By ANGHARAD LLEWELLYN

IT’S a long way to go in search of Indian grub.

But I’ve flown to Goa with 15 mates to indulge in a week-long curry-a-thon as part of a surprise celebration for a friend’s 30th birthday.

He thought he was just going with his wife — it’s fair to say bumping into a load of your best mates when you’re halfway round the world is a bit of a surprise.

The plan is to spend the first week together in Patnem (and its surrounding beaches, including Agonda and Palolem) before splitting up and heading to Kerala for the second week.

Now, I have a confession. I have never actually liked Indian food, even though I live on the “curry mile” — Brick Lane in London, surrounded by Bangladeshi restaurants.

And as much as I love a red-hot chilli, I have never been able to work up an appetite for a Ruby Murray for dinner.

Curry

But the food is so incredible in Goa I find myself gorging on the stuff. Another naan? Yes please! More aloo gobi? Of course! And then there is the fresh fish — straight from the tandoor, delivered to the table.

Piping hot, full of flavour and tender and moist. Absolutely amazing.

As the Pound stretches so far here, we over-order (and therefore over-eat) at every opportunity.

On average, a main course will set you back the equivalent of two quid. Kingfisher beer is around a Pound.

And as the water in India is not safe to drink (to the point that you cannot even eat salad or fruit that have been washed in it), curry is a reliable choice of fodder.

But it’s an exercise in patience. After you order food, it can take up to an hour-and-a-half to be served.

And this doesn’t take into account the frequent power cuts we experience during our stay.

We take to ordering “tactical snacks” before every meal so that we aren’t gnawing our arms off by the time that the main course arrives.

But after seven days of non-stop kingfish, red snapper and pomfret, I have to admit I am craving a sneaky steak or fish-finger sarnie.

Food in India varies from region to region and when a smaller group of six of us fly down to Kerala for the next leg of our journey, we find ourselves testing out a very different palate.

The curries here are subtle and very sweet. In fact, all the food we try here is sugary — perhaps because coconut and coconut milk is widely used in Keralan cuisine.

Tikka your pick … try a curry or two in beach-side town Varkala
Tikka your pick … try a curry or two in beach-side town Varkala

We settle in the beach-side town of Varkala — a full-of-life, high-spirited hippy town built on the top of a cliff which has a sheer drop to the beach below.

There are no barriers so it’s advised to take extra caution, especially with children or after a few Kingfisher beers. For a taste of luxury, we stay in the Deshadan hotel. It is a set of clean, spacious hotel rooms surrounding a pool. And breakfast is included in the room rate.

Next door, at the Dhatri Treatment And Rejuvenation Centre I try an Ayurveda treatment — a holistic healing science made up of two words ayu (life) and veda (knowledge).

I select an Abhyangam Plus treatment which costs about £15.

Two female masseurs apply hot oil all over my skin and massage it along my “circulatory” channels for 60 minutes. It’s very relaxing and worth giving a go.

The hotel restaurant serves a variety of Indian and Western food and I choose a traditional Keralan chicken curry.

It is mild, subtle and full of flavour but a lot of the menu is very saccharine-sweet.

After two weeks of sun, sea and spicy food, it’s time to head home to the UK.

And guess what I do when I get back? Yes, call everyone to arrange to go for an Indian.

I’m a confirmed curry convert.

Geetika Jain, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 10, 2012

In Delhi, it is a relief to drive at a good pace in the night because the roads are deliciously empty. In North Goa, during the run up to the New Year, it is just the opposite. Partygoers cram the streets all night, and driving during the day is when you feel you are beating the system.

The innumerable clubs, beach parties, restaurants, shacks and hedonistic lifestyle begets a swarming of epic proportions around Christmas and the New Year. Sunburn, a music super fest, had the nights abuzz with young Indians who parachuted in from all over the country to the epicentre of fun.

There’s a lot that lures us to Goa, not least of all running into old friends unexpectedly. Then there are the favourite haunts the lively Mapusa market on Fridays, where the locals bring their produce from the hinterland the charming neighbourhoods of Fontainhas, Saligao and Asagao, and the small shacks and restaurants that serve the most compelling home-style Goan cuisine.

Soussegade
The Portuguese word, soussegade, is often used in Goa to depict the relaxed, chilled lifestyle enjoyed by the locals. Goa’s famous cartoonist and chronicler of the local landscape and lifestyle Mario Miranda’s cartoons portray scenes of fishermen sharing a bottle of feni at the end of a day, Romeos serenading girls with their guitars in hand, and afternoon naps in hammocks swaying in the breeze.

Goa truly must have been a paradise a decade or two ago, before the outsiders discovered it, enjoyed it and moved in. Conversation changed from village affairs and babinka pudding to how many lakhs per acre.

