We had a week of enforced Diwali vacation on us, and confronted with the prospect of relaxing at home, the husband and I looked at each other and decided to escape. Now the husband is a beach person. I am a mountain person. Naturally we went to the beach. He drives. I dont. That pretty much resolves the issue.
That is also the reason we dont really take trips abroad. Neither of us fly. Barring some people who might be convinced I have a long handled broom tucked away in some closet somewhere just waiting for a solstice to pop up to do my kind of flying. But I digress.
We set off from Mumbai bright and early at six am. Woke the self, bathed, made a cuppa woke the husband who then bathed and dressed and had his cuppa. Woke the brat who opened one eye, declared it was still night and commanded me back to sleep. But the mention of Goa had him springing up like a jack in the box and ready to race to the car bare foot. When we had finally finished loading our baggage, to the grandmater’s chorus of how it reminded her of days of yore when people returned to the gaaon for a vacation, we realised we had a total of eight bags for three people for five days. On a beach. Where one wore minimum and miniscule clothes. But then we had a child accompanying us. So a lot of the baggage comprised RO filtered water in three ten litre cans (yup I am paranoid, I admit wholeheartedly, with absolutely no remorse or shamefacedness), enough Lays, cheetos, chocolates and such like to feed a small famished African nation (which all returned untouched back to base when we returned. Sometimes I wonder why the fruit of the womb has such brilliant eating habits, and remember the class teacher and the session of junkfoodzisverybadferyu.), infinite changes of clothes for the tyke, one duffel purely containing medicines for every possible medical emergency which could possibly involve the brat, including crepe bandage, iodine, betadine, dettol, bandaids, Deet mosquito repellent spray, Kids sensitive skin sunblock, anti emetic, ORS packets, Crocin, Ibulgesic, little pads of cloth to sponge down the critter in case of a fever, cough medicine, nasal drops, homeopathic medicines and some random action figures to keep him entertained. And I forgot sunblock. This omission was to play a major role in how this story develops so please read further.
The husband decided to go via the expressway past Kolhapur on NH4, and then turn off past Sankeshwar onto a little road, cross the Amboli ghats in a snap and voila, Goa. The children began whining (we were accompanied by friends and their five year old son), the moment the key was inserted into the ignition, “whenwewillreachthebeach!!!” a cry that escalated in intensity as the sun climbed higher till I was darned sure that all the songs of Rock On and Jaane Tu we played in a loop had this as a sarvajanik chorus to them.
BTW, for those interested, a superduper full size giant inflatable two storey high Ronald McDonald sits outside a new super duper spanking new yellow and red McDonalds outside Kolhapur which proved to be a lifesaver since neither of the two kids showed any interest in the parathas and sandwiches we two moms had unglued our eyes at 5 am to make and pack for them. Also, if anyone from the McDonald’s corporate office is reading this, there was no mayonnaise on the burgers and we had to pay extra for some. I demand a refund of my twenty bucks right now. And the iceberg lettuce was also sparsely plastered on, unlike the Mumbai version which insists on falling on your lap and forming interesting patterns which beg onlookers to come up and examine them in close proximity.
As luck would have it, and the husband’s navigational skills, we landed past the Maharashtra border and near a town called Belgaum before he began to suspect that he was seriously offcourse. This occasioned by the fact that we had now entered a third state from the one we were originally supposed to enter. Therefore we stopped to ask for directions. It would be more appropriate to say we badgered him into stopping to ask for directions. He would not ask. It was demeaning. He would rather be hung by his nails than ask for directions. Left to him we would have reached Kanyakumari and driven into the sea.
In Belgaum, any person we asked for directions just pointed us towards the west randomly. And so we turned and went through Belgaum city. Which has one zillion scooters and motorcyclists all without rear view mirrors and a penchant for darting in and out of traffic with scant regard for harassed driver having lost course, with two infuriating kids, one roadsick woman and a very shrilly angry wife going at warp speed. Luckily, no human sacrifices happened and we managed to reach the thick of some forest sanctuary that said Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, which had red trees by the side of the road. Which was not actually a road but a red mud dirt track and which resulted in travel companion suffering from road sickness to be even more violently sick.
And at this wonderful juncture, as the sun began setting beautifically behind the thick canopy of trees, the husband informed his captives that we were running out of diesel and were running on reserve. At this moment, I changed avatar into Kalika and demanded he get us and the children out of the damn forest even if it meant he had to physically push the vehicle on the road. Luckily, he had the good sense to switch off the AC, which meant we were now covered with red mud from hair to nostril hair to armpits and toes, and had to periodically keep pulling the kid’s heads in to prevent oncoming traffic from causing grievous harm to their headlights.
