In a quest for the best deals on camera gear, Prasad had directed us the hub of Goa, its capital and largest town, Panjii. Being the bustling metropolis that it was, there were no end of places to score great deals on gear at half the price of anywhere else. Getting there proved a bit tricky, but with the help of our favourite taxi hire, Raj, anything was possible. Raj was always great at pointing out obscure but amazing shops that were sought after by the most discerning of tastes. This rarely applied to us, but it always made for interesting conversation in the car. And he always knew the shortcuts.
On the map, it seemed simple enough, take the main road, cross the bridge, arrive in Panjii. No, no, bridge is too busy. We take the ferry, sir. Alrighty, the ferry it was. Winding around hairpin turns through villas resembling a run-down version of Europe, Raj deftly navigated us to the ferry. We were the only car to board, surrounded by an unseeming hoard of people, pressing in on all sides until there was literally no more room on the rusting flat-decked vessel. By the time the boat was under way, Cyrus had a look of sheer panic of his face. Bodies were pressed right up against the window, and as far as we could tell, Caucasians seemingly never took this shortcut. Each and every face seemed pressed up against the windows for a better look at the curiosity that is Homo Tourista.
Panjii was everything we expected it to be, and nothing like we had imagined. It was simultaneously beautiful and benign. Lots of glitter, and no substance. Raj took us to the downtown market district, and we asked him to return in a few hours. The main market was completely hidden from view. Entry was gained via an inconspicuous crumbling doorway, but the wonders contained therein! Fresh meat, veggies, and a flower market that spanned half the giant building. Flowers: 1. Camera gear: 0. We did manage to find some new shoes for the kids, and Violet, bless her soul, found a mangy cat with one empty eye socket who was more than willing to receive her ministrations. She will be a vet someday, mark my words.
We did find a camera store in the downtown area that had some prized gear at great prices, so with some time to spare, we decided to check out the upscale clothing and toy stores opposite the market. I became market-ed out, so I decided to hang out on the street corner to soak in the sights. I was not disappointed.
A man approached me, walking right up to me, looking me in the eye the whole time, and started ranting on in Hindi. Which would be fine, except he was covered in blood, and had gashes all over his face and arms. “Do you need a doctor?” I asked in my calmest voice. By this time, Theresa and the kids had come out of the shop, and with one look at the man, returned from whence they came. The man kept yelling in Hindi, gesticulating and giving me a glaring eye as though I had something to do with his misfortunes. By now, a small crowd was starting to gather. What was he saying? Was he asking for money, for help, for a miracle? Sure, I was wearing my hair long, but other than my Reiki training, I am not capable of laying on of hands, and there was no way I was going to lay my hands on this fellow.
My obvious bewilderment at the situation at least gave the gathering mob the impression that whatever had happened to the man, I was not responsible. Perhaps he was looking to provoke me, hoping that it would give him reason to accost me, or demand something of me. Despite the fear that creeping up within me, I did my best to appear calm and confident. I was also expecting the worst, and would not have been surprised if he had pulled a weapon on me, or if a van had suddenly pulled up, armed thugs jumping out to drag me away to some torture dungeon. Obviously I’ve watched too many foreign spy movies, and I was spared being dragged into some international plot to overthrow the government of India.
Someone was finally brave enough to start talking to the man, and led him away, all the while muttering and gesturing toward me. The crowd began to dissipate, and Theresa and the kids finally felt comfortable enough to leave the safety of the store they had been hiding in, and I was left feeling bewildered and somewhat in shock. What had happened, I’ll never know. But the ferry ride home seemed much calmer by comparison.