Goa, Love & An Indian Wedding
Looking back, it’s been almost two years since this adventure but this adventure changed my stars and realigned my path. Goa, a tiny state in western India is more than beaches and trance parties. When I arrived, I found a kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality. This is where a journey of discovery began for me. One filled with love, hope and understanding.
I jumped off a third-class train that took about an entire day to cross the country, through picturesque waterfalls and lush green jungles, arriving on the shores of Goa. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead, my body yearning for a beer. To put it simply, the last 18 hours didn’t only change me, but it seemed the world was changing around me as well.
America had just elected Trump as President and to add to the chaos, the Indian currency that I held in my hand was worthless. In a space of a day, the government cancelled all notes larger than 50 rupees, to curb the distribution of counterfeit notes. Scores of tourists were left stranded, while they hustled to get to their next destination, without the convenience of monetary exchange. I managed to wave down a farmer, and on the back of a pickup truck, I hitched a ride to the place where the wedding was taking place.
Now for those of you that haven’t been to an Indian wedding, it’s not as simple as you think. They go on for days, sometimes weeks, and everyone is invited to share in and enjoy the festivities. When I say everyone, I literally mean everyone! It’s a colourful affair filled with dancing, mendi, saris, turbans and lots and lots of great food. Before I get too far ahead, let’s get back to my current situation – on the back of pickup truck, rushing past scooters and cows on the way Cicada de Goa, a five-star resort on the beach (I could have chosen a better way to arrive).
As I made my way into a hotel filled with wedding guests and onlookers, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful scenery that lay before me. Juhi, my close friend and now part of my adopted family, was in the foyer greeting everyone and helping us get to our rooms. She was the auspicious bride-to-be, and her family had arranged such a magnificent venue and were such great hosts to those of us who had journeyed from all over the world for this momentous day. Indian weddings can be extremely lavish and Juhi’s dad didn’t spare any expense. We were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived until the moment we departed.
I stumbled out of my room, following a desperately needed shower and a few gin and tonics down. Dressed up and ready for the evening’s festivities, and of course, the Raas and Garba, energetic and playful dancing that commonly takes place before weddings. Raas and Garba are typical Gujarati folk dances that everyone can participate in; you don’t even know how to dance they’ll teach you the basics.
Raas is an extremely popular traditional Indian folk dance that needs no introduction. It originated in Vrindavan by Lord Krishna and this dance form spreads the message of love and affection with each other. The dancers hold two Dandiya (Wooden Sticks) into their hands with live music. It’s a couple’s dance and on this night someone collided with me, someone that influenced me more than food ever did; a soul so beautiful it was as if everything in the room stopped. I had to talk to her, but thought surely, she was way too beautiful to even mention in words, let alone start a conversation with. I bit my tongue and started with a causal “Hi”.
But hey hang on, we not here to talk about my love stories. We here to talk about Goa and food. The wedding, couldn’t have been held in a more beautiful location. Nestled along the coast, we danced the night away under a tree and lights. Lights for me, that lit up the whole universe. Thank you Juhi and Tapas for the memories you created.
Goa, if I have to be honest though, is a total tourist rip off, and I strongly advise people to seek the true Indian experience elsewhere. The system is rigged to fleece tourists of their foreign currency and I implore anyone visiting the place, to stay away from the elephant tours; they are exploited elephants and suffer under abysmal living conditions. I would advise you to stick to a spice trail if you’re there, and of course to visit the beautiful temples like the Mahadev Temple, Tambdi Surla which is a 12th-century Shaivite temple of the Lord Mahadeva and an active place of Hindu worship. It is notable as the oldest temple in Goa, India. All in all, the beaches are beautiful and festivities exceptional, but as a chef I can assure you India has so much more to offer in terms of good food.
Next stop? Mumbai. That angel with her shining eyes, grabbed my hand as we jumped onto a train headed for the Gateway to India. Her hand in mine and list of places and memories to create. She danced her way into my universe, and I forever danced to her soulful twirls.
When I think what life has brought into my path, on these journeys I have taken, I remind myself that memories are created around meals. Meals around a table. Conversations held over a lifetime. When we look back at our time on this earth, love, food, hope and memories are all we take with us.