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Monday, August 16, 2004

A Goanese Odyssey

So, having suddenly making the impromptu decision to visit Goa at 10 am on Friday, I left office at 4 pm (to the collective envious groan of more busy souls who had to plod on till 11 pm). Rushed home, packed toothbrush and nightdress, and managed to secure the last seat on the last bus leaving Bandra Talao at 7 pm. Of course, it was the which ensured a very bumpy ride to Panjim. Thanks to violent spells of torrential rain lasing the Mumbai-Goa highway, the trip took 17 hours instead of the usual 12. No sleep -- night out # 1.

Arrived at 10 am in our Vasco house and was immediately swamped by my boisterous cousins - Micky, Motts and Gaz - the "Three Musketeers". This must have been my sixth trip to Goa since March, but only the second when I've managed to meet all three. Micky is leaving for the UK in November to complete his exams for Third Mate in the Merchant Navy. He's really developed his physique since he joined the ships! Motts will be GRE-ing in November, planning to do his MS in Telecom Engg in Canada or the US. Gaz is enjoying Class 11, his dreams of becoming a doctor still on course. They are coping extremely well by the grace of the Almighty. How happy and proud Nafisa phoopo would have been.

The three together are a non-stop laugh riot. We chatted, laughed, watched Die Hard, spoke to Farida phoopo from the US, ate non-stop, worked on Visa formalities for Micky and GRE word lists with Motts, and suddenly realized it's 12 midnight. Happy Independence Day!!! Time for Gaz to revise his I-Day speech for the school assembly, think patriotic stuff, sing a few "Auld Lang Syne" songs, silently wish our neighbors a very happy I-Day too, and drop off to sleep by 4 am. Night out # 2.

Was up by 8 am on Sunday. Went to drop Gaz to school. The roads were paved with the tricolor. And on the way, what did I see but BITS Pilani Goa!!! My alma mater ... the construction of it's Goan setup is almost complete. The infra does look much more colorful and better designed than the Pilani counterpart :) Wouldn't be surprised if there's an exodus of the best profs from Pilani to Goa.

We visited Nafisa phoopo at her beautiful home, in the midst of rocky hills on one side and two scenic litchen-covered ponds on the other. A little ancient untended temple nests near one corner of the area, and rail tracks pass through the hills, creating a flutter among the resident waterbirds whenever they rumble through.

We toyed with the idea of visiting one of the beaches, but were told that due to the monsoons they had been roped off. Why'd I ever bother bringing swimming trunks??

So we went to Martin's Corner for lunch instead. The place has an awesome reputation, and is Sachin Tendulkar's fav food joint, and now I know why. It was sooo amazing !!! Traditional Goanese ambience, ethnically attired waiters, and don't even ask about the food. I'll tell you all the same :) We stuffed ourselves silly on rice, prawn curry, and ... hold your breath ... mussels, squid, oysters and shark. Yes shark!!! This was the first time I've eaten any of these items (except rice and prawns), and I did have momentary qualms about whether we're allowed to have all this stuff. But Motts's palpable enthusiasm and Gaz's blatant disregard for the rules was infectous. And boy, am I glad I gave in :) Everything was cooked to perfection, and after 75 minutes of non-stop masticating, we were totally knocked out.

Hardly had we reached home than it was time for me to depart. So I packed up and we all drove down to Panjim, where we roamed the area for an hour, saw I-Day street plays by little school children, sat by the wharf and saw police boats and fishing boats try to outdo each other on the sea. Also learnt the theoretical rudiments of fishing from Micky, along with an induction to maritime rumors. Don't eat dolphins, it's supposed to be bad luck.

Got a lovely seat in the sleeper bus, until I realized it wouldn't flatten & convert from a chair into a bed as expected. So I had two options -- sit on this chair-cum-non-bed throughout the night, or shift to the only empty seat -- yea you guessed right -- the upper left rear-most seat. Another bumpy 16 hour sojourn. Night out # 3. Hooray.

Of course, I reached Mumbai late and missed the Monday morning meeting. However, somehow, it didn't seem to matter at all. Things suddenly took on a new perspective. Perhaps it had something to do with what had happened in the course of the night.

The bus suddenly stopped out of schedule at around 12 midnight. Peering out, I was an unfortunate witness to a very sad sight. An accident had killed two young men. The road was swimming in their blood. It was ghastly. Very shocking. Very very sad. And no-one could do anything to help. There may be an excellent reason for everything God does, but how does one explain that to a shocked and helpless widow, a mother who has seen her son die before her old and weary eyes, a child who is too young to understand why daddy doesn't come home any more?

What if it had been me in the place of those unfortunate young men? I am so lucky and blessed, I can spend centuries in just thanking the Almighty for His mercies, and it will still be nowhere close to adequate. And yet, instead of being continuously grateful, I often find myself feeling angry, sad, greedy. What a waste of invaluable and irredeemable time.

What would those two men have not done to postpone their untimely end by just a few precious minutes, perhaps so they could have personally reassured their loved ones that they're going to a better place, and don't worry, everything's going to turn out just fine. Hopefully everything will indeed turn out just fine for the bereaved.

They say that, if everyone was informed they have only five more minutes to live, all the phone lines of the world would be jammed because of people phoning other people to stammer, "I love you".

"Dream like you'll live forever. Live like you'll die today."

"Dance like nobody's watching;
Love like you've never been hurt.
Sing like nobody's listening
Live like it's heaven on earth. "

I once saw on a tombstone in Kolkata:
"Listen to me, O passers by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shall you be.
So prepare yourself to follow me."


Love to all, and Godspeed.

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