Sunday, December 31, 2006

Al Qaeda (Not) in Goa.

Maybe I'm an obsessive romantic, but I can't help returning to the sites of my youth where I had the most exquisite of transcendental experiences, as if I could recapture the high and the promise. One of those places is Vagatore Beach in Goa where in 1972 I lived in the nude with the international freak-set and took too much LSD, went on cosmic vision quests and gelled into the anarcho-mystic nutcase that I am. 35 years later it's another world, cyberpunk instead of nature-hippie, with ritzy hotels piled up where once we built our elaborate grass-huts, every roof a satellite dish and every Indian in hip-hop gear with mobile and fast motor-bike, techno music and designer drugs ruling the life-style.

We were anti-materialist then, now we're all high-fashion worshippers of money and celebrity. Still, on the dance-floor, nobody gives a shit in the trance, one can be as silly as a loon and get lost in the rush. Every year there's some disaster that halts the flow of tourists, 9/11, the tsunami, the Iraqui War and terrorist threats, the most common lament being too many Israelis crowding everybody else out. This year it's the opposite, no Israelis! There was a threat from Al Qaeda to target the parties so they've mostly fled south trying to secrete themselves by the thousands in the lost city of Hampi, but if the terrorists want them, they'll surely follow their trail. The rest of us dance resolutely on, not even the fear of mass murderers dampening our intrepid spirits, the Goans as strong as ever and all of us spitting in the face of the cowardly jihadi fuckwits who can only sneak up on people, they especially hate parties I bet.

The Christmas party at the Hilltop was laid-back, the music very "trance", hardstyle rarely gets an outing here, mostly Indian DJs who still seem to be copying the neo-hippie soft style of 15 years ago. Only a smattering of Israeli jungle-bunnies showed up, and few other internat freaks, the wild tribe seems to have moved on, I suppose the parties here have become too controlled, costing 1000 rupees to enter and security guards crawling all over the place. You never know if the blob next to you is a plain-clothes cop so the smoking of charas is not such a public ritual anymore, no "Bam Shankar!" screamed to signify one's big babahood to the ravers stomping all about, everything done on the sly, paranoia rules, the hard-arse freaks have probably split to the backwaters, they're notorious cheapskates and Goans need money.

It's kind of a relief to not have the Israelis so in your face, like having a holiday, for all the money lost I suspect even the Goans are enjoying the break, too much haggling over 10 Rupees and fisticuffs over cultural gaps/gaffs, no more motor-bikes going over cliffs and less flipped-out drug O.D.s delivered to the Emergency Wards, (tho I myself quite like their badness, they're so rude, so strong, a tribe unto themselves, it's amusing to observe them, like wild animals set free of constraints, their quirky social codes and methods of sexual display, their tweaky hippie dress sense, the Israeli stomp, they can be a laugh.

The scene has now been over-run by the Indians themselves, from all over, they've caught the party-bug of Goa after 40 years of firangi rule, Goa's their's and they grab it by the hair and drag it about. Alcohol pours down like monsoon rains, by 7 PM the drunks are roaming and the picturesque coconut groves can turn sinister quickly, and while Goa is a very safe tourist haven, the Goans being particularly caring and watchful of abuse, there is an awful lot of monsters at large ready to run amok.

Dancing peacefully at the Christmas Party I got what felt like a glass of beer thrown in my earhole. As I turned in surprise two guys beside me broke into a fight, tumbling to the ground, with the usual coward's gang of thugs putting the boot into one of them. Apparently one idiot had been grabbing a girl on the tits as he danced in front of her and her boyfriend objected and pushed him away.

The fight tumbled across the entire dance floor, more guys joining in like crazed lemmings, a huge section of the crowd moving with it as one guy seemed to be slogging it out with a mob. And the previously ubiquitous security cordon was nowhere to be found, the fight going on and on, and the victim seemingly leading the mob towards the front gate where security guards should be. The muscle-bound bouncers did indeed finally break up the lynch-mob and ascertaining from witnesses who the ring-leaders of the molestation were, they traced them to a nightclub nearby and beat the shit out of them.

