Joanna Lester-George

May, Mangoes and Men in Pants

KOKOindia the Travel Company | May 30th, 2019

123rf mango shot

May in Goa! The tourist season has come to an end in the sleepy south, and all around us villages are busy making preparations for the epic monsoon weather that’s coming our way. From my veranda, I can hear the cracking and splitting of firewood as logs are being stockpiled, the squealing chatter of happy kids enjoying their last days of freedom as the summer holidays draw to a close, and of course the dogs – overheated and feral in the humidity - chasing poor cows galloping up the street. Every front yard on our street has colourfully endless rows of red chillies, tiny silvery fish and coconut husks drying out in the sunshine, all ready to be transferred to little pantry outhouses already covered in swathes of blue plastic.

Every morning when I get up holds the promise of blue skies and a gloriously sunny day, or the possibility of ominously dark clouds that threaten early rain. And its damn hot! The chai shop is filled with locals muttering about the humidity over tea and banana bread, and my friends’ hairstyles are definitely becoming more bouffant. (Much to my amusement.)

The ‘pop up’ beaches in south Goa – where every restaurant and resort is just a temporary structure during the tourist season - are slowly returning to their natural state. The palm groves seem to take a great leap forward together en masse once the shacks are taken down, and the sweeping curve of the bays look gorgeously uncluttered. You can take an early morning walk for miles on some of the quieter beaches and rarely encounter another soul. Truly a tropical, if extremely humid, paradise.

It’s been a week or so since the last of the beach staff abandoned their cricket bats and boarded their trains home to Nepal or the mountains of Himmachal Pradesh - and only a smattering of Gap Year Kids now remain on the beach to top up their tans before heading home to face a different reality. My local beach road is now devoid of pretty much all shops -their frontages boarded up with old Bollywood posters, bits of plywood and tatty plastic. No longer does a sea of yoginis parade up and down the beach strip in fluorescent leggings; no longer is it possible to buy a Shiva bedspread or a gaudy Ganesh t-shirt – well, not until November at least, when the whole tourist town pops right back up again as if nothing had ever happened.

The departure of the tourist hordes chimes well with the Indian school holidays that take place in April and May to escape the brain wilting heat. It can be a heart lifting experience to visit the all-year-round iconic beach of Palolem, and see local families picnicking on the beach and revelling in the ocean breeze. The cultural dichotomy in India, however, is never more striking than when you see the ladies splashing about in the shallows with their colourful saris billowing up around them, whilst the foreigners pose on the sand for Instagram shots in their itsy bitsy teeny bikinis.

The weekend in Palolem brings its own kind of holidaymakers - Domestic Visitors i.e ‘from outside,’ and which these days happily includes lots of families, as well as the cool crowds from Bangalore and Mumbai. There are still the ubiquitous coachloads of Indian men of course – flocking from neighbouring states to descend on the beach for their first unforgettable glimpse of the sea, and to enjoy beach strolls with their buddies whilst taking a million selfies along the way. To say these dudes are giddy with excitement, as well as Kingfisher Beers, would be an understatement. However, if you can get past the sight of big men in little pants (think speedos with less support) frolicking in the surf, you too may share in the exuberance of seeing grown men wrestle each other in the Indian Ocean.

One of the best things about May is that Mango Season is finally upon us , with a kilo of local mangoes currently costing just Rs 100 (a little over a British pound.) At this time of year, my mango addiction ratchets up to around six kilos per week. When I drive my son to school on our now unimaginably dusty scooter, we constantly have to dodge the over ripened fruit thudding from the trees - or the monkeys springing out of nowhere to grab them. For the next few weeks, all the children in south Goa will have permanently orange chins.

In fact, everything everywhere feels ripe and luscious and juicy. I can see the jack fruit growing on our village lane literally swelling before my eyes. Even the animals can sense the seasonal change – disturbed from my sleep last night by the sound of heavy crashing and scuffling outside my window, I was confronted by the sight of two enormous cows ‘making love.’ I am now bracing myself for the soundtrack of more amorous liaisons between neighbouring farmyard animals. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the buffaloes very much …