Four Friends in Goa

Water Storage Tank at Fort Aguada

Water Storage Tank at Fort Aguada

Goa was the next destination for our Monsoon inspired trip to western India. Goa an independent state now, was the last city or state to become part of India after Portugal was virtually forced to retreat in 1961. This smallish state of India is one of the most happening place and has one of the best beaches in India. This also is the hippiest place of India and one of top choice for foreigners coming to India. Goa is also the place where young and young at heart, both go. We too landed at Goa from Pune after crisscrossing through some of the most picturesque roads of India.

We reached late in evening and checked in a private apartment owned by one of our common friends from Lucknow. The evening was celebrated in the Goan spirit of chilled beers sitting at a restaurant besides the beach at Baga. The crowd there was of youngsters mostly and usually they were from Mumbai and around for a weekend break. The music was quite loud, but in tempo with the young crowds. Interestingly even here right besides the sea, I noticed many souls chatting on their mobile phones while their friends were sitting just across the table. Even those who were not chatting were checking their mobiles phones every 5 minutes or so and may be even sooner. The photos and selfies were being clicked at regular intervals.

We decided to stroll along the beach after some time. Since it was night, the lifeguards were warning anybody who was going closer to waves. We continued to stroll along for sometime and shared our long cherished memories. It was a pleasant evening. The pleasure of walking on sand with your best friends is too sweet literally. It resuscitates youth in you. If you can disassociate yourself from your normal worries, you feel light and young. I felt that for sure and so did my friends.

Next morning we were out on beach soon and went in for soaking ourselves in sea water. We were overtaken soon by splash of sea waves, a million dollar pleasure. The moments spent frolicking with waves and water with friends make you young at heart because you play with water as any other kid would play actually. All of us except Tomar enjoyed this water sojourn as he went out for a jog alone.

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At Goa Beach

Tomar Giving a Pose

Tomar Giving a Pose

The trip continued over many more chilled beers sold at dirt cheap prices compared to Lucknow. The memories continued to be shared. The beaches and places continued to be visited. We landed at Fort Aguada as part of our trip. Last time I visited this place was with Dabbu’s and my own family in 2007. Dabbu for his personal reasons perhaps would have travelled down the memory lane.

Dabbu and I

Dabbu and I

This place was used by Portuguese as light house and also for storage of fresh water, is just besides the sea and provides few good vantage points to click yourself. We took turns to get clicked and continued to enrich our memories.

At Fort Aguada

At Fort Aguada

Raja at Fort Aguada

Raja at Fort Aguada

At The Walls of the Fort Aguada

At The Walls of the Fort Aguada

Goa is the place really to be with friends……..

Dil Chahata Hai in Monsoons……

The Green Tint

The Green Everywhere

Nobody can miss the impact of Monsoon in central India. Unlike at other times of year, the green becomes the code and color of this otherwise rugged terrain. The vast spans of land are painted with every possible shades of green and you feel as if the entire earth is covered with the soft green carpet of grass. The tree leaves and every single blade of grass get so fully loaded with water that they  start swaying in ecstasy. Perhaps each of them starts trying to outsmart other by flashing its greenest smile possible. What a scene really. One has to be there only to absorb the beauty and bounty of greens during Indian Monsoons. We were lucky to be there and were really celebrating our choice of the route and the destination at this time of the year.

The Scenery

The Scenery

We reached Lonavala quite soon and decided to unwind. Feeling hungry and a bit tired, we landed at Cafe 24, the 24 hour restaurant inside the resort. We straightened our back on cane sofas besides pool and gulped few chilled beers before sinking our teeth in few non veg recipes. Sitting there, with so many old friends, besides pool in the backdrop of hills was a moment, which all of us were waiting for. Sitting there and watching few water mermaids in the pool literally, without the pulls of the better halves and demanding kids, made us believe (falsely though) that, we were really free souls and accountable to no one but ourselves. We kept on chatting and gossiping and kept on pulling legs of each other till late evening. The missed lunch was followed by early evening snacks and chilled beer. We had a great start of the trip on the first evening actually. We retired to our rooms afterwards to take some nap.

The Swanky Restroom at Resort

The Swanky Restroom at Resort

The rooms we had at resorts were luxurious in many senses and had high tech Jacuzzi bath tubs with LCD screen, to give you company while soaking. We took turns to enjoy that in our respective rooms. Those who went in first, had problems in handling the nobs and showers with hot and cold water gushing out at will, from all unexpected corners of the tub. But they languished in bath tubs for long. The next two, to show parity in taste and knowledge repeated the exercise with almost same level of difficulty in handling complex system bath tubs. It was rejuvenating nevertheless and all of us felt much better. The dinner followed afterwards and we retired to our beds.

