|As we arrived in Panjim, the red carpets were rolled out and the van loads of camera crews pulled up. No we haven't made it big in Bollywood, it was the opening day of the International Film Festival of India. Keen to get involved we wandered over to the promenade to check out the action. Judging by the lineup of stalls, the growing crowd and the armed police in blue camouflage (not quite sure what they were camouflaging against), this was going to be big. Hours later of sitting in the baking sun we were none the wiser.
We later discovered that we had to join a bustling queue (Indian version of) at the Inox theatre office which was 3km down the promenade in the 35 degree heat. At the Inox you had to produce 2 passport photos, a proof of ID, fill out several forms in triplicate and bring written documentation of your current work and associations with the film industry. And all this was just so you could apply for a delegate pass which would then enable you to line up once again and try to purchase cinema tickets.
Eventually we discovered that back at the place we'd started, the Kala Academy, we could actually see a public evening screening without a delegate pass. So we trekked all the way back along the promenade only to be met by 2 armed guards at the Kala Academy gate. "Passes. Passes!" They shouted. We looked across the road and saw a man mounted Rambo-style on top of a truck, camouflaged in blue with his M16 machine gun. It was just a hunch but we decided it was probably best if we didn't try to negotiate, so we gave the Indian cinema experience a miss.
Back in town we retreated to a quiet little restaurant for our other favourite pastime - eating. Before we could sit down we were surrounded by a swarm of waiters in red checked shirts and aprons. Three waiters ushered us into our booth (they were a little lost as their normal duty would be to push in the chairs except that the benches were bolted to the floor), 2 fought over handing us the menu, 3 waiters argued over optimum ceiling fan settings, one waiter brought the pepper while another had the important task of the salt and 3 waiters stood at the end of the table to supervise (no blinking allowed). As soon as the last mouthful of food was scooped into the hand, but before it even reached the mouth, the plate was gone like a magic act. At one stage my naan almost fell out of the basket onto the table. Before I could grab it a pair of quick-draw Indian hands went for the dive. What a save. I half expected an applause from the red checked crowd.
There was one last thing we had to do while in Panjim. The guy in the tourist bureau was more concerned with the cricket than us so he thrust a brochure in front of us for boat trips. And who could resist with such description as: "The Dolphin Fantasy Tour - Venture into the sea, watch the dark graceful beauties in a playful mood and the rhythmic dance of love..." In translation: "Circle around the jetty so slowly you'd have no chance making it to the sea, search for dark shadows in the distance and putt along towards them while they playfully dodge your path, get as close as you can to running them over and repeat in circular motion for the next hour, blast cheesy Indian music from a crackling speaker so at least the teenage Indian tourists onboard can dance, or at least drum on the seats." Chris was lucky enough to capture one of the dark graceful beauties on film. It's in there somewhere... we promise!