…and waited and waited. And waited. Finally an elderly personage, on whom the ravages of alcohol seemed evident took himself off from the perch behind the counter having decided that we were hardy kind of cactus who were not going to leave after 15 minutes of no attention, despite the shack being, as my sister in law’s mother in law puts it so eloquently in her colloquial Konkani, “Ek moos na” (translated, with not one fly).
He stood over our table with a long suffering air, and asked what our pleasure would be. Pepsi for the kids, a beer for the spouse and cold coffee for me. The mother in law declined any drinkables as she had just had some coffee before setting off from the hotel. It took us five minutes to get this order to him in proper sequence, and he ambled off towards the kitchen. Emerging two minutes later to cross confirm whether it was one cold coffee or two. We gently clarified again. He disappeared into the vast yawning nothingness that we presumed was the kitchen. Never to be seen again. Oh okay, it took him the better part of 30 minutes to emerge with our order. The children and the spouse were restless. I was calm. Until I tasted my cold coffee. It reeked of onion. I slammed it down in disgust. I take my cold coffee very seriously. I can tolerate shoddy, indifferent service, but not a cold coffee obviously made in the same mixie raw onions had been in direct contact with. We rose, settled the bill, left no tip and moved on further down the beach.
We stared wistfully at the Zanzibar being constructed. The shack next to it was up and running, and bustling with energy. A chirpy chappie in a Tshirt which needed desperate introduction to detergent and a brush emerged from the recesses, a pen behind his ear, a napkin on his shoulder and a smile wide enough to crack his face into half. “Table chahiye, sunbed chahiye?” We visibly shrank at the thought of roasting in the sun, and stared in horror at the foreigners spread out on said sun beds applying suntan lotion and turning violent shades of pink and red. The Zanzibar chappie who was standing around supervising the putting up of bamboos and roofs came down for a quick handshake and told the spouse to park himself at this place, and so we did.
More beer, more cold coffee and more Pepsi was ordered. The child of course, has no concept of leisurely sipping and gulped down his Pepsi at the speed of light, five minutes post which his face turned a sickly shade of green and he removed himself to the edge of the platform where he returned all his breakfast with the Pepsi into the sand. Face washed and cleaned, and finger waggingly warned against any further Pepsi, he sat back and took in the scene. Five minutes later he chirped, I wantu go on waterscooty. My stomach heaved at the thought. The spouse despatched him and cousin on water scooty. They returned exhilarated. They were then despatched off for parasailing. In the interim much gluttony and such like happened. We sat around like beached whales. I ate, I am ashamed to say, a Chicken Shashlik sizzler in its entirety. Without leaving behind even the fries. In Mumbai, I would have been lynched by the diet brigade. Here thankfully, no one was watching my plate. Then we decided to return to the hotel for some shut eye. And we walked up to where we thought we had entered the beach from the hotel and walked down the road. “Colonia Santa Maria,” we asked a random chappie on the path when halfway down we realised it looked very unfamiliar. We walked further down. “How far can we be?” I thought, we will hit a main road sooner or later and figure out where we were. Of course, the quaint little houses by the side of the road were all forbiddingly shut, it was siesta time, the sun was blazing hot and the road underneath was blister inducing. Through some quirk, I had ended up being barefoot because the brat had worn the niece’s slippers and she was wearing mine and I had hastily shoved my feet in brat’s socks, which in retrospect was a very wise decision given that it wasn’t a five minute trudge down the beach that we ended up doing, but a complete circumnavigation of a narrow lane which led us right back to the Tito’s lane whence we had come from and which needed another ten to 15 minute to get back to the hotel. The spouse ducked back into a roadside cafe for a beer. We ducked in for the shade and some liquids. The child was shod in his own shoes and I had footwear again. Fortified by liquids, we proceeded back to the hotel. Or at least the child and the spouse did. The niece and I and the Mother in law got waylaid by some more shopping. Spotted a pair of exact same slippers I had back at home which I’d picked up for Rs 100 in Pune. In a nice funky lemon. “How much?” I asked. “Rs 350,” said the chappie, not batting an eyelid. “I bought it for Rs 100 in Pune,” I replied, wanting to add the lemon one to my collection. “Go buy it from Pune then,” he replied and went back to waiting on white skinned customers. I gasped in shock, tucked my crumpled ego into my wallet and moved on. Some shopping later, it was evening, and time to decide where it should be for dinner. Our choices were limited by the lack of inclination of the spouse to drive too far, and our unwillingness to hot foot it anywhere, me especially given that I had already done enough hotfooting, literally speaking, for the day. So it was a toss between Souza Lobo’s (where we had been regulars for a while) or Britto’s (which we hadn’t tried out yet, but just kept hearing about). As is our norm, when confronted with two evils, we try the one we haven’t tried before. We scrubbed and polished ourselves up, and set off in search of Britto’s. The child had his standard order ready at the tip of his tongue. “Fisscurryrice. Widoud the bones.” We located the restaurant by the steady stream of people getting into it. And the chaos outside in the fight for parking which we, having disembarked ungraciously, left the spouse to tackle valiantly on his own, our concern being more to get a suitable table, given that it seemed half of Goa was headed into what seemed like a small space. But as we entered, we realised, it actually wasn’t. Sand for the floor, spilling out onto the sea, Britto’s was a huge restaurant. With a shamiana ceiling, pots and bullock carts and baskets on the walls to create a rural illusion, and waiters dressed in Hawaiian shirts, leaving me completely confused about the exact antecedents the place wanted to portray. Anyway, we got ourselves a table, a helpful man in a Hawaiian shirt tagged Robert, came across to ensure we were comfortable and went off. It was a while before we saw Robert again, in the interim, we kept turning our heads like Linda Blair trying to grab the attention of any passing waiter to take our order, but they had all perfected the art of looking without seeing. Robert emerged after a long long interval, noted down our order and disappeared again. We made polite conversation while the mother in law’s eyes were glazing over with sleep. She generally nods off by 8 pm every evening so this was midnight for her. After around ten minutes of waiting, the child nudged me in the ribs. “Daadi’s gone to sleep.” Sure enough, she had dozed off gently. Robert was exhorted vociferously to get us vital nutrition quick. We ate and went back to the hotel. The food, you ask? Average. Not worth the hype. The service, I was starting to understand, was generally laid back everywhere. It takes time for the Mumbai clock to adjust to the Goa clock.
We had a long day ahead the next day, we had decided to cut short our trip by a day and take a break in Pune before heading back to Mumbai. The plan was to set off the next morning after breakfast. But as the saying goes, well laid plans of mice and men…..
(To be continued….)