The more things change, the more they stay the same! Through our formative years and those of our kids, December in Goa was spent at the pool of the Taj Village in Sinquerim, where plutocrats (PC Chatterjee), Bollywood stars (Salman and SRK) and politicians (Captain Satish Sharma, Subbirami Reddy) decided the fate of the nation over feni cocktails at the shallow end.
Much water has flown down that bridge and we have found new havens to perch at, but things haven’t changed much, we’re told at the village pool: the redoubtable Suresh Kalmadi having identified his spot in the sun, was spotted at the Taj Village pool-side this year too. Nope, we’re told the water wasn’t hot.
Partying, such sweet sorrow
>> Some of the stand out Goa year end parties: The GVK Reddys’ pre-New Year’s bash at the Fiesta which had the entire crowd on the floor grooving to some heady beats. Vinod Goenka’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza. Vijay Mallya’s New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Kingfisher villa.
Micky Punj and Raja Dhody’s separate after parties for diehard merry makers who didn’t want to call it a night after the VJM bash. Ravina Raj Kohli’s (below) New Year’s Day first sunset celebration at her Charles Correa designed riverside home. And so and so forth!
Ninety and still learning
>> Not all of Goa is about the young and restless. Today, one of Mumbai’s original high society grande dames Hira Bhojwani, whose Cumballa Hill Mumbai home with its iconic wood panelled bar and red furnishings was the scene of some of Mumbai’s most sought after parties in the seventies, is flying in to Goa to celebrate her 90th birthday with her family. An avid art collector and qualified botanist, educated at some of the country’s leading institutions (she was taught by Rabrindranath Tagore himself at Shanti Niketan) Hira says, “I did my research on Mychorzia of forest trees at the University of Punjab after graduation from Government College Lahore.
The seeds of the Deodar tree were procured from Kashmir and grown by cytology in a laboratory. My thesis on this was published in 1944.” It is a measure of that generation’s fine interest in learning and its passion for life, that a few days before her 90th birthday she sent us a letter (in impeccable handwriting, of course) asking, “Would it be possible for someone to get me more information about the breakthrough research on how fungus and plants live in a symbiotic relationship?” We like!
>> Raja Dhody with Sid Mallya spotted surrounded by a bevy of East European beauties at DJ Aqueel’s Club One. Hunky south Indian star Rana Daggubati spotted chilling at a beach shack in Candolim. The unbeatable new power equation: Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, the Sharad Pawar family and Tina and Anil Ambani spotted together at the Grand Hyatt where they were all staying.
(An insider swears the Bachchans and Ambanis dropped in to Sunburn on its last day!) Spotted catching a few moments of peace and quiet together, GVK’s Sanjay Reddy with wife Pinky on the beach, bare foot, relaxed and very content. Spotted at Goa airport, Mukul Deora, poet musician and Congress leader Murli Deora’s elder son.
Spotted entering the Soma club at Ashwem beach TOI’s Vineet Jain. Spotted at Vijay Mallya’s New Year party, the elegant Nandini Sardesai, erstwhile Xavier’s professor, fiery feminist and mother of CNN IBN’s Rajdeep Sardesai.
Spotted babr-b-queing delicacies for his guests at his new Goa villa Ravi Ruia before flying off with his entire clan to Dubai. Spotted at her signature store crammed with boho resort chic Malini Ramani whose added feather in her cap is the launch of the trendy footwear brand Hawaiians at her store. And so on and so forth…
Eat, drink and be merry!
>> And, of course, what is Goa without its excellent nightlife? Recommended: Wok and Roll on the Aguada riverside (excellent sea food Laksa and coconut ice cream). The two hip new clubs LPK next to SOL Hotel and Vic Lakhani’s Soma at Ashwem beach, which had Goa’s in crowd neatly divided between them.
Travel Bar in Calangute, (order their sexy fig salad and the avocado and crab starter), House of Lloyds for the best pork chops (and sorpotel and vindaloo cooked by Lloyd’s mom!) Thalassa, the Greek eatery on a cliff with its spectacular sea view and Mediterranean fare. And that old Goa jewel: The Leela Café, where the scrambled eggs, freshly squeezed orange juice and freshly baked breads give you a taste of heaven.
Braganza and Extra-Braganza
>> So, what was it like spending this New Year’s in Goa? As usual, the roads were jam-packed and on New Year’s Eve partygoers were stuck in mile long bumper-to-bumper traffic jams from 5 pm onwards on the main arterial roads. There was a marked improvement in the law and order bandobast with lots of police personnel to be seen. The security at the five-star hotels (especially the Taj) was unprecedented. (ID cards and body checks at the gate!) The evening of New Year’s Eve felt more subdued. (Given that 2012 was an annus horribilis this was expected) And finally: Lord helps those who thought of dining out on New Year’s Day. Most places shut for a much-needed morning after break for their staff, and the few that did remain open like the Travel Bar and Wok and Roll said that their waiters had worked 24 hours non-stop! It showed.