“You can’t leave the island; our friend with the boat has gone home for the night. You’ll have to stay with us.”
A horrified expression spreads across our faces like wildfire at the thought of being stuck on the tiny island only with Mr Bollywood, Jojo and his pet cock. We look out to the black choppy water and conclude it must be 20 metres back to the unlit shore. Gripping hands, Jaz and I frantically look at Mr Bollywood and Jojo and then our gazes turned to Paulo, a 60-year-old Italian hippy sporting a pair of yellow Speedos and a joint.
How did we get into this position? The night had started so innocently. Upon arriving in Palolem, a small beach town in Southern Goa, India, we were greeted by a rainbow of colours. Silk pashminas, bedding and jewellery hung from market stores which picketed the narrow streets.
A continuous flow of scooters and tuk-tuks tore through the town marginally missing cows and women carrying baskets of wood on their heads, whilst elegantly draped in burnt orange, fuchsia and apple green saris.
The beach, perfectly lined with a curtain of coconut trees, was illuminated by the gentle glow that only comes at dusk. With our senses caught up in an Indian whirlwind, we followed the light along the mile long bay and straight into a Goan beach party.
High from our post-orgasmic sensory rush, we were half expecting the barmen to shimmy from behind the bamboo counter and break into Indian song and dance. We too would take our places in this impromptu dance scene. Dance would possess our bodies and our western clothes would be replaced with glittering jewels and saris. Our leading man would then take us by the hand and stare longingly into our eyes.
And there he was. Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome perched by the bar. After ordering a rather suspicious looking mojito, he walked over and introduced himself as a young aspiring Bollywood actor from Mumbai, and co-owner of the bar. Instantly intrigued by his Bollywood status, I wondered whether a two-week holiday was long enough for me to learn Indian dance.
“My friend, my friend I’m so happy to see you again!” Screams a small bald man, as he grabs Mr Bollywood forcing an exchange of hugs.
“This is Jojo; he’s my business partner and co-owner of the bar.”
“I owe everything to this man! He helped me get this bar!” Interrupts Jojo. Overcome by emotion, Jojo wraps his arms and Buddha like belly around his giant friend one last time before relaying the story of their friendship.
It all started a few years ago when Mr Bollywood was holidaying in Palolem with a girlfriend when she got stuck up a tree. Jojo fortunately had been walking past and swiftly climbed up the tree and rescued her. Since then, this unlikely duo have become the best of friends, with Jojo running the bar on this little deserted island, whilst Mr Bollywood lives it up with the entertainment industry in Mumbai.
This nostalgic discussion led to another round of drinks before we joined the rest of the party and attempted to dance along to the trance music that was vibrating from speakers haphazardly hanging from the trees. Taking centre stage was a western looking hippy wearing white cheese cloth clothing and covered in dirt, while dancing hysterically then gracefully to the music. His dance moves, filthy appearance and vacant expression suggesting he took a LSD trip many years ago and never recovered.
Due to a 10pm loud music band in Goa, the party began to shut down seemingly as quickly as it started, forcing us to say goodbye to our new friends.
During the course of the night, the tide had come in and effectively trapped us on a small island, therefore to get back to shore, we squeezed into the wooden long boats just as Mr Bollywood screamed, “don’t go, stay with us. We are having a little party with some of the other guests.”
“But how will we get back to shore? The tide has come in.”
“Oh don’t worry, our friend owns the boat so he can take you back whenever you like, but come and enjoy the party and worry about that later.”
Apprehensively (and stupidly) we agree, before Mr Bollywood plucks us from the boat. We watch the last of the revellers sail off while listening to their drunken screams of laughter fade across the water. With the boat out of sight, we make our way up the small hill back to the party and notice we are the only guests left with Mr Bollywood and Jojo.
“Where is everyone?” I say, as I scan the intimate looking soiree.
“Oh no one else could stay, except for old Godfather-of-Goa over there,” sneers Mr Bollywood pointing at the bar.
Upon hearing his name, Paulo raises his head and slowly stumbles off his stool letting out a few “bella, bellas.” He then plants a forceful kiss on either side of our cheeks before repositioning himself back on his stool and rolling another joint.
As Paulo sits in a semi-unconscious state, Jojo and Mr Bollywood start to move closer to Jaz and me.
“Let me give you a massage,” whispers Mr Bollywood with his heavy whiskey breath.
“Ah, no, I’m quite relaxed at the moment…”
“Oh come on, let’s go somewhere quieter, I have a beach hut.”
I anxiously look towards the bar where Jaz is talking to Paulo, her back to Jojo.
“Umm, I think Jaz and I should go now.”
“Stay…….maybe I’ll love you if you sleep with me.”
It was Mr Bollywood’s promise of ‘possible love’ that finally sent me leaping up. His Mickey Mouse t-shirt should have acted as a warning to the western world influence; however, I had decided to look past this as a fashion faux pas.
“Can you get your friend to take us back to the beach?”
“Don’t be silly, you can’t go! Our friend has gone!”
Upon hearing this Jaz grabbed my wrist tightly. “What, we can’t stay; Jojo wants me to stay in his beach hut with him and his pet cock.”
“Please, call your friend, we’ll pay him!!!”
“He’s gone home for the night, don’t worry, stay with us, we’ll have a good time.” Mr Bollywood’s smirk made every inch of my body squirm.
Assessing our options, Jaz and I look out to the sea and then back at Mr Bollywood and Jojo before our desperate gazes turn to Paulo. Trying to avert our eyes from his tiny yellow Speedos squashed between his legs, we hold his gaze before he bravely steps forward and offers to swim us back to shore.
Clearly irritated that his master plan is being sabotaged, Mr Bollywood interferers with a warning, “Don’t be silly – you’ll never make it back if you swim, stay with us! You don’t want to risk your lives, especially given the recent shark sightings.”
Whilst I was fairly confident that this was a final attempt to keep us on the island, doubt did sweep through my mind only intensifying my fear of swimming back in my inebriated state with a stoned hippy as my lifeline.
Reluctantly, we each grabbed one of Paulo’s hands and using our other hand placed our handbags on our heads and took a deep breath in preparation for the unknown.
My first few steps in the water felt like I was walking the plank, forcing me to pray that I didn’t drown, or get eaten for that matter, on day one of my Goan holiday. After a few metres, the warm water crept above my shoulders and my toes started to float above the sand. Sensing my anxiety, Paulo swung me on his back. Consciously trying to avoid his yellow bulge, I tightly wrapped my legs around his small waist. To further calm the situation, Paulo began to sing in Italian, the whole experience resulting in Jaz and I moving between fits of laughter and a series of “Oh-my -god, oh-my-god, oh-my-gods.”
Relieved that we had survived the plank, we thanked our kind, but unlikely looking knight in shining armour, for rescuing us from what seemed like certain death.
In response to our continual praises, in his thick Italian accent he proposed: “Why don’t you come back to my place? You can take off your wet clothes, maybe you could sleep upstairs or maybe you could stay in my bed. We take some drugs, we have good time.”