Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bagha Bagha Sa...

Day 4 in Goa and that indicated that we had exhausted our limited supply of 3 days from 6 exotic holidays in Goa. With just 2 more days to go, we had to decide the place to visit today. We believe in making on the spot decisions. Be it a holiday or catching a movie. Everything is decided on the spot or just a day in advance. Finally, we came down to 2 options. Either Old Goa or some beach. As, most of our Goan Odyssey was used up Walking… we decided that today was a time to relax on some beach. So, finally we made up our minds to visit the Bagha beach. The last time I was here, I missed this beach.

I don’t think I need to mention but just for records we guys skipped our breakfast again. Walking today was out of question because today, except for a couple of guys nobody wanted to try out the adventure of “Keep Walking”. Everyone thought they had shed enough pounds and were not on a Goa March. Hence, we settled for a direct bus ride to the Bagha beach.

On the way, we were discussing about how the beach would be. I and Kandu were of the opinion that it would be a normal Goan beach with blue waters and golden sands. I know this is a very bad description of any beach in Goa. All the beaches of Goa are indeed beautiful except for the Miramar Beach in Panjim. But, as soon as we reached the beach, all our impressions vanished in thin air. Though each beach in Goa exudes its own charm, Bagha beach is in a different league all together. The Calangute and the Colva beach may be regarded as the best beaches of Goa but Bagha too competes for this enviable title.

The Bagha

The first sight that your eyes caught was the colourful shacks arranged tidily parallel to the shore where the blue water met the golden sands. The beach resembled an exotic Hawaiian shore with lots of people thrown in. In fact the beach was so crowded with shacks that we had to Walk (aha… “Keep Walking Syndrome struck again) down the beach to find a place for ourselves.

It did not take us much time to strip and jump into the waters. Kandu, the Jungle Boy was the first one to dive in. As usual, he can’t resist the sight of water and is always ready to strip down to his undies. Must be some close relationship with water.

The sea is very rough at the Bagha beach. But, not that dangerous. Just the right amount of danger and thrill to have fun in the water. I suppose, this is the only beach in Goa, where I saw people with surf boards and sails. The air is gusty which aids the sea to generate waves at will. The sea resembles more of a wave pool with each wave being generated in seconds. And the wave is not just another wave you see at the beach, but rather the waves here pack enough punch to throw a robust man on the floor.

And all this happens just meters from the shoreline. That is what makes the Bagha beach electrifying and exciting. It was the first time that I was wrestling with the waves and it was knocking me down with careless attitude. Now, just imagine Gala and Ali. They were literally being tossed mercilessly by the sea. To me, Bagha beach resembles a bowl of water which is filled with turbulent water.

After splurging for around 2 hours in the water, we all had ingested enough salty sea water in our lungs. My back too had turned sore with the ruthless lashings of the sea and the pitiless scorching rays of the sun beating on our backs. So, it was time to head to the shore and take some much needed break. Soon, everyone was out of the waters except for …. (Yep…. You all guessed it right) Kandu. He was like a dog rolling in the wet sand and enjoying every moment of it.

As everyone was basking themselves, Atul was working towards his dream. Yep, building sand castles. We have built an adequate amount of castles in the air that can put even the richest of empires to shame. But this time, we thought of building a concrete sand castle. Atul worked towards his Egyptian dream Sphinx while we decided to build another huge one inspired by him.

Soon, 8 hands and 8 feet turned busy in building a 2 feet and castle. We had no idea what we were building but only knew that we wanted to build something really big. Soon, another pair of experienced hands joined us. (Yes… Atul – the Sculptor). The only threat to the huge castle was the destructive Rehan. But, as he was also a part of the workers building the castle, this threat was ruled out.

After toiling in the blazing sun for 1 hour, finally our mound and foundation was in place. And then it was the work of skilled hands of Atul, which gave the shape of the Sphinx to the heap of sand. The Sphinx turned out to be so eye-catching and stunning that it made heads turn.

