Thursday, 22 March, 2018

On a hippy trail

Story: Tara Saldanha | 12th November 2017, 06:42 Hrs

The book being reviewed today is Sunil Joglekar's recent release, Gypsies of Goa, It's a Hippy Trail. It is a tale dedicated to those who wander into Goa looking for a place of refuge and relaxation from the responsibilities of their lives. It begins with a down-in- the dumps Londoner Davis, looking for a way to escape his wrecked marriage and his lonely future. He finds solace at the farm house of his friend Dave, who has travelled to Goa and apparently knows its ways like the back of his hand. The two men waste away the days until one day their drug- addled brains set upon the idea of a holiday in Goa.
They spend a relaxing holiday in Goa, basking in the sun, enjoying the bounty that the land has to offer. They take excursions to the neighbouring Hampi, get lost in the hinterland of Bondla and Cotigao, visit famous restaurants dotted around the state and all in all have such a good time that they would rather not return to their lives back in Britain. Davis is enthralled by the lovely Shanti, a descendent of migrants from Karnataka. She has set up a little shop on the beach to serve passing tourists and it is here that she catches Davis' eye. They are soon married and Davis promises to bring her to London as soon as he can.
When Shanti finally comes to England, heavily pregnant and missing home, is when the trouble begins. Dave dies, and Davis is left to deal with his own crumbling family estate. To add to it he is caught between his own brother's drug peddling and his brother-in-law's arrest. Davis returns, smuggling drugs into Goa, hoping to clear his name back home and to earn some money on the side. But soon the plot thickens and he is ousted for drug peddling. The rest of the story twists and turns till it reaches the end.
The book is a unique attempt to narrate the lives of the so called ‘hippies' of Goa- who lived off the sun and sand and peddled what they had to support their lifestyle. The book has a variety of other characters and traces how they ended up in Goa as well, for instance the migrants from neighbouring Karnataka and the many Nepalis who work in Goa. It also has detailed descriptions of Goan food and local drinks.
The book presents a rather romantic notion of Goa, probably one that draws unsuspecting tourists in. It touches upon issues such as the destruction of the forests of Goa due to mining and human encroachment. The book portrays the linkages between foreign smugglers, the local drug network, the law enforcement agencies and those with political power in Goa. It lacks a sense of poetic justice as the protagonist Davis never pays for his crimes. But perhaps that is a comment on the reality of the situation in Goa.
The story is a long one and sometimes beats around the bush. But it is full of detail which helps you to imagine the setting and the atmosphere of the story as it switches between Goa and London. The book is edited badly which affects the overall reading experience. There are some minor plots which begin interestingly but then never come to any conclusion. The characters are varied and all have their own detailed personalities and their own histories which contribute to the story. Sunil Joglekar has used his encounters with tourists in Goa in order to flesh out the story and paint a realistic picture.

(Tara Saldanha holds a Master's degree in English. She lives under a pile of books, emerging at regular intervals to write about what she loves)

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