Sunday, May 28, 2006

Goa - The Final Showdown

All good things come to an end. Every Sunday is accompanied by a Monday. And every fun filled trip has to end one day. And the ending is very sad if it happens to be a place like Goa. We ate Sea Food, drank Frooti and lived Goa during our brief stay here. Now all that was gonna change.

Our train to Mumbai was scheduled to leave Margao at 13:45. By the time each lazy bum was on his feet, hands of the clock showed 11:00. With exactly 165 minutes to go, we had an exciting race against time in our hands. If 50 kms in 165 minutes from Calangute to Margao wasn’t thrilling enough, we also had the local bus travelling of travelling at 20 km/hr. add to the delay.

Somehow, we managed to reach Panaji in 45 minutes. This time, without taking any more risks we took the Super Fast- Non Stop bus to Margao bus stand. Non-stop buses make life so easy for people like us. I hope the BEST also comes up with such buses in the near future.

Peeping into the Camera

A traffic jam in Goa brought our bus to a grinding halt. Though traffic jams are frequent sights on the roads of Mumbai, it is something very rare on the streets of Goa. This was only the second traffic jam we witnessed in our trip. Ultimately, we made to the Margao market at 12:30. Now, it was time for some last minute shopping. Kokam Sherbet, Bottles of Port Wine made way into our already over stuffed bags. A complete teetotaller guy like Ali also had to stash a bottle of Signature and Imperial in his baggage because his boss had asked him to do so. Tauba Tauba!!! Dharam Brasht Kar Diya Ali Ka…

With the last purchase of a box of Perk chocolates for the journey, we started off towards the Margao railway station. According to the locals the railway station was just some minutes walk away. But the scorching sun, over loaded bags and the crowded markets made our walk horrendous. At last, we saw the glimpse of the railways tracks. I, Ali, Anna and Atul were walking at a brisk pace while Kandu, Rehan and Gala were happy taking baby steps.

It took us a little while to realize that the train standing on the platform was the Jan Shatabdi – the train which was supposed to take us back to Mumbai. Our brisk pace soon turned into a jog. Soon, there was a loud whistle and our jog turned into a run. We turned back to see where had the slow coaches reached. But to our surprise, they were nowhere to be seen.

There was no time for us to wait and search for them now. Come what may, we had to reach the platform and get into the train. Running as fast as we could with those bags on our shoulders and in our hands we somehow made it to the platform. We asked the motor man the time for left for departure. “Almost ready to leave”, he replied. Our hearts skipped a beat. “Where were these guys?”, we thought. We found our coach and threw our bags in the upper racks.

Except for cursing, there was nothing we could do. “All the passengers are requested to board the train as it will depart shortly”, the announcement was being broadcast. At that very moment, my mobile phone stated ringing. “Anna’s dad calling” was being displayed on my mobile screen. Now, we are done for. What was he gonna answer? I handed over my phone to him. “So, you are confirmed to reach Mumbai tonight?”, his dad asked. “Err.. Yes.. I am supposed to catch the train this afternoon”, Anna replied with the train standing inches in front of him.

“Now what??”, we all thought. “How would we reach Mumbai, if we missed this train?” No doubt we all loved Goa. But then we had to answer our parents back home. “Should we take down all our baggage from the train or should we just go ahead. We had the tickets with us. They would contact us anyways and we could ask them to board the train from some other station."

Many ideas were discussed and finally, we thought of taking down our baggage and letting the train go. Dekha… Isse Kehte Hai Dosti !!! But, then all of a sudden Ali spotted the three tortoises strolling on the road opposite to the railway track. They were walking at their own leisurely pace. We called out with a deafening roar. They looked at us and understood our frantic hand movements and curses.

The baby steps turned into an Olympic run. Rehan was giving it his best shot. Huffing and puffing under the heavily loaded baggage, he was a sight to watch. We wanted to laugh at his plight but at that moment, we just wanted him to catch the train. Suddenly, he lost all his steam and gave up. At that very moment, Ali… yes Ali… broke into a run to his aid. He ran all the way on the platform and clambered the over bridge and snatched the bags from his hands. A perfect example of how relay should be played.