It all makes for an exciting holiday, if one can duck the punches and avoid the stalkers. On New Year's eve the usual hordes of party-wannabes buzzed like gnats on their motorbikes around the labyrnth of Goan rice-paddy fields looking for the happening party but there is, and has always been, only one hot venue in Goa that has out-lasted and out-funked all the rest and that's the Hilltop Hotel, surviving even the curse of Toby Zoates to kick on, tho lamely.

It's 2007 party went off smoothly, like the klunky fireworks display on the beach, the techno music was cutting and actually nailed that "elusive funk" at times, like symphonies and choirs and every rock band and washing machine in the world throbbing together, and the huge crowd shimmied and shook and threw up their arms like apes massing mindlessly in awe under a full moon, as if it's hard-wired in humans to congregate, touch and commune in herds. Over the years I've been passed joints by Bollywood stars, top fashion designers and rich brat kids of billionaire industrialists for they know where the nitty-gritty in dance-music is thumping, it's not in the polite lounges of their 5-star hotels. Mostly it's Bombay mid-class hipsters hoping to surf the electro-wave, and a sea of peasants from the hinterland who want to get in on the Bollywood act, many thinking there's "free sex" available from the firangis.

After 30 hours of continuous dancing the churning washing-machine in the music took over and the drunken Indians crashed into me as they stumbled past, quite annoying, every one of the billion citizens wants to grab a handful of the demi-god like foreigners, they continuously knock against one, stroke, touch, rub, caress, even an old gronk like me constantly got his arse felt-up. I actually think many Indians exist in a group mind, like mob-rule, and there are few individuals who think or act on their own initiative. Sometimes I fear underneath all that friendly obsequiousness and heartfelt cordialiy is simmering a resentment at us foreigner's high-faluting ways and an envy of our western achievements.

2007 is the 150th anniversary of the 1857 Mutiny in which the natives rose up and slaughtered a few of their British Raj masters, and today the newspapers reprinted pamphlets wherein Hindu and Moslem priests encouraged their fellow Indians to go out and "murder any Europeans you come across." Can we still be seen as invaders?

Last night I was returning thru the transit town of Mapusa after a trip to the Goan capital of Panjim to see the movie "Babel" at the Inox Cineplex. We were at the petrol staton trying to get fuel for our scooter and I thought I'd take a quick piss. Strolling across the station's tarmac I was nearly run down by a small taxi-van. Forgetting about the 7 PM danger-zone I yelled in outrage and shook my fist, the driver went ballistic and leapt from his slimy carapace, drunk as a punk, face twisted like a demon from hell. I stupidly screamed he had no brains and was ugly as an evil imp to which he foamed at the mouth and threw his fists about. My friend Prakash rushed over and quietened me, pulling me back to the scooter and I thought the whole matter was over.

The queue of petrol-junkies looked at me glumly as I sauntered to the other side of the station and sat on some rocks to wait for the bike to be fed. Unbeknownst to me the monsters in the taxi had quickly parked and came back looking for me, the driver with 6 hairy thugs in tow, real brave guys and as drunk as rogue elephants. They manhandled Prakash and asked him where I'd gone, and him being the smart lad he is, he told them to go on the opposite side of the petrol dump to the bus-stand where I was waiting for him. They stupidy lumbered off, mitts outstretched to tear me to pieces, while I blithely whistled a happy tune a few metres away. Prakash ran to me and dragged me to the bike, the petrol-heads had warned him to flee quickly, forgetting the fuel, he pushed me onto the bike and sped off, shouting into the wind how I'd come very close to being demolished by a mob of murderous drunken ape-men, no longer the servile happy Goans welcoming the beloved white maharajas. Who needs Al Qaeda when there's Al Cohol to wreack havoc upon the innocent?