Stark, sweet, warm, desolate, intimate…words struggle out; a movement of life in a hidden Goa; high hills, up and down roads, winding, secret lanes that carried a resonance of another time and place.
The first day of walk went past the highway beneath a hot, burning sun. It was flat plain but through the journey, the uplands began and the climbing road led onwards to Moira village. There were gypsy women by the road. There was a wayside shop that led into a small, colourful home with a deep, deep well in the kitchen. It was a feature new to me.
The country town of Aldona lay up ahead and further to that was the beautiful village of Quitula. We reached Quitula in the mellowing light of very early evening in the home of the author Rahul Srivastava. It was a charming home, peaceful, with an altar carved onto the wall of the living room. Enshrined in the altar was a picture of the Madonna with the baby Jesus in her arms; the features of the painting struck a semblance to the Byzantine icons of the Orthodox church, I felt.
In the deepening evening, we walked towards the mangrove forest by the side of which was a river, flowing along, quiet and lazy. After the heat of the day, the forest and the river were restful.
That night in Quitula, I felt deeply desolate. I felt haunted. I had a deeply felt longing for Mother. Where was Mother? It was so beautiful and I was desolate.
What was this space that I was in? I was out of a certain form of being. The nurturing, sheltering hills and the river were close by and around by but I was yearning, yearning, yearning.
There was a feeling of loss on the second day; I was unable to fathom certain movements of the day. The light of the morning was muddied and murky. Ahead on the road, the landscape had transformed. I noticed the features and the attire of the country folk in that landscape. The feeling of unease was washed away somewhat by the cool breezes of the Mayem Lake, but the shadow of it remained.
In the evening, Ajay, Shamshad and myself went to the Aravalem caves. It was another road. What had happened? Where were we? In which time and place? It felt surreal…the physicality of a place had diminished, whittled down…the bare facts did not exist any more. GOA, in fact, in place did not exist. We passed by a jungle that was that was still and menacing and to the vision of a waterfall. The shadows were deep. There were shadows all around.
The next morning, the third day of the walk, there were shadows across the sky with a smear of red. We trudged onwards towards Bicholim. We stopped by an open cast iron mine. The serrated earth lay bare and exposed. We walked ahead. The road dropped down, curving – a pau seller struggled his bicycle up the hill, holding the handlebars. Down we went into Bicholim and the space opened in a movement of life. In the moment, I felt in being. We walked along in the moving morning and there was peace. We stopped by at a small tea shop for breakfast.
We walked on into the market with its corners of human activity. The hills rose up behind. There was a frontier feel. We walked on in the rising sun. We met people by the way who shared stories of the places we were walking through.
We walked towards the final destination of our journey – Sanquelim. It was peacefully sunny. It did not feel hot. There was a feeling of completion – like the full arc of a circle drawn. There was no exhaustion or tiredness. We entered Sanquelim in a fullness of feeling. Ahead was a bridge over a flat green river. On one side of the river bank was a beautifully imposing mosque, warmly lit up; it made me wonder. To the other side were long homes around a courtyard that embodied the Hindu symbols of worship and devotion. How beautiful it was in Sanquelim! We had made our journey.