04 October 2005

Daman!

Hi folks I had been away!
PrefaceKutch, Kolhapur or Daman? Daman as it was the nearest, cheapest, hasslefree and most do-able. The erstwhile portugese enclave liberated in 1961 and touted as little Goa. So I read all the travel guides I had .. Lonely Planet, Footprint, 52 weekendbreaks, Heritage holidays! No one described it as a really happening place ... just a get away er... particularly more so if you happen to worship bacchhus and are suffering the tyranny of prohibition in Gujarat.
Initially
Getting up at 4 to catch the Gujarat Express. Finding the F1 13 and 14 and to discover the two berth coupe, brought back childhood memories of the, now fast disappearing First Class travel. Really for me the best way to travel the Indian Railways is First. You get the luxury of space and you do not detach yourself from the landscape as in the Air Conditioned coaches. The landscape is suburrban initially a daily ritual for me but better things are in store. Cross Virar and you see the Vaitarna and the boats in the early morning light. I felt transported to another era when there was no metropolis! I realise that actually Mumbai is an aberration, an (?ugly) nonconformist place in the vast Konkan coast. This feeling is accentuated if you travel down towards Goa or Up towards Surat. The beauty of the landscape is interrupted by railway stations sporting huge hoardings. Trying hard to look like a Mumbai Suburb. It is only now you remember that how conspicuous the hoardings are in Mumbai Suburbs. Before I know it we are in Vapi. Two sign post are there: DAMAN SILVASSA in diagonally opposite directions. We board a black and yellow Ambassador share taxi to Daman for Rs 15 each which also carries four other passengers.
DamanAs you hit the gate which announces The UT of Daman & Diu (most of the letters have fallen) you realise that there is no difference in the landscape between Gujarat and the UT. Yes, the difference is in the numerous liquor bars which seem to have mushroomed everywhere. Nearly every fifth shop I see is a Bar. Daman or Damao as the portugese called, it is trying very hard to attract tourists. It doesnt need to. Gujarat is doing its bit by enforcing Prohibition. Recently there has been a trend to promote it as a New Tourist Destination with all the trappings of Heritage (Fort and Churches) Adventure(Water Sports) and weekend (Beaches) holiday thrown in. The fact is that Daman is just trying too hard! The Water sports are unexciting, the beaches unremarkable, the churches and forts are good but dont go looking for the portugese influence yet. I look deeper and I do find it. My hotel is a 140 year old house of a Portugese "Lord" or so it says. There is heavy wooden work. There is some jing bang which probably is vintage and adds to the atmosphere. The rooms are modern however inclusive of a not so effective AC. We sleep the sunday morning. We decide to roam around in the blistering afternoon sun when it seems the town is having a siesta! The Fisherman's beach nearby is interesting but its incredibly hot and sweaty at the hour. We romp back into the Mercado Municipalis or something like that which is ostensibly selling smuggled electronic goods. I unsuccessfully try to find a MemoryStick for my handycam. We move ahead to the Damao Pequenos Jetty. Very interesting to see boats of all shapes and sizes flying myriad flags most of them of India minus the Chakra. The restautant is playing remixed hindi movie songs and seems to offer nothing more than samosas. The St Jerome Fort has imposing walls and a grand gate with a statue of St Jerome on top and two human figures on the side ( a la Dwarapalas of a hindu temple?). We abandon our plans of entering the fort after we see it being used as lavatory. The afternoon sun by this time is enough to sap our remaining energy so we head back home.
Daman Darshan
We are the only two people aboard this bus meant to carry 12. There are some inherent benefits of a govt institution. Left to a capitalist society the bus would have wound up. But it is still burning all that precious fossil fuel just to ferry the two of us! It turns out to be a Been there Done that thing. A water park, a few temples, a really long detour around the DamanGanga river thanks to a bridge which has a propensity to break. The prime attraction, Se Cathedral in Moti Daman is closed! We hit the Damao Grande Jetty and have chicken lollypop. The view of Fot St Jerome is good. Head back to the Church of Our Lady Of Remedies (?Remedios). The goldwork is fantastic and you finally get the portugese feel which you had been promised. I also notice the croele being spoken by a few people. Jampore beach ... liqour being served despite Gandhi Jayanti. We head back for an early bed. Huff!!! Next Day Later!
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