You’ve probably seen lots of blogs giving tourists tips on places to go and things to do when in Goa. This usually involves spending time at the different beaches, shopping at flea markets, and dining at myriad multicuisine restaurants that have sprung up all over the state. Sometimes you’ll get tips on where to find exciting water sports. But that’s stuff that regular tourists or backpackers do. What do hardcore traditional Goans (Goenkars) do? Especially Goan NRIs. What does the traditional Goan NRI do when he/she comes home for a holiday break?
You’ll be surprised. Most never go down to the beach even though the beach is usually just a few minutes away from their doorstep. Mingling with tourists on the sandy beaches is the last thing they seem to want to do. Take Rock D’sa for example. He’s been a bartender on Carnival Cruise Lines for donkey’s years now. He comes home to Vagator once a year, on his annual holiday. His ancestral home is about half a km away from the beach but the only time he does go down to the beach is when his little kids bug him to, or when a friend urges him to try some fishing in the wee hours of the morning. You won’t catch Rocky on the beach any weekend evening, ever.
Do NRI Goans love the new restaurants? Yes, they do. They have their favorite haunts – mostly pubs and places where they know the chef or owner who tends to be a relative or part of the family. Pubs and Bistros like Taverna, Blacksheep Bistro, and DTR in Panjim are more their cuppa tea than most places listed on TripAdvisor’s top 10. Definitely not the beach shacks. Not unless they know the owners. Even then, they’ll visit only at dawn, or very late at night when they can have a private tête-à-tête.
Here’s a list of some of the MUST-dos for the NRI Goan coming back home:
Visit an old aunt or uncle and have a family meal there
Coming home to Goa and not visiting a close relative and not staying for a meal is an absolutely unforgivable Faux pas for this group. The aunt or uncle in question who was not visited, will not forgive you for years to come. And forget about making a quick doctor’s visit. You’ll have to sit down at the large dining table and relish a full 10-course meal that was painstakingly prepared for you over the past one week. “My baba is coming home no? I must get a good Surmai and make him some of that ‘Caldin’ he always loved. I hope the ‘Bebinca’ I made is soft enough for him.” Lucky guy.
After the meal, you must also sit down and have a long chat about the good old days.
Attend a relative’s/friend’s wedding
This one’s a real biggie. A family wedding, in Goa, usually around the Christmas wedding season is an occasion to die for. That’s when you get out your best suit and the ladies don their best outfits. It’s a time for meeting long lost family. To dance with your favorite cousins. To feast on the best of Goan food. Sometimes preparations and coordination between family members take place a whole year in advance. In minute detail (what are you wearing, who else is coming, which band will be playing, which songs, what are they serving… the excitement never ends. Family weddings in Goa are a momentous epic event not to be missed by that special breed called the NRI Goan.
Have a ‘Feni’ and a long ‘Balcao’ chat with a friend
This one usually happens a day before the wedding (plotting naughty things to do) or the day after the wedding (reliving the hilarious moments). In the old days the chats happened over the best possible Feni, these days the best of foreign scotch has taken over.
Attend a Rosary, especially at the local chapel/cross:
This is very special for the 60 plus NRIs. The Novena, rosary or the litany (or ‘ladainha’) is a very special event. The very best violinist of the village will be called in. Sometimes specially appointed singers train specially for the event. You see, the NRI Goan can become very religious when he/she’s back in Goa. The goodies distributed after the event have probably been a whole week in the making.
Laugh your guts out at a Tiatr:
This is a must for the Konkani speaking NRI. Unfortunately, a lot of second and third generation Goan NRIs can’t speak “amchi bas.” Those that can love a good hearty laugh at a local Tiatr. Some even actually take part and perform specially redesigned side roles in a tiatr redone only because this patrão has come down to Goa.
Attend the church feast and become a patron (Patrão)
Speaking of Patrons, the annual village Church feast is a big event for any Goan NRI. Becoming a generous patron at that special time is a matter of great pride for the son of the soil. You’ll find him all decked out in gold and wearing his finest suit, seated in specially reserved seats in the pews up front. How often he attends church after that is anyone’s guess though.
Shop for goodies to take back to NRI land
This is an activity that usually spans a couple of days. The list was probably made long before the arrival in Goa by all those who grab this opportunity to get a packet of Simonia’s or Pascoal’s Dodol, Bibinca, Cocad and Channa Dos. Often the parcels are so huge they can take any airline cargo assistant by complete surprise. Food and sweets from back home feature right on top of the list. Then there’s the jaunt to Mapusa’s Friday market for the very best sausages and salt fish. Sometimes I think they go there simply to inhale deeply of those classic aromas. I wonder when those goodies will be available online and delivered by courier. Or will that take away half the fun of being a Goan NRI?