Wednesday, July 31

Burrday in Joaaaaa

Hola amigos!

Naah, aint gonna display my Spanish proficiency (or lack of it) in this post.

This is gonna be about my latest visit to Goa since my darling hubby wanted me to have a relaxed and happy birthday.

(Thank you, to those of you who are wishing me Belated Happy Birthday in your hearts. To the rest, please read on… and learn some etiquette… humph!!)

I’d looked up Casa Vagator a long time ago while daydreaming about a Goan vacation. As soon as Akhilesh got wind of this fact, he went ahead and booked us there for a 3 night birthday-cum-honeymoon. Goa Express was the way we’d reach Vasco and a Neeta Volvo would bring us back. Plans set, and we were all ready to go!

Now I know that monsoons are not the best time to visit Goa, but this wasn’t our maiden trip to the domestic holiday paradise and we did not have plans to go gallivanting and sightseeing across the state. That the rains were lashing the place did not deter us from going, and we set off on a Sunday afternoon post a wonderful lunch at Shahji Paratha House. What phenomenal parathas that place sells! And they sell like hot cakes… (better than that actually)! And at very economical rates.

(Don’t forget to try the Patiala Lassi there, it’s mindblasting – both the tall glass as well as the drink! And if you’re looking for some recommendations, you could opt for any variety of Paneer paratha or maybe the Amritsari Naan thali.)

We were celebrating my promotion from a Lead Trainer to Assistant Manager at IBM. Just in case I forgot to tell ya :-) Got married my last birthday, and got promoted this time round. Lucky birthday phase, methinks!

Our 12780 Goa express was a little messy since it was arriving from Delhi. But it suited us perfectly as we wanted to meet a family friend in Vasco Da Gama. Trains are good fun when you don’t have cranky and noisy kids in your bogie, worse in your own compartment. Unfortunately, I and husbandji had to endure extremely rowdy Mallu kids on the way.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am not racist and all that crap. Yelling children are annoying anyway, but when they keep talking nonstop and that too with an irritating accent and shrieky pitch, it’s something that the most patient of us cannot put up with… And Akhilesh and I being trainers with (obviously) excellent communication skills, it was nothing less than torture for us.

Imagine my chagrin and amusement when the kid kept saying stuff like, “Aapke paas aati heeee?” and then clarifying that “aati” was elephant. Then she asked a fellow passenger what his brother’s name was to which he responded that he had no brother. The kid, not to be outdone, asks, “Father heeee?”

Some more maha entertaining lines… “Aapka khlaaaaaas kaunsi he?” and “Eeeeske memmi ke name he Aaaaaalis”.

Akhi was initially trying to pacify me coz I was on my way to getting mentally unstable thanks to this constant badgering. Kind, thoughtful, adorable chap my guy is….

But when the girl said ”Angil” to her ”uncle”, it was the last straw for my tolerant lover. My anger vanished when I saw his reaction each time she screamed ”angil angil”. She, more than happy to oblige, must have said the word at least 150 times in 5 minutes, if not more. And Akhilesh was seething, almost blowing fire from his nostrils. LOLzzz… The simple joys of life ;-)

The journey was scenic and beautiful. There was a slight drizzle and the greenery was calming. Akhilesh slept on top of me (on the upper berth, you pervs) while I made myself cozy on the lower side berth. Until we reached Vasco, our destination and the last point of the train at 8 am, after a delay of an hour. After breakfasting with our family friends, we were driven down to Vagator. The roads of Goa are small, but the traffic sense is admirable. We took about an hour to reach Casa Vagator, situated next to Alcove and Ozran in Bardez.

It's a lovely place, almost private as there were no other guests there for the first 2 days. We had the pool, beach and restaurant all to ourselves. The food was excellent and the service gave us nothing to complain about. The room was large and lavish with a wonderful personal sit-out area. Most of all, I loved the pleasant helpfulness of the receptionist Jyoti – she deserves a mention for being such a terrific hostess! Full marks to her, and half as many to her team who could not help us with a needle and thread but gave us multiple towels on request.

