“I won! I won!” six-year old Neha was excitedly jumping up and down in the fast moving train. She and her elder brother Aditya were playing the game of snakes and ladders in the train. They were going to Goa with their parents this summer. Aditya was ten years old. They had boarded the train the previous night at Mumbai, which was fast approaching Goa. It was early morning now. Through the window of the train they could see the green hills dotted with tiny beautiful houses with tiled roofs.
“Aditya! Neha! stop playing and get ready now,” said Mom. “We are reaching Madgaon station. We will get down there.” Mom and Dad began arranging the luggage, preparing to alight. Aditya was also ready, with his dad’s digital camera. Soon the Madgaon station came into view. The train stopped and they got down. Everything was bright and sunny around them. The tiny station looked bright and inviting in the morning sun. The station was situated on a small hillock. They came out of the station and took a taxi to go to their hotel, which was in Panjim, the capital of Goa, about 45 minutes ride from there.
The taxi started down the hill. The roads were beautiful and lined with trees that were sparkling in the sun. There were green fields all around and lakes too. Neha and Aditya were very excited. They saw several types of birds, which they had never seen. Their dad told that Goa had a huge variety of birds and wildlife and there were many wildlife sanctuaries. The most famous was the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in the island of Chorao.
Neha and Aditya saw trees growing happily in water and were surprised. Their dad explained that these trees were special trees, which grew in salt water. These were called Mangrove trees. He told that these trees had normal roots that grow downwards, but they also had roots that grew upwards. He explained that these roots breathe in air for the trees. Neha and Aditya craned their necks out of the taxi to spot these roots. They could see many roots that were sticking up and visible from the water surface. All this while Aditya was busy clicking pictures of the trees with special roots.
They were passing through fields now. “What are those?” Aditya asked pointing at some rectangular water tanks with white heaps. The taxi driver told that those white heaps are salt, and the rectangular tanks were called saltpans. Then he explained how salt was made. He said, “ The salt makers allow salt water from the sea to flow in to the saltpans during high tides. The water is allowed to evaporate so that salt is deposited in the saltpan. The salt is heaped and allowed to dry naturally, after which it is refined in a factory.” He proudly added “You know, Goa was once an exporter of salt to many countries such as Thailand, Burma and even African countries!” Then he said sadly, “But these days nobody makes salt for export. The traditional salt industry of Goa is now on the verge of collapse, as there is nobody to look after it.”
They were reaching Panjim. Their taxi crossed the long Mandovi bridge over the river Mandovi. They could see tiny boats floating on the river. Dad said, “We will be going for a boat ride on the river in the evening!” “Yea!” Neha and Aditya shouted and clapped with delight at the idea. Soon they reached their hotel. Their rooms were booked in Ginger Goa near the Kadamba bus stand. “Kadamba! What does it mean?” asked Aditya. The driver said “Kadamba is the name of an ancient royal dynasty, which ruled Goa more than a thousand years ago!”
Having refreshed themselves and breakfasted on grilled chicken sandwich in the restaurant of the hotel, they got ready for sightseeing.
The first place they visited was the Goa State Museum. It was located nearby at a walking distance from their hotel. The museum had twelve galleries, which showed the culture of Goa. It also gave an idea of how people lived in Goa in historical times. Aditya and Neha went inside the museum gate with their mom and dad.
Near the museum gate, there was a panel of rock with prehistoric rock art carved on its surface. This was a copy of the original rock art discovered on the rocky bed of river Kushavati in Pansaimol, Goa. The panel contained beautiful figures of people, birds and animals. Something was written in a board about the panel. Their Mom read out “These figures were made by prehistoric people of Goa about eight thousand years ago!” “Eight thousand years ago!” said Aditya in wonder. “That must be many many years ago!.” “Yes,” agreed his mom. She said “Those people lived in stone age. They used to hunt animals and gather fruits and nuts for food. They did not know anything about iron or about iron tools. When they had free time, they used stone tools to make the figures on the rocks.” Aditya was already imagining the ancient people wearing animal skin dresses and hammering at the rocks near the Kushavati River making these figures.
They left the panel and entered the museum. They went to see the galleries one by one. The first gallery they visited was called the sculpture gallery. It contained beautiful sculptures of gods and goddesses made of stone and bronze that were made many hundreds years ago in Goa. The next gallery they saw was the cultural anthropology gallery. In this gallery, there were things that were used as everyday items in ancient Goa, such as household utensils, different games that people used to play, agricultural equipments, sugarcane crusher and many other interesting things. Next they saw the numismatic gallery, where there were coins from different ancient times of Kadamba and other rulers.” These coins are made of gold.” said Dad. There were coins and currency notes from the time of Portuguese rule. Aditya and Neha looked at all of those fascinated.
The Christian art gallery contained sculptures, statues and paintings of the times when the Portuguese ruled Goa. The Portuguese had attacked Goa in 1510 and ruled till 1961, for about four hundred and fifty years. There were pictures of a Portuguese prime minister. There was also the furniture of the Portuguese Governor General, which he used while at work. In the Freedom Struggle Gallery, there were many photographs that showed the Goan people who fought for the freedom of Goa from the Portuguese rule.
