It's almost December and if you're a certain kind of person--as most of the people I know seem to be--you already know what you're doing for New Year's Eve. For me, New Year's Eve is fun, but since my birthday is in the same month, I usually reserve all my "magical evening" planning for that, and by Christmas time, I'm pretty much out of excitement.
Anyway, over the last couple of weeks (actually, the earliest enquiry was way back in August) I've been getting a lot of "So, what are you doing for New Year's?" When I shrug, they look at me half-startled, half-pitying. "What are you doing?" I ask back, politely, and nine times out of ten the answer is, "Oh, we're going to Goa."
The first time I went to Goa, I must have been about thirteen or fourteen and I was tagging along on a trip my mother took with her colleagues. I read most of the time, got very burnt in the sea, drank my first few sips of alcohol and all in all, had an excellent time. I was still too young to be mortified by my parents, and a trip to the beach with potentially cool people was my idea of an excellent summer vacation.
The second time, I was sixteen, and yes, by this time, I had graduated fully into that eye-rolling, sullen, oh-my-god-why-am-I-here-with-these-people teenager that everyone has either known or been in their lives. This was monsoon season, one night my parents decided it would be nice to go for a party and we got all dressed up and got into a taxi where they asked the taxi driver to take us to a "disco".
The disco was an expanse of land under a tree, fronted by an ultraviolet-lit shack and once we entered to the sounds of loud electronic music it became very clear to me that this was, in fact, a rave. My parents looked happy enough to get their drinks and settle down on a rock, waving their hands at me and saying, "Go dance!" I threaded my way amongst the other dancers, with glazed eyes and zoned expressions, and even watched one man slip another a small packet of white powder and I recoiled, making my way back to my parents, wishing desperately that we were home.
Of course, that was several years ago now, and since then, I've been to Goa many times, once on one of those budget trips you do when you're young and broke, and later for a few New Year's Eve trips as well. Some of the people I nodded to in the crowd became the tripped out dancers under UV lights, and I laughed at myself at sixteen, feeling sophisticated.
But the fact is, that is what sums up Goa for me to this day. I know Goa exists in the months between October and March, but it's sort of hard to imagine a Goa without foreign tourists, without the buzz that surrounds the city in the few "season" months, when all the hotel rooms are full up and you can barely find a secluded spot on a beach.
This article talks about how a women's group in Goa is protesting because the IFFI is serving alcohol at their function, because, "It is shameful that the Goa government is projecting the state as a land where people drink day-long even while working." I can see her point though. Goa is projected as a state where people party all night, take long siestas and bum around on the beach. It's terribly generalized and stereotyped, but when it goes all out during winter to show visitors debauchery-filled revelry, well, you can't blame people for thinking like that. On the other hand, I remember, from my own teenage visits, several churches that I visited, taking a local bus once, taking a ferry ride which served dinner and having an excellent time that didn't involve raves under the stars. It's possible to do other things, but really, the Government of Goa should work on stepping that up a little more.
So, what are your New Year's plans?