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Going Gaga In Goa

The descending hordes justify its billing as one of the world’s top four millennium destinations

Going Gaga In Goa
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It promises to be the ultimate unplugged party. When the sun peeps over the horizon this millennium, Goa will awake as one of its most happening destinations. Hardcore hotsteppers are already gleeful as the BBC has tipped Goa as one of the top four millennium spots-along with New York’s Times Square, Paris and Ibiza, Spain. On the net, tourists and trippers alike have logged on to the quest. "Are you ready for New Year 2000 in Goa? If you have any info on who will be there, drop me a message," clamours a seeker on the Trip (a music/entertainment) site. "I heard a rumour that mfg, Astral Projection and possibly Hallucinogen will be there...but remember a rumour’s always a rumour," replies another.

So, just who’s going to be in Goa this millennium? Parmeshwar Godrej, Tarun Tahiliani, Vijay Mallya, Maureen Wadia, Mehr Jessia and Arjun Rampal, to name a few. Then superstar Shahrukh Khan is expected to inaugurate the Goa Tourism Development Corporation’s (GTDC) three-day seafood and cultural festival starting December 28. As model Madhu Sapre puts it: "Everyone I know is headed towards Goa. It almost seems like a suicide mission." Which it is, considering the numbers expected to converge here. Every year-end, Goa’s roads are clogged with around 10 lakh revellers. This year the numbers might touch some 18 lakh. Party plans are no less impressive. "A private dinner for me," says Goa-based designer Wendell Rodricks, "and after that I will be going to Jimmy Guzdar’s party."

A most sought-after do this millennium, businessman Guzdar’s bashes have acquired legendary status. Held at his sprawling ‘Palacio Aguada’ mansion, his invitees come to Goa on their private jets and yachts. "Those who drop in look drop-dead glamorous," says a regular at the celebration. "It’s a scene straight out a Hollywood set, very elegant and formal, champagne flowing on the tap and a spread of exotic delicacies. The venue’s spectacular, straight off the Riviera," he adds. Guzdar’s headcount this year is expected to be 400 as against the usual 200 who turn up well-togged for what’s billed as "The Party of the Entire Year".

 

And then there are the hugely publicised blasts on the beach. The Jeh Wadia-organised ‘Paradiso de Anjuna’ promises to be the party. To the tunes of a seductive number, Anjuna.com flashes up a trance village. Propped as "a platform for youth", it’s being hyped as one of the biggest parties of the world, starting on the full moon night of December 12 and continuing till the dawn of January 12, 2000. Stretched out across 100 acres, with an expected attendance of 15,000 per day, and live links to the party zones of Bali and Ibiza, it could well be that. "The entry charge is Rs 400. There’ll be food and wines from all over the world; adventure sports such as bungee jumping; a flea market totalling over 100 outlets; tours to exotic locales and a Rajasthani tent city being put up. The tents are priced between Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 a night," says Collin Curry, consultant, Paradiso de Anjuna. Tito’s, the hotspot located near Baga beach, also boasts a live webcast, four different bars at different levels and a special heady millennium concoction. "The big dos are on December 24, 28 and 31," says owner David D’Souza, "There’ll be different acts-fire-eaters one day, limbo dancers the next-and the costs will vary from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000. For the millennium, we’ll throw in champagne with dinner."

But these blasts on the beach will be competing with streets on the swing. A square close to the secretariat will be shut and opened only for dancing feet. Ditto for spots at Madgaon and Parra. Prices have been doubled from the normal of Rs 250 this year. Even the soaring entry fee hasn’t brought temperatures down. At the fashionable Mediterranean-style Siesta, a minimum cover charge of Rs 750 has been introduced for advance reservations. "We do only 50 covers. This is to ensure that our regular patrons have the table for the entire evening and don’t feel pressurised into leaving quickly," says owner Maneck Contractor. The luxury motor yacht Solita, subject of one Remo Fernandes’ songs, which charges around Rs 5,000 per hour might hoist up its sailing price. The millennium sunrise aboard it could cost Rs 10,000 per hour.

‘Bigger is Better’-that’s the mantra of the moment, money not excluded. And so, efforts are on to outdo competition in the area of spectacle and spice as well. There will be elephants at the Leela Palace Goa, while the Renaissance Goa Resort will provide ‘Spice Power’, an alternative to the Spice Girls. Spending is expected to spiral into the realms of obscenity. Between December 22 and early January, five-star hotels will cost over Rs 8,000 per night with the presidential suite of the Leela Palace Goa touching the Rs 1 lakh mark. "Hotels have been increasing their rates arbitrarily. Everyone, including small hotels, have begun charging three times the normal rates. We’ve opened a cell to monitor these hikes and take action against offenders," says GTDC chairman Vishwajit Rane.

Attempts are on to curtail this fleece market. The government departments concerned-the police, the director of transport, the Airports Authority of India, the Tourism and Travel Corporation, the director of panchayats and the district administration-are coordinating their efforts to arrange facilitation counters at all tourist entry points in the state. "Boards are being set up at airports, railway stations, bus stands and hotels with a view to educating tourists, particularly foreign ones, about the prevailing drug laws of the country which we are going to strictly enforce. The bottomline would be: no drugs or illegal activities," says R.S. Sahaye, director-general of police. But although the entire force will be out in full strength and additional manpower has been sought from the Centre, locals fear those in pursuit of pleasure will have their way. "Full moon parties in an old Portuguese fort, a fortnight of non-stop underground raves and acid parties in Goa," are openly being advertised in Germany and Holland. European trippers in search of the Goa Trance are streaming in. Chartered flights are up from 10-12 a week to around 28.

A hedonism that worries some. "Even at Rs 9,000 per room (that being the average star hotel pricing this year), Goa will be a far cheaper option than any other international venue. The state will end up entertaining not only domestic but international riff-raff as well which will have disastrous long-term consequences," rues writer Mario Cabral e Sa. "This unrestricted pleasure-hunting is confined only to the cream of society. Locals are neither touched by it nor do they benefit by these happenings. On the contrary, their lives are made miserable because the price of fish, the staple diet here, becomes prohibitive. Already, prawns are being sold at Rs 500 a kilo," complains M.K. Jose, spokesperson, All Goa Citizens Society for Social Justice and Action. But in the festive din, the voices of dissent have been drowned out. The state too is expected to make a killing, earning around Rs 30 crore from luxury tax as against Rs 20 crore last year. The liquor industry’s contribution will be Rs 55 crore against the previous year’s Rs 35 crore and the revenue generated from tourism, which was Rs 600 crore in ‘98-99, is likely to be up by 20 per cent.

And that makes even chief minister Francisco Sardinha want to celebrate. "I’ll be at a dance. At 12.00 midnight I’ll kiss my wife and then the other ladies will line up to wish me," he laughs.

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