Builders of the Sphinx
Bagha beach plays a warm host to numerous foreigners, most of them Europeans. They enjoy sailing and surfing here. Also, of the many fun water rides in Goa, the 'Banana Boat' ride is the best enjoyed on the Bagha beach.. The 'Banana Boat' is a banana shaped tube specially meant for people who like thrills and love the feel of adrenaline rushing in their veins. It is a six seated ride, driven by a motorboat. With a life jacket firmly on your shoulders and the lifeguards by your side, you can relax for some time. But then the most thrilling part of the ride is when you are almost dropped in the mid sea.

After spending lots of time under the sun and in water, it was time to head for lunch. It was 4 in the evening and here we were… heading for lunch. But nevertheless, we were hungry. After changing into a comfortable pair of shorts, we started walking on the beach. We could see many firangs tanning themselves on the reclining chairs. But, I can’t forget a girl who I saw having a massage on the beach. She was an Indian wearing a pink T-shirt and white shorts. A true Indian beauty.

A quick local Goan Sea Food lunch later, we headed home. All the energy consuming activities on the beach had taken a toll on our bodies. So, we thought of spending a quiet evening on the beach watching the sun drown in the red waters. After having a quick wash we returned to the Calangute beach but Anna had some other work to do. He joined us later. In the meanwhile we watched a German duo play a game of Flying Dish.

The serene atmosphere of the Calangute beach is the perfect setting for any couple to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of each other, for a group of friends to reflect on their past, for a child to play with the sand, for a parent to watch their child play, for a lone lover to dream about his sweetheart.

We failed to realize how time just flew by. After eating some roasted Bhutta (Corn), samosas and a glass of tea, we left to have our dinner. Before we visit any restaurant, we check out the menu. We make sure that the rates mentioned don’t leak our pockets dry. And for this ritual, I and Rehan visit restaurants which catch our fancy and then ask the waiters for the King Fish. After enquiring everything about its length, breadth and size, its time to ask the most vital question on which our dining in that particular restaurant will depend. Yep… The rates on the Menu. The money we were saving was supposed to take us to the Tito's Lounge.

So, after trying out around 3 restaurants, we returned to a local restaurant. This time we turned a little more adventurous and ordered many new Sea Food items like Kala Mari (Squid), King Fish, Crab Xacuti, Fried King Prawn and much more. After dinner, it was time for Frooti. With a Frooti in our upper limbs, our lower limbs took us towards the Calangute beach. We sat there in a huddle, talking about almost all the topics under the sun… rather topics in the universe. From the Bermuda triangle to the Aliens, from the Solar system to our careers we all had opinions on everything. But, one amongst us chose to remain a mute spectator. He believed in the saying… “Silence is Golden…” Can you make a guess who the person was??? He was Rehan… It may sound unbelievable but it is true.

The beach looked so good at night as it does in the day. I wished I could lie under the dark sky forever. But soon, it was time to head home and play a game of Rummy. As normal, Kandu the Master kept losing. Shortly, we retired to our rooms and were lost in a world of our own - The Dreamland. Shhh!!! Let us sleep. I will be back with the rest of the journey very soon. Till then Bagha Bagha Sa

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Great Thinker

Almost a year has passed and there hasn’t been much communication between us. The distance between us has also played a vital role. But, this should not in the way especially if one of the guy stays in Mumbai and the other stays in Wellington.

The guy I am talking about is Anil Jhurani. Right from the time, he has flown to New Zealand for his higher studies, he seems to have disappeared. Apart from a couple of comments in the blog, there hasn’t been much news from him.

He was so fond of Aloos (Potatoes) that it formed a vital part of his diet. Also his meal would be incomplete without a customary serving of Pappad. According to our internal sources (Read Ali), Anil had smuggled a pressure cooker full of Pappads to New Zealand.

His personality was complete with a receding hairline, a paunch, stubble and a cap on his head to conceal his hair loss. The kind of image Himesh Reshammiya sports now a days. But no need to worry. Jhurani doesn’t sing.

Always lost in deep thoughts. He spent his nights in front of his PC playing Age of Empires or Commandos. The day before the selection of the Indian cricket team, he spent sleepless nights wondering who should be brought in the team and who should be chucked out. The next day, he would discuss his team strategies with us.

Instead of whiling his time thinking about the Indian team selections had he studied his engineering subjects, maybe he could have been a scientist today. Apart from his extraordinary thinking abilities, he was also a keen believer in ordering something different from the group whenever we went to a restaurant. But, he leant his lesson one day when all the animals from the group pounced on his plate. Poor guy…. Could not get to eat anything… Serves him right.

