Among all the resolutions I had made at the starting of this year, one was to travel to as many places as I could. Travel, as you know, expands one’s mental horizon. When you travel, whether you like it or not, you would come across new people and new happenings, which would add to your experience. If you are a writer who has been suffering from writer’s block, travel, do, and see how people throw their stories at you.
My country, India, is vast and I have always had the desire to see all the states of India. If one visits the different parts of India (from the most modern to the remotest), perhaps he/she would not need to see a foreign country, because within India one would come across so many things that would seem foreign. The weather in some parts of our country vary from the weather in the other, when the temperature soars above 35 degree in Mumbai or above 40 degree in Delhi, the temperature at Dras in J&K or at Gurudongmar in Sikkim can be in the minus, and in some other parts the temperature would be moderate. The people in one part speak a different language and have their unique identity and their special cuisines, while the people in the other part display a different lifestyle and set of values.
I do harbour a desire to see some foreign lands too, and that I want to do without any discrimination, which, in other words, means that I really wish to see the underdeveloped as well as the developed and the developing countries of the world. First and foremost, however, comes my own country; once I have covered all of India, perhaps, I can think about visiting some foreign countries.
At the starting of the year I had gone with some of my colleagues to the beach side destination in Maharashtra called Kihim.
In March I intended to go to the North of India, especially to cover the golden triangle. The Golden Triangle, not to be confused with the Golden Temple in Amritsar (Punjab), includes three places in North India, namely, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and the three locations seem to form the shape of a triangle, thus the name ‘triangle’ was given to it. The three locations are a very popular destinations among the foreigners as well as the domestic tourists. Due to some reasons, I had to change my plan and I ended up doing a solo trip to the south of India (covering Chennai, Pondicherry, Bangalore and Mysore).
Thereafter, I had gone to Guwahati and Barak Valley in Assam, Dimapur in Nagaland (though Kohima was also in the itinerary especially because it happened to be the Hornbill Festival time) where I had spent a considerable amount of time during my childhood.
Last of all, in December, my family and I had gone to the following North Indian destinations: Delhi (the land of great politics and power), Gurugram (Gurgaon) in Haryana (where my younger brother stays), Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand (considered holy sites), Agra (where the Taj Mahal is at), Mathura and Gokul (again two holy sites) in Uttar Pradesh.
I will write about the aforementioned places in greater detail by and by.
If I had more money and if my leave from office could be extended a little more, I would have heartily visited many other places (or revisited some).
In the night we had the drinks in our room (Kranti’s and mine became the common room). Narayan was not feeling well and he said he would rest for a while in his room. Bosco had brought playing cards and he was ready to teach me and Kranti how to play (innocent as we were in the game of cards), provided we staked our money. Bosco has great love for America but this time it was Kranti who wanted to play in American Dollar, and we had to acquiesce to his demand. We played Teen Paati (the real game for the real gamblers, called Flush or Flash in English). It was my wish to play that game although I had scant knowledge of it. I wanted to know how this game is played, and perhaps be a master at it, because it is this game that robbed my father of all his fortune and made him a pauper, thereby degrading our family’s stature. Bosco taught us the rule of the game and we began playing. The game, it seemed, purely depended on luck, and my luck was no better than my father’s. I lost all my money but to keep the game going on (for I still hoped that I would make some money, or compensate for the losses at least) I resorted to borrowing. At first I borrowed from Bosco. “How much?” asked Bosco with a smile (he was only too happy to lend me, it seemed; but the real reason for his happiness was because I was going to repay the loan with hefty interest). I lost again, but I still had some guts and I borrowed again. I decided I would continue playing as long as Bosco was lending me his never-ending money. My luck favoured me once and I earned some, repaid a little to Bosco and I told him that I would pay the remaining very soon. But, again I lost and again I had to borrow. Now with the principle and the interest I owed a total of $1300 to Bosco. Now Bosco seemed uneasy about lending me anymore, he feared that his loan would turn out to be a bad loan. Now the only other alternative I had was to borrow from Kranti. Kranti did give me some bucks (but he was cautious and gave me only a few Dollars) and he charged a rate of interest almost double the rate Bosco charged me (cruel, no?). But, all the same, I needed money, and needed it desperately. Again I lost the money I borrowed from Kranti. All together now I owed $800 to Kranti. In short, I was broke and ruined! But, patient and gracious reader, shall I tell you a good news? I don’t owe any real money to anybody. We considered another card called UNO (heard of it?) as our American Dollar and that was what kept us going! So, after all, it was not a real game for the real gamblers (if it were, neither would Bosco nor would Kranti had given me a single cent) and I took no foolish step like my father did. Now, lovely reader, bemoan no more but make merry!
