She frantically searched her inbox in personal e mail id for the reservation done in a resort in Goa. The key word to search and trace a mail was always a challenge she did not enjoy. Finally, the word Bambolim hit the right chord and revealed all the three mails she was looking for. A room in the beach resort with view of the sea was what she had chosen deliberately. Lately she had organised a get together for her specialty which was tough but handling the bills and completing financial statement of expenses and sponsors was tougher. This break was beautifully planned keeping in mind that when the event is over, the desire to refresh will be stronger. Her daughter had routine days at school and with her husband and parents willingly taking over a few responsibilities for a few days, she had confirmed to herself that she could escape into a new journey, a different journey and have an experience which would help her define and explore herself and open a thought or perhaps a room. She was not sure what she was looking for and how. It was her usual unclear thought which guided and excited her. No definitions and yet a purpose, to find a purpose.
Her mobile suddenly flashed a call from the Medical Superintendent and she remembered the meeting 10 minutes away. She picked her mobile and with her usual forced excited voice exchanged pleasantries and said, “I am on my way, of course”, picking her car keys while switching off her mobile. Another meeting, she wondered, where meeting people was the last thing on anyone’s mind, inspire of the term ‘meeting’. It was a meeting where five senior Professors would discuss something of seeming relevance, recruitment of professionals, but knowing how things were, just about express a few ways to emerge from the standstill and make a minor difference in the static status quo. She was unable to do her work for her department was not yet ready. She had lot of other things to do, some related to her subject and some not even remotely affiliated and it was discomforting sometimes. Coming back from the meeting, a call from one of her friends surprised her. A sheer coincidence that two of her friends were intending to be in Goa same time, two of the three days she was there!
“Anne, we I mean Vishal and I, are also going to Goa the same day, reaching almost the same time but by three different flights!” the voice of Arjun filled with disbelief screamed into her ears. Arjun and Vishal were college friends, lethal combination of fun and adventure when together, although as individuals also just a shade abnormal. Arjun was a bachelor, a mix of an artist and a grounded, disciplined person. Anne found him inhibited at times she thought, but was never sure. “What! Are you both going for some work too?” Anne asked. Arjun playfully said,”Vishal is going on a self exploratory trip and I have a multi dimensional purpose”. Anne put in a little uncertainly, “Can we be together for some time or would you both like to be together in exclusion to others?” Arjun answered for Vishal and himself,”The more the merrier. This could be fun.” Anne, lot more certain now, replied back, “Ok then. I will talk to Vishal and confirm.” Arjun responded laughing loud, “Let me put you on speaker. Vishal is right here. We can talk together. We can move around Goa together in a common taxi”. Anne was on speaker and she said loud with deliberate indignant voice,”Taxi? What about motor bike, scooter or cycles?” Arjun was shock struck and Vishal responded spontaneously, “Of course, this is what I have been saying” and laughed loud, “we will be a team.”
At one time when flight has just left Mumbai a few minutes away, on looking down from the window, it was the grey blue with white cloudy appearance. Suddenly, I could see two boats, rather ferries. Fiction emerging within the non fiction, it seemed.
When Goa is 150 kms away while flying from Mumbai to Goa, the aircraft flies low and one can see the rocky coastline and beautiful beach line almost as a white line between brown rocky area and blue sea. The clouds on top only make it more unreal. The flight then flies higher over the land area and the water areas like curly, linear lines in hard rocky areas of land. The natural landscape is surreal here. It would require restraint to appreciate and decipher true from illusion here. Suddenly the landscape turns light green and woolly dark green with reddish small areas for clear land and house tops and water still with its turns and twists. Then water becomes dominant and roads looks like linear greys on it.
At Goa airport, Ashok and Anne reached a few minutes apart. They were to wait for Vishal for it was decided that they would leave the airport together. While they waited, they realised no tea, coffee or refreshments were available at the Goa airport in the waiting area after collecting the luggage. Then happened something which changed a lot in life, for Arjun. He did not have refreshments on the flight and was hungry. A young, beautiful girl next to us was munching a sandwich. Arjun suddenly did the strangest of things! He turned to her and said, “Excuse me, where did you get your sandwich from? I am hungry and I did not come across any place I could pick any snacks from.” The girl had the most attractive and unusual hair style, with multiple locks curled and twisted, reaching almost her waist, but just almost. Her clear unblemished light skin complimented and contrasted with dark brown to black, curly hair left loosely hanging at the back and a few on the sides coming in front. She looked up, the clear piercing look, said, “I got it from outside and then begged the guard to let me in as I have to wait for a friend another 4 to 5 hours”. Arjun by then was less interested in a sandwich and more in carrying on with the moment. They exchanged conversation barely for 10 minutes but talked on everything ranging from her country Israel to her trip and her humour. She was Sheera and no one had ever guessed even in their wildest guess that Sheera would dominate the ‘Goa for three’ but she did. When Vishal joined Arjun and Anne, Sheera was also introduced to him like an old friend. There was a quick and warm bye from Sheera which none realised then that it would haunt Arjun.
