Upon arriving at Goa International, we were whisked away by taxi along narrow, winding and dimly lit side streets in the dead of night to what would be our home for the next three days. Arriving at the security gates, the verbal chatter in the car dropped to hushed tones. Eyeballed for several minutes by the big burly armed guard and we were let through the gates of INS Mandovi, the Naval base in Verem, Goa.
It was late and due to the two and half hour time difference with KL, we were exhausted from our 5 hour flight. We unpacked and turned in for a few hours of sleep.
I awoke to knocking sounds at the door. It was an orderly from the mess informing me we were late for breakfast. Hurriedly we got ready and made our way to the dining room not far from our rooms. The early morning air was crisp and clear with the sounds of birds chirping and the bluest skies I’ve seen in a long while.
We were treated to an impeccably served English breakfast with hot tea or coffee by the kitchen staff and for someone who does not eat breakfast ever, this was certainly something I looked forward to every morning. Everything just tastes better in India.
With a strictly no photography rule on the base, I had to break the rules but tried my best not to photograph anything that might be deemed as a threat to national security. The sprawling grounds of this Naval base are beautiful and serene. Its a self contained unit with everything from an on-base school, living quarters for officers of course, a shopping mall, a kindergarten and training facilities. The buildings may look rundown and in need of repair but personally I felt this added to the charm of the entire complex and grounds.
We were forewarned to try and blend in and not to behave like a bunch of yahoo tourists. So we constantly kept a low profile and went about our business as quietly as possible.
The accommodations were basic at best but comfortable and as well appointed as one can expect. I’m not a 5 star snob when I travel so I found the rooms to be more than adequate. The beds while really hard, did get rid of any chinks I may have had in my lower back, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Getting in and out of the base was a little difficult. It’s location in relation to where we needed to be for the wedding was a matter of poor accessibility and the distances we had to travel by car everyday. Other than that, it was an incredible place to stay.
It’s called the Officer’s Mess apparently from the days of old when it first appeared in English, mess meant a portion of food. This came from the Old French word mes, “a dish”. I didn’t know that.
On my last day at the base, I chanced upon the bulletin board at the Officer’s Mess and there was a schedule for a War Games Training Programme. That’s when the sh*t got real. We were guests of the Indian Navy and this is where some of the best Naval officers in the world are trained. Not a matter to be taken lightly.
It’s an experience in itself to be able to get to see the inside of a restricted zone. Not many civilians can claim they have had such an opportunity.
The Roving Photographer