November 25, 2008

Riverside in Panjim

Spanning time as much with their longevity as they do the road between the Secretariat and Miramar with their lush canopy, the Rain trees that line the Dayanand Bandodkar Marg make traveling along the riverfront one of the highlights on entering the city of Panaji on the West Coast of India. Panaji is the capital of Goa. I have walked the promenade along the Mandovi often, taking in river ferries as they make lazy crossings between Panjim jetty and Betim that lies across the river in the direction of Mapusa.

It is not uncommon to find large barges ferrying iron ore from open cast mines to loading points downstream of the river where it meets the Arabian Sea. Sometimes I have paused to watch the evening Sun glint off the river. From the road snatches of water rippling gently are visible through the balustrade that fences off the promenade from the river, and every once in a while tourists visiting Panjim walk along the promenade and take in views of the Mandovi. The locals mostly hurry past. Many Government offices are located along the stretch to the other side of the road.

Occasionally a lonely soul or two can be found perched on the riverfront parapet gazing into the distance. I have found expanses of water inviting such gazing, as if in the stillness that flatness of any kind induces there is to be found an evenness to steady the turbulence within. Not all who come here do so to gaze at the Mandovi lapping the promenade. Couples whiling away time can be seen sitting on cement benches lining the promenade, their attention divided between their companionship and the placid waters. Lamps punctuate the line of benches. As the Sun goes down they soothe the stretch with a familial glow bringing comfort to wandering souls far away from home.

Early this month I passed the Military Headquarters HQ 2 Signal Training Centre on D. B. Marg, casting a quick glance at the arched porch centered in the facade before crossing the road to the promenade. I had time on my hands as I made my way along the river. In the far distance spans of the bridge over the Mandovi connecting Panaji to Mapusa were visible. The Portuguese had based their military headquarters in this building before they were driven out by the Indian Army, ending their centuries’ old occupation of Goa. The Portuguese Generals must have enjoyed a quiet evening view of the Mandovi in happier times.

Casting my eye into the distance I noticed a lone figure wielding a net attached to the end of a long bamboo pole peer intently into the waters. In the backdrop lay a large floating casino, almost obscuring a stretch of the river. Casinos have been brought in to cater to affluent western tourists, beating back local protests fighting the spread of casino culture in the tiny state.

He waded into the waters, the large pole balanced against the back of his neck, the net attached to one end of the pole. A few of his friends sat on the parapet talking even as they kept an eye on him. On the face of it they appeared to be regulars at this time of the day, most probably workers at the end of their working day come looking for some banter and a catch to take home for dinner.

The fisherman lowered the net in the river and in a sweeping movement traced an arc in the waters. Lifting the net out of the water he checked it for catch. There was none.

He waded further out until his knees were well under the water. There he lowered the net again and in a sweeping movement he traced an arc from left to right, only pausing on facing resistance to the sweep. Apparently the net had snagged on some debris in the water that he couldn’t quite see. He took a few steps further out to avoid the obstruction before lowering the net again. This time the sweep yielded a catch. Cheers went up on the parapet where his friends sat following his progress. By now his effort had attracted a few passers-by as well.

The catch was by no means large but the bulge in the net as he lifted it out of the water indicated a catch worthy of a dinner for two, sufficient enough to satisfy a few minutes of exertion on an evening stroll with friends. He had landed Prawns (Sungto in Konkani, the local language).

The Sun licked the length of the promenade golden, casting shadows that loped along as people walked its length. Across the road to my right lay the Institute Menezes Braganca. Adjoining it was the Police Headquarters, formerly known as the Quartel da Policia do Estado da India, established during the rule of Dom Manoel de Portugal e Castro in the late 1920s during the erstwhile Portuguese regime.

Now that he had his catch I waited for the fisherman to make his way back to the promenade. I expected him to empty his catch before heading out again. Instead I saw him hesitate and look closely at the spot where his sweep had encountered resistance in the water. A few moments later he beckoned one of his friends sitting on the parapet to where he stood and passed him the long pole, the fishing net weighed down by the catch at one end.