Next day, en route to Pune, we were supposed (on Raja’s insistence, who loves counting the number of Jyotirlingas visited by him) to travel to Bhimashankar, one of the 12 pious Jyotirlingams in India. As we woke up, we saw the lush green campus of resort, sprinkled with rain water. The morning birds were there with full vigor and energy and were happily chirping to express their gratitude as the rains force many of their prey, to come out in open be feasted by the avian. We had  the luxury morning tea in the private spaces just outside our rooms with newspapers in front of us. It was such a fine and cozy morning to start with. I felt as if I was being gradually detoxified in this serene and green environment.

The Morning at Resort

The Morning at Resort

After bath and breakfast we checked out of our rooms and proceeded to Bhimashankar. The temple is situated inside the  Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve. When we reached on the gates of the temple, there was a long queue of devotees. We requested our acquaintance there to help us get a quick entry. We were lucky to manage that and  worshiped Lord Shiva at this holy place in dense green Sahyadri forests. After taking prasad at the Mandir, we proceeded towards our next destination, Pune.

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The Pune as a city is one of the best I have seen in India. Known to have one of the most salubrious climate in central India, Pune had been the Monsoon Capital of Bombay Presidency and the tradition continues still. We checked in our hotel late evening and moved straight to rooftop restaurant of Hotel O at Koregaon. The views of the city including those of Trump Towers at a distance are breathtaking. Dinner was hosted for us by the Collector Pune, a bright young officer from our own city, Lucknow. We were really in good company with some great hosts in this trip. We were having a great time together as there were no complexities involved. Ralph Waldo Emerson has rightly said perhaps, ” It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them”.

On The Way

On The Way

We all were happy to be childish and stupid to enjoy this opportunity. This trip was interesting in a way. Four, decades old friends, going for a Dil-Chahata-Hai trip were looking for greens and temples, and Gods and Goa together!

To Be Continued…….

Dil Chahata Hai….

The Calangute

Ever since we watched the movie, Dil Chahata Hai in 2001, we had been yearning to clinch a ‘Dil Chahata Hai Moment’ journey right there in Goa and around, with college time friends. In the movie three protagonists played by Aamir, Akshay and Saif go on a road trip to Goa from Mumbai and learn various lessons of their lives including some hard lessons including one literally by Saif after his hunt for ‘beauty’ lands him on an hard truck journey back to Mumbai.

Tomar

Tomar

The plan to see ‘Mumbai to Goa’ famed road through Sahyadris and Konkan had been brewing for long, but professional commitments and personal issues had not given us enough liberty to plan together and that too, solo. Any travel plan made by a married man going solo is judged with suspicion and amusement. And, if you have kids aged 10 or above, they too would not fail to remind you that it’s unethical if not anti-social to leave those innocent souls behind while you aim to go for a furlough in a far off land and that too as naughty as Goa.

Dabbu

Dabbu

Facing and in fact confronting all these dilemmas, innuendos and questions, we a group of four(Raja, Dabbu, Tomar and Myself) decided to steal few moments of ecstasy and camaraderie with each other over next 4 days in Maharashtra and Goa. This trip was being done in month of July, the month of Monsoon and lush green hills in Sahyadri hills. The mid of Monsoon in this area leads to greening of every single blade of grass and every single millimeter of area of otherwise rugged zone. I had been to Goa earlier and so were my friends too, but none was with friends alone. My earlier three trips were with family and kids. The feeling of being alone with friends leads to birth of a sparkle in your eyes and the possibilities of naughtiness just overwhelm you. You start planning all otherwise impossible things and the talks of the friends get loaded with smileys and winks. We were really happy to start with, even if the ‘youngest’ in the group was forty years old!

Raja

Raja

The fun of journey started right from Lucknow, as while boarding, Dabbu scampered ahead to take the window seat. He perhaps at age of 44 yearned to have a bird’s eye view of his own city. It’s always a  fun to watch your city from a height. The desire to see your own house and your own city, from the plane piercing the monsoon clouds, is a great moment really. You eyes look far and wide and before you could identify your own house, the plane flies well above the visibility heights. The process however is so sweet that you want to do it whenever you get a chance.

Jitendra

Jitendra

The flight to Bombay, sorry Mumbai, is of two hour only and before we could prolong our post breakfast naps, we were asked to fasten up our seat belts. We landed safely and were picked up by the vehicle sent for us by a relative. I was feeling a bit hungry but to reach our first destination near Lonavala, but had to sacrifice lunch. Two of us made even a bigger sacrifice, their otherwise at-regular-interval- smoke-puffs.

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Travelling through fast track Mumbai-Pune Expressway was a particular enchanting experience in the Monsoons as the hills on both sides as well as the fields near and far, were so lush green that you feel like having green eyes only. The small streams of water sprouting from many unlikely corners of smallish hills were giving the perfect picture-postcard look to the Sahyadri hills. Mother nature was really at its best. All of us were really pleased to start off our journey on such a high green note. I could not resist myself from taking few shots on the way.

