Ewan Macaulay in Goa
were trying to avoid the all-night parties in the north, full of hippies
and wannabes, drugged up to the eyeballs in Goa'.
in India are not brown. At least, theyare not brown when they are
sold to you. They are green. In most places, coconuts are a cheaper
option than water, more readily available - and less likely to contain
cholera bugs. They are also extremely difficult to open with a pen-knife,
as opposed to the professional approach: the machete, or meat-cleaver.
I was discovering all this on my third week travelling down the West coast
of India, with my girlfriend Sarah. We were in Colva, in southern Goa.
Colva is a fishing village, slowly taking advantage of its beautiful beaches
to attract tourists who want to enjoy the calmer joys of southern Goa,
away from the club culture of the north. The beaches are lined with restaurants
serving the fishermen's catch each evening. Dinner for two and beer for
the night will cost you no more than £6. A couple of hotels offer
tourist standard accommodation, with showers en suite and the convenience
of a western style W.C. Being able to sit down in comfort instead of having
to balance precariously on two concrete footprints above a pit which is
cleared only by the force of gravity is an important consideration when
travelling through Asia.
Clubbing is big business in northern Goa, with affordable packages offered
for those bored with Ibiza. Hippies hit northern Goa on the first leg
of their search for enlightenment, fall into a trance at all-night parties
and settle for a life of smoking, although the Indian government is now
cracking down on this.
For a true taste of India, you need to travel inland or further south.
Colva is a short taxi ride from the nearest railway station in Margao,
an overnight train ride away from Mumbai. After the culture shock of landing
in India - not the west-meets-east culture shock, but the shock of Mumbai
's urban frenzy; coming as we were straight from a nearly comatose Cornish
fishing village in winter. We wanted somewhere we could relax. We were
trying to avoid the all-night parties in the north, full of hippies and
wannabes, drugged up to the eyeballs in Goa.
In Colva we had found a guest house / family home/ internet cafe where
we could stay with a double room and the essential en-suite bathroom ,which
also had the advantage of in-house communication with home and friends.
It was everything we needed, all we had to do was relax and enjoy the
sunshine, the warm sea, the beach fringed with coconut palms . . .
Waiting for a free coconut to fall is hazardous and boring. We purchased
some coconuts from a stall owner, who was very surprised to hear that
I would open them myself later. Thus we sat on the steps of the guest
house where I was running out of attachments for sawing, filing and clipping,
the aforementioned coconut. After exhausting the selection of large, small
and serrated blades that were part of the arsenal of the Swiss Army Knife
and with increasing frustration I stabbed the green fleshy nut. Then -
as the colour drained from my face, I realised that the penknife had folded
and closed almost completely closed around my pink fleshy forefinger.
I looked down. I could see the ominous gleam of bone through a mess of
flesh. My finger was not completely severed, but held on only by the bone.
The family who owned the guesthouse were upstairs, with an infinite number
of uncles, aunts, grand-parents, great-grandparents, cousins, second cousins
and many other obscure relations, celebrating the seventeenth birthday
of one of the daughters. At this moment there wasa most impolite knocking
on their ornately carved door. Doing her best not to panic, Sarah explained
the urgency of the situation to the mother of the household, who immediately
dispatched numerous family members to aid us in our journey to the hospital.
I held on to the finger to make sure it didn't fall off. Losing my finger
was a terrifying prospect. After the most stressful, frightening and bruising
taxi ride of our lives, dodging everything from cars to cows, we swung
into the hospital reception, decorated in lime green and institution grey.
I worried about infection because of the hot climate, and remembered awful
warnings about the inadequacy of third world medicine compared with the
National Health Service in Britain.
A few swift words from one of the brothers, who turned out to be a hospital
clerk, and we were ushered through into a side room with no waiting whatsoever.
My finger was a mess when I arrived. Sarah later confided that she had
thought she would faint while it was being sewn back on. I was too scared
to look. The needles were sterile, the hospital efficient and the nurses
Returning two weeks later to have the stitches removed, with no brother
available to pull strings, we had to wait two hours. The family gave us
a lift back to the hospital as one of their cousins had been bitten in
a field by a snake. They were worried about him losing his leg. It must
have been a big snake. I began to feel embarrassed to be worrying about
losing a finger, it seemed a bit feeble compared with losing a leg. Perhaps
that's why the nurses were unsympathetic they see so much worse each day.
But even once it was sewn on, I continued to worry about losing the use
of my finger. As a musician I need all the fingers I can get.
My finger still works, although there is an element of Frankenstein about
it. I was sent on my way by the hospital with a two-month supply of painkillers,
anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. I spent the next week enjoying
my status as invalid drugged up to the eyeballs in Goa.
© Ewan Macaulay 2002
Ewan is a muscian with an interest in film composition
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