Pasta, prawns, sizzler and desserts – we had our fill of the tasty foods, both at the hotel as well as the other hangouts nearby. I have successfully converted my vegetarian husband to a maansahaari – he digs chicken but hates seafood.

The rains were relentless on day 2 and 3 but we still rode to Baga and Calangute and refreshed memories from our last visit there in Feb 2011. We shopped a bit and we went for a trek to the Chapora fort. Beachwalks were obvious, but we were prohibited to enter the water due to the dangerous tides. Watching the waves was treat enough, and we did not miss the shacks too much as we preferred being indoors after sunset.

You will be stunned to hear that I gave up alcohol for one full year on my birthday eve! Yup siree, I did… Just a passing thought, that I promised to make permanent for 365 days. Sober is the way to go, fellas! My daaru buddies – let’s catch up next year ;-)

After a gorgeous birthday vacation, we finally bid adieu to Goa and boarded our bus back at Mapusa. The bus station leaves a bad taste in the mouth, what with the lack of place to sit or leave your luggage and the filth all around. But then, it’s a small price to pay. The next time me and hubs go, we’ve decided to take our own car and not go during the rainy season!

And here we are, back again to aamche Pune. Wishes for my birthday and promotion kept pouring in all through our trip, and it was touching and flattering to see so much love and affection from people known and unexpected.

Coming back was tinged with joy, anticipation, hesitation as well as a little sorrow coz the holiday was done and over. The next chhutti is far across the horizon. (Else Akhilesh Singh will have another fit, hehehe.)

Had to resume work on the weekend itself - A hundred mails to be read and worked upon… BAU!! But I did manage to watch Bhag Milkha Bhag - amazing movie and great acting. Worth a dekko! Also have downloaded Lootera and D Day, and looking forward to Wolverine, Ship of Theseus and Pacific Rim.

Let me not forget to mention - We had an altercation with Reliance Communications over internet issues. I stopped using my Netconnect due to poor connectivity and service but they gave us a hefty bill that I logically refused to pay. So, we met the reliance guys in court. We did not pass up on the fact that Akhilesh uses their broadband connection and his service was suspended due to some fibre cut for more than 20 days. We somehow managed to seal the deal for half the quoted amount, and then we celebrated with a bucket of caramel popcorn from Inox! Customer service is a nightmare in India... And Reliance is the guru of all tortures!

That’s it for now!! Busy times on – lotsa plans and lotsa dreams.
Hope to return with more good news soon….

Until then,
Cheerio!
Princess

Friday, July 19

Fatal Memories

“So, you choose any three digits as the secret code… and if you want to activate the explosive then you need to utter the secret code thrice in quick succession… and then you get away from there faster than the speed of light.”


“Good job, Agent G. I will personally recommend that you get your coveted promotion this year.”


“Thank you so much, Madam. I will be eternally thankful…” and Agent G collapsed on the floor with his mouth open midway in speech, his brains splattered in a crimson mess on the damp, brown soil.


Madam N put the gun back in her holster with an expert flick of her wrist.


Her instructions were to collect the exploding device created by a top level secret foreign organization and transport it to the government security desk that permitted killing its own agents in order to retain a secret. Of course, she had been promised that her life would be spared if she was able to complete this task successfully.

Not that she had a choice, anyway. If she wanted her promotion, she had to do whatever her boss asked her. Hell, he could fire her even if she refused to bring him his cup of coffee “just about hot”, but not so much that it scalded his old wagging tongue.


Madam N collected the packet that held the device and walked towards her scooter parked some distance away. She thought about the secret code as her leg sunk into a puddle. She cursed and spat her fury. On reaching her scooter, she tucked the packet in her jacket front pocket. Just as she was about to start her scooter, she thought about her ex-boyfriend, also an agent in the same department. They had a happy relationship until about 3 months ago. But then...

That was not important right now. She wistfully recalled how her boyfriend used to murmur “1-4-3” to her on the phone when he was at work and could not say “I love you” directly. It was a traditional community and open expressions of love were not appreciated or allowed.