The Green Galore

The Green Galore

To Be Continued……

Air Tickets for Missed Train!

The Sunset at Calangute Beach, Goa

The Sunset at Calangute Beach, Goa

In the after noon of Jan 2007, we were sitting in the departure lounge of Dabolim Airport. We had just wound up our great family vacation in this middle class male dominated family’s’ favorite destination, Goa. We had a spent great time on beaches with sunshine and not to miss, babes. We were seven pax  and one infant Eshi, the daughter of Dabbu and were waiting to catch our flight to Lucknow. The kids were playing around and were rushing to the front glass walls of the lounge to get a glimpse of take offs and landings of planes. This airport is usually busy in the tourist season. Weather in Goa was also perfect particularly for north Indians like us, accustomed to extreme winters and chilling fogs conditions back home in the month of January every year. We were there to board our flight back to Delhi and from Delhi, we had our onward journey via a train to Lucknow, our final destination.

Dabolin Airport, Goa

Dabolin Airport, Goa

Our flight was scheduled to take off at 15:30 and we were expecting to reach Delhi by 17:30. We had ostensibly sufficient time in hand to travel to the railway station and catch the popular  22:00 Lucknow Mail to Lucknow. Dabbu and I had planned ahead to get the confirmed tickets on railways before we left Lucknow for Goa. He had deputed his personal staff to get the tickets and had kept the ticket in the safe custody of his better half. I had asked Dabbu earlier in the trip to see the ticket, just to get the feel of seat numbers etc, but did not stress it beyond a point. Dabbu flaunting his smile at my curiosity had asked me to stay cool. Now an announcement came for the delay of our flight to Delhi by one hour and I got little worried and started calculating backwards the time taken to reach New Delhi Railway Station from the IGI Airport. The now swanky terminal 3 was not in existence then. I fairly calculated that even if flight lands by 18:30, we would have more than three hours to reach the New Delhi station to catch comfortably the 22:00 Lucknow mail. I asked Dabbu again to check our exact departure time and the coach number etc so as to gauge the time and direction taken once we reach the New Delhi Station which had around 15 platforms. Dabbu, irritated by the circumstances and irked by my queries asked his wife to pull out the ticket from his purse. She got it out and passed on to Dabbu, who in turn handed over the ticket to me with an over confident smile.

I opened the fold of the ticket and looked for the departure time first on the right hand bottom of the printed ticket. The time shown there was 19:30. I read it gain. It was still the same. I then looked at the other details. It had all the adult passenger details but the train started from Old Delhi and not New Delhi. Now I panicked. This train actually was not the one we had known till now. It was Kaifiyat Express starting from Old Delhi railway station at 19:25 and not the 22:00 Lucknow Mail. I asked Dabbu, ” Which train have you booked?”. Dabbu said it was Lucknow mail of 22:00. But the ticket said otherwise. I literally thrust-ed the ticket in Dabbu’s hands and asked him to read it at least. He read it now and much to his shock, found the details as they were. On the other hand our flight to Delhi, originally scheduled to reach at 17:30 had already been delayed for one hour and was reaching at 18:30 only. In this scenario, we had only an outside chance to catch the train in 60 minutes gap. It was going to be tough really.

Delhi Railway station

Delhi Railway station

Dabbu was now almost sweating and he was avoiding eye contacts with me. Dabbu called his staff. The staff told him that he had got the ticket of Kaifiyat Express instead of Lucknow Mail because only in that train all confirmed tickets were available. Dabbu said few, not to be quoted words, to him, but that was it. He also realized that he ought to have checked the ticket himself. We were all tensed now, except the kids of course. The kids as usual were at their games. We were nervously checking each clock we could and were now facing the grim possibility of spending our cold winter night in some Delhi hotel by spending our ‘by the end’ trip meager resources. To increase our misery it got further delayed by 15 minutes. We were really tensed now and boarded the flight wishing for some chamatkaar(miracle) only!

In the flight we kept on looking at our watch and then at the ticket and kept on thinking of all possible permutations and combinations in our ‘to be herculean effort’ to catch the train in the rush hour traffic of Delhi. I kept on fidgeting nervously. I inquired more than once from the air hostess about the probable time of flight arrival at Delhi. But things continued to look gloomy and i was developing all sorts of nightmares on spending a night in Delhi and also the possibilities of 8 persons getting a confirmed reservation even next day. We also knew also about limited cash in the hand towards the end of the trip.

