills and roadsides, covered in garbage, blossoming like wildflower. And the earth inland that mining has stripped bare and turned rust-red, leaving peacocks dead from contaminated groundwater. The Mandovi river, too, full of floating casinos and effluent. You can forget these things. And you can remember Goa’s ghosts.

My husband and I moved to north Goa eight years ago, though I first visited with my family 30 years ago, when I was four; we drove down from Bombay in the car, my brother seeing his first nudist on the beach, his mind blown. This time we came so I could study yoga, and we realised there was no reason to leave. Goa was beautiful, laid-back yet exciting, a meeting place for the world. Sure, there were problems. But the beaches! The restaurants! The music, and the people!

It was about four years ago when the doubts first crept in. We noticed how swimming in the sea would leave us with a sore throat or infect a cut. We could no longer pretend the garbage piles on the Assagao, Siolim and Parra hills weren’t getting worse. We saw the trickle of new construction becoming a torrent. And, looking around, we realised many who had created Goa’s culture were now looking elsewhere: locals sought Portuguese passports; foreigners talked about Cambodia or weighed the merits of staying in Europe, saying the good days were over. On balance, it was still worth it. And our village of Assagao – we said – was special, hidden from the corrupted beach-belt; things would be fine.

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