Madam N carefully removed the packet from her pocket and took the explosive out. It was a small circular gadget, which could easily be mistaken for the central locking device used in cars.


She pressed the “record code” button and whispered “1-4-3”. A flickering green button confirmed that her code had been recorded. Pleased with herself, Madam N put the device back in her pocket.


Agent G had, after all, not mentioned anything about de-activating the device or switching it off.


Madam N started her scooter and headed off to the CafĂ© Coffee Day close by. She loved their Devil’s Own with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. She felt that she deserved the treat today. Securing that gadget was a big thing on her agenda and she believed in rewards and recognition – be it personal or professional achievements.

As she snuggled into a comfortable armchair with her tall Devil’s Own glass, she saw a bunch of college kids chilling out on the nearby table. She paid no attention to them and concentrated on transferring the whipped cream from the glass into her mouth with a spoon. It tasted heavenly. Especially as the sound of raindrops smashing on the window kept her company.

She saw the CCD mag lying on the table and peered at it. A few random articles and pictures did not interest her.


She turned around to the window to look at the raindrops sliding down the glass pane. The kids behind her were sharing phone numbers since they had all recently acquired new cell phones.


“9822567340”


“And mine is 8875635204”


“Hey what’s yours?”

“9890654143”


“9890-what?”

“654-143”


“654…?”

“Oh shit,” thought Madam N as she scrambled out of the armchair and dashed to the door.



“143 ... !!!”


….



Ka-boooooooom.





Cheerio!
Princess

Friday, July 12

Anniversary Weekend @ Matheran

Hiya!


I recently visited Matheran on the occasion of my first wedding anniversary - June 29.


While Goa and Mahabaleshwar remain popular choices for most couples, I chose this lesser favored destination as I’ve never been there before. Also, I’ve never heard people really talking about Matheran as a tourist destination so it beckoned me, adventure sake.


Adventure, it sure was.


Hubby dear and I slept a little after 2 am after packing our bag on a Thursday night, rather Friday dawn. We were going to catch the Sahyadri from Pune to Neral at 6.50 am from Pune station. Reaching Matheran is touted as a challenge, so we did not want to take any chances. A train to Neral followed by a taxi to Dasturi and then a ride or walk up to Matheran was our plan.


We awoke at 5 am and got dressed and ready in no time. (That's what I admire about Akhilesh, always on the go.... unless he's in his timepass mode and I need to snap him outa it.) A quick glass of milk and we were on our way. Thankfully, the rain god had mercy on us so we got to the station in a dry and comfortable state. Sahyadri normally departs from platform number 5 so we purchased tickets and stood waiting for the train to arrive.

Indian railway stations are not a very pleasant place to hang around, but hubs insists on being at a place before time when we are traveling. That hour long wait was something I’d like to forget but the stench and sight of poop and mice is not something that will fade from memory easily. My husband’s love and company were the only things that made that wretched hour pass.


When the clock showed 7 am, we were looking at the tracks anticipating the train to march in any moment. Suddenly, Patidev tells me that he heard something about Sahyadri being on platform 2. We looked around frantically at the display boards, but nothing for the next 3 minutes. I asked a vendor if there was any news about Sahyadri, and imagine my horror when he frantically said, “Go quickly, the train is about to leave from platform 2!” Hubby was right! We made a dash for it, and bless our youth, managed to board the train just as it was about to chug out of the station. Crazy start to the holiday!


The train journey was very exciting – the gorgeous waterfalls and greenery made my Reader’s Digest snippets short-lived and rare. Three and a half hours later we alighted at Neral train station and took a shared taxi to Dasturi as decided. The short journey (which seemed longer on the way back) was full of steep turns and tricky falls. I am glad we were not riding or driving up by ourselves, better to be driven by a local pro. We then hired two horses to scale the 2.5 km ride up to Maharashtra’s smallest hill station. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite choosing to walk down on the way back on the slippery tracks in the mud and rain.

