And so we set off, a motley assemblage of the young and the old and the somewhere in between, in a car that would not have its engine shut for 50 kms at least, during which we were not to switch the AC on, which had us roll down the windows, and cover ourselves to escape from the invasion of the red mud motes which could creep into your nostrils and ears and establish colonies in the dark inaccessible places. I topped myself with a sunhat of the floppy variety and dark glasses of the huge variety and felt very sun protected, ignoring of course, that the arms and shoulders were all bare to bake and be encrusted with said mud to necessitate a scrubbing with utensil scourer when one reached one’s destination. In this case, not Mumbai but Pune, where we were due to spend the night and half of the next day with the sister in law and then move on to Mumbai. The boot had been secured with string and double triple knotted as decried by the spouse and we took off from Baga towards Calangute.
As is always, I have the kind of memory that strikes when the moment is past. Despite all the hectic shopping one did, the main part of shopping when one goes on holiday, namely that of picking up gifts for friends and family had been left to the last minute. And given that we had decided to pack up and leave last minute, the last minute shopping hadn’t got done. Ergo, the wine bottles, the alcohol bottles, the cashews, the bebincas and such like which had been requested for and which were to be procured had not been done so. I smote my forehead. “I need to stop at a wine shop and a cashew shop,” I told the spouse. A man who has wandered around a Sunday somnolent Goa hunting down a mechanic willing to work on the day God decried he should rest does not take kindly to such statements. He sputtered, he fumed, he turned red in the face. “Of all the shopping you did all these days, could you not have finished this, why do you leave things for the last minute….” Ad infinitum. Some pleasant back and forth on these lines ensued, till we reached Calangute and realized, Sunday. Market shut. Or at least most shops shut. I spotted one long cashew shop open and whined in my most puppy dog voice, ‘Please, stop, two minutes, that’s all.” He grunted and stopped, I sprang out, purchased said cashews, plain, salted, with skin without skin, packets of various denominations for distribution purposes and went back to the car. I raced back to the car and found level of patience at being still with no airconditioning had reached a zenith and the child was whining about the heat and how he needed a Pepsi to feel human again, at which he was reminded about the Pepsi caused upheaval, and settled back in his seat and gulped down some water. We set off again, me with an eagle eye open for a wine shop when the spouse told me horror stories about the check post guys making one open up all one’s luggage to check for contraband liquor bottles being taken out of the state and I cringed at the thought of the men in uniform going through our dirty laundry and with a heavy heart decided that no wines and alcohol would be procured. We dashed through winding roads, easy going villages, houses with tiled roofs and welcoming stoops and open fields until a sudden clunking noise alerted us to the fact that all was not well with the state of the boot.
“Damn and blast,” said the man, in not quite such sterile expletives. “The damn rope has broken. The car was brought to a halt, with the engine not turned off, and I was dispatched behind to check the situation. Sure, the rope was broken. And the boot was waving wildly. And we were in the middle of nowhere. And I had no clue if some bags of dirty laundry which had been placed haphazardedly on top of the other bags. I panicked. I squawked. I looked down the road for as far as the nekkid eye could see and could spot no errant trails of clothes littering the road. I grabbed the bags which were likely to fall off and dumped them inside the car, on laps and near feet, adding immensely to everyone’s discomfort, tried jamming the errant boot back into place, and informed the spouse we needed to find a good, strong length of rope soon. Preferably wire or nylon. So off we drove again, noting sadly that every shop enroute was shut, this being post 1 pm and yes, the siesta is sacred in Goa, and Sunday siesta even more fiercely sacred. We neared Sawantwadi, passed the bus depot, I spotted a shop, I hopped off and ran to the store. “Bhau,” I addressed the shopkeeper in Mumbai Marathi, “Tumchya kade rassi aahe ka?” He gulped. I realized I was still dressed in the hat and vest more appropriate to Goa beach wear. “Madamji, aap peeche jaakar right lijeye,” he replied in pure Hindi, (I was most offended, was my spoken Marathi really that lousy?). So we went peeche and right and all the shops were closed. The boot was swinging most precariously obscuring rear view in the most dangerous manner, and we were boiling waiting for the greenlight from the Honda engineers, with whom the spouse was in telephonic contact with, whether it was kilometer enough to risk switching the engine off and putting the AC on. “Do it now,” I urged him at Sawantwadi, “Before we hit the ghats.” Did he listen to me? He is a husband. Of course, not. He was still in earnest conversation with the engineers, who were on treacherous lines which kept getting disconnected and would heed their advice.
Ergo, we set off on the long treacherous winding ghats road with a boot that was flapping wildly, the airconditioning shut and the windows open and all the occupants of the car wrung out by dehydration and assaulted by mud.
(To be continued….)