It is surprising how just 3 days of bone warming sun, soft sand, towering palm trees and chilled breezers with friends who have shared over a decade of my life, can expunge a couple of years of world-weariness. Which is why after a long hiatus, the first thing I felt compelled to write was a story of those 3 days, 5 friends, 1 shanty like cottage, 1 stolen iPhone, 2 gorgeous Chocolate thalis, a crate of breezers, numerous plastic cups of coconut rum and plates of fried fish, a few dozen liqueur chocolates and an endless out-pour of chatter.
With a year’s worth of planning, coordinating and dreaming behind us, we were fairly confident that nothing could possibly ruin our perfectly laid plans. After all, hours had been spent over long distance phone calls, Skype and Google hangout sessions and Whatsapp chat rallies to chalk out the awesomeness that we intended to pack in these 72 hours. Our plans seemed water tight and as I boarded the first of many flights that were to mark my trip, I wore a smile so wide that I am certain it made me look rather demented.
In our naiveté we had clearly forgotten that the best laid schemes of mice and (wo)men oft go awry. As the days of travel fast approached, the intents of some of our most confident co-conspirators started wobbling precariously like bowling pins that had been struck. After much dwindling, Mini and Arry finally gave up and fell off the merry bandwagon. It was disappointing, to say the very least. What is a girls’ trip sans Mini’s theatrics and Arry’s flakiness! On cold unforgiving nights, I still nurse bitter thoughts about that ill-timed malady that afflicted Mini’s family and that Army School Principal who made Arry stay back for a horrid school inspection.
A close shave with ‘delayed-flights-and-missed-connecting-flights’ later, I landed on Goan soil. As luck would have it, Pali’s flight had landed moments ago and was hitched to the jet bridge right next door. The sight of that elfin face was more than enough to make me believe that this trip was going to be fantastic. During the 2 hour cab ride to the ‘yoga-retreat’ that Pali had supposedly cherry-picked for us, we shared tales of eccentric bosses, kooky co-workers and other bizarre events and people that had coloured our lives lately.
A metallic voice on the GPS chimed - "You have reached your destination". As we resurfaced from a haze of banter, it dawned on us that our cab driver had offloaded us in the middle of what looked like a dense forest with nothing but thick green foliage, zig-zag trails in the sand resembling snake tracks and a bunch of stray dogs lounging in the shade. A signboard with two arrows pointing in opposite directions made it quite impossible to figure out the location of our lodging. Much scouting brought us to a dirt track bejewelled by scorched cow dung cakes and dog excrement. At the other end of this track we found an insipid version of the resort that we had approved and reserved online. We also found an amused Joti and a very furious Tashi ma’am with her hands on her hips and imaginary smoke curling out of her nostrils and ears.
Between strings of angry expletives, Tashi ma’am explained how the lady at the Front Desk had thrown an unnecessary tantrum about something as trivial as a misunderstanding regarding the number of people in our party and as a result had jangled the nerves of an already travel weary Tashi ma’am who had been on the road for over 10 hours the previous night. Instantly it felt like we had regressed 10 years in time to our days in the hostel, witnessing Tashi ma’am at loggerheads with our bull-headed warden. Funny how some things never change and how happy their permanence makes me especially when life is hurling one unsettling change after another at me.
The aforesaid lady at the front desk also turned out to be the co-owner of the establishment, a yoga instructor, an erstwhile Dutch architect, the possessor of a weird clipped accent and an itra seller with a penchant for duping marijuana pumped foreigners. That she might have posted misleading, air-brushed pictures of her little ‘yoga-resort’ online now did not seem beyond her. This is not to say that I was entirely unhappy about the rickety, two floor, one bathroom, zero air conditioner hovel that we had ended up in. It was going to be an experience and it did not quite matter how the dwelling was as long as we were all together. Over chilly prawns, fish fried rice and Cabo – the locally made coconut liqueur, we fell right back into the good old arms of jaunty babble.
Plans for the evening were made. We were headed to a fancy restaurant called La Plage on Ashvem beach where the prices were sky-high, the clientèle was fashionably bohemian and the portions were minuscule. Sheer white curtains floated like delicate fairies around us as we sat on wicker chairs waiting for our food and making puns at Joti who even at 9:30 in the night was unable to get off her work phone and was delivering legal words nineteen to the dozen while doling out piles of work to her poor interns. Mere feet away from the crashing waves, even Joti wasn’t able to keep up her otherwise fierce sincerity towards her work for long.
To be honest, I do not remember the names and forms of food we ate that night but I do remember that for chocolate aficionados like Sandesh and I, the chocolate thaliat the end of our meal was like pure joy served on a plate. A sampler that beheld the choicest of La Plage’s chocolate offerings like a dense dark chocolate mousse, a sliver of a decadent seven layer chocolate cake, chocolate truffles and so on was devoured in the blink of an eyelid and chops were licked with gratification thereafter. On our way back we stumbled upon a flea market of sorts which looked like a fairy-light laced dream. Its purpose was clear – to provide a trendier version of common rummage sales for the crème de la crème to experience. We, the hoi-polloi, on the other hand could only afford a few very pretty pictures clicked by our very own ace photographer – Pali – against a backdrop of shimmering mirrors and lanterns.
In search of that most essential morning cup of tea without which massive headaches threatened to descend upon at least two of us (me included of course), we scoured the beaches of Mandrem the next day and finally found a scrawny beach side shack-owner who agreed to provide the desired cup of manna with a plateful of greasy omelettes. Like two water babies itching to envelope themselves in the silky silver, saline folds of ocean waves, Pali and Joti immediately plunged into the water. I, on the other hand, was perfectly content in lying on a beach chair, sipping chai, munching on hard as rock Goan bread and watching eastern European fitness freaks striking gravity-defying yoga poses (minus the sight of a dread locked, middle aged hippy in a thong that refused to cover parts of his anatomy that no one wanted to see).
More fish, prawns, breezers, ocean-dips, chit-chat sessions followed as we got ourselves a cushioned spot in a shack overlooking the sea. Having turned a perfect shade of reddish-brown almost like fried crisp bacon, we dragged our feet back home. Once at the cottage, the thought of a nap made each one of us weak in the knees but we had to pull ourselves together to explore the alleys of ‘The Saturday Night Market’ – one of Goa’s largest flea markets held at Arpora. ...To be continued