The early settler

Malavika Sangghvi

>> Long before there was a run on Goa, before the Delhiwalas discovered it as their playground for the rich and famous, long before the advent of Spanish haciendas and mile long yachts and even the coming of the Russians, around the time when Shashi and Jenifer Kapoor rented a small hut at Baga beach in a fisherman’s village, a young graphic designer called Shireen Mody chucked up her job at a hotshot London agency and decided to live the good life in Goa. We had met her in the eighties just after her move. Even then it seemed the only way to live: “I swim, walk and paint all day. I can buy a kilo of oysters for Rs 10,” I recall her telling us. “I have a small cottage and a red jeep in which I zip around, and my outgoings are next to nothing!” We should have listened to our inner voice and done the needful: Chucked up the job, liquidated the assets and followed suit. But no we didn’t. Yesterday, we ran into Shireen in her red jeep.

Shireen Mody
Shireen Mody

Tanned, wiry with three decades of Goan life were etched in every line on her face: marriage, a daughter, widowhood, a full-fledged career as an artist and many years in the sun. “Come to a new series of paintings by me called Beach,” she said. “It includes original illustrations and prints by my daughter Saffron Wiehl, on till Feb 28 in Arpora.” And then she drove off in a cloud of dust and for a brief moment we thought of what might had been

People who love people
>> Two days in Goa and here’s who we’ve spotted: two-wheeler tycoon Hero Honda’s MD and CEO Sunil Munjal, (looking cool in a Hawaiian shirt), former model and Ted X organizer Feroze Gujral (who has come to Goa en famille), NDTV head honcho and newscaster Vikram Chandra, fashion’s enfant terrible Rohit Bal (mellow on a Goan Sunday playing nanny to a friend’s kids), Sabyasachi, muse and fashionista Sabina Chopra with husband Anil who brought fashion week to India and her brother Dilip Puri who is bringing the W chain to Mumbai soon, India’s top doc and Medanta head Naresh Trehan with wife Madhu (Newslaundry) Trehan, Pulitzer prize winning author and journalist Katherine Boo (author of the masterly Behind the Beautiful Forevers) with her husband author and academic Sunil Khilnani, Director of the King’s College, London India Institute most known for his book The idea of India.

Sabina Chopra and Rohit Bal
Sabina Chopra and (right) Rohit Bal

Two days and a wealth of people, conversations, walks on the beach, sickly sweet drinks served with straw umbrellas, Chef Rego’s mussel curry, sorpotel and vindaloo at the House of Lloyds, and, of course, Goa’s magnificent sunsets!

Feroze Gujral and Katherine Boo
Feroze Gujral and Katherine Boo

Marxism, fresh prawns and family
>> Lunch yesterday was at Lord Meghnad Desai’s, who with his author wife (our cousin) Kishwar lives in a lovingly restored old Goan mansion in Loutolim village when they’re not in London or Delhi.

Lord Meghnad Desai

Over a fine Goan wine and fresh prawns cooked by the celebrated economist and British peer, there’s a heady discussion on Marxism, politics and family history. On the way out, we see Meghnad’s brilliant canvasses. “I took to painting once I moved into this house,” he says. “Kishwar got me an easel and paints. She writes all day and I paint and cook and write,” he said… Ah Goa. How many ways do I love thee…

Bookish in Goa
>> One of the reasons we had not given it all up to settle in Goa was because we had viewed it at that time as something of an intellectual wasteland. Remember this was way before the advent of the Internet, Amazon, and Kindle. “Where would we buy our books from?” we’d said, justifying our inaction.

Divya Kapur and Amitav Ghosh
Divya Kapur and Amitav Ghosh

How foolish that all sounds now when not only is there a flourishing international film festival but some of the world’s most renowned intellects have made Goa their part time home (Amitav Ghosh, Katherine Boo, Vikram Seth to name a few). As for the bookshops! One of the finest bookshops we know of has been created by Divya Kapur at her store Literati in a side street of Calangute. “It’s a book shop, a reading library a small cafe and a place you can exchange second hand books,” says the lovely Kapur who was a highly sought after lawyer in another avatar. “But what’s got me most excited,” she said her eyes shining, “Is the mobile library I’ve started for children.” It’s people like her that give Goa it’s hard to resist attraction!

Our neighbour, our friend
>> In Goa we are sharing living digs with the London based India-born legendary music composer and troubadour Biddu and his elegant wife Sue.


The man who wrote such resounding hits like Kung Fu fighting and Aap jaisa koi and single-handedly created the non-Bollywood pop music industry in India is unlike every stereotype of the successful rock star: soft spoken, erudite, almost ascetic in his habits (he’s a teetotaler and a Spartan eater) and modest. He has now embarked upon a second career as an author. His novel Curse of the Godman (Harper Collins) was soon followed by a page-turning memoir. And there’s more on the cards. “I’ve been coming to Goa for New Year’s for the last 20 years,” says Biddu who has homes in London and Spain too. “And finally, we’ve got ourselves a tiny apartment of our own here.” Expect more books soon!  

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