The other side of India

Falling asleep and waking to the sound of the sea is one of those pleasures a girl from the prairies will never tire of. Home for the past two weeks has been a tiny thatched hut perched a few meters from where the rolling waves crash into the rocky shore of Arambol Beach. An Arabain Seaside fishing village in North Goa with a long hippie history, Arambol brings an eclectic merging of bohemians from all corners of the world in a uniquely untraditional part of India. Where it lacks in the postcard picturesque crescent white sands of the South, it compensates for in eclectic charm, communal energy, and the beauty of the rocky cliffs that cradle the coves of its rugged beaches. Thatched bamboo huts weave the coastline alongside shanty cafes serving fish curries and banana lassies. After sunset, hundreds of tea lights blanket the beaches in a sea of soft yellow light.

Capital of the historic Portuguese Empire of the East, Goa holds a completely unique identity and culture. White chapels dot the rolling green landscape, outnumbering the mosques, temples, and Gurdwaras that dominate the rest of the country. The capital Panjim is more reminiscent of Latin America than India, with immaculate cathedrals, promenades, and fountained plazas blanketing the port city. Portuguese-style bungalow mansions with wrought-iron balconies, shady front pillared porches, oyster-shell windows, and inner courtyards sit as relics of a colonial past, lining the wide streets with varying degrees of dilapidation and splendour. Yet somehow India always reclaims herself, despite historical and growing contemporary influence, retaining her charm and remaining ever the same.

While much of Indian culture retains the British sense of class and rigidity, Goa hosts a liberatingly laidback nature. Outdated ideas of caste, colour, creed, religion are left behind and love marriages free from such historical constraints are commonplace. It’s a melting pot of ex-patriots living a simpler life alongside Indians from across the nation who come to work in Goa’s strong and growing economy.

It’s easy to forget what time of year it is while in India, where you’re removed from seasonal contexts and holiday landmarks navigating the familiar transition from summer’s warm breezes and everlasting light to winter’s frosty mornings and short, crisp days. Arriving in Goa, though even further removed from the seasonal reminders of Northern India, brings with it a nostalgic taste of December at home, with white sand, tanned bodies, and steel drums replacing snow, parkas, and jingle bells in a very reasonable trade off. Perhaps it’s the white chapels and holiday twinkle lights, or the joyful attitude of carefree tourists sipping beer and cocktails before nightfall that make me think of the holidays. Cardamom infused coffee, masala chai, and cinnamon porridge don’t seem far off from Christmas time at home, bringing me a nostalgia for a snow blanketed prairie and my mom’s baking- two things that make even the idea of leaving paradise a little sweeter. For no matter where you travel and how far you fall in love, the old cliché rings true- there’s no place like home.