I want some music in my life, so evening finds me in a bar in Agonda, a long moon shaped bay fringed with palm trees and beach shacks & for those with the inclination ample watering holes in which to have a drink or two. As I count myself as one of those people who is far from averse to a bevy when the opportunity arises it is therefore unsurprising that I am seated at a a table in a bar by the name of Kopi Desai, with a companion bottle of beer.
The booze though is not the reason I’m here, instead it’s to hear live music. Goan nights tend to be rather long and extremely dark and it must be said rather quiet if you stay in on your own. So the thought of getting out and hearing a little music is an opportunity not to be missed.
Tonight a singer by the name of Efi is playing, and after a surfeit of shitty musicians playing pants cover versions of Bob Marley in crappy pseudo West -Indian accents the prospect of a singer songwriter with her own material is a rather attractive option.
The gig is supposed to start at 7.30, I have turfed up a little early, but I figure I can get a decent table, order food & be settled before it all kicks off, but I needn’t have worried, my meal comes & goes, one beer is followed by another & another, glancing at my watch I see that it’s well after eight and there’s not a musician in sight. I pass the time by people watching, a young Indian couple, are sitting close by, I imagine them to be from Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore, part of Indias burgeoning middle classes and I’m convinced they are newly-weds on a Goan honeymoon, the lady’s wrists are weighed down with bright bangles, her make up is full on, kohl and bright red lipstick, bee sting lips. Her hands decorated in Henna, her man is talking to her and looking at her intensely with a face full of smiles. She smiles back, and responds in words that sound like the cooing of a dove, gentle and melodic, little caresses are exchanged, yep, so newly-weds.
At another table four french lads are gabbling away, the beer is flowing and these young guys perhaps in their late twenties are a garrulous bunch, jokes are exchanged, tall stories told, whether bravado or bluster it’s hard to tell, but their stories are the tales of confident young men, sure of themselves and their world. And as it goes often with frenchmen hands and faces & arms add to stories, if you spoke not a word of french I’m certain you would get the gist of the conversation purely from the movements that accompany them, I wonder for the smallest of moments if I am jealous of their youth and of the possibilities that lie ahead for them, however I may think of myself my young years are behind me, but nope, my time of being them is passed, I don’t need it again, I wish them fun exploring theirs.
At that moment in strides the singer Efi, guitar in hand. She takes up the mike and introduces herself as a Berliner and launches into song. Efi is melodic & creative, to be honest with you she’s a breath of fresh air on a sticky Goan night. After a couple of songs I feel a little disappointed for her as a number of tables are empty and you couldn’t exactly call the audience a crowd. And then almost immediately after this thought a tidal wave hits the bar. What turns out to be fifty or so young and lithe looking women flood into the bar. Every table is occupied, every barstool sat on, the overflow remains standing. In a moment the entire atmosphere of the joint changes. I look at the French lads & see their conversations has ended, nobody is moving, Instead their mouths are agape and each stares at one part or another of the menagerie of ladies that now occupy the bar.
Gone is the lads bravado, gone are those confident men, in their place I think of rabbits on a road at night, mesmerised by headlights, rooted to the spot & unable to move.
I discover that these young women have just finished a month long yoga course, tonight they are out to celebrate. There are some rather lovely girls to be sure, but most fascinating is to watch the lads whilst Efi sings. They sit there, not saying a word, each of them in time focuses on one or another girl and they just stare. Words are forgotten.
After a while I wonder why as clearly the boys are interested they don’t just talk to the girls. But like a Samson who’s been Delilahed they seem powerless to move. Eventually one of the four says hello to one of the girls and a conversation begins, the others then turn their attention to their mate. One regards his buddy almost beatifically, a look of deep admiration seems to wash over him, his mate able to talk to a girl is a kind of demi-god. I wonder why the rest don’t follow suit and talk to the girls, but then I’m not perhaps the best person to give advice to men about women.
I focus on the music & my beer and at the end of the set pay my bill leaving the boys and the girls to the night.
I wind my way along country roads and deep black night punctured only by my faltering headlight, half an hour later I am in complete darkness in bed and I fall asleep to the sound of the fan whirring above my bed.
Morning comes and finds me hung over, I head out heavy footed onto my balcony and nurse myself with copious cups of strong coffee. I look out over the large trees beyond my balcony and watch chipmunks racing up and down branches busily calling to each other as they go, in a frantic rush to do what I cannot tell, a large black crow sits on another branch overlooking them and seems to crow displeasure at their playfulness he reminds me of a grumpy old man. Beyond in long grass overhung with a veil of morning mist tall ibis white birds walk like thieves or pick-pockets with staccato steps through the grasses searching out bugs for breakfast, a water buffalo with elephant wrinkled skin ploughs through the vegetation, a bovine lawnmower munching anything green in its path. On the telegraph wires the fashion icons of the animal world preen themselves and show their crazily bright plummage, like models on a catwalk. Look at me look at me they say, how beautiful I am.
As my wakefulness grows I think of all of these creatures, how alike people are sometimes to animals, the chipmunks who remind me of those people who always seem to be in a rush to get somewhere, the grumpy old men, the look at me’s, the water buffalos, quiet, determined, purposeful. As my hangover recedes in its place grows a conviction that its a wonderful thing to be able to see the workings of the world, to take pleasure in them, but not to be so mesmerised that you forget to live for yourself.
And as there’s no time like the present, I’m starting now. Maybe I will begin by going out for some breakfast.
For a taste of Efi Susman go to:-