Finally, they entered the Environment and Development Gallery. There were beautiful displays of models of animals, birds and plants showing the biodiversity of Goa. Neha was enthralled by the butterflies that were kept on display. “Look!” she pointed out excitedly, “This butterfly is blue in colour!!”. “It is called Blue pansy” Dad read out from the label on the display wall. They moved to the next display which housed the birds. There were a variety of them, from cormorants to orioles to blue sunbirds and green bee eaters. “Look, this white bird has a black head!” pointed Aditya. “This is a Gull”, said dad. “You can see it when we go to the beach tomorrow”. They spent a long time in this gallery looking at the animals, birds and plants of Goa.
When they came out of the museum, it was about noon. They decided to go back to the hotel for lunch. For lunch they had dal, rice, rotis, vegetables and ice cream. This evening they were to go for the boat ride. However there were six hours left for the ride which was scheduled at 7 p.m in the evening.
They had seen a temple on a hillock when they were going to see the museum. “Let us visit the Temple.” said Mom. They hired a taxi and started off to the temple. They went through the market of Panjim to the hillock on top of which the temple was located. “The temple is called the Maruti temple and the hillock is called Altinho hillock.” said the driver. “You will have to climb a hundred steps to reach the temple” he added. “I can climb a thousand steps!” bragged Aditya. “I can climb two thousand steps!!” Neha joined the braggart’s club. The driver parked the taxi at the foothill. Aditya and Neha rushed out of the taxi to race each other in climbing the stairs. Finally they reached the top of the hill and the entrance to the temple. After the darshan of lord Hanuman, the deity of the temple, they came out and looked down at the scene in from of them. It was a beautiful scene of a road below with houses on both sides of it. There were mango and coconut trees in many of the houses. These houses were called the Portuguese Quarters of Panaji or Fontainhas. These were named after the water spring (fountain) near the Maruti Temple below the Altinho hillock. They could see the Mandovi River far away. The cars on the road along the river were looking very small, like toy cars. The whole place looked green all around. It was late evening now-time for the boat ride!
The Boat Ride
It was a full moon night. They headed for the Mandovi River front. There was a queue. People were waiting to board the boat that was taking them for a cruise. Aditya and Neha excitedly went into the boat with their parents following. They rushed up the stairs to climb the deck of the boat. There was a song and dance programme arranged on the boat during the two hour cruise. Rows of chairs were arranged for them to sit on. Aditya wanted to see the river from the boat. So he went to the railing of the boat and looked down on the river. The water was glistening from the lights on the banks. He quickly too took some pictures. The boat started on its journey. Aditya could see the lights of the bank growing smaller and smaller as the boat moved away into the middle of the River. The full moon shone brightly and formed an image in the River. Aditya looked around in wonder. He clicked some pictures of the moon, both in the sky as well in the water! Then he went to sit at one of the chairs beside his mom. The programme had begun.
There were professional dancers who performed the dances. The first item was the traditional Dekni Temple Dance, where the ladies danced to a nice song that was both traditional and modern. The beat was fast and everyone was clapping. After the dance was over, the compere played a few hindi film songs and invited the people in the audience to participate. Many people joined the dance on the stage. After a while the next dance began. It was the Kunbi Dance which is a kind of folk dance set to fast music. Everyone joined the dance. There was a short break. Aditya had spotted the popcorn and cold drinks at the entrance below, when he was climbing up. He and Neha wanted to have popcorn. So, he went with his dad and returned with popcorn and cold drinks for all. There was an announcement. The compere was calling all the kids present there on stage to dance. The kids on board rushed on stage to dance. Aditya and Neha were busy eating popcorn, and decided to clap from their seats. The boat was now returning towards the shore after the cruise. The last dance was the Portuguese Corredinho Dance. It also was a fast dance and everyone clapped and danced. Soon the boat reached the shore and they came out of the boat smiling. They had enjoyed their boat ride thoroughly.
Now they were hungry. Aditya saw a food counter on the river side as they came out of the boat. There were some kids standing there with their parents. Aditya was curious. They went towards the counter and saw that it was selling maggi noodles! Neha was overjoyed and implored dad to buy maggi noodles for her. Aditya also wanted to have the noodles. So they bought noodles and coffee from the counter. Dad said “I never expected to find maggi noodles here!” Neha said “Maggi noodles are the best!” and put a forkful in her mouth. “Yummy!” said Aditya, eating a forkful. Mom said “Remember, you have to have dinner too.” After enjoying the noodles and coffee, they walked around the river front for half an hour enjoying the cool breeze. Then they decided to go for dinner at the Ritz Classic.
The Ritz Classic at Panjim was famous for Goan food. They walked into the restaurant and chose suitable seats in the cool interiors. It was a nice change from the warm weather outside. They ordered several Goan dishes like Goan Fish curry, Chicken Vindaloo, rice and rotis. After having a wonderful dinner, they walked back to their hotel.
