SloGoa IV: the art of tattooing sacred cows, and other Bollywood legends

mebeach1I’m sure you’ll have cottoned on by now to the fact that I’m bemused, bedazzled and  bewildered (but not bewitched at all) by the ubiquity of tattoos here. Let me tell you, having skin untainted by design, there are times on the beach when I feel positively underdressed and in danger of arrest. 


tattoogoafest So you will be unsurprised to learn that Goa has been hosting the international tattoo festival over the last few days. As luck would have it, I managed to scramble together a subsequent engagement in advance, and thus missed this auspicious event.

This decision was made easier by the fact that the organisers expected me to pay in order to enter. They could’ve offered me a lifetime supply of blue ink and I would still have opted for 72 hours of Bollywood on Sky Tata….the very best of Rajnikanth perhaps – the ageing pot-bellied megastar whose every move requires an army of Macs to create the necessary special effects.

Unfortunately, the Bollywood style of loud costumes, frantic dancing and romantic kitsch has completely invaded Indian TV commercials, such that even an ad for denture fixative requires more extras than Ben Hur and the destruction of a clutch of ancient temples. I am also by now certain that the TV channels turn up the sound during commercial breaks, probably on the grounds that wealth in India is massively skewed older, and thus most of the target audience are profoundly deaf. No doubt they became deaf from forty years of watching Suzuki and Tata commercials. The other night, one such claimed its new mini-car was “none of a kind”, a promise that ensured I spent the rest of the evening deciding whether this was highly intelligent Zen-kharma advertising, or just plain daft. One hotel advertises itself as “awesomely unordinary”. I’m uniquely non-banal myself.

On the natural science front, I am pleased to announce that the calf I saw being born in the street here three weeks ago is in good health, and was spotted out foraging with her mum yesterday morning:


I approached to take this shot, and my only excuse for the worst composition in photographic history is that the mother recognised me instantly as the pervert who had tried to assist at the birth. After giving me a serious dose of evil eye, she head-butted my bum and I beat a rapid retreat. An Indian copywriter would doubtless have dubbed her supremely notrelaxed.

Perhaps the most endearing thing about Goan men is their desire to “help” when an obviously deserving cause of some kind appears to be in dificulties. ‘Deserving’ doesn’t apply to pedestrians, beggars, tax inspectors, sacred cows, ravens and beach policemen; but otherwise, the definition is reasonably inclusive.

The breakdown of any vehicle holds an especial appeal for every wannabe Knight Errant. The Baywatch jeep here last week miscalculated the moisture of the sand following a high tide, and found its wheels spinning like a Blairite. Within minutes, the driver, his passengers and the buggy were surrounded by a crowd of experts.

It was truly hilarious to watch – a sort of allegory of contemporary politics. Those insisting that reverse gear was the answer were pushing like mad at the engine grille, while those of the opposing opinion were applying buttocks, feet and shoulder muscles to the rear end. Meanwhile, both front windows were crammed with heads insisting that the handbrake should be on or off, and the gearbox in forward, neutral or reverse.

The noise of bellowed certainties completely hid the fact that the driver had long since turned the engine off, and was slumped forward over the steering wheel, head in hands.
There comes a moment in every potential tragedy when advice overload creates analysis paralysis. Enter at this point a burly Russian gentlemen in excess of 6 foot 6, carrying two spades and two surfboards. He had about him an air of I Know WhatTF I Am At, plus around 300 lbs of muscle to make his viewpoint stick. He was in fact the epitome of Teddy Roosevelt’s memorable aphorism, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”.

The blokes at the rear were abruptly ordered to the front while Ivan the Terrible dug two trenches and rammed the surfboards under the wheels. He told the driver to engage reverse, and then took his place among the awestruck volunteers and yelled, “Poooosh!”
As the Jeep popped out of its prison, tumultuous cheers broke out. Hordes of babes gaped open-mouthed as the Russian suffered a thousand backslaps. A star had been born. For the rest of the day, Ivan could’ve had any bikini-clad body on the beach. My envy knew no bounds.