Sunday, November 19, 2017

Owning a Piece of Paradise: Our place in Goa

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m typing this while leaning back in bed. This, the master bedroom, is large and airy, and the view through the large balcony windows is nothing but thick green trees- just the way I like it. And I cannot quite believe that we now have our own place in Goa.

We arrived yesterday to do it up. This was all Vijay’s discovery – in his frantic bid to discover farmland all over the country last year, he also happened to come across a few apartments and villas in Goa. This one, Villa no. 9, somewhere on Anjuna-Vagator road, somehow struck him as one we could actually buy. A month later, he made another trip with me and the kids, and we all fell in love with it, and by January, we’d actually paid the first instalment. And now, about ten months later, we spent our first night here last night.

The work was still ongoing when we landed up. Puneet, one of the key people at the builder who sold this to us, was apologetic about this, but he knew by now exactly how to win us over – by offering us breakfast at his own home before travelling together to see the status. The last couple of times, we had been despairing about the place not being ready, but this time, as the car drew up to the driveway, we were silent. There are nine villas in this little complex, and ours is the last one – and it looked perfect.

Built in shades of cream and yellow from the outside, and with spacious interiors in white and dark wooden material, this place had just clicked with us. Vijay had dragged me to a Pepperfry studio and we’d made a selection of contemporary furniture, and Puneet had been kind enough to get most of it set up. So as we walked in, I saw the blue sofas, the low wooden coffee table in the drawing room; our dining table up ahead in the dining area, with its four chairs and accompanying bench ( I recalled each of the kids claiming ‘I’m NOT sitting on the bench’ when we had bought it); and a few other key items, including beds with mattresses in each of the three rooms. It looked about ready to move in, even with just this much.

And then I saw the million other boxes piled up in a corner. ‘What’s all this?’ I squeaked.

‘Ah.’ Vijay grunted. ‘The kitchen items and other stuff.’

While I had pretty much decided that my furniture selection was all that had to be done, Vijay had over the last several weeks been ordering items like crazy over Amazon. Water purifier, washing machine, a Television and numerous kitchen goods. I set to work unpacking them while Vijay did a tour of the house with Puneet, who showed him that things were ‘90% done, and everything will finish by tomorrow, sir.’

It felt a bit like Christmas to me, as I unwrapped items wonderingly. I was joined by one of the workers Tulsiram, and a lady wielding a broom, who put her weapon down to instead pick up a pair of scissors and cut through the packing. Plates. Spoons. Microwave oven. Mattress covers. Bedcovers. Towels. Pearl Pet packaging. Dusting cloth. So on and so forth. It took about two hours to place things and set them up. The workers continued hammering on nails here and there.

We took a break for lunch, Vijay and I, and ended up at our favourite beach shack on Vagator beach. Vijay ordered (surprise surprise) Alu Gobi and naan and I asked for the Goan special fish fry. It must have been really special because it took an hour to be served, by which time I had already filled my hungry tummy by dipping into Vijay’s food.

 It was already 4 p.m. by now. Our plan had been to go and shop for things like curtains, but there was still work to be done in the house. Vijay had been going nuts calling up service folks to come and install things. The guy from LG, the guy from Tata Sky. The purifier guy was missing in action and pissing him off.

‘What are the necessities?’ I asked. Vijay’s big plan was to set the place up this weekend so that a few weeks later he could actually bring Papaji down here for several weeks – the idea being for him to avoid an uncomfortable Delhi winter. The polluted air has been getting to him too, so Papaji’s been warming up the idea of some time away from home.

‘Well,’ He frowned. ‘We really need to prioritize the water purifier. And then, the wi-fi.’

I laughed – it’s true. Right after air and water – it’s wi-fi that has become a necessity for us to live anywhere. But I did miss being able to do a whatsapp video call and show the kids the place – the signal here isn’t great. Which also means more time offline. Which is kind of nice.

We were super tired by the time yesterday’s work ended. But we had another task to do – grocery shopping. Vijay was determined that we get a few basic items and stock up so that the kitchen would be self-sufficient by the time he comes around with Papaji. So we went to get some items that wouldn’t spoil – it was 8.30 p.m. by the time we dragged ourselves out of the house, and we found a place called the Oxford Store – a rather large supermarket-type with an interesting collection of items, and a particularly large liquor section which Vijay noted rather gleefully. We started buying the staples – salt, sugar, atta, oil, ghee and so on, although I got rather overexcited by the biscuits section. Vijay stopped me and we forged on ahead. And then I saw the toy section. Soon, I was armed with Pictionary and Jenga ‘for the kids, when the they come here.’ But then a lady landed up and sternly informed us the store was closing. We said, sure almost done.

After about ten minutes, the lady was following closely on my heels shepherding me to the checkout counter. I desperately grabbed more items on the way, pocketing a Rum and Coke when I saw Vijay picking out beer from the the liquor section. We ended up with four sacks of items and several dirty looks from the checkout counter lady, which I didn’t quite appreciate given that we gave them over six thousand rupees of business. It didn’t matter, we knew we’d be back.

We were too tired to cook, even though we had Maggi with us, and Vijay and I had a meal at one of the zillion little restaurants that dot every road in Goa. Rather average a meal, with my Vindaloo and his Alu-parantha way too spicey. Only my chocolate ice cream made up for it and then we were home. We crawled up to the master bedroom and discovered for the first time what a pain it is to live on two different levels if you’re as forgetful as we are. ‘I left the water downstairs.’ ‘Where are my glasses now?’ ‘Did you get the phone charger?’ ‘Don’t forget the tissues, please.’

