Travels with V
India: Mumbai & Goa
Cheap frills and old bones
Goa part four
We return to Palololem, but on the way we take a detour to Anjuna Flea Market and Old Goa. Anjuna Market is a tradition that started in the 1960’s, when the hippies that gathered around Anjuna Beach needed a place to sell their belongings or handcraft to get some money. But the market today is just another, and bigger, version of the trade of cheap rubbish that goes on in shacks on every street in Mumbai.
We realize quickly that we won’t find much of interest here. – All the hippies died, says a lady who sells dresses. When V tries on one of her flowery creations, I say: – You look like fruit salad. The lady has a good laugh.
It was V:s idea that we should see Old Goa, once the capital in the Portuguese colonial administration. And before that a great Indian city for hundreds of years. I checked with the Lonely Planet guide and said: – Ok, there’s a lot of churches. So we went there and sure enoygh, there were a lot of churches. And not much else.
It seems that each and every Portuguese governor in Goa had to build a church in honour to themselves. But in the 19th century the city was plagued by disease so bad that it was eventually abandoned. For 150 years the city was buried in deep jungle vegetation. But then someone decided to retrieve it, so the vegetation was cut down. They probably flattened most of the houses too, because the only buildings saved are the churches.
In one of th churches, called “Bom Jesus”, a saint is buried in a glass sided coffin. It’s the corpse of Francis Xavier, revered here in India for his missionary work. Every 10th year they take out the coffin and cary it around town in a parade.
But Xavier was really an abominable person, one of the founders of the Jesuit order, and he was sent to Goa to carry out a campaign. Many jews that had fled the Iberian peninsula when the moors were driven out had taken refuge in India. They fled because they wouldn’t convert to Christianity, and Xavier was ordered to track them down, arrest them, torture them and burn them at the stake. If they converted the were strangled before they were burnt, as an “act of mercy”.
But as time went on the Inquisition that Xavier brought to India hit everyone, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim alike. Tens of thousands ended up in the administrations torture chambers. What the Portuguese and their “saint” Xavier did is just as brutal as what IS did in Syria in our time.
But in Old Goa there’s no place for the telling of these atrocities, we can’t find a trace of criticism or afterthought. There’s only Christian worshipping in its most naïve and vulgar form. Maybe it’s because of the fatalistic mentality of Hinduism that is so prevailing in India. But once again we see what cruelties colonialism leads to.
The next day we decide to explore another beach, called Agona Beach, a few kilometers north of Palolem. It’s a lot different from Palolem, this one is straight, not an arc. There’s no palm trees leaning out over the sand here, it’s something that looks like pines. Restaurants and resorts lie with some space between them and there’s a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Much more relaxing than in the crowded Palolem.
Our last night in Palolem we walk down to the beach in the sunset. We go to a beach bar and order two mojitos. The sun disappears behind a blue haze and the beach is teaming with life. Tables and chairs are set in the sand and lights are lit. It’s beautiful and also a bit sad because we’re about to leave this paradise.