The story is rather a long one, not a lengthy one though (mind you) and I thought it was too long to be a blog post, hence only a paragraph (the longest one, and I know it seems daunting) is made available here. To read the full story, please click here
If life is at stake, it is best to avoid risk. Therefore, when I got an SMS from IndiGo airlines (a private Indian airline) which informed me that my flight (6E – 3645) was delayed, I did not complain. But I would have been happy had they informed me the reason for the delay. Later, just out of curiosity, when I inquired about it, I got to know that fog was responsible for the delay. Fog affects the visibility of the pilot, so they would not fly in this condition. That was quite all right. It is better to save our lives than to put it at risk. No one wants to die. I was also told that as soon as the visibility was clear, the flight would depart. The otherwise sparsely crowded airport in Guwahati (namely Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport) was fully packed today, and people were still coming in. The flight was scheduled to depart from Guwahati at 3:10 PM and arrive in Delhi at 6:20 PM. The departure time was revised to 3:55 PM. Then it was further revised to 5:10 PM. Another revision: 5:55 PM. Yet another revision: 6:30 PM. The flight finally departed a few minutes after 6:30 PM.
While I was getting the SMSs of the revision of the departure time of my flight, there was another flight that was getting delayed. I was receiving SMSs for that as well. I had a connecting IndiGo flight from Delhi to Mumbai (6E 665). The actual departure time of my flight from Delhi was 9:30 PM and it was supposed to reach Mumbai at 11:35 PM. The revised departure time for the Mumbai bound flight was 11:30 PM. It was again revised to midnight. Further revision: 1 AM. One more revision: 1:30 AM. One final revision: 12:30 AM. But the flight actually departed at 2 AM and reached Mumbai at 4 AM.
I had booked my tickets two months back. It is with some considerations, some thoughts that I did so. I made some plans about the things I wanted to do. Now that I was not going to reach my place in time, all my plans were ruined. But, yet, I did not complain. I was only sad. However, other passengers in Delhi were furious. I saw a young girl, an old woman, a middle-aged man, complain about the inconvenience caused to them by the airline. Some wanted immediate compensation, refund, replacement, etc. Delhiites are vocal about their rights, it seemed. Some of the customers, to be properly heard and informed well, even entered the customer care representative’s cabin and shouted, which I thought was uncivil. No proper information was, however, given to the customers. I saw a customer service officer argue and disrespect few customers. I am not sure how true the logic that customers are always right is, but in the present situation the customers did have a right to protest and seek a reliable answer. I think the representative was new to work and needed more time to learn. There were other representatives who seemed to understand what the customers had to say and they tried their best to be good and be of service.
After reaching Mumbai, I was trying to get my bag at the baggage conveyor belt. My bag could not be seen. But still I hoped that my bag would come. Alas, it never did. I went to the Indigo baggage counter and told a lady there that my bag was missing. I was given a document to file my complaint. The document was called Property Irregularity Report. The lady asked me to provide the description of my bag. I told her it was a blue coloured duffle bag. “Which brand is it?” She asked. “Skybag,” I answered. The lady at the baggage counter kept the original copy of the report and handed me the xerox copy.
I was not the only person who had lost his bag, there were two others also. One was a girl and the other a man. The girl came from Delhi and had to write an exam in Mumbai. Her exam hall ticket and a few other important documents were in the bag she had lost. She said she had a medium size bag. The man, accompanied by his wife, on the other hand, had lost two bags (one large-sized and one small). The girl who was to write her exam a few hours from now was bewildered and angry. She kept asking the lady at the baggage counter to give her bag immediately. She was not easy to pacify, after all she had an important exam to write and only she could know what she was going through. The lady at the baggage counter said, “Give me some time, let me see if your bag is at the Delhi airport.” When the girl asked the lady how much time she needed. The lady answered that she needed two hours. “Two hours!” The girl said in disbelief. “You need two hours just to tell me if my bag is at the Delhi airport! I wonder how much time it will take for you to actually handover the bag to me.” The lady at the baggage counter ignored her and this infuriated the girl further. “Look,” the girl said, “I don’t have much time. I need my bag now!” This prompted the lady to immediately call the people at Delhi to find out the whereabouts of the girl’s and of mine and of the other person’s bags. The lady confirmed that my bag was still lying in foggy Delhi, but she could not say anything about the girl’s bag and that of the man’s (and this gave the girl more reason to foam at the mouth and wail, but the man still remained calm, perhaps he did not have an exam to write few hours from now).
