There are perks about being from Goa – the best of which is obviously the fact that you get to visit this amazing place more often than most others would. The downside is the fact that when you eventually make a trip to the place with a bunch of first-time visiting friends, you’re expected to play the gracious guide effectively.
My recent trip to Goa towards the end of May this year, was supposed to be somewhat similar. I was taking a long-due vacation with a bunch of long-time friends who were soon to leave for London to pursue their Masters degrees. The added incentive of celebrating one of my closest friend’s birthday during the trip added to my daunting task in a way (ALL of my fellow travelers strictly abhorred from indulging in alcohol and were unmovable vegetarians). Au contraire, I was your average, typical Goan – happy to sip on beer all day long and munch down a cache of prawns thrice a day. As you can imagine, all the guide badges that I might have collected over my previous trips were already feeling useless to me.
In hindsight though, everything about this trip was a new experience, everything was adorably beautiful, frustrating, liberating and memorable, all at once. In hindsight, it appears I played a pretty decent guide in Goa too (a future potential profession maybe?)
The Epic Train Journey Was Epic!
We got off to a rough start (and I’m being polite here). Used to travelling in air-conditioned vehicles, making an overnight trip in a General Sleeper Class Konkan Railway train was a new experience for most of us. Some of us were of the opinion that having 3 confirmed seats between 4 travelers would be the worst of our troubles for the night. These hopes were soon dashed. The compartment was designed to house 8 people. When we got on, it was housing 12 including us. Five of these were fortunately silent and sleepy. Three of them on the top-most berth across us however, were not just noisy but rowdy and annoyed with each other for having 1 confirmed seat between 3. Some of their conversations revolved around who can consume the maximum quantity of alcohol and who is a loser for passing out early in the night. They spent the remainder of the night accusing each other for the lack of space to accommodate a combined weight of at least 300kgs on the top berth. Somewhere around midnight, a group of five rural-bound women entered the compartment with a baby each, ranging anywhere from 6 months – 2 years old and behold! The compartment’s population was magically doubled.
That night was a genuine testament to a belief I’ve long held – people claim entitlement to things they need not have necessarily earned/ deserved, but need! Only because they were a company of five pairs of women and infants, they sought claim to the space at our feet, on the tiny inches of emptiness on our seats, in the gangway, on top of the sleeping uncles – practically wherever they could manage to rest an arm, foot, head or any other body part. Out of the searing heat caused by housing thrice as many human beings as it was designed to and also out of fear of accidentally treading and suffocating a sprawled infant, most of the travelers with a ticket spent the night huddled in minimal space while the troupe of unassuming warriors snored away to glory. The plight of one particular uncle was deplorable as the oldest of the women sat on his seat in front of his sprawled body and used his abdomen, chest and groin as a convenient hand, back and butt rest. At one point, one of the uncles with a seat and a baby on his abdomen woke up to puke out of one of the windows – this amazingly awoke all the passengers with a ticket and none without. We spent the rest of the night hoping for our uninvited guests to get off without feeling too guilty. The defining moment of the entire journey came the next morning when the aunty using the traveler behind her as a back/butt/arm and head rest wakes up and complains to her fellow-travelers: ‘Ratra bhar melyane jara araam karu dila nahi!’ (The bloody death-deserving bastard didn’t let me rest properly all night long)! I can only assume she expected him to give up his seat altogether for her and go take a stroll in the train all night long. This made me amaze at why most of us felt guilty about their state and why they felt entitled to travelling thus and causing everybody around so much inconvenience and YET feel disgruntled about the ‘experience’. I spent the remainder of the journey sitting at the compartment’s entrance, enjoying the warm breeze, approaching monsoon clouds, the occasional cigarette and the smell of my native soil.
The cab ride from Thivim Station to Baga was comparatively mundane, except that one moment when our cab driver banged into the cab right in front. Both the drivers got out to examine their respective vehicles and I facepalmed myself in my thoughts. It was a pleasant change however to see both of them laugh at each other, throw in a couple of good-natured curses and get on their way without the fuss we are accustomed to in Mumbai and I was convinced I was in Goa J