The red soil and used-to-tourists monkeys along with horse shit are important highlights of Matheran. There is nothing much to do in Matheran apart from visit a few tourist locations (that are spaced far apart, and seem farther as there is no means of transport apart from Bus # 11 and horses) or relax in your hotel. Most hotels are homes converted into B&B’s but there are also other relatively posh places that charge a bomb.


We had already booked a room in the Horseland Hotel, so we were spared the effort of hunting for accommodation. While the service and rooms were nothing worth writing home about, we were happy to be staying a stone’s throw from the market place in a hotel that had various activities planned everyday for the guests.


In a nutshell, Matheran is not for people who cannot enjoy a brisk walk or deal with some discomfort. It is not as easily accessible as Goa and Mahabaleshwar, nor is it half as fancy or lively. I went there despite a whole lot of negative and neutral reviews merely coz I wana tick off every tourist location on the map, and my adorable partner-in-crime is happy to do what I want. Don’t blame us if you plan a trip to Matheran and return disappointed.


Here are some snaps to show you what a lovely time hubs and I had….
In the train... that we almost missed!
Pretty waterfalls on the way
My darlings
Mum and I 
Walking back to Dasturi






Cheerio!

Princess

Friday, July 5

One rainy evening

He lay listless on the floor, the bed made him feel restless, worthless, hopeless...

He liked the cold white tiles that his father had fitted during the renovation last monsoon. He was “grounded”, a pun lover would say. Even “down to earth”, others would hint.

He stroked the smooth white tile absentmindedly.


Come to think of it, that was probably the only thing that he had ever liked about his father – his impeccable choice and wisdom while making decisions both personal and professional. He felt proud of the way his father had made a man out of himself. An orphan who did not even have enough money to buy bun maska for lunch, had transformed himself into a millionaire with a sprawling apartment in the most posh area of the city. His father sure was a winner. Appreciable and hardworking.


Unfortunately, that was also the exact quality that caused him grief during his growing up days. His father breathing down his neck as he attempted to gather his thoughts on whether he liked something or not, wanted to do something or not. His father had an opinion on everything, and he thought it his right and duty to guide his son on the path that he chose for him. After all, he was older, wiser and more learned in all worldly ways. Hadn’t he proved that by being what he was – successful and respected?


He noticed a small crack in the adjacent tile. His father would flip if he set eyes on it. He could not bear anything that was not “just perfect”.


“No wonder he hates me”, he thought. “I am about as un-perfect as I could possibly be.”


He had failed his father. He was not a bright student, nor an exceptional sportsman. He had no notable hobbies and the only time he had ever been recognized was when he had uttered his father’s name. “Oh, you’re J. Mehta’s son? You are very lucky, boy.”


He did not want to be lucky.


Sure, he loved his father and he would have liked to grow up and be like him, but all through his life, he had only been told that he would never turn out well. “If you do this, you’ll end up in the gutter.” “Don’t do that, do you want to go back to living in the slums?” “How can you do this? Is this what we brought you into this world for?”


Tears had long deserted him. He wiped his nose – looked like he was about to catch a cold lying on the chilly floor.


He got up and wore his shoes. A nice run in the rain would probably clear the cobwebs of old memories from his brain.


As he took the stairs two at a time, he wondered if he had shut the door behind him. He didn’t want to give his father another reason to get disappointed with him.


He shook his head realizing he probably just had. No point going back up to face the music right away. It could wait until he returned.


As he turned the corner of the alley, he ran into Zubeida, his neighbour. She was wearing a pink raincoat and riding her Activa home. They’d never really spoken to each other, except a mumble or two, the few times she’d dropped into his house to borrow some sugar or milk.


He broke into a trot when he suddenly heard a crash. He was not really a compassionate person, but curiosity got the better of him and he turned back to the source of the sound.


A pink raincoat was trying to get off the ground.

He shook his head and went to help.


As he gave her a hand, Zubeida looked up to see her savior.

He remembered nothing of what happened next, apart from the bluest pair of eyes he had ever seen in his life.


“Thanks,” she murmured and got onto her unsteady bike. As she rode off towards the building, he looked at her flying raincoat entranced.


Those blue eyes would haunt him forever…

Cheerio!
Princess