She is standing there at the Jetty. Looking at a distant ship, she hopes to be on one. So she could just run away from all the trouble this life had been giving her lately. Yes, she’s looking for an escape. And probably that’s the reason why she has come thousands of miles away from her hometown, hoping to leave her worries behind. But it seems like that didn’t help either. In a city full of strangers, she’s feeling vulnerable. Why won’t she? She’s never been anywhere alone after all. And this unplanned trip to Goa has never been on her bucket list. Of course, she wanted to come here, but not like this. Not as a loner who is looking for some peace of mind. But the turn of events that took place lately changed everything. And all of a sudden, she just wanted to get as far away from that place as possible and landed up here in Goa.
Yashasvi had recently completed her post graduation in MBA. And in the weeks that followed, she found herself surrounded by sorrows and trepidations. Despite being 26 years old, Yashasvi had spent her entire life in Delhi. Never been out of town for more than a week. She doesn’t even remember when was the last time she partied or came back home late at night. One of the shortcomings of being an introvert she thought. And coming thousands of miles away from Delhi, all alone was definitely a bold move. But after all that she had seen, staying home was the last thing she wanted.
It’s her second day in Goa and after spending the previous night at a hotel in Panaji, she has come to Dona Paula, a famous tourist spot located in the suburbs of Panaji. But despite being at some beautiful places, she can’t get away from the past. It seemed to be following her like an owl wherever she went.
She’s still not sure if her decision of coming to Goa was a good idea. She just needed an escape.
Keeping her purse on the ledge, she checks her phone. No new messages. She was afraid that her mom and dad had figured out where she was. Of course, they won’t know she’s in Goa. And how would they? They had barely even talked to her in the last two weeks. The truth is, they were both so consumed, trying to deal with their f**ked up relationship that they partly forgot that they have a daughter too.
Yashasvi had left a note for them before leaving. She lied that she was going to stay in Noida for a few days at Neha’s flat. Neha was Yashasvi’s childhood friend and her parents knew her well. She knew that Neha was the only person her parents could trust and they won’t be worried about her, especially at this point in time. She had also written that she needed some time alone, and won’t be coming back until this Sunday and don’t try to call.
Putting her phone back in the purse, she tried to calm her senses. As if trying to let go of the thoughts that have been tormenting her for as long as she can remember. For the first few minutes, it did help a little, but then it started coming back at her, with full force. As if the past is going to hunt her down no matter where she goes. Wearily, she decides to go back to her hotel room. Just as she was walking away, she saw a man in the black shirt walking backward in her direction. Accompanied by a girl, supposedly her wife or girlfriend, he was sort of teasing her and getting away from her. Still walking backward, he accidentally jolted and his back touched the ledge, pushing Yashasvi’s purse into the water.
It couldn’t have been worse for a girl who was probably going through the worst phase of her life. She got panicked as anyone else would in that situation. All her important things were in that bag. Her IDs, her credit card, her phone, her hotel room keys.
Crying for help, she couldn’t stop the tears rolling down her eyes. The guy in the black shirt kept apologising for what he did. But that did nothing to placate Yashasvi who had just lost the most precious thing to a girl, her purse. A few other people gathered there to know what the matter was. People joined the conversation but none came forward to help her.
That’s when a tall bearded guy came materialized from the shadows and came forward to know what the matter was.
“What happened here?” he asked in a foreign accent.” Are you alright mam?”
The guy was a foreigner. With a pale white complexion, he looked like an American.
“My purse, it fell down and I..,” she mumbled. Tears forming beneath her eyes, she found it hard to speak.
“It’s okay. I’ve got this,” he said. “There’s nothing to worry about. I’m a professional diver. Just tell me where it fell, show me the spot. “
Clueless about what was going to happen next, she pointed toward the water surface where the purse had fallen.
Without any further contemplation, the man jumped into the water and within seconds, he faded into the darkness, leaving only bubbles on the water surface. After a few more seconds, even the bubbles disappeared. There was dead silence at the jetty for a while. The eyes of everyone were fixed at the exact spot where the man had disappeared. A minute passed but there was no sign of him. Yashasvi doubted if anyone can hold his breath for this long.
