Goa, for Aaron Lobo, is home, his place of birth, his anchoring force. His memory of the land is so powerful that he can still taste the fresh oysters he used to crack open on Anjuna beach (yes, oysters on anjuna beach!), his favorite amuse-bouche as a child. They were briny, sweet, and mercurial, taking on the taste of the changing sea. A marine biologist, and keeper of environmental secrets, Aaron has native knowledge so deep, it can turn anyone a shade of envy green. No matter how much we gently push him to reveal his top secret spots, he stays hush.
It’s not that he’s against social media, or spreading knowledge. But what rattles him is the association of Goa “as a hedonistic destination, a second home for Instagram photo opps,” when it is the natural world – which exists in opposition to material culture – that is its endless source of beauty.
“Goa has always been a global place for centuries and as long as this does not cost the local ecology too much – it can be very enriching for the state and it’s people. Sadly this is not always the case and we are indeed seeing environmental degradation and gentrification escalating like never before,” he says, while reminding us that it’s all about striking a balance.
Is Aaron always thinking about the natural world, even when doing the most human of things?
Wildlife in Anthropocene is the last film he watched. When shopping in Mapusa, he’s not just shopping, he’s thinking about oceanic undercurrents and fish mating patterns while inhaling the mixed fragrances of goan chorizo, salt fish, and dried chillies.
This olfactory orchestra always makes him sneeze, he says. Could it also be that someone, something, underwater is thinking of him as he thinks of them?
But back in the market, it’s triphal - an astringent berry that gives traditional Goan fish curry a special zing - that he’s probably after. “It’s the husk of the berry, that marries with a curry’s chili, turmeric, kokum and coconut milk, which when bitten in to can leave the lips tingling and the mouth, briefly numb,” he tells us, explaining that this is what give Cantonese cuisine that unmistakable ma la (spicy numb) note, acting both as flavour and social.