Monday, January 20, 2014

How She met Him

While waiting for Him, She read in a book She had picked up, ‘Every broken relationship turns into a story.’ This should have been the first sign. She was too busy laughing and chatting as Delhi glowed in the golden glow of the winter sun to notice any signs. They had met for lunch. Her eyes had widened when He had said, ‘Eating is a waste of time.’ Her first reaction was to scan the room for hidden cameras. Her first thought, ‘Is this a prank? I keep saying the exact same sentence to my friends.’ Before She had gathered her wit He had said something else. And She had replied with more laughter, interspersed with a few words. The waiter had already visited their table twice to remind them that food needed to be ordered. Reluctantly, they had paused the entertaining conversation and ordered small portions of Chinese food. They spoke about school, family, and friends. They shared stories of car accidents. She grudgingly admitted to herself, His story was more entertaining.

He spoke of his love for driving. She could not stop herself from talking about books and movies. Each bragged a little and at other times tried to come across as humble. The waiting staff at the restaurant hovered around at their table. The table was an embarrassment for the chef I guess. Their plates had hardly any food and the serving dishes looked like they had hardly been touched. After nearly half and an hour later, they were ready to leave the restaurant. They did the ‘cheque dance’. She insisted that She would like to pay. It was after all only fair since He had travelled for more than 18 hours just to meet Her for lunch. But He had scored more points by arguing that paying for lunch was the only chivalrous act He was capable of. He had won among more laughter and the staff at the restaurant seemed more than happy to see them leave.

Following their lunch, they walked around Connaught Place, one of Her happy places. The nip in the air even as the sun shone brightly after what seemed like months but was just a few days ensured that the walk was pleasant. They continued to talk and laugh. She was amused with the fact that there had not been a single moment of awkward silence or nervous laughter. However, there was no dearth of hearty laughter. They had teased each other with a familiarity that only old friends can experience.

They completed a round of the Connaught Circle. He walked her to her car. They shook hands and she told him, ‘It was really nice meeting you.’ She smiled on the drive back to her house and then smiled some more late into the evening when she met her friends for a small party.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The end is near

The day had to come. I knew it even when I was planning the trip three months ago and even when I was packing my bags 15 days ago. This day had to come—the last day of the vacation.

So we survived the night quite peacefully. SKT and Frooti slept early as usual. I, as usual, was up. I saw Ponyo, a movie recommended by Sweater. I will trust Sweater’s choice even more now. Needless to say I loved the film. Then I read a love-story on Twitter. I slept at around 1 am imagining what the holiday would have been like if I had travelled with someone I was in love with. I guess this was just an aftermath of reading a love-story.

There is something about this cottage. The three of us again slept like logs. We woke up at around 8:30 am that too after Frooti warned us that we would miss the sightseeing if we continued to roam about in dreamland. Gokarna is a sleepy town. It is slow and that is the beauty of the place. Life is worth living and every minute becomes worth savoring here. Our tea and breakfast were served at a leisurely pace and we were not in the mood to complain. The dosas were delicious.

A bumpy autorickshaw ride took us to the main temple complex where we offered our prayers to Lord Ganesha , Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The temple complex is located just a short walk away from the Main Beach. When we reached the beach the sand was as hot as burning coal. However, the sight of a blue sea welcomed us and made us forget about our burning feet. I have never before seen such blue waters. We walked quite a bit in the hot sun. Then we rushed to the vendor selling coconut water. I still felt hot so decided to indulge in an ice-cream. We boarded the auto and braved another bumpy ride back to the cottage. We opted for the simple but delicious meal prepared at the cottage. We lazed around in the afternoon. SKT read her book, Frooti wrote, while I read links I had favorited on Twitter since the last week. SKT and I then called Titu and spoke to him after what seemed like ages.

At around 4, when the sun was not too strong, we took the treacherous path that we had abandoned last evening, and went to Kudle Beach. The Kudle Beach is the beautifulest of them all, as Jaspinder put it. It is a shingle beach. I had first read about a shingle beach when I was in class eight. My teacher had explained, ‘A shingle beach is a beach which has several rocks and boulders strewn all over. The waves come and crash against the rocks creating a sound which touches the soul if a listener listens carefully enough.’ I had wanted to go to a shingle beach ever since. The visit to the beach was everything I had imagined and more. I heard the waves crashing. They spoke to me. Had I been alone, I might have spent some more time sitting on the boulders and thinking about life and such. Then would have walked some more in the crystal clear water. Would have spent some more time talking to the couple who had made a beautiful sand sculpture of Lord Ganesha. However, by a unanimous vote it was decided that it was time to walk to Om Beach.