“Oh God, what have I done,” she told herself. “Why did I come to Goa in the first place? If this man dies here because of me, I won’t be able to forgive myself, I won’t be able to live with this guilt. Please God, save him, please, I beg you, don’t make this worse. “
Finally, there was some turbulence at the water surface and after a few more seconds, the diver emerged from the water like a heroic figure. And he was not empty-handed. Yashasvi’s purse had been saved. And the savior was right in front of her. The crowd revered the man for his audacity. They tapped his shoulder and shook hands with him to show their reverence.
“I think this belongs to you lady,” the man offered the purse to her with a smile.
“Sir, I can’t thank you enough,” she said. You appeared like a God-sent angel for me.
“Ahh..there’s no need to thank,” he said.” You just got lucky this time”, he chuckled.
Yashasvi wanted to say something but all she could do was smile.
“The name is Josh by the way,” the man extended his hand. “I work at Flyboard India.”
“What’s that?” she wanted to ask but instead, she just smiled.
“Yashasvi,” she shook hands with him.
“Yasshh..vi,” he stuttered. Yashhvi, right?
“Actually, it’s Yash-as-vi,” she made it easy for him to understand.
“Alright, Yashhsvi,” he said. “Yeah, am I right?” he smiled.
“Yeah, that’s better,” she laughed.
“It was nice meeting you Yashhsvi,” he said. Want me to help with the purse?
“No, it’s fine,” she said. But thank you so much for your help. I’ll be okay.
“Yeah, alright,” he said. Just be careful next time with the purse, he smiled and left.
Despite the hysteria she was going through, the incident brought a fleeting smile on her face. Although it lasted only for a few seconds. When she opened her purse, everything inside was messed up. Her phone was dead and everything inside was all wet. Luckily, she wasn’t carrying that much cash. She wasn’t even sure if her credit and debit cards were going to work, not in this condition at least. She knew she had to dry them first. But she didn’t even have the money she needed to go back to her hotel which was in Panaji. Obviously, she needed help who would understand her situation? The last thing she wanted was to get into more trouble than she already.
As she turned, she saw the bearded American guy was still there, standing at some distance, admiring the infamous statue of Dona Paula. That being the last resort, she decided to ask him for help one more time.
“Hi,..Josh,” she said.
“Oh, hey Yashhsvi,” he smiled. Everything alright? You need some help?
“Ye..yes actually,” she stuttered. I don’t know how to say this, I’ve already given you enough trouble and I…
“Ahh, what trouble? It’s nothing,” he said. I’m a professional diver, I told you. It’s what I do for a living. Tell me how can I help.
“Actually, it turns out that all the cash I was carrying in my purse has been washed away,” she said. And I’m really not sure if my cards are going to work either. I need to go to my hotel, it’s in Panaji but with all this, I doubt if I’m ever going to get there.
“Oh, it’s alright,” he said. Don’t worry, I’ll get you a cab to your hotel and I’ll pay for it.
“No. no, you don’t have to do that, really,” she said. Just take me to the nearby ATM and help me put these cards to use. I’ll withdraw some cash and I’ll be fine with the rest.
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah,” she replied. Absolutely.
“Alright, just let me take one picture first,” he fished out his cellphone and raised it in front of the Dona Paula statue with the camera on, to capture it.
“Do you mind if I ask something,” she said.
“Yeah, please go ahead,” he said.
“Do you really like this statue?” she said.
She looked at the statue again and didn’t find it intriguing. A stone statue of a man and a woman, the woman looking straight into the ocean and the man pointing his hand to the left toward the jetty. Not intriguing at all.
“Nah, not really,” he said. It’s just the legend that excites me.
“Legend? With this statue?”
“Well, it’s more of a myth actually,” he said. Would you like to hear it?
“Of course,” she said. Please tell me.
“Alright, here it goes,” he said.
