IffiRedCarpetMumbai’s hustle bustle and busy life can build up tense nerves that may make one feel like exploding any moment. Indeed Mumbaikars (citizens of Mumbai) have got use to it by now, but still we all are imperfect human beings constantly struggling to create balance and move on with life. To detox one’s nerves, the heart longs for an urgent getaway from the crowd, noise and the chaos in a megalopolis like Mumbai. If one is fortunate to get a long weekend break, especially during the months from November- February, Goa is a favourite destination to loosen oneself. Situated approximately 604 Km South of Mumbai, the State of Goa is a popular tourist destination among both, Indian and international travellers.

Last weekend I got an opportunity to break away from the daily grind of Mumbai and experience the fun that Goa has to offer. The prime reason for my visit was to attend the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which was held from 20th to 30th November’2014 in its capital city -Panjim.

A last minute online booking through www.redbus.in confirmed my berth on an air-conditioned sleeper bus coach that I boarded at night. As the bus cut through Mumbai’s traffic, I could feel the pleasure of being temporarily withdrawn from all crazy tabs Mumbai is known for. After a good night sleep, an early morning hot cuppa of tea on the Mumbai-Goa highway is such a refreshing feeling! My fellow travellers in the bus were a mix lot. Some were first time travellers to Goa, few were backpackers from foreign lands and a couple of honeymooners and a group of college students seemed all set to explore their respective adventures in Goa.

IFFI is an annual event which I have been attending for the past four consecutive years. Due to my work & personal commitments here in Mumbai, this year I could not catch up for all 10 days. But I had aimed to make the best of the last two days that were still remaining of the event. As I reached the venue at noon, I could naturally feel the electrifying mood of the film festival that surrounded me.

More than 150 films from 70 countries were screened at the film festival over a span of 10 days! The total prize amount of the films screened in the competition section was 2,000,00 USD, which was officially sponsored by the Govt. of India. Here’s more about the film festival: http://www.iffi.nic.in/

The event is hosted at INOX theatre, Kala Academy and Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), that faces the Mandovi river on Panjim’s market road. During IFFI the promenade comes alive at night with food stalls, music and artistic displays which attract maximum crowd. The theatre and its surrounding area glitters with beautiful light decorations and the mood that results is mesmerizing and enthusiastic. Even a dead man would rise from his grave and dance on the beats of party music that plays throughout the evening! For a ‘world cinema’ lover like me, IFFI is a dream come true.

During festival times, it is advisable to hire a bike during one’s stay in Panjim as commuting via autorikshaw and bike taxi can be a costly matter. Rs 500 and original copy of PAN card or Voting card/Passport has to be deposited with the bike hiring agency. Per day charges of renting a bike is Rs 300 on weekdays and Rs. 350 on weekends. Private mini buses do ply from main KTC bus stand to various nearby destinations, but its frequency diminishes after 8pm. For two days, between film shows, I had a gala time commuting on a hired scooter as I zoomed through every nook and corner of Panjim city. Due to my frequent commuting on the ‘18th June road’, Dayanand Bandodkar road, Market road, Mandovi bridge and KTC bus stand road, I almost started feeling like a local Goan (citizen of Goa) riding through the narrow lanes of Panjim!

Between shows, it was nice to meet old friends and teammates from past media projects who bumped in and around the film festival venue. The festival concluded with the screening of its closing- ‘The Grandmaster’ (Chinese film). Like all good things come to an end, so did the film festival.

Since the past three annual IFFI visit, I have been home-staying at Mrs. Seema & Mr. Raghuveer Mashelkar’s home at Miramar near Panjim city. They are a wonderful couple, full of life and enthusiasm. Over the years, IFFI has also acted as a catalyst to strengthen the personal bond that I share with them. It’s a delight to hear the Konkani language (Official language of Goa) when Mrs Seema Mashelkar and her family converse among themselves. I find the language graceful and so very similar to my own mother tongue Marathi. The Portuguese colonial rule over Goa from 1548 till 1961 reflects in the Konkani language, as it sounds like an amalgamation of Marathi and Portuguese spoken with a cute unique accent of its own. Here is a link to how Konkani sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQKA-urq1mw

After the festival I still had one more day at hand to explore Goa. As planned, I hired a car and set out to explore the outskirts of Panjim. Basic car hire rentals start from Rs 900 per day for a small car, after depositing Rs 1000 and original copy of PAN card or voting card/Passport with the agency. It was amazing to drive on the NH-17 (National Highway No.17) as I visited a town named Mhapsa, a beach named Anjuna and the temple of Goddess Santeri. All the places I drove to are around 15-30 kilometres in radius from Panjim city. I also passed Old Goa to remotely offer my spiritual tribute to Goa’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier. The decennial exposition of the sacred relics of the saint is put up from 22nd November 2014 to 4th January 2015 which is expected to draw 5 lakh tourists from all over the world! For more on this the exposition: http://sfxexposition2014.com/

I was intrigued by the aura of Anjuna beach and the village around it. Foreign nationals from Germany, England, France, Switzerland, Israel, Afghanistan, U.S.A, China and other nations are seen comfortably mingling along with the locals, thus giving it a ‘global village’ status. Most of the foreign tourists here are backpackers, hitch hikers or planned travellers, who come in search of a place to relax and reflect. Boards of Yoga classes, Ayurvedic massage centres, holistic healing classes are seen as one drives on the road that leads to the beach. The sales girls at the local shops at Anjuna know the art to pitch their products to their non-Indian visitors. I was particularly impressed by the accented English of a simple looking Indian sales girl, as she bargained with her European customers.

As I drove back to Panjim it was amazing to see the sun set over the Mandovi river. I realized that my Goa getaway was soon about to end, as I had to soon board a bus to Mumbai at night. Goa is synonymous to the words ‘fun’ and ‘enthusiasm’ and every tourist may wish to extend their vacation or even spend their rest of their life there!! But practically speaking, Goa’s value is only realized when one needs a break from their busy and cut-throat life in their respective worlds. No matter how tempting it may feel to spend more time in a fun place like Goa, but home is where one’s family waits for you to return back. With great memories of time spent in Goa, I returned to Mumbai with new zeal, all set to face the odds that my evolving city brings along with its progress.

Photo credits: Aditya Chichkar & Shraddha Sankulkar. Special thanks to Nikunj Arora for photo edits.