'There's something about the air in Goa.' I am sure you have heard that before. I have heard it, said it and felt it many times over. Now I say it every single morning. The best thing about living in Goa is that you never have to experience the sinking feeling when you board that outbound flight. This is home.
Having been here for almost a year now, I have seen the character of Goa change as the seasons do. I arrived here a little before the onset of the monsoon last year and experienced the calm and beauty for several months before noticing a distinct change in the pulse of Goa. Sure, there have been visitors right through (and I had been warned about that by an old friend who once lived here) but it's almost like the character of the visitors changes too as the year comes to an end.
As the 'season' approaches, there is a buzz in the air. Everything has a busy air about itself. The shacks and road side shops open up, you see more people, more cars and more energy. The roads look so different that you can almost not recognise them.
Bars, nightclubs and shacks re-invent themselves almost every year. My husband and I were invited to one such 'opening' of a bar on the beach. It was only once we arrived there, we realised there was nothing 'new' about it. We had been there over the years. The same location, same bar, same decor. The only thing new was its name. Wonder why they would bother! Well, the answer is simple....to attract more visitors. And sure, they achieved their goal and it's been quite a hotspot this season.
And then of course, it was time for the BIG event of the year, Sunburn. Thousands of young people gathered on the Candolim beach for music, drinks, food and non-stop partying for three days leading up to New Year's eve and now spilling into the new year. The party goes on.
So you really have it all in Goa. If you want there's a lot to do and if you want there's nothing to do. The nothingness is also distinct about Goa. But which ever way you look at it, it is about getting away from your routine, unwinding and de-stressing.
While no one is complaining about that, the reality is that there is a darker side to it. We have heard of several cases of young lives affected and even lives lost because of a lack of caution. Whether it is the indiscriminate use of substances or lack of safety exercised, the outcome can be devastating.
Another alarming concern is that when people begin to treat this as an escape. I know of several people who are 'regulars' on the party scene in Goa despite living in other cities. They come here to indulge themselves and get away from their problems. And while it helps momentarily, the reality is that the problems are not going to resolve by themselves. In other words, all this amounts to unhealthy coping mechanism which is likely to lead to more complexity.
And it is this complexity that leads to alarming headlines in the newspapers every now and then. A young woman of 32 kills herself, three tourists rescued, a few drowned, body of a young woman found on the beach and this goes on. Some cases are never really solved and the reasons for the tragedy remain uncovered. However, the theme and attitude of having fun and being carefree runs through a lot of these incidents.
So, one wonders if there is a way out of this. And I think there definitely is: Party with responsibility. But like someone once said to me, 'Who wants to be responsible in Goa?'
Well, anyone who wants to keep coming back, breathing in that precious air and feeling rejuvenated.
(Next month, Arpita Anand decodes the biggest stressors for teens and adolescents today)