So the lady you see there is Paula. She was the daughter of a Portuguese Viceroy. Paula and her family arrived here in Goa in the early 1640s. She was only 17 years old when she came here. Initially, Paula wasn’t happy with this place. She missed her home, she missed her people and most of all, she missed the friends that she left behind. Paula felt lonely, she had no one to talk to, no friends to play or spend time with.
In the weeks that followed, she met the Portuguese governor general who lived in this village called Oddavell. The two fell in love and started meeting secretly here at the Jetty. Although the governor was her father’s age, love blossomed between the two and soon, the governor expressed his desire to marry her. Paula was so happy. She was already dreaming of her future with him, as his beloved wife. There was just one problem. The governor was already married and he fathered two children. However, he assured Paula that he’ll take care of everything.
One day, the governor’s wife got to know about his affair with Paula. Frightened of losing her husband, she conspired to cast Paula away from their lives, once and for all. On a fine evening like this, when Paula was waiting for the governor, his wife sent her men to abduct her and take her to a nearby cathedral. Her men did the same and brought Paula to the cathedral where the governor’s wife was waiting for her. Her cruel intentions were to kill Paula but before that, she thought that Paula should be punished first for the adultery she had committed. On her orders, poor Paula was tortured and beaten for hours. In the end, she was stripped naked and murdered. Her body was tossed into the ocean at this exact spot. It is said that when she was dumped into the water, all she was wearing was a pearl necklace.
Soon after her death, numerous villagers claimed to have seen her spirit wandering at the Jetty, waiting for the governor like she used to do while she was alive. As a tribute to her eternal love for the governor, the local villagers built this statue and named this village after her. Three centuries later, even today, if you ask the local villagers who live nearby, they’ll tell countless stories about Paula’s spirit materializing from the waters. It is believed that on a full moon night, Paula can be seen emerging from the ocean, wearing nothing but a pearl necklace.
Yashasvi was dumbfounded. She was so lost into the story that she just heard that she could barely move. It was as if she lived the entire story. For a moment, she compared her own pain with that of Paula. It was nothing compared to what the poor girl had to endure.
“Are you alright miss?” Josh waved his hand in front of her eyes to bring her back from her daydream.
“Na..nothing,” she said. I’m okay. Kinda just lost into the story. God, it’s so painful. What happened with the governor after Paula’s death? Didn’t he do anything to avenge her death?
“Nobody knows,” Josh said. As I told you, it’s just a myth. There’s no evidence to prove it though.
“Hard to believe it’s untrue, the way you recited the story,” she said.
“I take it as a compliment,” he laughed.
“And why do we call this place Dona Paula?” she asked. Was it her full name?
“Well, according to Portuguese customs, Dona is the title given to a married woman,” he said. Marrying the governor was her only desire that wasn’t fulfilled while she was alive. So after her death, the villagers decided to venerate her with the salutation, Dona as an attempt to consummate her unfulfilled desire. Therefore, they named this village Dona Paula and erected this sculpture to honor her everlasting love.
“Wow! I’m speechless,” she said.
“I know, the story of Dona Paula does that to everyone,” he said.
“You want me to click your picture here,” he offered.
“No no, I’m okay,” she said.
“Come on, don’t be shy,” he said. Let me take one for myself. It will remind me of the girl whose purse I saved here in India.
“Well, then,” she laughed and posed in front of the statue.
“Nice,” Josh said as he clicked her picture. Come on, let’s get you some cash first.
“I’m sorry, I forgot to ask,” she said as they walked across the Jetty to find the nearby ATM. Where are you from?
“I’m from Germany, basically,” he said. I used to live in Hamburg. But I haven’t been there in the last five years.
“Oh, but why?” she asked.
“Can’t really tell you that,” he said. I just don’t feel like going back anymore. I don’t have a compelling reason, after all. Besides, I like it the way I keep it. Exploring new places, meeting new people, living on the edge.
“Yeah, I can see that,” she smiled. So you’ve been in India for all this time?
“Not really, I only came here last month,” he said. Before that, I was in Southeast Asia.
