It was four in the morning and the kid two seats ahead was beginning to throw up again. Every fifteen minutes he'd sudenly sit up straight and draw in his breath sharply. His mother, with the light-sleeping agility of a Ninja you read about in Lustbader novels, would leap into the aisle and extend a plastic bag into her son's face in one fluid motion.
He would then heartily oblige. With gusto.
Adjacent the concerned father, deeply moved by his son's agony, lay draped over the fully reclined seat. He was snoring like one of those fumigating machines the BMC suddenly assaults your housing society with one night without warning. You know. Where you freak out when you come back from office thinking there's been a fire and you've lost, gasp, the Playstation and the passport with the still valid UAE visa.
Nothing perturbed Puky Pukerson. He kept going.
A few minutes past three a.m. he may have violated the Law of Conservation of Mass. (Also known as the Lomonosovo-Lavoisier Law.) He had managed to puke a little over his complete body weight.
Yet... amazingly... there he was. Still alive. With Ninja Mama waiting to strike.
But if you thought that was the most disgusting thing about our hastily arranged bus journey from Mumbai to Goa you are mistaken. You are so mistaken.
Moments after the journey began the missus, yours truly and the other unsuspecting passengers were subject to a poorly produced DVD of that blockbuster movie, indeed epitome of film as an art form, Speed.
Not the Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock one. But the Aftab Shivdasani, Zayed Khan starrer (!) that set the box offices ringing with calls for refunds. And if that was not bad enough, after that movie, hours of fitful sleep and Captain Regurgitation, in the morning we were further subjected to a DVD of Dhamaal. (Famoursfor the song - Dhamaal.)
Now everyone wanted to throw up.
But wait one goddamn minute! Didn't yours truly promise the missus a romantic trip to Jodhpur for a friend's brother's wedding? (Close enough to hog, distant enough to give small inexpensive gifts without guilt.) Followed by an overnight desert safari in Jaisalmer?
And here we were in a bus to Goa.
Part 1: A Christmas in Waiting
Bandra Terminus, station code BDTS, is so named not so much because trains stop there as much for the fact that your willingness to stay alive terminates as you step in. The 1:30 PM train to Jodhpur starts from platform number 2.
Or maybe 1. Or even 3. Who knows? The railways fellows surely don't! And is there an overbridge across platforms? Of course not! That would make it convenient to catch trains and that goes completely against everything BDTS stands for.
So while you drag your bags, (one for the master, one for the dame and one for the woolens that weigh a freaking ton), through incessant porters, pollution, traffic and over puddles of stagnant water you have no idea where to go. Till, like a breath of fresh air, a porter told us that we'd have to go all the way back out of the parking, through the gate and across the tracks to platform number 2.
I was beginning to hate my double-lined, American-made, water-proof, mountaineering-intended Nautica jacket. Sure it had kept me virile through many a testy December in Ahmedabad and Delhi. But the freaking thing weighed many a ton.
The platform was almost empty when we reached there. We were an hour ahead of time. This was so that I could cozy up to the TTE when he turned up with the train and see if I could bump up our Waitlist 4 & 5 to at least an RAC.
The TTE, in his eagerness to help agitated passengers with WL and RAC tickets, came in plain clothes and slipped into the train without telling anyone. When I finally located the blackguard he was lavishly laid back on a berth eating only the aloo out of a dabba of aloo gobi. The philistine was saving the gobi for later. Or maybe he didn't like gobi. Honestly I didn't give a freaking f!@#.
I asked him for a berth. In a polite manner. He said he had no berths. Then, as I believe is the norm, I loosened my shoulders, threw my head to one side, popped a fist into a pocket (mine) and asked him in a more casual manner. Apparently, as Pastrami had prepared me, this indicates that I am prepared to pay a little gratuity for the help. He laughed at me and popped another piece of aloo in the mouth (his).
When the train started moving I ran out, and once again the both of us, missus and I, were alone on the platform with nowhere to go. Our dreams of a desert holiday and a five star marwari wedding in Jodhpur had gone to pieces. Also it was our first wedding anniversary in a couple of day's time.
The wife was beginning to show the faint beginnings of a dissapointed funk on her face when I told her those reassuring words that never fail to perk up any unhappy missus:
"Don't worry darling. It was entirely my fault that we missed the train and our holiday plans have got destroyed beyond repair and not at all because you said we don't need to book Tatkal tickets as any idiot, by which you meant me, should know that Waitlist 4 and 5 always gets confirmed..."
She was immediately cheery again, briefly mentioned how she found my honesty refreshing, and we trundled back home and sat in the living room, bewildered at what to do with the four days of leave we had already locked in with our employers.
We made a few calls to hotels in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani only for the owners to laugh at us loudly over the phone. The 25th of December was not proving to be a good day to book rooms in hotels for the end of year holidays.
Sidin: "But darling... after all what matters is being together and spending time with each other and enjoying precious moments..."
Missus: "Shut up and call makemytrip"
Sidin: " ...calling up Makemytrip of course."
A few calls, frantic internet searching, tripadvisor review readings and helpful dibs into the Lonely Planet later we finally decided that the only place that remotely had the chance of a free room was Goa. Some shack or tent somewhere had to be free right? Half an hour later, a last minute cancellation meant that a log cabin waited for us at the Montego Bay Resort on Morjim Beach.
Morjim, a little googling revealed, was one of the more secluded beaches far from the maddening crowds. This meant that the beach would be cleaner, quieter and most importantly I could take my shirt off without irreparable damage to the self esteem.(I carry a little bit of fat on me. Sometimes you can't make out I'm wearing a swimsuit.)
(Later in Goa, as luck would have it, every time the missus and I decided to hit the beach for a walk or a read in the evening twilight a dozen or so foreign mens, most of them working in the underwear modelling, special forces commando and international gymnastics industries, would parade in front of us with their tops off and their flat-abs and six-packs showing. I would immediately leap off my lounge chair, pick up an empty Kingfisher beer bottle and thulp them over the head till they passed out entirely in my imagination.)
Since flying was out of the question due to my freelance writer livelihood, and we had already had our fill of the railway system we decided to opt for the many pleasures of luxury ac Volvo buses. Redbus.in was a handy tool and we had soon booked return tickets on Raj National Express. The cram de la cram of bus operators.
After a minor fifteen minutes delay, we were off to Goa at 8:15 PM. Morjim, the beach, foreign food, a run in with a world famous author and the most delightful massacre of the English language awaited us.
And onwards we bus to Part 2. Which will appear, I promise you, shortly.
Yes yes yes. Your conscience demands you go to Giveindia and do your bit now! Right now goddammit!