Then he stepped back into the water and felt the spot with his hands until he located the obstruction. Standing there, my elbows on the parapet, I had a feeling he knew what the obstruction was. Soon enough I saw a tyre emerge from the waters as he rolled it upright. There was no knowing how long it had lain in the waters before he had found it that evening. Fishermen are known to leave tyres in the shallow of rivers.

He ran his hand along the inside of the tyre, searching no doubt for crabs that seek shelter in such opportunities. Sure enough he found one crab. Excited cheers went up on the parapet as he extricated the reluctant crab from its home before heading back to where his friends sat.

One of them expertly emptied the young prawns on a piece of cardboard box, picking off stragglers left behind in the net. The prawns shone silver in the evening light, catching the Sun as they wriggled desperately, surprised by the unfamiliarity of their situation.

In contrast the crab seemed resigned to its fate, barely moving as one of the men held it firm under his thumb as I took its picture.

Behind me the river showed no trace of the little drama it had just witnessed. Like with other instances before this moment too passed into history no sooner it had taken place, swallowed by the stillness of the waters.

I walk down the promenade in the direction of the Panaji Ferry point that connects ferry passengers to Betim on the other side of the river. A Cross abuts the promenade near the Ferry point. Resting in the shade of sloping sheets it reminds passing people of passengers who died in an accident on the river when the ferry they were traveling in capsized some years ago. The Cross was built in their memory by locals living nearby.

A man stops by to ask a bicycle-borne ice cream vendor for directions about town as I make my way past them to where local buses headed for the Kadamba bus-stand halt for passengers. The days are short and the shadows lengthen quickly. I can see the Mandovi hotel from the promenade. The traffic on the road is light. I turn to see if any buses are headed my way.

Soon enough a mini-bus comes to a halt by the promenade and even as I release the shutter I make a run for the white and blue bus, the conductor waiting at the door. Barely have I made it up the landing and the bus lurches forward and we are on our way.


ugich konitari said...

Your insightful pictures and the commentary brought back so many memories from my trip to Goa 2 years ago. I love the way you write about the river as if it has a character, playing its stabilizing part in the turbulent human drama around it. I have a friend who lives in some white flats just where the Mandovi meets the sea, and I kept searching your photos for that area. I guess you were out further eastwards. ....

indicaspecies said...

I like your style of narration, and your photographs complement the text.

bobbie said...

As always, I enjoyed your post very much. The promenade looks lovely. It struck me that the Military HQ building has a very military appearance, like a uniform with buttons and stripes. Is that just my imagination? I particularly enjoyed the story of the fisherman. I have occasionally watched a fisherman in nearby waters using a net. Not one on a stick, but casting out a large, loose net, while standing on the shore.

pink dogwood said...

thanks for stopping by my blog - I love this

Behind me the river showed no trace of the little drama it had just witnessed. Like with other instances before this moment too passed into history no sooner it had taken place, swallowed by the stillness of the waters.

you take great pictures and I really like the way you write :)

Rambling Woods said...

You have a gift in your writing and the photos go perfectly as I felt I was there with you...

marja-leena said...

Lovely writing and photos to take me away to another world for a few moments.

~vagabond~ said...

Your photos reminded me of my visit to Panjim years ago. And your writing captures the ambience of the place really well. I've only ever been there once in my life but I love Goa.

Tessa said...

Lyrical and evocative - so beautifully observed and written. Thank you so much for sharing the sights and smells and sounds of your walk along the promenade. Yours is the kind of writing which makes one want to stay up all night reading.

Anil P said...

Ugich Konitari: Thanks. Having traversed the river the number of times I have it has come to acquire a living character in my conciousness.

Rivers breathe as much for the activity that goes on on their banks as for the travelers leaving their wake behind as they make their way across.

I think you might be referring to Miramar, Tonca, or Caranzalem, most probably.

Indicaspecies: Thank you :)

Bobbie: It's a pleasure to have you share my journeys. Thank you.

Now that you mention it I must say it does indeed look very military, stripes et al. The stripes might be incidental since several designs, though not necessarily of the same colour combination, reflect such pairing around Goa, the red does indeed contrast with the stripes in a very military like way.