I asked the lady at the baggage counter when could I get my bag back. The lady said that my bag would come in the next flight from Delhi which departs at 6:30 AM and reaches Mumbai by 8:30 AM. It was 4:30 AM at that time. If I had to wait for the arrival of the next flight, I had to wait for another four hours. Already the flight was delayed by so many hours and the wait for another four hours seemed only to add insult to injury. I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to go home. I asked the lady at the baggage counter if it was necessary for me to stay back or was it possible if I go home and come back to the airport after sometime. But, as it turned out, I would not be allowed to get in the airport once I got out of it, unless, of course, I was travelling by an airplane from Mumbai. But the lady offered me an alternative: she said that I could go home and someone from IndiGo would bring my bag at my residence. I asked her how long will that process take. She said that the bag would be brought to me soon. I said how soon. She said very soon. I said how very soon. She emphasised, “very, very soon, sir!” I was, however, not sure how long that would take, for “very, very soon” may have a different connotation for her and a different connotation for me. I had a few stuff in the bag that were of immediate need. I could not make up my mind whether to go home or to wait. Seeing my confusion, the other man who had also lost his bag suggested that I should go home and take rest. I called up my girlfriend and she was also of the same opinion. I, therefore, decided to go home. I told the lady that I was going home and I asked her to send the bag to my residence. She said she would do so and she had given me a note where she had mentioned a number which I could dial to know the status of my bag.
I came home. Set the alarm of my phone for 8:30 AM (for that was the arrival time of the next IndiGo flight from Delhi to Mumbai) and went to sleep. My phone rang at 8:30 AM and gave me a start. I was drowsy and wanted to sleep more, but it was important for me to get up and get active. I dialled the number that the lady at the baggage counter of IndiGo gave me. This was the number: 7045591805. It was busy on another call. I tried again but it was still busy on another call. I tried after half an hour but it was still busy. I tried after another half an hour. This time it rang and immediately a smile came to my face, but as soon as the smile came to my face it also faded. The person whom I called disconnected the line after two rings. I was absolutely disappointed. I dialled the number again but now the number was not reachable. I tried to find the customer service number of IndiGo from the internet. I came across many numbers, tried one. After listening to an automated machine for a few minutes, the line finally got connected to a human voice. The person speaking to me on the other end announced that his name was Mukesh. He tried to listen to me however, perhaps from habit, could not help but interrupt me every time. Suddenly, without even telling me anything, he put my call on hold and vanished. I held on the phone for 15 minutes and finally gave up. All this only increased the already heightened level of anxiety in me.
I once again tried calling on 7045591805 many more times but it was either busy or, when it rang, someone disconnected the line, or, now a new problem, it was switched off. I tried the customer service number once again. I had to wait for five minutes before finally getting connected to a customer service representative. A female spoke. I told her what had happened and she offered to help me. She gave me two contact numbers and said that my queries would be answered to my satisfaction if I called on those numbers, but, as it turned out, those did not concern the department I had to get in touch with. They catered only to international flights. I only wasted my money and time by trying to get my queries solved. Then I tried finding more numbers on the internet, and got connected to a few. One department after the other said that it was a different department that was answerable to me. Their peculiar way of evading their responsibility irked me. I expected them to provide me solutions instead of excuses, and they miserably failed. I would have been better off if I had traveled by a train instead of an aeroplane. That way I could have saved my money and energy and would not have gone through all this unwanted problems and frustrations. Though I have travelled by plane many times, but the experience I had this time was the worst so far. Now I would think twice, gauge all other good possibilities, before travelling by a plane. The whole day I was restless, but the day was over, and the next day followed.
The next day was a Sunday and I had to go to the University of Mumbai where I am doing a part time course on Human Rights, and the airport of Mumbai is not very far from the university, so I decided to drop by the airport after attending my lectures to know the status of my bag (though, of course, I had to incur the cost of going there). But, I was lucky, a man called me up and informed me that he was looking for my flat in order to deliver my bag to me. I was relieved and very happy when I heard that. I told him that I was away from my flat but he could hand my bag over to my neighbour next door. He said he would do that.
After reaching my building, the first thing I did was visit my neighbour’s flat, get hold of my bag and examine it thoroughly for any damage or for anything that went missing. The strap was torn, but other than that there were no damages, the bag was still locked (as I did after packing all the stuff), and the key of the lock was in the side packet of the bag (as I kept it, and only I knew it). Everything inside the bag was well intact. Happy though I am after getting my bag but my thoughts reach out to those who miss a great opportunity in their lives (like the girl I mentioned above who might have missed appearing at an important exam she had prepared for) and those whose valuable is damaged/pilfered due to the flippant attitude and irresponsibility of some authority (like that of IndiGo).
