“Why do you want to move to Goa?” he asked.
“To collect raindrops in the basins of my collarbone. To walk barefoot in tea-coloured puddles. To listen to the baritone of the storm. And to tuck slanting sheets of rain in my long hair…” I listed enough rain-reasons to move from a parched Delhi to monsoon-blessed Goa. He understood not.
Who uproots herself to collect raindrops in the basins of her collarbone? Who? Why? I wanted to. Maybe because I was a desert in my past life, my heart aching for the rain that never drenched my brown body. Or, an underfed river that yearned to be more Rubenesque. Maybe a farmer whose mind was occupied by an endless dream of a drizzle. I’d go anywhere for rain. Rain and I are ancient lovers.
Yes, rain was the primary reason. But moving to Goa was not merely a conscious choice. I heard voices. Every time the idea of buying a second home swirled in my mind, Goa would pop on the mind-map. For no specific reason. No family, no friends, no job, no big love awaiting in the country’s smallest state. But the abstraction of Goa as home kept getting louder and larger. And one day in 2015 when work brought me to Goa, I decided to listen to the low hum of my instinct and started looking for a home.
Buying an old Portuguese home with enough land around for flowers and vegetables was the initial notion. The property dealer took me to one in Aldona. Old house, tiled roof, ancient mango trees, quiet village. Nice but called for a coat of paint, repair and unending maintenance. I sure did not want to uproot myself to fret over falling plaster and bruised corners. A row house near Mapusa. A white villa in Bambolim. Pretty structures but none beckoned, none spoke to me, none enticing enough to be called home.
The next afternoon, the car screeched in front of an incomplete cement shell lying between a temple and a wine store. Hopping over mounds of sand and gravel, I walked to the first floor. A large unit with huge atrium and terrace. Call it absent-minded coincidence or quirk of Fate, the moment I stepped onto the terrace, the temple bells clanged and a peacock called from the valley snug behind the gigantic mimosa tree. I knew this was it. This will be called home.
“I’ll buy it,” I proclaimed to the builder within 5 minutes of entering the cement shell. “I am not carrying the cheque book, I’ll courier the cheque.” The builder was flummoxed by the brisk ‘I’ll buy it’ and the property dealer whispered a swift sermon against hasty decision. I paid no heed. I knew this was home.
Eight months later, I watched my books, my old champa tree, my teak Queen bed, my wooden shoes, my hand-painted tumblers get loaded onto a truck for a 5-day 1,977-kilometre road trip from Delhi to Goa. The car was shipped, I buckled into a plane seat and flew to my new home. It was April. Monsoon was still 10 weeks away.
The cement shell that I had first laid my eyes upon had turned into a thing of beauty. White glazed flooring, French windows, brown granite in the kitchen, beige in the bath. I stayed in Park Hyatt Resort Cansaulim (now ITC Grand Goa) for 12 days to get the woodwork done, to install the air-conditioners, to hang the white curtains with gold paisleys and for new trellises for the terrace garden.
Moving to Goa was a blind leap of faith. I knew no one in the neighbourhood. I had a few acquaintances, no friends, no family. I did not Google about nearby hospitals or marts. It is not my instinct to inquire about necessities. I neither squabble with Life or Fate. I close my eyes nd listen to the low hum of my heart. My faith in Life and goodness has never been betrayed. Never. It works. Always.
It worked, again. In my new home in Goa. It is almost five years since that blind leap of faith. I moved for monsoon but Life has rained largesse, too. I have several new friends. Bulbuls and sunbirds fly in every morning for breakfast, the bulbul gets pomegranate, the sunbirds nectar. Pigeons wait for their turn in the bird bath, the Munnia sneaks in to steal lemongrass for her nest, and the Oriental Magpie Robin has babies in the custom-made terrace bird houses. Purple lotus bloom in a small pond, I pick fresh fennel, coriander and basil from the garden and oranges and reds and yellows bloom. I source fresh produce from local farmers and my neighbourhood dotes on me. I sit on the floor and listen to bhajans in the temple and teach little girls the basics of English and Mathematics; in the nearest masjid, I sat on the floor to learn to read/write Urdu.
At dawn, while I do laps in my rooftop swimming pool, the muezzin calls the devout and the goddess is woken up with the lilt of hymns. When it rains, I tuck slanting sheets of rain in my long hair.
Rain and I are ancient lovers. I moved to Goa to collect raindrops in the basin of my collarbone. That was reason enough. But Life generously bestowed many more reasons. In Goa, the poetics of my existence has found its idyllic iambs. I can live here forever.(Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal. All photographs from the author’s garden)