Tulsi shrines and coconut stalls were taken over by Kashmir emporiums and now there are road signs in Cyrillic to aid the Russians.

The endearing houses with permanent benches at the entrance porch welcoming visitors are being shredded fast to give way to numbingly generic high-rise flats, second homes for Dilliwalas and Mumbaikars.

Saudade
This time in Goa, while everything was in place for visitors catamaran rides sailed out to the Arabian Sea, jet skis and para sails zig-zagged on the beachside and hibiscus flowers decorated chilled coconut water there was a discernible sadness in the locals’ eyes.

These are folks who are particularly proud of their unique heritage and it pains them to see it dwindle and drain and alloy with unfamiliar elements. Nothing pains them more than the changing look and feel of their precious Goa.

A major highway is being resisted that could sear their heartland. Even the children, who traditionally make effigies of Old Man to be burnt on the last night of the year (symbolising the death of the old year and rebirth of the new), had painted tears and frowns on their old man’s face.

Saudade, another Portuguese word is understood well in Goa. It means nostalgia tinged with pain, and the pain is being felt deeply by the Goans. Miranda died recently in his sleep. He was 85. Perhaps it was best he went before the Goa he knew and loved changed beyond recognition.

Goa fact file

When to go: Goa is most comfortable in winter months. However, it is a year-round destination with special discounts during the Monsoon-viewing season.
North or South Goa?: North to party, South to relax.
Where to stay: Top end The Sol boutique hotel in Nerul, Seolim House, Poussada Tomas, Hermitage at the Taj Vivanta.
Affordable style: There are legions of small hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast locations near Candolim, Calangute, Baga and Anjuna beaches with easy access to restaurants and local transport.
Eat at: Fiesta for atmosphere and excellent Mediterranean cuisine, Café Vinit, Mum’s Kitchen and Panjim Inn for delicious Goan fare. Bomras has excellent Burmese cuisine.
Explore: Goan heritage in Old Goa, the neighbourhoods (Fontainhas in Panjim, Saligao and Asagao) and the local markets (Mapusa, Arpora and Anjuna).

Oheraldo by Federick Norohna

December and January are the months when expats visit Goa, and this gives us time to rethink Goa’s equation with its diaspora.

At one level, the expats are crucial to our society – even if only in selfish economic terms. Their remittances have been largely uncounted and not even adequately estimated.

At another level, Goa has a love- hate relationship with them. Sometimes we get cheesed off with their attitudes and expectations from a postcolonial Goa. Yet, seen differently, we are them! Many Goans based in Goa have had an expat experience themselves. We know what it means to come back, and find yourself a stranger in your own home.

We at least have relations who are expats. Or, if young, we dream of one day chasing the rainbow and our ambitions to end up in some lucrative part of the planet. The migration gene has been deeply encoded – like some virus – within the Goan DNA. This is especially true among the Catholic community, which probably has a larger section of its community outside Goa rather than with the State itself.

* * * So, how do we treat our diaspora? In other words, how do we treat ourselves? ( This might be a bit of an exaggeration, because in the pre- 1961 era, the ruling dispensation didn’t care much for this ‘ dispensable’ section of the population. After 1961, Liberation and all that, the political elite in Panjim also doesn’t care much for the diaspora.

In any case, its vote- banks are constituencies whose interests are more caught up with disempowering the diaspora.) Sometime back, the BJP government in Goa got an NRI Commission going. For quite a few years, it was a non- starter.

Under Eduardo Faleiro, things have improved, though in this networked world, a lot more could be done to reach out more effectively to the scattered and often forgotten Goan communities worldwide.

In the last few weeks, one’s own personal interactions with friends from the Goan diaspora made a thing or two very clear.

The biggest challenge facing the expats is their property. They have been treated very shabbily on this.

The 1960s saw rather lopsided ‘ land reforms’ squeezing middle- sized ( or even small) landholders, who happened to be out of Goa.

The 1970s saw a further state of flux over such issues. In the 1980s, expats got conned once again, by convincing them to go in for coastal ‘ rent- backs’, which raked in moolah for the politically well- connected here while giving the expats a raw deal in most cases. More recently, the diaspora population is being convinced to go in for the ugly concrete that is changing the very nature of their home State.

While the MGP regime has been unfriendly to hostile to the diaspora over their land and properties, the Congress has hardly done anything. On the contrary, as its prominent figures dabble in real estate and land big- time, this has meant that the expats have got squeezed further during Congress rule. Because of the demographic breakup of Goa’s international diaspora population – largely Catholic, and Old Conquest based – the BJP couldn’t care less for such issues, though an occasional comment has come up from leaders like Manohar Parrikar.