It was 4.30 in the morning when the alarm of my phone started giving me a tough time. And I had to bear with Eminem’s socially inappropriate lyrics, for it had been my phone’s alarm tone. I was reluctant to wake up. It was a cold morning. Everything was still. I shut Eminem up by pressing the snooze option of the phone. I pulled the blanket over my head, squeezed and curled myself in the bed, and was off to dreamland.
At 5 o’clock the phone rang once again. I wanted to snooze it like I did a little while ago, and like I do every day until it stops ringing, but this time it was a different music, not the alarm tone by any chance. I halfheartedly opened my eyes, stretched my hands, and with the right hand I picked up the phone and glancing at it I saw Aravind’s name flash on it.
Aravind is a very good friend of mine. Although he looks aged with his bulging belly and the stiff mustache, but internally he is quite immature and very innocent. He proves his immaturity very often by doing things which a man of his age never does. Some people find him a bit pestering, but I like him. He has always been very good to me.
I pressed the accept button to speak. He yelled out of sheer excitement, just like a kid: “Goa… Goa, Goa!” Then he paused for a moment gasping heavily, and then he spoke again, his sentences ending before he could complete them: “The girls… wearing bikinis… resort, dazzling beaches… wake up! Wake up!”
Realization hit me hard like a stone to a glass, we were supposed to go to Goa today, “Ah, quite so,” I said.
As a rule set my Mumbai University, all the Management Students must go on an industrial visit. I suppose, to make us aware about our future responsibilities, or to let us know how we are supposed to struggle for money. It was the teachers’ duty to take care of that, that is to say, to organize industrial visits for the students every year.
The last two years I could not make it to any of the industrial tour because I was not interested, moreover, I had no time for it. But this time I was determined not to miss this opportunity. This is my final year in the college, and if I missed it I would suffer from a void feeling which might as well torture my conscience as I grow older. I’ve never been to Goa. I wanted to see what Goa was like. So I paid Rs. 4000 (like everyone did) for the same and decided to go to Goa.
Aravind was waiting for me in his car. I hurried up, and briskly and noiselessly got into the car. “I’m here.” Soon we reached Panvel station from where all the students were supposed to get on board of a train – Jan Shatabdi had been the train’s name – at 6.00 a.m. I met other friends, and the three lecturers (all women) who accompanied us, or who were suppose to keep an eye on us, in case someone led us astray. Ha!
We kept waiting for the train. As it always happens, the train moved forward, rattling inch by inch quite leisurely at OUR timing – the Indian timing, and finally came to a halt. It was late by half-an-hour. The shrilling of its engine wasn’t at all inviting.
The friends’ parents came to the station to see the friends off. These followed thereon: embracing, shaking hands, wiping tears from the eyes… as if they were bidding goodbye for a long time or maybe forever. The tour was just for 4 days, and nothing more. Overflowing affection, ha!
I was looking for my seat as I got into the train, and when I was able to find it out, I saw an elderly man sitting on it. “Sir, I believe, you’re sitting on my chair,” I said. He was least bothered. I raised my voice, and then he said it was his seat. “How could that be possible?” I questioned.
“Very,” he replied laconically.
“Very?” I found myself repeating his word, but only interrogatively. A little argument followed. I summoned the TC and discovered that the elderly man was speaking the truth. I felt embarrassed before the elderly man, the TC, and other passengers. I foamed at the mouth. I had to stand for half an hour in the train; some of my friends did the same.
I went to the lecturers with my complaint. I kept stuttering for sometime before speaking plainly. Yes, when I get very angry, or very excited, I stutter. Let me say it once again, I st-tu-tut-tut-tut-stut-ter.
One of the lecturers arranged a seat for me, and slowly all the other students were able to sit down comfortably. But I wanted to know why there was the confusion regarding the seat. We did pay the money then why should there be any problem at all? When asked, the lecturers had no idea why it was so; there was no answer for me. Perhaps, the agent of People2Place (who provided us the travel service) made a mistake. Anyhow, I was able to sit and relax, my anger melted, and I had no more problems and no more questions.
The train jerked and rattled, picked up speed, and along we moved on. I tried to register everything in my mind through the view from the window. But, alas, it was a misty December morning, and it made my visibility unclear. No doubt it looked beautiful. Sometimes neon signs flicked through as the train made its way, and I was curious to know what was beneath the foggy atmosphere: Perhaps homes, mountains, a bazaar, animals, or such other things.