A town called Ponda was reached as darkness fell silently and a petrol pump was discovered just beneath the Welcome to Goa sign, and no fine dining restaurant looked sweeter. Many hours and many tired groans of protest from the kids and occasional stops for emissions of roadsickness later we reached Panaji and the hotel. It was then we discovered that we’d done 750 odd kms instead of the 500 km we should have.
The husband still has the ringing in the ears from the earblasting that happened.
The hotel had a buffet breakfast we had paid for with the room so it was only mandatory that we attempted to do full justice to it. Therefore we attempted to cram ourselves to the gills before we hit the beach which was a completely foolhardy plan given we went berserk over the fish once we reach the beach shacks. Therefore much cramming happened as we hit the beach. Therefore, there we were stuffed to the gills like beached whales, lolling on deck chairs making no physical effort to go hit the waves. And then we ate some more.
Earth shattering revelations happened at Baga Beach. The kind that people put into books with catchy titles and have book tours to sell. The moment of revelation was huge quivering mountain of burnt pink flesh attached to small head, wandering around nonchalantly in thong undie and string bikini top. I had gone with them specs on, and therefore no sunglasses to shield them eyes. But, once the momentary shock had passed profound admiration set in. I almost walked upto above mentioned person and nearly knelt at them thunderous feet asking for lessons on such complete unselfconsciousness. Suffice to say, I was motivated into some skin display of my own with absolute no thought of thighs jiggling to their own beat as I walked.
And I discovered I didnt have sunscreen. And was too beached whale on food and drink to make the long trek to the stores to find some. Therefore burnt to a crisp black ensued with such rapid ferocity that only my eyes and teeth were to be visible in a dark night. Am currently slathering on homemixed unguents and miracle remedies like besan and dahi and hoping to reclaim some brown from the black soon.
We spent the entire day on the beach being beachbums. And topped it by a fabulous meal of prawn curry rice and mutton vindaloo at Souzalobos at Calangute. Where one heard some good live singing after years of having one’s ears torn off by tuneless yelling at restaurants when one hopes for a peaceful meal.
Snoring happened in unison on the way back to the hotel, and I dont know whether it was me who carried the child to the room or vice versa.
A day to devotion. Mangeshi temple and Ramnathi temple in South Goa. Through some picturesque terrain. And lunch at Martins Corner in Betalbatim. Where they had run out of everything on the menu except the kingfish. And then insisted we finish our meal in a hurry because they were shutting down. I’m not listening to these high falutin reviews ever. Allow a guest to finish their meal in peace should be the unwritten credo of all feeding joints one presumes. The food? Average. Any planned return visits? Not worth the petrol.
Returned to the city and the hotel, where one plonked the menfolk into the pool and vamoosed off to do some retail therapy. And stingy little moi found everything so damn marked up to dollar conversion levels that one reluctantly bought one duffel bag worth of spices and cashews and left it at that. I was struggling with the infinite desire to take home some fabulous knockoffs in bags and shoes, but resisted with a valiantness that I regret now. Anyway. There would have been no place to pack them. I would have had to throw some clothes out. Ah my fake Gucci booties, I will never know what it feels to walk in you again. Oh my dear fake Choo Ramona, what I wouldnt give to hold you in my arms again.
Alas and alack.
Back at the same shack at Baga beach, Zanzibar if you must know, having made all round friends with everyone present including the owner’s Alsatian who joined the kids on the beach for day long beach football or pawball and ended up claiming the ball for his own with no one daring suggest to him that he needed to give it back. Am sure he took it to his stash of ursurped balls in the sand behind the sack and counted his collection backwards with the addition of this brand new just purchased one, much to brat’s trembling with near tears but am a big boy now face.
The child ate fish fry dal and roti for every single meal. Without fail. With unswerving dedication. Now that he’s back he’s off the jag. I dont think I could stomach fish for another year. The husband now has Kingfisher running through his veins. As for me, I think I’ve done enough lazing to last me exactly one week. I had sort of perfected the art of raising my hand languidly and asking for another, well, cold coffee without moving any muscle other than the necessary.
After a point even that became impossible and I would attempt to telepathically communicate to the waiter that I needed, well, cold coffee. So I would be sitting in the deck chair, eyes glazing over and staring intently at whichever unfortunate sod happened to be in the vicinity and hiss, “Ek aur lau.”
Luckily, me being a regular and all, they managed to comprehend what I was trying to communicate. I must mention at this point that the Kingfisher man had taken the fruit of his loins into the Arabian sea and was educating him on the necessities of tying his swimming trunks real tight before he actually got down to the serious task at hand of dunking him in the sea.
On an aside, what does one do for these, well, cold coffee headaches the next day?
I slept it off on the drive back to Mumbai while little men with irons and chains had themselves a dungeon do in the base of my cranium.
And the child is already waiting for the weekend. “We going Goa.” He tells me in all seriousness. “I wanna fiedfiss. and play fooball wid d doggy.” I’m all set too. Those fake Guccis might still be waiting for me.