Today expats are caught in a Catch 22 situation. If they hold on to their properties, its security is always under doubt. If they sell, they get disinherited ( often for peanuts) from the land of their roots! Some have opted to donate their properties for charity, and a good cause.

But will the local partners keep to their side of the promise and make good use of what they get? There are stories of people who sold their ancestral properties, and whose children had to pay many times the same figure to get their properties back! All in all, this is an unhappy position. The faster we understand and seek to address such major irritants in Goa’s crucial relationship with its diaspora, the better chance of building a hopefully win- win situation for both.

PANAJI: Fr Bismarque Dias is set to become the first Goan priest to contest the Goa legislative assembly elections slated for March 2012 as an independent from Cumbarjua constituency backed by the Zagrut Goenkarancho Ekvott (ZGE).

Dias’ candidature was announced at a press conference on Tuesday by ZGE, a collective of various Goan social organizations including the Pilerne Citizens Forum, the Goenchea Xetkareancho Ekvott, SEZ Virodhi Manch and others.
Along with Dias, ZGE announced the candidatures of Pradeep Sangodkar from St Andre, Xavier Almeida from Taleigao and Clifton D’Souza from Velim. ZGE said it has also finalized candidates in constituencies like Benaulim, Priol, Saligao, Nuvem, Margao, Pernem and Ponda. The names of these candidates will be announced shortly. ZGE said it will finalize candidates in more assembly constituencies in due course of time.

All four candidates were present for the media briefing. When asked if he would need permission from the Archbishop to contest the elections, Dias replied to say that as a priest, he would need permission to contest elections. But he said his decision to enter the political arena went beyond his priestly duties.

Citing the Biblical parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’, Dias said he was contesting elections to tend to the ailing land, trees and children of Goa. ZGE also cited Dias’ activist work for various public causes, including the issues of Vanxim and Khariawaddo, Vasco.

Sources in the Church confirmed that Dias would need permission from his ‘superiors’ to contest elections. They said Dias was ‘not a diocesan priest’ and that he belonged to the House of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. The ‘superior’ of the order will have to then take the Archbishop’s permission.

Prakash Bandodkar, president of the Pilerne Citizens’ Forum said ZGE has support from 160 Goan villages and that in contesting the elections, ZGE was offering Goans a “second Opinion Poll” to root out the corrupt governance of the Congress and all its coalition partners like NCP, MGP and even the opposition BJP.

Bandodkar said the present bunch of politicians were all colluding in illegal mining and in destroying the homes of common Goans by bringing in 25-metre wide roads through the regional plan 2021. Referring to the ZGE candidates, Bandodkar said, “These are good, clean candidates who have fought for various public causes in Goa. We urge all Goans to vote for our candidates as they will protect Goa and Goan-ness.”

ZGE’s Yatish Naik said though ZGE was not a political party, they were forced to field candidates as neither the ruling Congress coalition was listening to the people’s grievances nor was the opposition BJP opposing the government enough on its anti-people policies. “Unless we bring clean people into the system, there will be no improvement. None of us have mushroomed overnight. We have been active in social work for many years,” Naik said.

Bangalore:

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) have started taking keen interest in the real estate sector back home following significant appreciation of the dollar vis-a-vis the rupee, a top official of housing finance company said today.

“NRIs have started taking keen interest due to the appreciation of the dollar. They have started converting the dollar into rupee”, Director and Chioef Executive Officer of Life Insurance Corporation(LIC) Housing Finance Ltd, Vijay Kumar Sharma, told reporters here.

NRI interest is “perceptible and visible”, he said, adding LIC Housing Finance Limited’s Dubai and Kuwait offices (catering to NRIs investing back home) have “lot of enquiries and log-in” and”compared to last year, the growth (there) is 50-60 per cent”.

Sharma also said the Bangalore metro rail project would transform the real estate sector in this city in three years, similar to what happened in Delhi.

“Metro completely transformed the entire (real estate) profile. This is going to happen in Bangalore also in the next three years. I am sure about it””, he added.

Referring to a just-released study, Sharma said the Bangalore real estate market is looking up again after two years, and demand has gone up.

LIC Housing Finance Limited today kicked off a three-day property expo here, with participation of more than 50 builders who are showcasing more than 250 projects.

The maximum processing fee for the visitors at the exhibition – NIMMA MANE 2012 – is Rs. 5,000 plus service tax, a”high rebate” as Sharma put it, adding, “normally, processing fee is one per cent of the total amount”.

Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/bangalore/with-falling-rupee-nris-take-keen-interest-in-real-estate-164401&cp