We are so used to calling him Jhurani or Jumanji that sometimes we tend to forget his first name and this leads to problems when we call at his residence. Just imagine this conversation supposing I call up his residence and his dad picks up the receiver.

I: Hello, Jhurani?

His Dad: Yes, Jhurani speaking.

I (fumbling for words): Err….. Uncle… Can I speak to…… (trying hard to recollect his first name… )

His Dad: (patiently waiting on the other side): Yes…. Who do you want to speak to?

I: Well uncle… I will call back later…. (Disconnected)

His personality was quite a hit with the girls. The Paunch, the receding hairline, the stubble all added to the mature gentleman image. Think Akshaye Khanna from Dil Chahta Hai. I guess by now, he must have won the hearts of many girls in New Zealand. I, Tarun and Anna are firm believers of the fact that from our group Jhurani would be the lucky guy who would marry the most beautiful girl.

Jhurani hasn’t even forwarded any of his pics from New Zealand. The only information we have about him is that he is in Wellington. I don’t even have any of his pics at the moment except for one group pic. So, pop those eyes out of our sockets to sneak a glimpse.

One of the precious pics in my album where the group is together. Can you find Jhurani? Well, there he is to your right... wearing his trademark Red Cap.

Sheesh!!… All the while… I just forgot why I am writing this post. This objective of this post is not to tell the world that we have lost touch with our friend but to tell them that its his Birthday tomorrow. So, on behalf of the Animal Kingdom, I wish Anil… Many Many Happy Returns of the Day.

P.S: Anil, if you manage to read this, do post your comment by clicking on: "__ have said something" on the right side just below this line.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ga Ga over Goa

Friendly Note: This post competes closely with my earlier post. A bit long but very exciting.

Yesterday, India played England in Goa. All the leading newspapers carried the pictures of Indian and English players taking a stroll on the beaches of Goa and this brought back all the sweet memories we enjoyed in Goa.

Our third day in Goa. We woke up late as expected. It was Wednesday and Wednesday is famous for the Anjuna Flea Market in Goa. We all decided to dress up in Jerseys complete with shorts to represent the Soccer team. All dressed up in their respective jerseys. I wore the Brazilian Yellow, Kandu – the Argentine Sky blue and white stripes, Anna wore the Red and Black AC Milan, Rehan wore the famous Blue and Black Inter Milan Jersey. Armed with a Football and Volleyball we set off from our Guest House. Only the studs, stockings and the skill to play Football seemed to be missing.

As accustomed, we skipped breakfast and with a pack of delicious Frooti in our hands we headed towards the Calangute Bus Stand. The conductors in Goa seem to be a confused lot. When the bus arrived, he told us that the bus would go to Calangute but when we got in, he flatly refused that the bus goes there. With no option left, we got down at the next stop. For a second time, he again said that the bus does go through that route. But, the hitch was that we had to get down at a cross road and catch another connecting local bus.

So, we boarded the bus and soon got down at the crossroad. After waiting for about 10 mins, impatience got the better of us and we found our legs walking in the direction of the Anjuna Flea Market. On our way, we hitched a ride on a Qualis to another bus stop. Soon, we got into a very crowded bus. As we got into the bus our eyes fell on a beautiful firang with blue eyes. She was indeed beautiful.

I knew at the back of my mind that everyone from the Animal Kingdom had seen her. Our radars work at the same frequency. Very soon, the bus pulled in at the last stop and we disembarked. Upon enquiring, we found that Anjuna Flea Market was a long walk. So, we needed to supply some fuel to our body. Our quest for lunch brought us to a terrace restaurant named Shiva Café.

The ambience was quite good and a cricket Test match between England and India was also playing on the TV screen in the restaurant. We ordered simple stuff like Veg. Xacuti, Prawn Xacuti, Prawn Biryani, Veg. Biryani, Fish Fillets and some Fried King Prawns. And believe me the food was simply amazing. The food was so very delicious and yummy that we insisted on meeting the Chef. His name was Prakash. The manager of the hotel called out the Chef and told him about us. We shook hands with him and praised him for cooking such brilliant stuff. It must have been a proud moment in his life when someone praised him for his work in front of his boss. We highly recommend the food from this restaurant.