At about 11 p.m. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and then it was all black.

At 6 a.m., I woke up to the sounds of dogs howling. I couldn’t help grinning when I saw that beautiful green view. I bounced out of bed, Vijay grumbling in protest that it was too early, but the place looked absolutely gorgeous. I walked up to the terrace and then into each of the rooms to take pictures.

After I’d made Vijay a cup of tea, fumbling around in the kitchen ( too much sugar, but he drank it willingly) and myself a cup of coffee, he was awake enough to take a walk around the neighbourhood with me. We’ve always known it’s a nice green quiet neighbourhood, but we had never actually explored it on foot because we’d always been rushing about to get the house ready. We got out of the gate, meeting Bhaiyya Lal the guard and the two strays Kalu and Neelu ( the kids are going to LOVE this) who apparently do day and night duty with the guards. We walked towards the left, the road a little uneven, through a shaded area and found a lady who had a long stick and was expertly plucking fruit off a tall tree. She looked as amused to see us as we were to see her and we grinned cordially and went on.

‘Oh, wow, bhais bhi paali hai!’ Vijay saw a cow, and since nothing makes him happier, he stopped to stare at it. ‘This place is a real village!’

We walked around and saw some plots had construction work going on. ‘Ah! This will come up soon.’ He stopped to take a picture. ‘Nice name – Glimose Villas.’

I glanced at it ‘Glimose?’

‘Ya.’ He frowned. ‘So?’

I waited for him to get it.

‘Oh, Glimpse! Why have they written the P in such a fancy way, looks like an O. Hah. Whatever.’

We walked on, and saw all sorts of quaint houses – many of them hidden well behind thick trees and vines, so that we could only get a glimose of the buildings. ‘Luis Lobo!’ I read a name plate. ‘How cool. And look. David D’Souza! This is so cool. I hope you make friends with them when you’re here in December. Please make an effort.’

‘Why?’ Vijay queried. ‘Are you hoping they like us so much that they end up leaving their houses to us or something?’

‘No, you fool!’ I snapped. ‘Just be neighborly. These are our neighbours now!’

‘They’ll probably move when they meet us.’ He said with an air of quiet confidence.

We went further and I saw something I’d never noticed before. ‘Oh look! There’s a restaurant right here! It’s called Naked! And look, unlimited liquor for only 599.’ I paused to take a picture. ‘If we put this place on AirBnB, am sure folks will like this – walking distance, a restaurant called naked, unlimited liquor…’

‘You put that picture up, people will bypass our villa and go straight there.’ Vijay informed me.

We went ahead and I was very excited to see a tiny mom and pop store, with only a pop there – the old man grinned at us. ‘Do you have anda?’ I asked eagerly.

‘Yes.’ Said the old man.

‘Do you take Paytm?’ Vijay ventured.

‘No.’ said the old man.

‘I forgot my wallet.’ Vijay whispered out of the side of his mouth to me.

‘Shall we ask him to just give us four eggs on credit?’ I whispered back.

‘No!’ said Vijay. ‘Don’t him on the spot. I’ll come back and get it.’

We walked ahead and saw some very pretty homes. Goa really is incredible. The greenery around this area beats for me the sun and sand of the beaches – even though the beach is only 3 km away and that was a big reason for us buying the place. I took some pictures of dogs stretching in the sun, and our own shadows stretching long out before us, and other random things, feeling very happy even at the idea of being able to come back here and call a little piece of this land our own.

Back we went. Vijay went to get the eggs and other stuff while I went up to the terrace and did yoga without my yoga mat. The terrace has the best view of course, and is quite private and under the bright blue sky, with the faint sounds of the labour waking up and construction work nearby kicking in, there was also the sound of peacocks crying and the dogs starting to howl again. It was possibly the best thirty minutes of Yoga I have ever done. Vijay came back just in time to catch my finale, the headstand. And then I agreed to make the old man some breakfast.

Unused to being in the kitchen, even one as well-designed and open as this one, I cooked up a meal of scrambled eggs. Five eggs in a bowl, some onions and tomatoes, salt and chili pepper and I tossed it in a pan, using our brand new cookware. With some Mosambi juice and toast (bread roasted with ghee), breakfast was ready. Vijay busied himself tidying up the groceries.

‘You know.’ I said enthusiastically. ‘We’re really lucky that our terrace is in the corner- it’s so private, it was lovely doing yoga.’

‘Can’t say the same for this kitchen.’ Vijay looked out the window. ‘I can see a naked guy from here.’

I rushed to the window to see, but came back disappointed. It was only Tulsi ram, the head labourer walking around near the pool in his Lungi.

Villa no. 9 is right next to the swimming pool, and I don’t know yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I suspect that the children will vote that it’s a good thing. We’re bringing them here in December and now I’m really looking forward to it.

So now I’m finishing typing this up to post it at some point when online again. Vijay has finished taking a post-breakfast nap and it’s time for us to go and get those damned curtains.

But the thought that I have is that however life turns out, whether or not Vijay and I actually ever get to retire here together in this beautiful place that we now on – even just these few moments here with my earnest old man who plans our life and works so hard to make our dreams come true – even just these – they’re enough.