So where were we when we spoke at length last? Ah yes. That Goa Trip. A part two was due no? Regular readers may note that this blog has quite the habit of throwing up Part Ones and then never touching the concerned topic ever again. Part Twos simply refuse to appear on this blog. It's not a conscious thing mind you. I'm not trying to develop one of those stylish quirks that will probably pop up, years hence, in a Bournvita Quiz or something.
"Which Pullitzer Prize winning writer is famous for never writing sequels to any of his blog posts..."
"Sidin Vad... Vod... Va... Vaku... ah screw it... Amit Varma!"
Left to me I'd just write up the whole thing in a single post. But apparently that is a total blogging no no. 6000 words plus. Scroll scroll, scroll scroll. Carpal tunnel.
So for the first time ever, here is the sequel to the first part of a multi-part blog. We, the missus and I, were on that bus to Goa remember?
Part 2: Because if Rocky and Rambo can do it so can Vadukut
It is just past dawn on the morning of the 27th of December.
Normally, if I were to use it in conversation, the above sentence would be followed by the statement, "and I was still asleep in bed with my lungi somewhere in the room going about its business." or "and my wife woke up like she does every morning in that irritating way that women are able to. They then look down upon us guys because we sleep late after an hour or two of
Fashion TV Zee Jagran and won't be up till she's halfway into the lift. Also lungi is gone."
Unfortunately I was a traveller in India using surface transport. This means that as I progressed towards my destination I would inevitably cross state borders. And what floats invisibly, yet surely above these state borders? Yes sir, you hit the nail on the head, telecom circle limits.
Just past dawn on the morning of the 27th of December, around 6:15 AM or so, the "great Indian mobile roaming handover communication SMS frenzy" invaded my cellphone. One moment my phone lay harmless in the seat-back pouch in front of me, blinking that green light in a soothing, intermittent manner.
The next moment all hell breaks lose.
It's ironic really. Even my wife, that fragrant blossom, doesn't get all misty eyed and sentimental when I leave my home in Mumbai for long periods of time. (To Kurla in the evenings, for instance.) The most she will do is ask me to take care, eat healthy and leave my ipod behind.
Your mobile network is a completely different proposition altogether. Mobile networks hate to see you leave. They absolutely detest it when you switch from one network to another. So the moment you cross one circle they send you at least three SMSs: one to say bye, one to say thanks and another one, a last ditch attempt perhaps, to sell you "LTST JDHA AKBR WLPPR N RNGTNS! SPCL OFR! LK NO VWLS!"
Equally upbeat are the networks when you stray into them. Immediately they welcome you with warm embraces, damp eyes and "the best network coverage in Goa and Maharashtra... NO SIGNAL"
(Of course I am exaggerating here. Cellphone customer service isn't all that bad. Just last week I asked Vodafone to de-activate my voice mail. Within just three hours, as they had promised, my international roaming was activated.)
So there I am sitting in the bus when wave after wave of mongol cellphone networks attack me with welcome messages. Each time my phone emits a pleasant delivery tone: "Ramba Ho Ho Ho Ho" from Armaan.
In mild panic, I switched my phone into Flight Mode and put an end to the whole ruckus. I made a mental note to change my SMS tone and looked at my watch. Egads. Mapusa must be only a few moments away. The previous night I had asked the driver to give me a yell when we reached Mapusa.
The exact same moment I got out of my seat the bus went into a lurching right turn. I immediately succumbed to inertia and bundled into my wife, who lay in her seat balled up inside her blanket. Yes, head covered and all. She was less than pleased and rolled up her sleeves.
Fifteen minutes later, when the pain had subsided and she had gone back to sleep, I tried to get up again. This time too the bus went into a terrible, sudden lurch. I dropped myself back to the seat again and held on tight for dear life. I waited for the road to straighten out.
It never did. I have no idea what deal is. But at some point, a few hours out of Panaji, the road to Goa completely loses it. There isn't a single straight stretch of tar for hours. Buses, and the people within, get thrown about like soft toys. (The kid who was puking all night? He stopped. I have no idea why.) First left and then right and then left and then right and then you know how this is going. (Mallu joke: "The road was just like governments in Kerala!" Ha ha. Ayyo!)
At some point I picked up courage and clambered forward, seat handle to seat handle (also one ponytail), and finally made it the driver's cabin. "When do we reach Mapusa? We were supposed to be at Panaji by 7:30 am no? Where are we now?"
The two gentlemen there, driver and someone who sat around doing nothing (EA to the driver?), looked at me and smirked. The driver however, had to break off amid-smirk and throw us into a hard right to avoid a palm tree of some kind. They said that we were still hours away and would only reach Mapusa by 9:30.
I clambered back, dropped myself into my seat, reached across and pushed apart the curtains. For the next two hours I looked out of the window and nibbled on some incredibly bad chocolate I bought the previous night at one of those mid-route pee-break places. Something made in Turkey. Not a delight at all.
The bus reached Mapusa at exactly 9:30 AM. The EA to the driver came and woke us up at 9:29:56 am and asked us to disembark in an orderly fashion. A blur of hectic activity later we were standing outside by the side of the road with what we hoped was our luggage lying around us. The bus thundered away in a cloud of dust. And immediately took a hard left.
Across the road stood the famous Hotel Green Park; famous at least among the members of the bussing industry. Green Park was one of those hotels named aspirationally. Like those roadside dhabas you see on the outskirts of Lonavla, Ambala or Ongole. "Hotel Luxury", "Hygiene Inn", "Famous Dhaba and Pharmacy", "Surprisingly Little Chance of Explosive Dysentry Cafe".
And so on.
We called the man at Montego Bay who told us that our pickup would be here shortly. Someone called Greg would come with a WagonR. We were asked to have a cup of tea or so at Green Park while we waited.
As soon as we stepped in I knew that Green Park was a 'Medimix' class hotel. (The sort of place that has room service only in spirit, has furniture exclusively made of formica and will also have at least one item in the room that belonged to the previous resident. Like hair. When a medimix hotel says "sumptuous continental breakfast is included in room tariff" they mean corn flakes for the first fifteen people. And yes, Medimix in the bathroom.)
The missus sat around looking miserable while I snacked on a light Breakfast Platter and waited for Greg.
Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the back of a WagonR trying to figure out what Greg was saying. In the beginning I thought it was some form of Konkani. And I responded in Hindi. Greg looked at us dumb founded. Then we figured out that he was actually speaking in English, only with a heavy accent and grammar so bad it made Inzamam sound like a Harry Potter character.
"So we is now going to the Mapusa and then the Montego Bay. Lot man foreigners are staying there. Means there is mmmm few Indian peoples there. Me see some there today while coming you know there Montego season now okay."
"Ah so you are saying that there are a few Indians there?"
"Yes also my grandfather. He also."
"Indians. But many wants go Portugal."
Somehow it was like speaking to Jar-Jar Binks but without the option to skewer him with a light sabre and put an end to the conversation. But Greg was a remarkably sweet man as we would learn further through that weekend.
We reached Montego Bay an hour or so later and quickly moved into our little cottage set back from the beach. The room service boy soon let us alone. I closed the door behind him, drew the curtains and looked at my wife in the eyes. Finally, we were alone.
"Sidin," she said in that husky drawl she gets when we're alone sometimes, "please for god's sake go brush your teeth."
This holiday was going just fine.
The last and final part of the Goa Saga, because this one is really too long already, will emerge this weekend.
Stay tuned machaan. Don't forget to return. Don't be a balti.