Monday, 4 April 2011

India - The first 1st birthday party

March 26-30

Hello everyone!

When I was forced to think of a future career during high school, I had very different aspirations regarding the direction in which I wanted my life to head. After an acceptance that I would never become a Wimbledon champion, or even a football referee, my dream soon catapulted me toward the wild world of journalism.

It may seem trivial that I am telling you this. Let me explain. Even though that idea may have subsided, I strangely feel closer to it then I could ever have imagined. I feel as if I am living the life of a journalist. But not any journalist.

A warzone journalist.

Outside my hotel room I can hear the piercing shriek of missiles zooming high into the sky, whose darkness is violently disturbed by explosions of light. Electrifying, crackling sounds of firecrackers slam against the floor, the noise reminiscient of machine gun fire. Men and their young are screaming in a language I cannot fathom, marching to the sound of their drums, and teenagers are punching their horns as they streak past with flags fluttering wildly from their backs.

But do not worry, amigos. It may sound like I have darted to Libya, but I am very much still in India. And all of this action is due to the aversion of war, as opposed to the commencing of one. You see, I’m in India. And India have just beaten Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup semi-final. National pride in peaking.

It is probably crazier in the big cities, but I witnessed this exhalation in the big cities, but I witnessed this exhalation of joy in Panaji, in central Goa. I was due to be in Mumbai at this point, but circumstances have put the brakes on my journey back through India’s smallest state: the main one being that I can’t move too far away from the toilet.

If you follow the symptoms – no energy, severe dehydration, vomiting and constant dehydration – it would suggest that I am suffering a bout of gastroenteritis. I don’t believe that to be the case. I think it’s a combination of the latter symptom with something I was fed on one of the two adventures I have been able to stomach. Pun fully intended.

I was back in Palolem, but this time staying in the house of a wonderful older men called Francisco. He was a very caring host, cooking me breakfast most days, and wanted to take me to a birthday party. His sister’s grandson’s first birthday, no less. Part of me – the sensible side of my brain (yes Dad, there is one somewhere) – thought this to be a risky move. The adventurous side of my cranium – the much bigger part – saw an opportunity to, like a journalist, experience something very local and very special. I was also honoured to be asked so, after Imodium, bananas and two bus rides, I was at a rather nice house in Lolyem. No need for the Bible this time – this hamlet isn’t in it.

It was…strange. People sat in silence before proceedings began. I tried asking questions, but was given one-word answers that abruptly ended conversation. After numerous prayers in the local Konkan language, ‘happy birthday’ was sung and Hayden, dressed in a bizarre suit, cried instead of blowing out the candle on his chocolate cake. All with classic children’s songs such as ‘My Humps’ playing in the background. Fascinating experience, though the food seems to be living with me longer than anything else.

After a miserable night and morning sprinting to the toilet hut outside Cisco’s house, I felt that I had to move or risk being stuck in Palolem for a week. There are people here who I know from my visit a fortnight before. Some stay for six months. They miss out on so much by staying in Goa. It’s like going to an amazing multi-cuisine restaurant and always choosing fries. So I braved two sweltering buses and got up to Panaji, where I decided to check into a relatively nice place (complete with shower!) and just watch the cricket on TV.

Near to this town is Old Goa: formerly known as the ‘Rome of the East’, there was a time when this place was home to more people than London. Now it seems to have more churches than people. One such place of worship, the Sé Cathedral, is apparently the largest in Asia. It seemed quite small. I was more impressed with the ruins at the Monastery or St Augustine, which give a clearer suggestion of the history of this area.

It hasn’t been the easiest few days. It’s probably good that I’m travelling solo at this point, as a partner may either drown me in sympathy or encourage me to keep moving. Neither would have a pretty conclusion. I can sense that I’m on the mend, and will be ready to come off my diet of soup and bananas, ready to embrace the delights of this country that I am learning to love. But right now, I’m content to see things unfold, converse with locals about them, and then report back to you. Just like a journalist would do. Even one who spends a concerning amount of time in the bathroom. Maybe there is a job waiting for me at the BBC after all…

Love you all


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