It’s not just the vast, open expanse of land and crystal clear sea water that bind you in their spell. The real, rustic India that we city dwellers seldom experience these days makes you want to hold on to the memory of Tarkarli just a little longer.
Let me fill the frames for you. Here is the setting – narrow yet clean and uncluttered lanes with a boy on a squeaky cycle enjoying his ride ; red soil lined backyards with hens clucking around or a bored cow chewing cud; a freshly watered Tulsi (basil) plant in front of each house adorned by sindoor (vermillion) marks from the morning puja (worship) and the sound of the temple bell resounding in the distance.
You have men in their white ,coiled turbans and white attire squatting near a bus stop, patiently waiting for the somewhat battered state transport bus; women in their nine yard saris chatting in a way that comes from years of knowing one another and a weekly local market lined with villagers transacting business.
Got the idea, right? Tarkarli is a village in the Malvan region of coastal Maharashtra, around a 4-5 hour drive from Goa (depending on how fast you go). Malvanis love the sea and all the produce from it and how! Malvani cuisine is much sought after and you will find many city slickers licking their chops in food joints scattered across Mumbai city. Sample a few restaurants here
If you come across a person with the surname Malvankar, he will most probably have his roots in the Malvan region. Several Indian names are derived from ancestral home towns – you might have heard of Maharashtrian surnames ending with ‘kar’ (quite often implying ‘a resident of’) – (Sachin) Tendulkar, coach (Ramakant) Achrekar etc. Find out more here.
Returning to the subject, I arrived in Tarkarli with my family in delightful weather over the Christmas holidays. After an overnight train journey to Kudal, we took an auto rickshaw and expected it to be just another ride to a place we wanted to get to.
As we turned a bend, a landscape out of a Western movie revealed itself. Red soil crisscrossed with dry fields, a few shrubs breaking through in others – the road was just a black string in the setting. Bricks lying in heaps along the road, a sign of prosperity as a few villagers built ‘pucca’ or permanent houses with earnings from nearby cities like Goa and Mumbai.
On our way, we passed a market teeming with locals selling vegetables, betel leaves, coconuts, corn-on-the-cob, fruits and what-not to other locals who had come prepared with their white, polyethylene bags fashioned from packaging used for fertilizer/grains. A few had wooden toys of the kind I remember seeing when I was a kid in Chennai.
Many would see this scene as a sign of an India that has not caught up with the times, but I am one of those who delights in finding places/things that remind me of the way things were. It isn’t just nostalgia.
Increasing urbanization is homogenizing our towns, robbing them of unique characteristics – the sights, sounds and smells that define their memories in people’s minds. The identity of a place is derived not just from its people and history, but also from the innumerable nuances of culture – whether it is the way a Hyderabadi speaks Hindi, a Tamilian eats rice, a Maharashtrian drapes a nine yard sari or a Bengali chews paan.
I think it is worth preserving this uniqueness. There is no harm in ‘unity in diversity’, but let us retain and experience this diversity. What do you say?
How to reach Tarkarli/Malvan –
By Air – The nearest airport is in Goa (Dabolim airport). From here, you can take a taxi or hire a private car. If you are used to traveling by buses, you can take a tourist bus from the Panjim Bus Station
By Train – The nearest railhead is Kudal. Once you alight, you can take taxis or rickshaws to your hotel. Don’t forget to ask the hotel if it is in Tarkarli or Deobag. To book your train tickets online, you can visit http://www.irctc.co.in
By Car – You could hire a car or drive one of your own.
Tarkarli is around 492 km via National Highway (NH) 17 which is the Mumbai-Goa route. It is around 575 km via the Mumbai-Pune route or NH 4.
Since the drive is over 10 hours, it is advisable to halt midway, especially if you are traveling with family. Kolhapur would be ideal for an overnight stay.
If you are driving down from Thane, it will take approx. 6 hours to Kolhapur with toilet/snacking breaks and 4-5 hours to Tarkarli.
By Bus – You could take S.T. (State Transport) buses from Parel, Bombay Central and Borivali in Mumbai. Buses also leave from the Thane S.T. Bus Stand in Thane city. Private Luxury Buses ferry passengers almost daily from Mumbai (various places) and Thane to Malvan, Tarkarli.
Hotels in Tarkarli/Malvan-
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Resort (MTDC) Resort (link) is the best option for Tarkarli as it is right on the beach. The service is bearable (by Indian standards) and food is decent. TIP – Right next door to the MTDC resort, a lady serves good, home cooked food in her restaurant cum home stay. You have to order at least 2 hours in advance though.
We also stayed at Saagar Sangam Resort in Deobag (link), which is very close to Tarkarli. The resort had excellent food (even vegetarian) and efficient service.
There are several good home stays as well, which we did not have time to investigate. However, during off season you can just land up there and look around.
Be advised that a few websites list hotels in and around Goa as those in Malvan/Tarkarli. If you see Mandrem, Bardez, Calangute, Vagator etc, these are all in Goa and so, quite far off.
Food in Tarkali/Malvan –
This region is heaven for sea food lovers. You can enjoy all kinds of fish, prawn and crab curries.
For vegetarians like us however, the options are few and far between. So, it’s best to inquire at your hotel of stay if they have vegetarian food on their menu and stick to the safer local options like rice onion (kanda) poha, dal khichdi, rotis with mixed vegetables etc.