After lunch, it was time to head to the Anjuna Flea Market. On the way there, we had to pass through many barren fields. Playing football and drinking Frooti on the way, we reached the Flea Market. Anjuna Flea Market resembles a riot of colours. You will find everything here…right from a sea shell ring to electronic items. The Anjuna Flea Market is open only on Wednesdays and if you are good at bargaining, then you can walk away with good stuff at throw away prices.

Mere Desh Ki Dharti

The flea market is a heaven for hardcore shoppers to bid on wonderful blends of Tibetan, Kashmiri and Gujarati trinkets and handicrafts, European snacks, cassettes of a noisy brand of music called 'Goa Trance', artificial ornaments carvings, T-shirts, Hawaiian shorts, hats and slippers.

I and Atul bargaining at the Anjuna Flea Market

Anna and Rehan bought a pair of slippers while Ali bargained unsuccessfully for a bracelet made up of beautiful stones. Except for a handful of Indians, I could only see a sea of foreign tourists who were too engrossed in their shopping spree. After spending some time in the market, we finally reached the Anjuna beach which is more famous for its rave parties organised by the hippies.

There wasn’t much to do on this beach. It’s a rocky beach. So, going out in the sea was out of question unless you wanted cuts and bruises to adorn your body. The beach is not that great as compared to the Calangute and Candolim beach. It was almost 4:00 in the evening. There wasn’t much time left. So, we headed straight towards the Vagator beach. Vagator lies to the north of the Anjuna beach which is separated by a hill and some rocky stones.

On the Anjuna Beach

We thought of walking all the way to the Vagator beach. But what we did not know was that there were many a hills and sharp rocks full of marine life to greet us on our way to Vagator. One of the most amazing qualities which we found out about each other during our stay in Goa is our special ability to Keep Walking.

Anjuna Rocks!!! (L-R: ME, Rehan, Ali, Nirav, Kandu and Anna)

Walking…walking…. asking for directions…puffing and panting…we soon found ourselves on the top of a hill. Then few more steps we were back on the ground again. A few more strides and we were on top of another cliff. The trip to Goa was getting better and better by the day. We were visiting all those parts of Goa where no one ever ventures. The view from the top of the cliff was picturesque. The endless beautiful ocean had its arms wide outstretched as far as the eye could see.At this place, we found a woman who suggested that I try out the hair beads. The price she quoted made me reluctant. Who would go for hair beading for 500 bucks? But then, a little bargaining and she was ready to do it for a meagre 50 bucks. That’s the power of our bargaining. She gave me a demo and my long black (ghane kaale mulayam baal)hair did not seem to like that.

So, we resumed our journey. Soon, we could see lots of film equipment. Obviously there was a shoot taking place on the Vagator beach. When we came close enough, we saw many pretty models in white flowing outfits taking a breather. It was an ad for some bike.

This beach was deserted apart from a few Europeans lazing around for a sun tan. But, what we saw a little distance away lit up our eyes. No..No…it was not a babe or anything… It was a Volleyball court complete with a net. Imagine, playing beach volleyball on white sands near the sea. It was owned by a resort. Soon, money changed hands and a mere 100 bucks later, there was a competitive volleyball match in progress.

With me, Ali, Kandu and Anna on one side and Rehan, Nirav and Atul on the other side the game was bound to be exciting. But, with Tom and Jerry (Rehan and Ali) in the opposite teams the game turned more interesting. With continuous swears floating around; it was a game not to be missed. When Ali missed a point, Rehan scored with his mouth and when Rehan missed a point, Ali was all over him.

Also, there was another game in progress. They all looked professional Firangs representing their nation. Our country's pride was too prestigious for us to play and lose against them. So, we continued our game. But, even then the only spectator on the beach was watching our amateur game thanks to the entertainment provided by Rehan and Ali.

The game drenched our body in sweat and we went to Mother Nature to have a quick wash in the sea. This part of the beach was known as Little Vagator. The main Vagator beach lies further north. Little Vagator looked more like a bay or a private swimming pool. With just a handful of foreigners thrown in, this beach is perfect for relaxing after a hard game of Beach Volleyball.