Pink Dogwood: Thank you. It's a pleasure to know you liked the writing more so because I can draw satisfaction from knowing I could bring the riverside alive and hence pay it the tribute it deserves.

Rambling Woods: Thank you :)

Marja-leena: Thank you. It's indeed a pleasure to know it.

Vagabond: Thanks. The difference in landscape can fix memories in ways that few others can.

Tessa: Thank you. It's indeed a pleasure to know, and incredibly satisfying to learn, that the walk along the promenade came alive in the narration.

Thank you.

kenju said...

I always enjoy your photos, especially since I am certain to never see India.

bindu said...

There's deep contemplation in your writing. My favourite aunt used to live in Goa. She and my uncle are no more, but I cherish my only visit to see them, when I had a blast with my cousins. One of them still lives there, and I need to visit again some time. It will be happy and sad.

Jeanne said...

Beautiful pictures and words documenting. The waterfront benches look like a nice restful place and the facade of the Military Headquarters seem at odds with the 'residents'. I think I most enjoyed the pictures of the fishermen and the sucess they found in getting their meal.
Returning your comment: yes working with my hands scrapbooking is definitely theraputic. Working digitally just wouldn't have the same feel physically or mentally.

Anil P said...

Kenju: Thank you. Hopefully you'll visit India sometime. The months between November and January are ideal, more so if you're visiting the West Coast of India. Up North it can be cold at the ime.

Bindu: Thanks. I suppose rivers, and seas do induce a certain contemplation, at times :) Sad to hear they're no more. It must have been wonderful to be visiting them. Did they live in Panjim?

If you make it to Panjim, then the waterfront is a nice place to stroll in the evenings.

Jeanne: Thank you. It was almost like they brought a net along on an evening stroll just in case, and lo they landed a catch.

I thought so. Working with hands can be more satisfying. There's something elemental to the whole process.

kcinnova said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog, and for giving me the opportunity to see into your world. The combination of your photography and your prose makes your blog a delightful stop in my evening journeys tonight.

Lori ann said...

Anil P, I can think of nowhere else I'd rather be right this minute than walking along the Mandovi. You have painted a complete picture of what it's like and taken us along. Thank you for sharing this. I do hope to get to India...someday...

Mridula said...

Wonderful post Anil, as usual. It has been ages since I went anywhere near sea but we might set it right this December.

ugich konitari said...

Oh, Anil P, the flats I was looking for in your picture, are in Betim , and there is a restored cross there on the bank between the building and the river, and my true blue Goan friend who lives there, was and is a part of many such monument restoration things in Goa....

Ruth said...

Thank you for sharing your peaceful evening along the river. Lovely story and pictures.

Ravi Kumar said...

Hey ALok. tell me one thing. How do u have so much imagination. I mean do you travel alone. Imean the insight that you have for any place would come only with deep concentration. I have moved across river Mandovi so many times, but the perception you bring is so different.

Anil P said...

Kcinnova: Thank you :)

Lori Ann: Thanks. Most walks along rivers make for memorable memories. You're welcome. It's a pleasure to share this story with you

Mridula: Thank you. It's about as good a time as any to be visiting the West Coast.

Ugich Konitari: Betim is on the other side of the river. Maybe some time later I might cover that area.

Ruth: Thank you.

Ravi Kumar: It's difficult to say how. Maybe if one lets experiences wash over oneself then there's just a chance they'll stick to the skin sufficiently strongly to be able to wear it on trips and live it for the moment. It just happens.

Thank you.

Coffee Messiah said...

Beautiful entry and photos.

Too bad about the casino ; (

Thanks for letting us come along.


Deborah Godin said...

I came here from the link at Bobbie's blog Almost There. I want to expreses my deep sympathy for your city and country over the recent attacks, and the ongoing difficulty. I am glad to hear you are safe, but know that many are not, and will continue to hold you all in my thoughts and prayers.