“And you’re a diver, right?” she asked?
“Yup, a diving instructor,” he said. I’ve been into all sorts of water sports. Scuba diving, kayaking, rafting, surfing, skimboarding, and now flyboarding.
“Wow! I haven’t tried any of them,” she said. Except for rafting, I did it once while I was in Rishikesh.
“Tell me more about your life,” she said. Where did you live in Southeast Asia?
“A lot of places,” he said. It started with Manila in the Philippines and then Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. Before coming to Goa, I was working for Flyboard Malaysia. I’ve been living in Malaysia for the last two years.
“Your life must be amazing,” she said. I wish I could live like that.
“It’s not as amazing as it looks,” he laughed. Tell me about you. Where are you from and have you come here alone?
“With my friends actually,” she lied. They’re at the hotel. I’m from Delhi by the way, came here with my office colleagues.
“Cool,” he said. So how did you end up coming here alone?
“Had a fight with my friends,” she said, making that up. A stupid silly argument.
“Ahh, gotcha. I thought so,” he said. Do you want to call them up? You can use my phone.
“What? No no, not really,” she said. I’m still angry at them.
“Really,” he laughed. You shouldn’t be. Whatever happened, happened, right?
“Ummm, you’re right,” she said. It’s just that, I just can’t…..
“Alright, so here it goes. I lied to you about my friends,” she said. I came here alone. Actually, nothing was going right in my life, it was so fucked up. I could barely sleep at night and was overthinking a lot. I just needed an escape, you know? And so I spontaneously took a decision, booked my tickets and landed up here in Goa.
“Umm, that’s pretty honest of you,” he said. Don’t worry, it’s a part of life. Everything’s gonna be alright, trust me. And if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.
“Thanks, it’s so nice of you,” she said. Hey wait, I know this quote. It’s what John Lennon said, right?
“Ahh, you know him,” he exclaimed. Wow.
“My dad used to be a fan of The Beatles,” she said. I’ve been brought up listening to Strawberry fields and the White album.
“Amazing,” he smiled. My grandfather once attended their gig when they were performing in Hamburg back in 1960. He’s even got a picture with them.
“Nice, I wish I could have seen them performing live at least once in my life,” she said.
“So do I,” Josh said. Ahh, I can see the ATM over there. Come on, let’s go.
Luckily, the card worked and she took enough cash to last for a few days. She was leaving for Delhi in two days and didn’t want to get into more trouble.
“Alright, so I guess you’re good to go now,” he said.
She knew she could deal with the rest of her mess by herself. But for some strange reason, she didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave this guy just yet, never to see him again. Although she believed that all men are perverts. They’re all interested in the same thing. At first, they pretend that they love you. They treat you like a princess, make you believe that they care. While all they care about is to somehow take you to their bedroom. And then, then they get bored of you and they need someone else to do the same. At least, this is what life had taught her. Her boyfriend took minutes to destroy their six years of relationship because he found someone else. Yes, it was painful, excruciating for the first few weeks, but she could live with that. But something that tore her into pieces was her father doing the same thing to her mother.
“Oh, yeah, so I guess I gotta go now,” she said.
As she turned, she felt something pulling her toward this stranger. He was a foreigner, a complete stranger. And despite the fact that they’ve only talked for like 15 minutes, she felt a strong connection that she never had felt with anyone else.
“Hey, wa..wait,” he yelled and Yashasvi turned around.
“Yasshhvi, I have a friend of mine who works at the Paradise Cruise which happens to be in Panaji,” he said. Last week he invited me on board for a gig but I didn’t get the chance to go.
“Would you like to come?” he asked. It’ll be fun. After that, I’d drop you to your hotel myself.
“Wha, what? I don’t know,” she said. Are you sure about that?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. It’ll be fun. But I leave it up to you. If you don’t want to go, that’s fine, really.
She only needed a split second to respond.
“Yes, no, I mean yes,” she stuttered.
“I’d love to go,” she finally said.
(To be continued…..)