Thursday 13 December 2007

Déjà Vu

Another Christmas, another wedding. Another trip to Goa. Another long journey.

I’m starting to feel a really acute sense of déjà vu, in the proper sense, not just the compelling sense of familiarity but also the experience of eeriness.

It’s been two years since I travelled to Delhi and took a long drive to Buwan Kothi for Debbie and Gilly’s wedding. Recently, I was rummaging through a trunk (looking for old photos of my friend Ken from Brighton, who will be 40 this Saturday) and I found the invitations to both the India wedding and the ceremony in north London in 2006. India over Christmas and New Year in 2005 was a really happy time, from freezing in Haryana in the fog for the ceremony itself and then plunging into the afternoon sun at Dabolim airport in Goa, me and Rupee and Sukhraj, drowning in the excitement of suddenly, finally, feeling warmth.

Now much of coastal Goa itself is really a bit rubbish, completely divorced from the rest of India, a playground for holidaymakers looking for a couple of weeks on a beach and some winter sun, its ‘otherness’ perhaps explaining the coach parties who descend from outside of the state, apparently to do little more than ogle and ‘Eve tease’ the foreign women. Palolem in the far south may once have been a last refuge from the rampant commercialism but when we were there, every space between the tree line and the sand had beach huts or restaurants. Given the choice, there are a dozen places I would place a higher priority to revisiting India than Goa, but I definitely return to that warm feeling when I think about the ten days I spent there in 2005-06.

From 22 December, I will be back in the village in Palolem, staying with Putu who worried so much when Suk went missing for three days. I can visualize the walk from Putu’s place to the beach in complete detail. If I close my eyes, I can see the fishing boats on the beach and I bet when I get there, they’ll be in exactly the same place. But somehow I’m not sure that I’ll be spending much time at the Cosy Nook restaurant at the north end of the beach, because the memories I have are so strong and so happy. In darker moments over the last year, I’d always transport myself back there. And what I remember most is hanging out for days on end with Gilly.

Tonight I was in Shish in Old Street, meeting up with some of my favourite people, and the last time I was there was in February for my birthday, drunk beyond comprehension, eating chips with Gilly and Catherine in the upstairs restaurant, taking a breather from endless cocktails downstairs. So many places, people and situations are like Shish, coming back to remind me that my old mate has gone forever. But somehow, I think Goa is going to be the hardest of all.

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