The sea water is very brownish and not idle for swimming. But, just perfect for lazing around. The Chapora Fort lies somewhere on the hill. But time inadequacy did not even allow us to have a sneak preview of the fort. All the action had made us hungry and we went to the resort again. The resort was owned by twin brothers. One of them was Charlie and he sounded more like Sachin Tendulkar. Ayla…

Everyone ordered Milkshakes except for Rehan and Kandu. They were in the mood for mischief. I ordered Papaya Milkshake while the rest of the group ordered Chocolate Milkshake. The sun was setting, the tanks had been refuelled and it was time to head back home.

Yet again, we stuck to our anthem… Keep Walking… Ali’s Torch light Mobile as the only source of light and somehow we made it to the road. But, all we could see was foreigners cruising on the roads on their rented two wheelers. After walking a long distance of around 2 kilometres, we purchased 2 bananas for each one of us and continued our walkathon.

On the way, we got to see one of the rarest sights ever seen in Goa - A Traffic Jam. The most amazing part about this traffic jam was the distance the drivers kept between their vehicles. If the same distance was kept in Mumbai, an auto rickshaw could easily squeeze in. Somehow, we passed that never ending queue of traffic jam and managed to catch a bus which dropped us a little ahead. After that our walkathon resumed and finally we managed to reach the Calangute Market.

In the market, all eyes were set on Kandu. He was guilty of not contributing any money for the Goa trip. Every day he made his escape by reasoning with us that since his parents were in US, the money hadn’t been credited to his account. Today, we stood outside the ICICI ATM and waited anxiously for him to come out with crisp notes. But, as we had anticipated, he came back Khaali Hath…. Kya samazhke aaya tha? Ki Hum Khus Honge… Sabasi Denge..Kyon?

Making him feel guilty all the way, we reached our rooms. But, it had no effect on him. He will always remain that way – SHAMELESS. After a quick wash, everyone was ready for dinner. We all settled for a Chinese cuisine. The dinner was total contrast of the lunch we had in the afternoon. The water was unhygienic and the food was bland too. Nevertheless, we still managed to finish off 3 plates of Veg. Hakka Noodles, 3 plates of Veg. Schezwan Rice between the 7 of us. Quite an achievement considering the taste of food. Another warning: Never eat Chinese in Goa. It’s a shame to eat Chinese in a land which offers amazing Sea Food.

Our Dil was still demanding MORE…. So off we went to the local store and all ended up picking 1.5 litres of Frooti and those who did not get their hands on Frooti picked up 1 litre Mazaa. This was gonna be our fodder to spend the night.

Frooti Maniacs

Now, it was time for some entertainment. As usual Ali was the CHOSEN ONE. With all his extraordinary Abla Nari poses, he managed to keep us in splits and then we had Kandu too with his stuuuuupid questions. There is one special thing about Kandu which I would like to point out. With his spiky haircut he visualizes himself to be Hrithik Roshan. But to be frank he resembles Will Smith. His spiky hair which is erect in the morning start drooping by the time the sun sets. And with this, his sanity goes for a toss and he behaves abnormally. It is we who have to bear him. Just 3 days in Goa and I was finding it extremely difficult to answer his bhadde sadyal maryal sawaal. HahahahahKyon Kandu??? Am I not right???

Kandu was the most excited animal from our group. Barely had he seen the sea and there he was standing stripped down to his undies like Mowgli. He was supposed to be in Bangalore for his educational visit to ISRO. But, he chose to be in Goa by lying to his Appa. God forbid… If his Appa reads this post… Kandu will be dead. I wish somehow, his Appa manages to find this post on the internet by just typing in two key words in Google “Kandu + Goa”…. That’s it… All his hidden secrets will be revealed. Beware of Google… Kandu.

But it’s thanks to Kandu’s guts that we managed to get all the photos scanned. That night, we played yet another round of Rummy where Kandu – the Rummy Guru kept losing. Yet again, we played late in the night with a huge bottle of Frooti in our hands. Anna and Nirav had a good day ahead of them. Their secrets will be all revealed in my next post. So, don’t go away. I will be right back…. Here in the Animal Kingdom.