In January 2013 I joined my friend Patricia in the beach town of Agonda, in the Indian state of Goa, for two months. Our plan was to settle in and just experience village life. This was written about six weeks into my stay.
People ask how we spend our days on Agonda Beach. We wake up, make a cup of tea, then usually sit on the veranda and read for a while. Then we have coffee with breakfast—oranges, toast, yogurt (called curd), occasionally scrambled eggs with cheese.
Frequently, Pat goes out for a run or a swim before breakfast. I think I've done that twice. I do some stretching on the veranda. After breakfast, we watch the river flow by at the end of the garden in front of the house. It's easy to become a bird-watcher just by sitting on the porch. No need for binoculars. White egrets, often attended by cormorants, wade along the banks of the river. Kingfishers flit by, hawks and eagles circle and plunge, crows steal everything that isn't nailed down, and even then I noticed a couple of them trying to pry some rattan reeds out of the chairs. During the day, hundreds of bats hang upside down from the large tree two plots down the river.
We do errands every day. We take our cheap market dresses to be altered by a tailor up the road. We buy yogurt, eggs, bananas, oranges, vegetables, candles. Pat has a large plastic tub with all kinds of spices, which we use to try our cooking course recipes: Cinnamon bark, fresh coriander, coriander seeds, mustard seed, turmeric, cardamom, cardamom powder, star anise, asafetida (I still don’t know what that is). We’ve made dal a couple of times, and a great spinach paneer.
As we wander about doing our errands, we visit the people we know in the village. Pat was here for two months before I arrived and was already Queen Bee of the Beach. I think we’ve had every person we’ve ever met here over for lunch, drinks or dinner in the past month, or patronized their restaurant or shop. She has her favorite greengrocer, grocery kiosk, tchotchke stall, and knows where to get olive oil, pasta and feta cheese. We know the German Bakery has the best breakfast and bread in town, and we’ve found the best Ayurveda massage place. We even went to the dentist. We’re going to have to move here eventually.
There’s housework, of course. Today we defrosted the fridge, using the meat cleaver and an ice pick. The stalactites were interfering with the drawer under the freezer where we store beer. There was so much ice caked inside the freezer that we couldn’t fit the ice cube trays inside anymore. So now the freezer is ice-free but water keeps pooling on the floor beside the fridge. It’s as if it’s bleeding after the trauma of the defrost.
Even though we do a few things here, we’re pretty lazy too. For example, last Friday was really hot and still, and we missed the breeze from the river, so we lounged around all day in our Indian nightwear, feeling like Tennessee Williams characters—cats on a hot tile roof.
We watched the animals from the shade of the porch. Our shy mongoose couple flashed back and forth across the bottom of the garden, intent on who-knows-what tasks. The pig next door grunted and snuffled unseen, and the cows kept trying to get at the plants down by the river. The monkeys swung by in mid-afternoon, eating all the bananas on the ground next door.
We walked up the beach to yoga at 4 PM, still wearing our pajamas and feeling right in style. Then we came home, took showers and put on clean nightgowns. Mr. Mongoose suddenly appeared again, boldly sauntering by only two feet from the porch steps. Next he’ll be stopping by with the missus for gin and tonics at sunset!
On our way home from yoga, we had been handed little cards advertising live music at 7:30 by a fellow who'd branded himself Bob Marley’s Cousin (Piano and Vocals). We wavered—what to do? Could be great, could be terrible. The main consideration was that we’d have to get dressed if we went out, though we agreed to draw the line at contacts and eye makeup. After some desultory discussion, we decided to stay home and split a beer and finish our books. I immediately started to worry that we were missing a titanic event that everyone would be talking about the next day. Where was our spirit of adventure, our joie de vivre? Are we really this old?
But then I got distracted by Pat’s candle obsession—she is determined to find the wicks that vanish when a votive candle is burned to liquid and then returns to wax. So we started excavating candles with a fork.
And, as it turned out, we heard the next day that our neighbors had eaten dinner last night at the café next door to the musical event. They said it had sounded like Bob Marley’s cousin (Piano and Vocals) was killing a cat.
Photograph provided by author
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