During the flight however a new idea struck my tensed mind. Only we knew that actually ‘we’ had mishandled our train reservations to Lucknow and were left with no time cushion to catch the train, but it was also a fact that the flight too had got delayed. If flight had been on scheduled time at 17:30, we could have rushed to reach the station and could have got the train perhaps. Now, I had to just say to the airlines that we had actually planned like this only and we had intelligently chosen the train reservation, two hours after the scheduled arrival of the flight! And therefore airline should facilitate our journey to Lucknow! But, was it so simple? Why would airlines bother about a missed train? What they had to do with a connecting train? It was not a connecting flight to which they were obliged to cater to! But I decided to take a decent shot at the possibility of putting airline into thinking that the delay on their part was going to throw our plan out of gear. The numerical strength of our group could also be a strength. With three kids and an infant, we could put our show rather ceremoniously.

I decided to call the air hostess. I told her that we were a group of 8 persons and we had to catch a train at Delhi station at 19:25 and because of the flight delay we were probably going to miss that. The air hostess with a plastic smile said that ,” Sir, only the ground staff at the airport handle these issue.” I was not expecting any other answer. Actually, I wanted to tick all the boxes up the hierarchy because I knew airline would surely not accommodate our request easily. The flight landed around 19:00 at the Delhi airport. The train was at 19:25, so we knew that there was not even an outside chance left to catch the train. At the entrance of arrival lounge there was a small help desk of the airline. My entire entourage of 8 almost enveloped (read gheraoed) the desk. I narrated the sequence of timings and schedules as per my convenience and to sum it up, put all the burden on airline alone. I had rehearsed the lines so much in my mind that I had started to fully believe my own story.

The Then IGI Airport

The Then IGI Airport

The help desk expressed its helplessness, though after a patient hearing. They said that how could they be accountable for the missed train? I repeated that if the flight had been on time, we would have rushed to the railway station and could have boarded the train and now after missing the train we had no place to stay in Delhi and nowhere to go. I told them point blank that it was their duty now to get us to Lucknow! This was a shocker to the help desk. They were initially bemused at our request.  I repeated my demand and justified it emphasizing on the point of eight stranded passengers. Out of 8, there were two ladies, three kids and 1 infant. How could the airlines be so casual in handling us? I did not forget to remind them of their ethical and business duties. The help desk though not convinced by us, were yielding some ground slowly. The senior in-charge was now called after 15 minutes and we repeated our plight with some more spicing. He too softened after some time. Now, the matter was brought to the boss in charge of the airlines at the airport. We saw an opening there.

The local boss of the airline was sitting inside the no passenger zone, but we were given the access to his office. He was a young man and probably a pass out of some IIM etc. He was very polite but after hearing us, his first reaction was that airlines could not be responsible for a missed train. He was perhaps not wrong. I now took a deep breath and used all of my persuasive skills to remind him that he was representing the airline of a man who had risen from the rags of U P to head a huge business empire and this airline could not be insensitive to a stranded group of 8 persons which included kids and ladies in this winter night of January in Delhi. I tried to make him realize that as a bright young officer of a promising airlines he had to be humane, and socially and ethically responsible. He now felt uneasy. I kept on reminding him that if flight was on time we could have boarded the train and would have left for Lucknow. He now decided to do a thorough check of reasons of delays of the airline. He looked at our train ticket. It was a confirmed 2nd AC train ticket. He started to see a reason in our demand. Our persuasive approach instead of confrontational approach forced him to rethink and finally he buckled.

He made us  an offer to fly us to Lucknow by the first flight next day, but only at a discounted fare only. I was not sure that what could be the discounted fare, though we had known by then that the normal tickets to Lucknow were for around 5000 bucks for the next day and actually we did not have that much cash left towards the end of our trip. So I asked him what would be the price of discounted tickets? He asked his staff to get the maximum discounts available under his authority. The pricing came out to be approx 9000 rs only! This was a real winner actually, but We concealed our happiness and said to him that it was unfortunate that we had to pay even this much! He said that it was the max he could do. I now decided to get little more ambitious actually. I asked him, ” Where will we stay then in the night?”. He looked into my eyes and took a pause. He knew that a tough negotiator was in front of him and therefore after few seconds offered us free accommodation too for our night stay! I concealed my smile again and thanking him asked him about food vouchers and transport too! This was really ambitious, but I was sure about my lessons from my favorite book, Art Of War by Tsun Zu. Weakened by our persuasion and in order to uphold his moral and business duties duly reminded by me,  said yes. I knew that I had a killer deal finally as were going to save not less than Rs. 60000 on our botched up train journey and subsequent air travel, accommodation and food and transport head. We were lucky. I finally thanked this gentleman and came out of his office to join our anxiously waiting group outside. They could not believe that after the goof up they were now getting comfortable air journey and that too with a complimentary stay, food and travel!. Three cheers to our patience and persuasion!!!

Bom Jesus Basilica, Panaji

Bom Jesus Basilica, Panaji