Agonda may have changed but there are still interesting people to while away the time with. The elderly Indian couple staying at our guesthouse turned out to be not from Chandigarh but from Srinagar in Kashmir! Gerard chatted with the good-natured man and one morning he invited us to drink Kashmiri tea with him and his wife in the guesthouse loggia. With fond memories of the fragrant drink made with saffron and a special type of tea leaf we first drank in Kashmir, we readily agreed. We’re always happy when the Kashmiri merchants we meet in Goa and other tourist locations, invite us to have tea. But this tea surpassed any we’d drank before. His wife had brought the ingredients with her from Kashmir and brewed the tea in their room.
While we drank, he told us they’d come to Agonda for his health. Recently partially paralyzed by a couple of strokes, his doctor advised him to escape the brutal Kashmir winter. He told us stories of traveling quite extensively in India in his youth: once riding a pushbike from Srinagar to Leh and down to Chandigarh. Another time, he’d driven a car from the southernmost tip of India to Leh, taking three and a half months. His gracious Moslem wife appeared somber until her face broke into a radiant smile as we chatted. She understood more English than she spoke. Unlike her husband this was the first time she’d left Srinagar; she was accompanying him to prepare his doctor-prescribed meals. Every day, the pressure cooker hissed at lunchtime.
We’ve known beautiful Geeta, a shopkeeper, since our first visit to Agonda. In 2013, we wrote the story of Geeta’s hard life in the blog entry, https://asmallcaseacrossindia.blog/2013/02/02/three-women. While still young, she’d already had two husbands; the first left her after she gave birth to a girl, the second was murdered. Since then she’s married a boy from Manali in Himachal Pradesh who came to Goa as a waiter. They have a mischievous three-year-old boy, Nitu. Manu is a good father to both Nitu, and Laxmi, Geeta’s daughter. Many years ago, Geeta was befriended by an English woman. A generation older, Christina had brought up three girls alone and empathized with Geeta. Coming every year, she loves to spoil Nitu and Laxmi.
I found them all on the beach on Sunday afternoon, the children body surfing with the boards Christina had bought them. It was the first time I’d ever seen Geeta on the beach.
We first met Michael at our guesthouse two years ago and became friends, enjoying his sense of humor and sharp wit. A writer of poetry, he reads our blog quite critically, offering advice in particular to increase the humor. He returned again this year and for a few days, we overlapped.
We ate our last dinner together watching the sunset over the water, entertained by his own travel stories. As we said goodbye to Agonda and Michael, he said confidently, “You’ll be back…”
The last mention should be given to Janice from Canada who has been a diligent reader of the blog since we met three years in Agonda. After only one meeting, we’ve continued to stay in contact via the blog and FB.
After reading our last entry, she commented that she was back in Agonda and it would be nice to meet again. Recognizing our friends, Premgit and Sandhya, from their picture in the blog, she’d approached them in a restaurant saying, “I know you!” A day later, I found Janice in the same restaurant. We hugged, remarking how well we knew each other after just one other physical meeting several years ago! The power of social networking at its best.