Sunday, December 13, 2015

Friends in Panjim

I planned to meet a friend in Panjim, the beautiful capital of Goa. I am a little sleepy on the bus to Panjim. So I doze off for a while. Oh these short afternoon naps. When you get them just right, it is like somebody has just gotten into your head and cleaned it of all the ooze. Like a ear wax cleaning, but for the head. Or maybe it is like a head massage, the best head massage you have ever received. Somebody once told me that when you sleep, a process that involves converting the short term memory into long term memory, occurs in your brain. For some reason, on this bus ride from Marmagaon to Panjim,  I felt like I had fastened this process. Or I was super aware it was happening. I am woken up, by a bus jerk. Panjim aa gaya hai, utar jao (in slightly more broken Hindi). Panjim, I am finally here.

This feels right. I planned to stay with a childhood friend here in Panjim, Goa. He was a native of the city and moved here after the 10th grade. We were reasonably close growing up. I was looking forward to the time we spent together. Unfortunately this acquaintance, did not happen very soon. I had called him the night before and also left a missed call and message before leaving my last destination. I was sure he knew I was coming. But he did not pick up his phone. Did he abandon me? I called him once and then again. 

Nobody replied. This kept happening. 21 missed calls later, I thought I was screwed. I will have to sleep at the bus station tonight. That would be a first. But I have my laptop bag with me. Oh God! Why did I bring it along. Maybe, I can use it as a pillow and nobody will find out. It isn't too hard to steal a pillow. I wish I did not bring any valuables along with me on this trip. I wish I just had one pair of clothes and one tiny bag pack on this trip. Wouldn't that make things so much easier. These were the things I needed: A towel, a change of under garments, cargo pants, a casual shirt, diary, wallet, phone, earphones, camera, some pens, a bunch of handkerchiefs (sinus problems), formal t-shirt,bag of toiletries, sport shoes. Yeah, that is all you need to be alive on the road. Only I had two of each of the above and a lot of other unnecessary stuff.

Then the phone rings. Yippiee. It is him. I pick up the call. Where were you, dude? He answers, "I am on my way man, can you stand near the ticket counter at the station." I buy some ice cream, while I wait for him. I see a few students sitting across me, doing a sketch of the passengers at the station. O further inquiry, I find out that they are art students and are here to observe and collect content for their art. That was the coolest thing I heard all week. Maybe the coolest, after Vivin's story. But it was really cool, nonetheless. I think about how much you can learn about the world, by merely observing things around you. I looked at the situation I was in. A crowded bus station. People behaved differently. Some people were making purchases at a canteen nearby. 

Mothers collecting bags of chips and biscuits for their little kids. A bunch of businessmen, in plain clothes, seemed to be in a hurry. A family sitting next to me, seemed to be traveling cross country and was surrounded by a bunch of luggage bags. The bus conductors were shouting out their bus journey descriptions. They were trying to convince, the people at the station that their bus ride was a ride to heaven. The most comfortable ride in the world. The cheapest. It was an offer of a lifetime. They sounded so convincing. I almost bought a bus ticket just for the sake of it. Eventually my friend arrives. He has a car. Thank God. No more buses and trains for a while. We stop at an atm. I had run out of money. I was in South Goa. The commercial beach capital of India. I knew I would need some money. We then spend the next hour driving to his home near the Baga Beach. He stayed near a beach! This trip was going to be insane. Insane in a good sort of way, I hoped.

That night, we decide to go for a walk on the beach. I've had enough of beaches for a year now. But this should be fun. Unfortunately, I wear my faithful sports shoes and not normally recommended beach sandals. I had to take slow, long steps, to prevent bucket loads of sand from getting into my shoes . This is the only pair, I had for this entire six month journey. Cleaning them would be pain. Getting new ones, would be an even bigger headache.  When you are on the road, you have to be extra careful of the one or two things, you use often. For me it was my glasses, my sport shoes and my cargo pants. If anything happened to any of these travel necessities, I would be heartbroken. It is funny. When you use a particular object for a long period of time. That object becomes an important part of your life. You identify yourself with it. When anything happens to it, you feel bad. It is like you have lost a good friend. So this was how I felt, when the frames of my glasses broke, when my cargo pants were dis colored, and my shoes were damaged because of excessive use at the end of my journey. It was like my life had come to an end. Like I was Voldermot, from the Harry Potter series and three of my hocruxes had been taken away from me. I had become weaker.

But we reached a beautiful restaurant, by the beach. It seemed quite inviting with live and slow music, a dim candlelight ambience, beautifully dressed people on tables having engaged conversations. The walk was sure worth the effort. I felt like it would be a good night. We settle down and order some drinks and food. My friend was passionate about Physics and Automobile Engineering. He introduced me to some of the projects he was working on at university. He spoke about a Race Car Design Project , he and a couple of his friends at college had taken up. I could feel the love, enthusiasm and passion that he had for the field. Any discipline or field of study can be beautiful. What is important is that you come to the subject with love. You ask important questions. You ask meaningful questions. You try and understand, why Maths is a beautiful subject and not always focus on how much you will score on the subject. Just listening to him, was such a beautiful experience that night. He was so excited about what he discussed. He loved automobile engineering. It made me think about students at several engineering colleges around India. I prayed they came  to the subject with the same love and dedication, that my friend came with. But if their objective was to just get a degree, they would be missing out on such a great opportunity. The opportunity to study a subject you deeply loved for four years as an undergraduate student. We got news,  that a bollywood celebrity was also in the restaurant with us that night. But no one individual was important that night. Because every individual at every table, felt important. I look to my left and I see a couple, looking deep into each others eyes. More like looking deep into each others souls. The music was slow and romantic and I felt it made the evening even more special for them. It was like every word, in the romantic song being played, in the background, resonated with them.

'Kyunki Tum Hi Ho,
Ab Tum Hi Ho,
Zindagi Ab Tum Hi Ho….'

She smiled. There was a certain twinkle in her eye. The man pays the bill and I see them walking out of the restaurant, holding hands, dancing to the music, madly in love. Soon they disappear in the distance. They become dots, on the vast distant landscape of white sand of the beach, illuminated by the lanterns from the restaurants that line the beach.

We finish dinner, and I have to take my big slow steps, to get back to normal non sandyland. When I reach home, there are three- four spoonfuls of sand, in my shoe. Not Bad. Good Job Abhishek. Really Good Job.


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