An answered prayer, of all the crazy things
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty low. I was feeling bad about a little boy I met, the Mumbai event, and my seclusion. The neighbourhood I’m staying in is called Defence Colony and there are many interesting retired officers and their wives here, but no one my own age to play with. Beyond the Colony is the the town of Porvorim – a bustling drive-through town on India’s National Highway 17, but with no quiet place to relax and sip tea.
Solitary and surrounded by people, I missed the company of housemates, friends, colleagues and Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. One night I went to bed early, laid under my mosquito net, and I prayed to my Goal-Oriented Director (GOD).
“Dear GOD, please help me find some friends here. Help me to connect with people and be able to be a part of this community, in some way.”
There must be a powerful connection here in God’s Own Acreage (GOA) because – there’s no other way of putting it – blessings and angels soon entered into my life like drops of spring rain.
Gerard da Cunha is an architect and “rural planner” who created the gorgeous Houses of Goa museum (www.archgoa.org) to showcase the features of the state’s distinctive Portuguese homes. I met him at his museum on a random bike ride and he suggested I check out a poetry reading at the Xavier Centre nearby.
Father Delio Mendonca, Director of the beautiful Xavier Centre of Historial Research (www.xchr.in) handed me a peace of paper when I visited the Centre for the poetry reading – which turned out to be in Portuguese. “Call this fellow,” he urged. I stuck through the entire reading and met a couple of writers, but didn’t feel a connection.
Frederick Noronha (http://fn.goa-india.org), the name on the paper, is an independent journalist who runs a number of enterprises including a Goa Writers’ Group and a number of Goa-oriented issue and event listservs such as http://www.goanet.org. He invited me over to nearby Saligao for a visit, encourged me to join the groups and handed me a copy of his new book “Picture-Postcard Poverty: unheard voices, forgotten issues from rural Goa.”
John Eric Gomes lives in the house behind mine. It turned out that not only is he a retired Naval officer, but an avid writer and regular contributor to Goa Today magazine. He encouraged me to join him on a trip into Panjim to meet the editor of the magazine.
Vanayak Naik, Editor-in-Chief of Goa Today took the time to chat with me about my visit to Goa, agreed to assign me stories on Goa culture, and then suggested that the magazine interview me for their next issue!
Sachin Kurtikar of Shantadurga Tours and Travel was recommended to me by Pamela Mascarenhas, Director of Goa Tourism. “Call him,” she said, “He does what you’re interested in.” I met him one evening in Candolim and we shared an animated discussion on generating interest in nature- and adventure-travel. He promised to stay in touch if any interesting trips came up.
Anslem Gabriel, manager of Legend Sports isn’t in the travel business anymore, but he used to be. We got chatting outside his storefront (which is next to Raichar Sales bike shop) in Panjim, and he offered to call his friend and book me a seat on the next bus to Sahakari Spice Farm (www.sahakarifarms.com). The next thing I knew, I was on the back of an elephant in Ponda area with a garland around my neck, a tika on my forehead and a 15-spice walking tour of the plantation in my near-future.
Subodh Kerkar (www.subodhkerkar.com) is a multi-media contemporary Goan artist. I’d read about his fascinating installation pieces involving fishers and BW photography and happened to walk into his gallery when he’d just returned from his Amsterdam show. He graciously gave me a tour of his work, invited me to join him and a friend at his cafe bar downstairs, and promised he’d notify me of upcoming shows.
Arjun Halarnkar of The International Centre, Goa (www.goadialogues.com) is programme director for the Centre, and even though I’m not a rural journalist, he allowed me to attend the free three-day Workshop for Rural Journalists as a participant. I learned a lot about the issues that rural people in Goa face, some of the villages I’d be cycling through, and I met some wonderful people and even won first prize in their writing competition!
also attended the Rural Worshop. More of a photographer than writer, Pantaleao is a spirit after my own heart: he loves to explore a place’s nooks and crannies and has even written a book: “100 Goan Experiences” He asked me if I’d be willing to share my return-to-Goa story, with photos, for his upcoming coffee-table book!
Anjuna Roy congratulated us attendees of the Rural Jouralism workshop and was at the Centre to attend the Right to Information (www.rti.net.in) national conference that followed. It was clear that the room was in awe of her and I felt priviledged to be there too. She has been given the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in having this pivotal Act approved by government – it is the only Act in the world that allows ANY citizen to file for government-held information (In the U.S. and other countries, only the press have this freedom).
Nicola Kulkarni brings me comfort and nourishment in the form of tiffins of delicious homemade dinner delivered to the house every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The young wife of a restauranteur wanted to start a business for herself, and I’m proud to count myself as one of her customers.
Have I given prayers of thanks? Oh yes. There are more prayers on the way, believe me, but for now, I’m grateful for these lovely people who have entered my life.