Coming towards Bambolim Beach Resort from the airport was a 40 minutes ride along the Zuari river and then a winding road with trees on both sides. Goa looked so green and fresh that the threesome felt excited to be part of it, together. They were together for the first time but felt like they had done this several times before. They were all here to relax, have all the adventures they can, detoxify their systems and give their inhibitions and mental blocks some rest.
“Let us share a common room and have common pool of money and have one person make all the payments” proposed Anne when they reached Bambolim Beach Resort and had checked-in for one double room. Vishal and Arjun also agreed, but not too convincingly and finally decided to occupy two separate rooms. Arjun became the official Treasurer for the trip and everybody pooled money in the common pool. The resort had rooms right on the beach. Anne had a bigger room, facing the sea, with a balcony where one could hear the waves and have the breeze from the sea flow through the room. Arjun named Anne’s room ‘the executive room’ and the other room as ‘ordinary room’. Anne announced, “Let us move out and explore in 10 minutes. Goa calls us”. Vishal and Arjun replied spontaneously, “Sure, let us go. Maybe a cruise or maybe a beach or a church or just move around. Just 10 minutes for it is already 4:30pm.”
Almost exactly ten minutes later, Anne walked into Vishal and Arjun’s room, “I am ready to go.” Vishal and Arjun were ready too and they got out excitedly. Arjun insisted he needed slippers. Anne and Vishal also realised they needed slippers for the beach too. Their agenda now was taking an evening Cruise and getting the slippers for the beach. Getting the slippers was adventurous. Bright plastic, water proof chappals were the only ones under consideration. They had to be cheap too. They purchased slippers from a modest miscellaneous roadside shop and somehow all three were red and black in different patterns! One pair of red and black slippers were taken by Arjun for Sheera! He believed he would meet her somewhere again in Goa. They got tickets for the cruise and while walking through the Bus stand, crossed a flower shop which also had strings of jasmine. Vishal asked Anne if she would like to have some flowers in her hair. The idea appealed Anne. Vishal asked Arjun to buy string of jasmines for Anne. Arjun felt embarrassed and Anne now insisted that Arjun get her one string of jasmine. Vishal also insisted and Arjun felt a bit shy and slightly embarrassed. He felt coerced and thought best to buy the flowers and get over it. Anne adorned the string proudly, moved her head around and gave a naughty smile to both Arjun and Vishal. In India, string of jasmine has earned a bad reputation, being used by female commercial sex workers and Anne tried to emulate some gestures to emphasise it. Arjun and Vishal laughed on and carried the joke further. Going for the cruise, crossing a road with heavy traffic, standing in the queue joking and singing without a care in the world, laughing endlessly, sometimes pretending to be beggars singing away, it was as if a bunch of juvenile adults were let loose on the roads. The cruise ride on Mandavi river was another experience the threesome enjoyed and a surprise awaited them towards the end of the cruise, which Arjun got most excited about. The cruise ride had a wonderful breeze and a beautiful view of the city and the casino along the river. The music, people and the movement of cruise transported them to another world and the world they knew seemed to float away from the sides. At the end of the hour long cruise, Arjun thought he saw Sheera on board, on the cruise. When he mentioned to Vishal and Anne that Sheera is perhaps on board, they laughed it off as Arjun’s imagination. The people on board started disembarking and when the three of them were getting down and Arjun was ahead, he suddenly stopped on the down sloping metallic ramp and with a fixed gaze said, “Sheera!” Vishal and Anne looked in the direction and saw Sheera alone rummaging through the bag handing from her shoulder. Arjun walked to Sheera and said, “Hi! Good to find you on the cruise. How are you doing? Why don’t you come along with us for dinner?” Sheera replied, “I would actually like that. I can’t seem to contact my friend and I don’t have money to check-in. My friend was to meet me here near the cruise.” Vishal said to her,”You can join us for as long as you like. When you are able to contact your friend, we will drop you whenever required. You can share Anne’s room. She is staying single in a double room.” Anne nodded. Sheera looked as beautiful as she was and Arjun looked at her high heeled footwear and suggested she get more comfortable by changing into the footwear he had got for her purely on a hunch! She happily wore it and silently walked along with them. Arjun broke the silence and said to Sheera, “I was sure we will meet again. There must surely be a purpose if we have met again. I wonder what!” To this, Vishal and Anne exchanged smiles and Vishal added, “yeah, yeah” in a jeering loud noise. Sheera smiled at Arjun, extended her hand and started walking hand in hand. Anne’s muffled cough went unnoticed as Vishal turned to Sheera and said, “I can fix any food or drink you would like and you can let me know if you need anything.”
