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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, October 12, 2005

No Tea at Altino!

Right now I am in a hotel operated by the government of Goa known as the "Circuit House", on the hill of Altino in Goa. Originally meant for touring government officials (to 'circuit' is to 'tour'), it accommodates guests and delegates who attend important meetings, seminars and conferences. The surroundings are green and beautiful in Panaji, capital of the state of Goa. But for the market-place where assembly building and many government offices are also situated, Panaji is calm and quiet and clean.

I am an early riser. My wrist-watch has stopped functioning, so I have lost count of time. I got up as usual, at perhaps 4.30AM today, freshened up, and performed a bit of morning Yoga. I knew I won't get my morning cup of tea till late. But how much late? I did not know. I revised the paper on Konkani folklore (children's literature), I was to present. Then after an hour and half or so I dressed and went out for a cup of tea. I checked the time from office wall-clock, it was 6AM.

It was as if midnight in Panaji at 6.15 AM. Absolute stillness. I strolled round about the Circuit House. No movements of humans or animals. Only birds were chirping. I went to the Army squadron gate nearby. A tall, darkishly handsome soldier guarded the gate.

"Where can I get a cup of tea?" I asked in Hindi.

"Memsaab! At this hour? It is still two hours to go to get tea or coffee. This is Goa!" He exclaimed.

Goan tradition of late dinners, late breakfast and afternoon siesta I am aware of.

Looking at my disappointment, the guard consoled me. "You please go by this road. On Chourahi (four-road-meet) you may come across some canteen!"

I started walking. Anyway I am used to early morning walking for decades. It was a pleasure to walk on the clean road which led to joggers' park, a newly laid up track, full of flowering plants. People of all ages were jogging or walking. It was a "Plastic-Free" facility and plastic bag, paper and garbage was nowhere to be seen. The park, an undertaking of forest department belongs to Government of Goa. The huge nameplate at the gate carried half a dozen names including that of chief minister and other ministers who are responsible for this government philanthropic work! I drank fresh air instead of tea and continued walking, looking in every corner for a teashop.

A group of men and women are sitting under a peepal tree. I asked then in Konkani, my mother-tongue, about availabity of cha (tea) here. Goan Konkani has a musical twang, so pleasing to the ears.

"Cha! You will get plenty!" -- the threesome replied.

"Yes, but at what time?" I glanced at the empty kiosks nearby.

"Nine o'clock. Not so early."

"Oh God! I exclaimed". Looking at my predicament, an elderly woman suggested. "Go straight. Turn left. walk half mile. There is telephone exchange office. They prepare tea for staff working overnight. They might oblige!

"But where is Telephone Exchange?"

"Near C.M.s (Chief Minister's) bunglow!". "But where is C.M.s bunglow?" They laughed at my ignorance. Goa is a small place. Everybody knows everybody. Another man said, "There is one 'Circuit House' before you go to the place already suggested. There is a good canteen attached to it. You may try! They open very early!

I walked back the distance. It was 7.50 AM. By now the canteen at circuit house was open. I celebrated my misadventure by having two cups of hot tea.

Thus ended my hunt for tea at Altino.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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