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   My best visit to Goa was my very first..... (December 20, 1985)

My best visit to Goa was my very first. It was the only time I went by sea and the ship was an old Scindia Steam Navigation boat, about to be withdrawn from service.

I travelled in the cabin class (courtesy Mr. Choksi of Scindias) and it was all little grand. Two officials of Scindias came to the port to see me off, introduced me to the captain instructed the steward to see that all my requirement were met.

As ships go, it was a small boat, a remnant from the era of ocean voyages. There were about a half dozen cabins on the deck and cane chairs in front of them. As Bombay's shoreline desppeared in the mist, we sat in the cane chairs and one of the passengers, who was returning home from East Africa, arranged with the steward for a bottle of coconut feni.

The other passengers, besides us, were an army officer and his wife and a fingerprint expert from Pune, who was to desembark at one of the ports along the Konkan coast for a murder investigation. Underneath us, in the hold were the deck passengers with their trunks, mattresses, guitars.

All through the day we could see the coastline in the filtered sunlight and the sea kept changing colours, now a deep blue, now grey, now almost white and opaque. The steward brought a neatly typed lunch menu, which included, among other things lamb stew with brown potatoes. Goa fish curry and rice and Victoria pudding. And with the lunch, there was a basket of bananas.

In the evening, we reached a port of call an old fort in the distance, the sun setting behind it. Little boats came out to take the passengers and their luggage in among them the fingerprint expert form Pune.

There was another port late in the night, a glimmer of warm lights, a pair of lights moving, which somebody identified as those of a ST bus.

I slept rather well that night the vibrations of the ship's engine and the creaking and complaining of the old boat. And there was always the presence of the sea that I could both feel and hear.

And, by the time I got up in the morning it was already on the Mandovi, streaming towards home. Goa was on both sides of the river green and palm fringed and spotted with old Portuguese ruins.

From the deck I saw the approach of Panjim (it was still Panjim then), the quayside with relatives, porters, taxi drivers, the white Palace, the secretariat of the present government.

Down below, among the deck passengers, there was considerable excitement. After all, they had reached home, we had only come on a visit.

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