The track that leads to Om Beach is also a very difficult one. People with no weight issues might not find it too difficult but I was ready to give up on the idea of going to the beach after climbing the steep stairs. I decided to take an auto for the rest of the way. SKT and Frooti were keen to walk the entire distance but decided to accompany me in the auto since they were not in favor of me going alone. So we reached Om Beach. Om Beach is named such because the coast of the beach and the boulders on the coast form the shape of Om. Watching the sun set behind the boulders leaving a red hue across the horizon was an experience to cherish for a long, long time. A very thin sliver of moon rose in the sky next to the pole star while we walked on the wet sand and the waves created music. It was a setting perfect for a song written by Gulzar Sa’ab. We sat on a rock for sometime, listening to the crashing waves, looking at the millions of stars that were twinkling just for us.

We went to the famed Namaste Café. Had a scrumptious meal. I topped off the night with a sliver of banoffee pie. The ride back to the cottage was another adventurous one. The road that leads to the cottage is steep and is a mud-road, not a concrete one. The darkness added to the drama. Thankfully, we reached unhurt.

Now that the vacation is almost over, I can confess that every time I think of how wonderful this break has been, I say a thank you to Jaspinder for helping me plan this trip/itinerary; Loofah for encouraging me to go solo; Sangy for ensuring that no fear ever crept my mind; Sweater for well being entertaining; and last but obviously not the least, mom for saying repeatedly, just be happy and enjoy and ensuring that all my reservations and bookings were done. I am glad SKT and Frooti ‘piled on’ (their words not mine!) on the last leg of the holiday so that my transition back to humanity and my world will be relatively easy.

I am now packed and ready to leave for Goa tomorrow morning. A taxi has been booked to take me to Goa station, which is a four-hour drive. I’ll be taking a train to Delhi from Goa. The 40-hour journey back home will be one where I’ll be revisiting each and every moment of my vacation, not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Interesting times

To a discerning eye the way I spent the first day of the year might seem boring. However, people who would fall in this category would be wrong. We began the day with a Bigg Boss experience. There was an early-morning eviction and we were asked to vacate our room by 6:30 am. We packed our bags, got ready, and then slept till 7:40 am. That’s when the caretaker came to ask us to leave the room immediately. Then we shifted our luggage and ourselves to the dining hall of the Holiday Home. The driver was called and asked to come by 9 am so that we could leave for Gokarna.

The drive through the Western Ghats was most scenic. Verdant forests on one side and a deep blue sea on the other kept us company while our driver for the ride, Dheeraj, ensured that we stayed alert throughout the journey because of his abysmal driving skills. The upside to his fast driving was that we made good time and were in Paradise Holiday Cottages, Kudle Beach by 1 pm.

SKT, Frooti and I were jumping with joy after seeing the wooden cottage that is to be our home for the next couple of nights. The Flintstone’s bathroom made me really happy. It has stone walls, a showering hole in the center of the floor, and a big window with a curtain which allows natural light to fill in the bathroom but keeps ones modesty intact (or so I hope). The room is on the first floor. It is a big wooden hall with a queen size bed, a fan which is off-center ensuring that you feel cool if your are closer to it and warmer as you go further away, and two CFL bulbs which are connected to the same switch so that either you survive in pitch black darkness or feel like you are sitting on the Railway platform. The view from the balcony is to die for. Huge black boulders are spread across the landscape. Different shades of green cover the vicinity and the trees house a variety of birds which give a continuous background music that compliments the sound of waves of the Arabian sea that lies at the foothill of the hilltop where our cottage rests.

So taken were we with the view that we sat outside to have lunch. Unfortunately, my heart and skin don’t compliment each other. While the heart loves the sun, the skin does not appreciate the heat at all. So while sitting in the sun warms my heart, my skin becomes red, itches and forms scales that are akin to the scales on the body of a baby crocodile. However, little things like acute skin burn do not deter me. I sat with SKT and Frooti in the sun, had lunch, and then we spoke for several minutes. I decided that the self-preservation mode needs to kick in and therefore decided to head back to the room and take a nap instead of going down to the beach. While I was sleeping like a log in the wooden cottage, SKT and Frooti were soaking in the sun. I have no idea when they came to the room and decided to take a nap as well. I woke up a few minutes before sunset, clicked photos of the dipping sun and sent the photos to Mom, Jaspinder, and Sweater in an attempt to make them jealous.

