Grabbing Richard Gere in Goa

I have come to Goa after a long time. The last time I was here was for the correct reasons, i.e. food, drink and low-cost housing. This time I’m here to talk to a group of people in an obviously futile attempt to get them motivated to earn more revenue for their company, and if this was to be achieved they would each get a pat on the back and another two-day excursion to Goa, next year, at the same time and in the same hotel.

On this visit, I’ve noticed a few changes. Firstly, the city has been moved. It’s now about an extra 25 more kilometres away from the airport than it earlier was. In fact, the exact location of the Goa airport remains a big mystery. Some say it’s in Gujarat, some say it’s in Karnataka. There are even unsubstantiated reports that it is now part of the People’s Republic of China. Please note the People’s Republic of China is far different from China. The former is a cowboy and the latter is just some overrated crockery. Secondly, the number of Russians per square kilometre has risen from around four to 17-and-a-half. But the biggest and most noticeable change is how Goan food has been stripped of all hotel menus. No Goan food is to be seen anywhere. If you desperately want Goan food, locals suggest you try Gujarat, Karnataka or the People’s Republic of China. Anywhere but in Goa itself.
Now, let me come to my story. After recovering from all these cultural changes I made my way to the hotel room assigned to me. One thing that doesn’t change in India, be it Goa or anywhere in the country, is the personal service. Each guest is escorted to his or her room by no less than 19 members of the hotel staff. Thanking each of them for their generosity of spirit normally takes more than half your visit. But then I’ve never understood why we need so much assistance to open our room door. Seems to me if you’ve found your way to the airport, boarded the plane reached the next airport and subsequently the hotel, all on your own, you should be able to manage a small matter of finding the hotel room by yourself.
Anyway, after all my room guests had left I decided to go to the pool for a stretch and a swim or more likely a lie-down as a swim may involve actually getting more wet. In any case, just like the airports, the sea surrounding Goa has also been moved further back, so the pool is now quite obviously the only option for all visitors. After the customary 15 minutes spent shoving my 91-kilo frame into a tiny bikini bottom (a conduct banned by over 78 countries), I found myself sitting near the pool on a big white deck chair. You know those chairs, the type that once you sink into, you need a minimum of three hours to get out of. As I happily sank like the Titanic, I noticed a middle-aged Caucasian male step gingerly into the pool. I couldn’t quite tell if he slipped in or stepped in. Just as I was enjoying my sinking feeling, I heard gasping, gargling sounds. At first I thought it was a Carnatic vocal concert going on in the nearby poolside café, but this sound was both far more pleasant and more sinister.
Something told me the Caucasian male was in trouble. With great regret I jumped out of the sinky chair. It was time to show that the bronze medal I won for 50 metres breaststroke in the Calcutta nationals of 1981 was no fluke. I dived in with the grace of Nadia Komenachi and made straight for the foreign gent. As I grabbled him from behind, hands around the hips, I could see this act clearly infuriated him. Worse still, I could see he wasn’t drowning but simply standing in the water with his head down, breathing bubbles in a terrible obscene fashion. I tried to apologise, but how do you come back from grabbing a middle-aged male roughly around the hips while he was clearly in no danger to minding your own business. But, worse was still to follow.
As I got a close look at my distraught and violated friend, I couldn’t help noticing how closely he resembled Richard Gere, the actor. There was, of course, a suitable explanation for this as I was to find out later, and that was that it was actually Richard Gere. I’ll end my story here. Gere is no longer in Goa, but I still am. Gere didn’t press charges, so I’m not forced into wearing a uniform. But clearly for both Gere and me Goa has changed.

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