Lakshmi said...

your narration is a perfect flow in itself..I feel like im part of the river too..Just went to goa too..but behaved like a perfect tourist for a change ..responsible one though !

indicaspecies said...

Hello Anil,

Just a few words to wish you, your loved ones and the fellow citizens safety and well being in this time of crisis. I too shall be in Mumbai in a few days!

Anil P said...

Coffee Messiah: Thank you. You're most welcome.

Deborah Godin: Thank you. I deeply appreciate your concern for my fellow city dwellers, and the strength your thoughts give us in tiding over the carnage.

It's encouraging and inspiring to have fellow citizens of the world share in the grief of the atrocity, as well as the hope that we will emerge from this, renewed and stronger.

Thank you. And thanks to Bobbie for her prayers for the city of Mumbai. Hopefully we will emerge stronger from this.

Lakshmi: Thank you. There's a flow to Goa, for sure. However I'm not sure if it the river that imparts Goa the flow or the other way round.

Anil P said...

Indicaspecies: Thank you for your concern, and your wishes. Do take care.

Sarah Laurence said...

Anil, these riverside photos of Panjim are so tranquil, especially compared to the recent images I’ve seen of India. I’m so sorry to hear about the terrorist attack. How horrible! This is too much after all the flooding and famine earlier this year. My thoughts have been with you. I like to think that you are finding solace by the water.

Le Cheval Endiablé said...

Very interesting post !
I didn't think one could take crabs with tyres.
Your pictures are very beautiful.

kenju said...

Anil, I am praying for your continued safety and peace in your country.

gel said...

Thank you for sharing your journey so perceptively. I've never visited India. I feel like I'm seeing it through your eyes plus learning so much.

I enjoy your writing style. It's full of colour instead of merely the dry narrrative.

Kelly said...


I just wanted you to know that I have been worrying about you, your family and friends. I hope you are safe and that all this turmoil ends quickly!!!

I know that you know how much I enjoy all of your posts, but at this time, I'm more concerned with your well-being, so please let us know how things are going for you!!!! Peace to You my friend!

Lori ann said...

Anil, I am also praying for your country.Stay safe.
x lori

Anil P said...

Sarah Laurence: Thank you. They are indeed tranquil, a world away from Bombay since the time the terrorists struck. Thank you for the support. These are difficult times.

Le Cheval Endiable: Thank you. Since he searched the inside of the tyre I suspect this was not the first time he found a crab in a tyre.

Kenju: Thank you. I'm doing fine. It is hopefully ending today.

Gel: Thank you. It's indeed a great pleasure to be able to share my travels around India with you.

India lives in the many subtleties that invariably come into play in its diversities.

Kelly: Thank you very much for your support and empathy, for it is encouraging to know the country is not alone in its time of tragedy, and it can draw solace from knowing it can count on fellow humanity in its time of need.

Thank you, Kelly, for the support and your concern for my fellow countrymen.

Lori Ann: Thank you for yourconcern and prayers, and support. Thanks.

david mcmahon said...

G'day Anil,

I was born and educated in India, so Goa is VERY familiar territory and you've described it beautifully.

I see you are from Mumbai, a city I know very well. I hope you and your family have not been touched by the recent events.

Dianne said...

I came here from Bobbie at 'Almost There' and then realized I know you from comments you have so kindly left.

It is a small world and I wish, right now, that I could make it smaller and safer for all.

My thoughts are with your country and you.


Denise said...

I am keeping you and all the people in Mumbai in my thoughts tonight. I am so very sorry for all that is going on right now and hope it will be resolved quickly so that you can all feel safe once more. My deepest sympathy for all who have lost their family and friends, and for those who have been injured.

karen said...

Thinking of all in Mumbai, and hoping so much that recovery and hope can come soon after these senseless attacks...

Anil P said...

David McMohan: Thank you, David, for the concern. The atrocity has affected many an innocent life. Hopefully the city will emerge stronger in the aftermath.

Dianne: Thank you for the support. It's heartening, and encouraging to learn of the compassion and solidarity with my country in this hour of sorrow.

Denise: This morning it was resolved with the last of the terrorists gunned down by the security forces. In many ways I believe this is the beginning in more ways than one, especially that related to recovery.