For dinner, they decided to have at the resort itself and Vishal was to have drinks along with his dinner. Sheera took a few sips of red wine, Pura from Vishal’s glass and had a hearty meal. She went with Anne to her room after gently hugging and kissing Vishal and Arjun. The resort was right on the beach and Vishal and Arjun went for a walk on the beach.
Anne and Sheera settled in their room. Talking to each other, Sheera asked about Arjun and confirmed from Anne whether she was a girl friend to Arjun or Vishal. Anne dismissed it all saying she was just a friend. Sheera expressed how she was fond of Arjun and that she would like to be around him. Anne felt a little uncomfortable and was now exploring in her mind her attachment to Arjun. Next morning they got up and walked along the beach, Sheera with Arjun and Anne with Vishal. At breakfast, Anne announced that they would be visiting the beaches today and Sheera was only too pleased. She held Arjun’s hand and kissed him gently on the cheeks. Anne just gave a glance to both then and was quiet that day. Vishal proposed to Anne that he would get a Scooty and take Anne on a ride around town. It pleased Anne how Vishal would always consider what she wanted as his priority and suggest to Arjun accordingly. He would let her decide what she wanted and ensured that she got it. Anne would feel pampered with all the attention she would get.
Visit to the beaches was exciting and Anne would get into the water every time. At one time she mentioned to Vishal how she wanted to try as many things as possible under the sun even at the cost of being ridiculous. Vishal seemed to understand that and arranged for a water scooter at one of the beaches. Anne tried to wiggle out but Vishal coaxed on. Anne then took the ride. It was a jumpy, adventurous ride over the waves which thrilled Anne. Lunch at Brittoos was very interesting. The sand of the beach was the floor and the cuisine was exhaustive. While returning from the beaches, Anne expressed her desire to have tea. Arjun and Vishal started searching frantically for a roadside tea and found one. They made the driver stop immediately and arranged a steaming cup of tea for Anne. Sheera enjoyed the beach and had some photographs taken for which she requested Arjun to bare his chest! What was not surprising was that Arjun readily modelled and walked with arms wrapped around Sheera’s shoulders then on, something nobody ever thought would happen! Anne that night dressed in a bright Gujarati skirt and kurti but Arjun was focused on Sheera and so was Vishal.
Next day Sheera and Arjun while walking on Bambolim beach saw Sheera’s friend walking on the beach. Arjun excused himself after formal introductions. In a few minutes, Sheera and his friend thanked everyone and announced their exit. Arjun exchanged pleasantries but was visibly shaken and after Sheera left, immediately took leave saying loud, “I will rest awhile and join you a bit later.” Vishal got a Scooty on rent and Anne immediately wanted to go for a ride. Vishal took Anne over the beautiful green roads of Goa and to a local small tea place called ‘O Barrack O’ just the type Anne wanted to visit. The tea and surroundings were exactly what Anne wanted and this was followed by a ride on Scooty. In the evening Anne wanted to swim in the pool and Vishal and Arjun were amused by the intention! It was the first time after Sheera left, did the threesome laugh together. Vishal also jumped into the pool and Arjun stayed out of the pool.
It was now time to leave and everyone started packing to go back their homes, their people, their place.
Anne was thinking back, how her eccentricities and desires were all considered worth realising and her eating non vegetarian food and drinks was not judged critically at all. She was rather offered to think and propose her thoughts and allowed to try whatever she wanted. The walk on the beach late in the night, riding a water scooter, looking for a Goan skirt, wanting tea on a drive back from the beach in the evening was all taken as task and executed. She felt important and spoilt like never before, a beautiful feeling of being accepted with no reservation inspite of wild eccentric and ridiculous desires. It was strange to feel pampered and feminine at times and accepted well in the gang at other times. It was an enriching experience unlike any other. It was like discovering friendship and its meaning in an evolved concept.