Then the three of us decided to start the New Year on an ambitious note. We decided to go to the beach almost 15 minutes after sunset. Now the route to the beach from the cottage is treacherous to say the least. SKT and Frooti did fraandship with a kitten on the way. The scary-poo that I am, I stayed 10 steps ahead of them to avoid tripping on the kitten. We were almost at the last leg of the ‘dangerous way’, as the manager of the cottage put it, when one of us just about managed to avoid a fall. Better sense prevailed and we climbed the hill back to the cottage. We sat outside, under a canopy build with hay, drank tea/coffee, and sat sharing stories with each other. It was an hour well spent.

We ordered dinner and had a traditional thaali meal sitting down on the floor, sharing more stories and laughter. When prodded repeatedly, the caretaker said that monkeys might visit the cottage early morning. When questioned further, he said that bears also come in the vicinity, ‘only sometimes’.

Let’s hope this does not turn into a wildlife holiday!

See you tomorrow!

An exciting end to 2013

Before today, I never understood what the quote, ‘live like it’s your last day’ meant. However, if someone was to ask me tomorrow, I would tell them I have lived a day as if it was my last. The fact that it coincided with the last day of the year is just a coincidence. SKT, who is now travelling with me, has put a lot of pressure on me. Her instructions were simple, ‘Khot, you have to blog today. It has to be as awesome as the day we spent.’

So, let me start at the beginning. We began the day by watching The Sound of Music on the TV in our room while the three of us took turns to get ready. Once in our beach attire, we decided to walk to the taxi stand. A lady, who we asked for directions, told us that the walk to the taxi stand was half a kilometer. In the same breath she told us to take a bus. Bonds that we are, a unanimous decision was taken to walk the distance. After walking for more than 30 minutes, we decided to go for a second opinion. Luckily, a bus was in the vicinity and this time the gentleman who was giving us directions almost pushed us into the bus.

The three of us toyed with the idea of taking a bus to Panjim. Playing with the idea tired us soon enough and we took a taxi to our destination. The first goal of the day was to hire a car and enquire about transportation options to Gokarna (our next destination). After haggling for almost an hour and what seemed like forever in the scorching sun, we hired a cab. The driver promised to take us around wherever we wanted to today and then drive us to Gokarna tomorrow, for a handsome sum of course.

We went for a late breakfast + an early lunch to Viva Panjim. The meal and the ambience was an experience in itself. The old pebbled street, the tiled tables, and the delicious Goan cuisine ensured that the day began at a great note. Yes! We believe that the day begins only when a meal has been had. OK, OK, I confess that is not my philosophy. I believe that chewing is a waste of time. But today’s Goan meal had even me thinking that ‘jeevan safal ho gaya.’

Done with the lunch, we went to Colva Beach. The sun was strong and both SKT and Frooti had really strong reactions to the beach. They hated it as much as they had loved the Baga Beach. However, as the sun went down their spirits soared. I was super excited throughout. I was looking forward to some time in the water and ending the year on an adventurous note. Thankfully, managed to do both!

SKT and I went parasailing! She went first and I followed suit. We were in the air for only 2-3 minutes. But it was the best 2-3 minutes of the year gone by. I laughed throughout the ascent, the flight, and the descent. The experience was liberating to say the least. I would have never thought I would ever do anything closely related to adventure sports. But I did it! And I cannot wait to do it again soon!

We walked for a long time on the beach. Spotted a lifeguard and decided that it was a good place to go into the water. Two men, drunk and obnoxious, decided to inch too close to comfort. The three of us shouted at them and then went to complain to the lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard was very prompt and immediately called the police. When confronted by the policemen, the men addressed us thus, ‘Please don’t create trouble for us. We approached you only because we thought you were foreigners.’ This response ensured that we rebuked them even more. The policemen escorted the men out of the beach. And the line, we thought you were foreigners, became our motto for the rest of the day. We went back into the water. Came out, made sand castles (or shivling versions of it), and then went back into the water again.

Just before the sun was about to set, we found a not-so-busy beach shack. We ordered some food and just sat looking at the last sunset of the year. The wind was cooler now. We sat listening to music, talking, and laughing. It was a great way to end the day.

But we had more exciting plans.

We went to a pastry place and picked up some, you guessed it, pastries. Our second stop was Domino’s. We ordered pizzas and headed to pick up a Breezer for each of us. We reached our holiday home after an hour-long drive. We ate pizzas watching You’ve Got Mail. We realized we had no bottle openers so our Breezers are sitting on the TV trolley, staring at us. SKT and Frooti have slept after repeating time and again that they will sleep only after ushering in the New Year. I am living an exciting dream and writing the last post of this year.

Happy New Year!

May it be exciting for all the right reasons!