Thank you for the support and the solidarity.

Karen: Thank you, Karen, for your support and empathy with my fellow countrymen.

raj said...

thank you for visiting my blog!
:) you should try out the recipes and let me know!!!!
i am SO jealous! you live in goa!

Kelly said...


You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers! Thank goodness the last of the terrorists is gone and peace can resume quickly! Please take care and keep us updated!

Peace be with you all!!


Namrata B said...

thanks for visiting my blog, i love your posts, photos, descriptions... lovely. i really felt like i was there.

please sir said...

Wow...lovely photos!

Anil P said...

Kelly: Thank you very much for your concern. Things have blown over. The city is beginning to pick up the pieces.

Namrata B: Thank you. It's indeed a pleasure to learn you enjoyed reading the posts.

Please Sir: Thank you.

pink dogwood said...

I was just thinking that I haven't seen any new post from you. Came to write to ask how you were doing and found from all the comments that you are ok. My mother in law, Bua and some cousins live in Mumbai as well and we can't believe the horror that all had to go through.

Wishing you peace.

Lucy said...

'I have found expanses of water inviting such gazing, as if in the stillness that flatness of any kind induces there is to be found an evenness to steady the turbulence within.' Wonderful, and true.

I love the colours of the fisherman and his net, like a kingfisher.

Glad you are OK and not directly affected by the outrages, best wishes.

Which main? What cross? said...

Wonderful. I have been here several times and you have brought alive those moments through your words and pictures shot in that wonderful, golden light.

Cuckoo said...

Your narration always compete with your pictures and both are wonderful.

Reminds me of my visit there. Felt so much at home. :)

Anil P said...

Pink Dogwood: I'll be posting one soon. Thanks for the concern. I'm doing fine. I can well imagine how they must feel to have seen this through. After a time it can wear one down.

Lucy: Thank you. Yes, very much like the kingfisher :)

Thanks for the wishes. It was a nightmare no doubt.

Which Main? Which Cross: Thank you. Yes, the light was a golden promise of an evening.

Cuckoo: Thank you. I agree. Reading about a place one has visited and meandered along is like being returned home.

gel said...

Hi Anil,

I'm so glad the man did make a catch for dinner. I wish it had been more.
Your writing is so interesting. I think I said this when I visited your blog before, but if not, it's worth repeating: Your personal opinions pepper your narrative style in a friendly fashion, making reading this not dry, but inviting. Your photos are sharp. Do you write for a travel magazine?

Shillu said...

I love your pics & your writing style!! I love any kind of water bodies.

Anil P said...

Gel: I believe he needed to wade in to get his dinner, and was happy to land what he did. I'm not sure if he went in again for more after I left the place.

It's very satisfying to learn you enjoy my posts on India. Thanks for saying so for it is very encouraging to have someone tell you that :)

Travel magazines, and travel sections of newspapers have published several of the posts appearing on the blog after first reading them here.

Shillu: Thank you :)

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful photos. I just love the warm light you have captured.

N said...

Its everywhere. Its like some higher power wants me to visit. Goa i mean. everywhere i go, everywhere i look there is a mention of it.

one of my fav things to do there is to watch. watch people. watch life. somehow that place allows you to just watch. no rushing anywhere. i remember hiding my cell phone in my bag and not looking at it once during my last trip there. time soon to do that again.

Judy said...

I enjoyed this post very much and my trip down the promenade with you. Everything is so colorful. I have always loved looking at water, watching the rippling effect, and waves. My children used to love to "skip" rocks in the water. I used to do a lot of fishing when I was younger and many times have caught my dinner, too.

Anil P said...

Elizabeth: Thank you.

N: Goa does allow one to meander. I suppose it helps to see Goans meander themselves else it would have come across as a busy place.

The 'local pace' is what characterizes a place.

Judy: Thank you. 'Skipping' rocks in the water is something I did lots. As kids we would compete to see who could achieve maximum 'skips' along the surface of the water, each scouring for stones that would best serve our purpose.