I decided to read a book, the best way to eat up time, but the friends wouldn’t let me. They (the boys) inherited the girls’ hormone. They kept on talking tirelessly and continuously. Some guys had a voice as melodious as Justin Bieber, and I could make little difference as to who was the guy and who the gal.
We reached Goa and checked-in to our resort. A very beautiful resort it was, with greenery all-around, a swanky swimming pool that was made more appealing by the alluring golden-haired, brown-eyed girls swimming and dancing in it. A friend of mine exclaimed: “This is it!” I gave him a puzzled look, and he explained, “Besides the beaches and the wine, I wanted to see this and nothing more.” He pointed his fingers towards the women in bikinis swimming in the pool, and towards another who was reclining on her rocking chair, smoking, exhaling circles of smoke, and reading a book at the same time. “Ah, it seems like a movie. This is exactly how they look in the movies. Oh my god, I feel like a star!” He said, expressing mirth. The other friends laughed back at him, not with him, mind you.
We freshened up and learnt that we were going to a very famous and the finest beach in Goa called Baga beach. The boys wore shorts, so did the girls. But the girls invited some criticisms from the lecturers for doing so. My friends disapproved of the lecturers’ gesture. A guy said, “What problem do the teachers have with the students? They never want to see us happy. This is only time we get to see some skin, and … “
A lecturer approached towards him making a strange face, and he thought it best to shut up and stay mum. I knew what he was trying to convey. But he meant it only for fun without having any bad intention. Nevertheless, the girls adhered to their dressing style; after all, they were going to a beach and not to a church or a temple.
We went to Baga beach, swam to our heart’s content. A friend, upon seeing a bikini-clad foreigner, wanted to click a photo with her. But she refused. The friend looked a little disappointed and brokenhearted, we couldn’t help but laugh and laugh, and laugh a little more.
A lady friend lost her camera somewhere in the beach or in the shops nearby, and started crying. Girls of our college always cry no matter what, “I won’t go back home if I don’t get the camera,” she said. All the other girls started crying as well, as if the camera was a lifesaving drug for them. The lecturers told us to help her find the camera, it happened to be a very expensive one. We went to find it, and luckily we found it. It was in a shop, the shopkeeper was a morally upright, very kindhearted and noble man (such persons are very scarce today, aren’t they?) and returned the camera back to its rightful owner. We thanked him and were off to our resort.
Then, we danced to the tunes of the Disc jockey in the swimming pool as dusk set in; it was especially organized for us. After that we had a hearty dinner.At the crack of midnight we retired to our beds.
During the night I could not sleep properly because of a friend’s snoring who slept beside me. The whole night he kept on torturing me by producing strange sounds: grarrrrr… graaaaaaarrrrrr… grrrrarr….graarrrrrrr… This followed in the same fashion till the remaining days in Goa. I told him to change his sleeping position hoping to see some changes in his breathing. He changed his position, but it was of no avail. I felt like defenestrating him, but thought the better of it.
In the next day, we went to another world-famous dazzling beach –Calangute beach– in north Goa for water sports. These are the sports we enjoyed: Banana boat ride, Bumper ride (the force of the water did a good bum massage), Para-sailing (we paid extra for extra pleasure), Jet Ski (I rode, by paying extra, of course). In the night we went boat cruising. ‘Coral Queen’ had been the cruiser’s name. Some cultural dances were displayed on it. We watched and loved it.
The next day we went to Coca Cola Company, that’s the main reason for which we were in Goa. An instructor demonstrated us the functioning of the machines and all other stuff related to the production of beverage. At first I thought the instructor was not an instructor but a security guard. His dressing style was overly simple. But when he started speaking in fluent English, and started explaining us everything about the manufacturing process, I found him a very knowledgeable, genial, and modest person. Oh, and he wore a big smile every time he spoke.
Then we proceeded towards old Goa and visited BIG FOOT Cross Museum which is a centre for preservation and promotion of Art, Culture and Environment. Then we visited the historical church of St. Francis Xavier, and an archaeological museum nearby.
The next day we visited Fort Aguada. After that we were on our way back to Aamchi Mumbai.
I must say, Goa, with its mighty Sea, good-natured people, and its proximity to other huge cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, is really attractive, enticing, and fascinating.
There is something soothing about Goa. For a writer, it’s the best place to live. The surroundings are quite, serene and peaceful. Goa, I’m sure, would alleviate your mental agony, and make you feel that life is worth living.
Thus, we concluded our journey; it was a thrilling experience, at least for me. Now, as I finish writing this, I am missing Goa a lot.
P.S.: I could have written a lot more, but as it is, it already looks very daunting. I don’t want to bore my readers, and definitely my blog is not a book.