In the middle of touristy Goa, we find an oasis of peace

It’s a very hot morning in Goa. I can feel the bright sun burning through my skin as early as 6:30 am. However, I am an early bird, obviously rather unusual in Goa. As I head out, all I see during the 15-minute drive are two pups cuddled up in the middle of the road. The vada pav stalls are not yet open and I don’t see a single tea shop. Soon civilisation gives way to large tracts of fields and then it’s water everywhere. The Mandovi flows alongside giving me company and I watch a few waders on her banks and a couple of low-flying pond egrets. Even the fishermen seem to be on holiday.

I am headed to a little lake lost amid the lone tracks of a railway station in a little hamlet. Carambolim or Karamali is a pretty village tucked away in old Goa, its claim to fame a railway station, a 500-year-old chapel and a Brahma temple. But none of these lure me.

Carambolim is still snoozing when I reach. Taking in the silence and the pleasant morning breeze, we stop for a few minutes at a railway crossing. A lone train chugs by, taking passengers to either dream destinations or to the comfort of home. When I cross over, a single lane takes me into a palette of colours — verdant fields on one side, nodding in glee in the morning breeze and a vast man-made lake on the other bustling with bird life.

Standing under the shade of a tree, I see that the train has paused in its journey, its blue compartments reflected in the lake. Another train approaches from the other end and pauses for a moment, as strangers glance at each other from either train before continuing on their journeys.

A flock of lesser whistling ducks comes in, the birds announcing their presence loudly, whistling as they frolic and splash in the water before settling down. A flock of garganeys floats by quietly. I look at them through the binoculars as they curl up in the waters. The purple swamp hens strike several poses as they create a stark contrast on the green marshland. An open stork bill stands quietly, getting a bit of a tan; while the two jacanas, the bronze-winged and the pheasant-tailed, are clearly rather shy. The latter shows off a curved tail before disappearing into the water. A purple heron is in flight and lands near the flock of lesser whistling ducks. Coots and grebes lose themselves in the crowd.

We head to the other bank of the lake and who should be waiting there but a bright glossy ibis preening in the sun. A darter bird darts past while a grey heron stands still as a statue. Puddles of water suddenly move in the green marshland and the heads of ducks pop out. They fly across the lake, criss-crossing from one side to the other, whistling away.

I stand there for hours, forgetting heat and hunger, longing for more time in the company of birds. The silence stands out as the birds call out. I wonder that this little idyllic world is lost to man. That’s when I realise why Goa is not just a destination but a state of mind.

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