Being the tourist party hub that time of the year the north was crazy crowded and buzzing with traffic even at 1 AM. But the highlight of my holiday in Goa were the chain of incidents in the build-up to NYE –
So, on the 31st, me and my friends decided to spend some time chilling in and around Candolim with a late breakfast around 12 noon. Tummy stuffed with good food we walked down the streets in the hope of some shopping off the streets. After a couple of stopovers over even more delectable food, around 7 PM we realized it was about time to head back to Baga and gear up for the evening.
Now ever since coming to Goa we found it rather convenient to ferry ourselves back and forth three on a bike – we avoided and dodged the cops initially only to realize that the cops didn’t care. Also, there were many others who were riding three on a bike!
So then imagine when to our surprise we get stopped by cops for being a trio.
Keys confiscated, we tried to plead with some make-do Konkani-speaking skills. But the cops didn’t budge. While my friend tries to cajole the cops that the only reason we were three on a bike is because two of us don’t know how to ride and that given how fast the streets were filling up with crazy morbid crowd it wasn’t really safe for us to leave one behind (all three of us being girls). I noticed that there was a lady cop seated in the police Qualis. The cops still weren’t relenting and demanded we paid the fine.
Some more pleading from us later they took my friend’s license and asked where we were from and whether we were students. When we explained that we were from Bombay and were working professionals they seemed to ease a lil on us. It also seemed to be helping our cause that we continued speaking some version of Konkani that we could recall (from years of trying not too caught up with the multiple dialects!).
Then we were asked where we worked: one was a counsellor with a school, another an advertising professional and the third (moi) worked with an NGO.
I think our jobs redeemed us a little bit that evening too but not before the cops could give us some more grief for being well qualified and educated people who were breaking the law by riding three on a bike.
At that very instant I could think a hundred other things we could have been breaking the law for… but I pushed those thoughts aside to hear my friend still making a case for us and she finally said that she would take one of us on the bike, drop us at Baga and then come back to get the second one. Interestingly the cops expressed surprise at this suggestion on the grounds that given how the place were fast getting crowded with more and more people would it be a safe to leave one of us behind. At which point we had to repeat out earlier rationale for riding three on a bike in the first place.
So finally they conceded. And we decided that I’d stay behind and wait. While they were gone, the lady cop who hadn’t said anything throughout this time asked me to sit in the Qualis. So I sat at the driver’s seat. She made an attempt to make small talk with me (no, actually it was the other way around) during which I impressed upon her how half my roots are Goan (my maternal side).
She then asked me if I was the one who worked at an NGO to which when I said, “Yes” she turned on the ignition of the Qualis, started up the police mic and handed it to me saying, “Now speak over this and tell people to walk on one side of the road”. When she realized I was taking some time to absorb what she was saying, she asked me which languages I spoke and then directed me to make announcements in Hindi and Marathi.
Partly too shocked to think and partly too surprised to speak, it took me a couple of seconds to find the right words. But it wasn’t until I’d spoken in both the languages and when she herself began to speak in English that the entire gravity of the situation sunk in for me. For it was then that I realized that the cops in Goa had been on duty for the past five days courtesy SunBurn and Supersonic constantly speaking (but mostly screaming) on the microphone as a consequence of which some had even lost their voice (like my friend the lady cop here). I learnt from her that there were in all strength of the police force in Goa was around 3000 but the traffic police who were manning the state were only around 500 in number. So then I took over to making announcements in English as well.
I had not only begun to enjoy this new found fame/power but was also witnessing the road clear up a little every time I’d go up on air!
Most amusing was the reaction of some of the male cops who came running to the Qualis after I spoke the first time only to verify the language I’d spoken in. Evidently my Hindi was so much different than the Hindi the cops in Goa had been speaking. So amused was he that I overheard him ask the lady cop if I could speak in Kannada, Gujarati and god knows what else. I couldn’t help but feel a little flattered!
I was still reeling under what had really transpired during the past 15-20 minutes when I was asked to make one last announcement because some senior cop happened to be passing that road around the same time. When I narrated the happenings to my friend after she got back, we had a hearty laugh because they apparently had gone down the wrong road and had to take a U-turn during which time they heard a ‘woman’s voice over an intercom’ and couldn’t fathom how in the world had the Goa police managed to find someone with a clear voice!
Our cacophonous laughter was short-lived because no sooner did we reach Baga we realized that the rest of our group would take at least another hour courtesy traffic to get to where we were and that there was no shortage of random icky men walking up to us to get access to couple entries for NYE.
However we were a little fortunate to find a shack on the beach that could to the extent possible shield us away from the barrage of men all over the place. Above all of that I think it was the evening when my friends and I found our faith restored in humanity (or whatever is left of it) in the form of the staff at the shack who went out of their way to ensure that there was an end of the random men walking up to us even at our table – they not only urged those men to back off but constantly checked in on us to ensure we were doing okay. Not too later we had a four legged friend for company who decided that ours was the table he’d sit at and would stand up on all fours when any man approached us.
When at last the rest of our friends did arrive and locate us, we called for our bill and the staff asked us whether we were leaving because we were feeling uncomfortable – to which our response was a clear no.
This incident is going to stay with me for a real long time. Things could’ve gone either way. But the fact that a general sense of goodwill still exists and manifests itself is all the reassurance one needs – whether a solo female traveller, a female traveller or just travellers in general.