The Dolphin and the Fort
“Aditya!” “Neha!”Wake up! You don’t want to miss the bus to the beach, do you!” Mom’s voice woke up both of them. “Yes!” today they were going to see the beaches and a fort. It was 6.am. The bus was to leave at 7 am. Hurriedly they got ready. Neha was wearing her sunglasses and a blue hat. Aditya was also ready with his blue and grey cap and sunglasses. They were told that the sun at the beach was really bright.
They boarded the bus and soon were on their way. The bus stopped for half an hour at the Miramar beach where they had samosas and tea for breakfast. They walked up to the beach and looked at the sea. But they had to come back soon because the bus was leaving for the Calangute Beach. The bus started for the beach. The tour conductor in the bus was telling them about the plan. Before the beach, they will be going to the Arabian sea to look at Dolphins. “Wow! Dolphins!”, Aditya and Neha were excited at the thought.
Presently they reached a place called Tiswadi. There, small motor boats were waiting to take them to the sea. They put on the orange coloured life jackets, and took their seats in the boat. Aditya brought out his camera to catch the dolphins in action. The motor boat whirred into the sea. They could see the vast Arabian Sea in front of them with greenish blue waters. They were enjoying the boat ride. Neha suddenly pointed out to the sky in excitement. There were many birds hovering above. Aditya was curious. “What are these birds dad?” he asked. “These are the sea gulls. Remember you saw them at the museum yesterday?” answered dad. Yes they remembered now. The sea gulls were flying over a boat. When their boat went closer to that boat, they could see that there were fishermen on that boat. They were pulling up a huge net and many fishes were jumping in the net. The gulls were attracted to the fishes!! Aditya excitedly took several photos of the scene. The gulls were swooping down and flying off with fish in their beaks. After a while all the gulls flew away. “They have finished their breakfast” said Neha.
“There is the dolphin!” shouted the boatman pointing out at the sea. The people of the boat were thrilled and looked out that way hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins. “Look! it is there!” shouted one passenger. But they could see nothing. “Look ! over there!” shouted another, after sometime. But there was nothing. The boatman gave a chase to the dolphin, which was swimming under water, for about twenty minutes. Suddenly they saw a huge tail going down in front of their boat. That was the only glimpse they could have of the dolphin! It was getting late and so they decided to return. They were a bit disappointed for not being able to see the dolphin properly. But at least they could see its tail and imagine how it would look like.
They were now seated in the bus and were going towards the Aguada Fort. The tour guide was saying “The Aguada Fort was constructed in 1612 by the Portuguese to watch out for Dutch and Maratha enemies who might attack Goa. Aguada means watering place in Portuguese language. There was a spring inside the fort and that’s how the fort got its name. The ships passing by used to get water from this spring” He added “There is a lighthouse inside the fort so that the ships in the sea could know that there was land nearby. There is also a huge jail in the fort.”
They reached the fort. The walls of the fort were very high and made with heavy stones. The walls were broken at many places and collapsing as it was very old. Inside the fort there was an area called the “Aguada Point” from where they could look out to the sea. The view from this Point was very beautiful. There was the Arabian Sea stretched out in front of them. They could see ships in the sea that looked very small. They enjoyed the view for sometime and then came back to the bus that started for the Calangute beach. They were enjoying coconut water, which they bought on the way from the fort.
The beach soon came into view. The bus stopped and the tour guide said that they could spend the rest of the day in the beach. It was noon and all were hungry. They went inside one of the restaurants. They feasted on kingfish, pomfret, bhindi, dal, papad and rice, and of course cold drinks. Lunch over, they moved to the beach.
They were fascinated by the red and yellow water scooters zooming in the sea waters. People were enjoying water sports in the beach. “We want to ride the water scooter” pleaded Aditya and Neha. Dad said “You cannot ride alone. You have to take turns with me to ride it.” They were ready for the ride with the orange coloured life jackets. The water scooter zoomed into the water with them, and they were thoroughly drenched by the spray of water. They went a short distance into the sea and screamed with delight at the experience. The scooter took a turn and brought them back at the beach. Finally they stood on the beach sunning themselves and laughing. Aditya and Neha were absolutely thrilled by the experience of water scootering.
They soon started walking on the soft sands of the beach. They could see ships sailing by. Aditya clicked many pictures of the ships. They played with the low waves that were coming towards them and moving off. They played with the sand, making funny structures and breaking them. They enjoyed the whole evening in the beach and Aditya clicked some pictures of the setting sun. Soon it was time for them to return to their hotel for the night.
The next morning they were sitting at the Madgaon railway station. They were returning to Mumbai. “I wish I could stay here for a few more days”, said Aditya, munching on the cashew nuts they had bought at the Panjim market. “Don’t worry” said his Dad, “We will come back soon.”
Image under license witth Gettyimages.com