Eventually, in true Filmy Style we managed to catch the train at the last moment. After giving them and earful, we managed to find out that all the credit for providing the last minute thrills and adrenaline rush was thanks to Kandu. He wanted to guzzle down a bottle of Breezer on his way. So, they had stopped at a local shop to purchase some bottles of Breezer. And that was not all. He also had the guts to ask the shopkeeper to search for his favorite flavor with the train scheduled to leave any moment. And you know what??? If we had missed this train, he would have been the worst hit. Because his parents were due to fly down from US the day after and he was supposed to be home. Now time to reveal Kandu’s worst kept secret – To this date his parents (esp. his Appa … doesn’t know that Kandu was with us in Goa. According to his Appa, Kandu is supposed to be in Bangalore on his college trip.)

After the thrilling venture it was time to settle down in our seats. It didn’t take us much time to recharge our batteries.
After a Thrilling Finish

Very soon, we were ready to play the game which we taken so much liking to in GoaRummy. Rehan started off sleepily and lost a few games. Soon he thought, “Enough is enough” and came back strongly. The final contenders of the winner’s tag were Kandu, Rehan and me. Kandu – the master who taught us this game soon lost to us champions. With the master out of the game, I and Rehan decided to share the winners’s tag.

The train came to a halt at Ratnagiri. To click some more pics, we got down and managed to capture the beautiful Jan Shatabdi.

Jan Shatabdi Stars

Passing through many tunnels, bridges and winding tracks, we finally reached Thane station at around 10:00 in the night. After bidding farewell to everyone, all got down except Rehan. He was supposed to get down at the next station. I can still vividly remember the look on Rehan's face. For the first time in our lives, we saw the emotional side of Rehan. He was wearing that Sabko-Jaana-Kya-Zaroori-Hai look on his face.

At the back of the mind, everyone knew that maybe this is our last trip together. God knows whats gonna happen after one year. Everyone is gonna get busy with their own lives. Some may fly abroad for higher education, some may get occupied with work and some may get admissions in MBA colleges. But, one thing is for sure. Come what may... we will still be together. And this is the promise of the Animal Kingdom.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dexter Ki Duniya

Meri Nangi PhotoMat Kheech!!!

Aaj Khush Toh Bahut Hoge Tum...
Bhoot Hoon Main
Scary -- Haan??? So, you guys have seen Atul Chaudhary in all possible moods. Now for some description about this guy. Actually, I had to scan through my entire album to find all these wonderful snaps.

The reason I am taking so much efforts to write about this total useless chap is its his Happywala Birthday today and he is the first guy from our group who has already decided the venue of the place where he is gonna be looted. (Birthday Treat!!!). Norammy, we guys have to drag the Birthday Boy to the restaurants to satisfy our bellies. We all love free food and have monster appetites.

Ok...time for some comedy now. I am gonna put down some of the infamous incidents which have taken place Atul's life so that someday when his children or grandchildren read this small little post...they can have a hearty laugh. So, here I go...

The incident that was witnessed in a local train - The Animal Kingdom was returning from Churchgate comfortably seated at the window. The train started moving and soon the next approaching station was Dadar. We all glanced at Atul. Since he stays in Thane... he was supposed to get down here. But, I guess he was uninterested to get down all alone. So, he planned to get down at Andheri with Anna and Naveen. A bus from Andheri was supposed to get him to his place. So, when Andheri was approaching, all 3 got up to leave. That unfateful day, Atul was carrying my precious album of Goa pics.

While he was standing to get down at the station, he felt something warm on the backside of his shirt. He ignored it assuming it be the hot Mumbai weather. But, later when he got down, he got the shock of his life. Do you guys want to know what the warm thing was??? No clues for guessing!!! It was WAQAR!!! Yes, some sick had puked on him. And the WAQAR was all over his shirt. Poor guy had to walk to the railway canteen and get some water to wash his dirty linen in public at midnight.

The next day when he called up and told me about the story, my first question to him was, “What about my photo album? I hope it is in good shape.” And when the answer was in affirmative I was relieved and started rolling on the floor laughing. I was not laughing because he was puked upon. But because he chose to be puked upon. He could have got down in Dadar... but he chose to travel the longest route and experienced a eeky leaky mouth output.

Atul is the most famous in our group for uttering a famous dialogue “Koi aaye…na aaye…main toh sure aa raha hoon….hum dono zaroor jayenge…” To know the complete story click
here. To cut the long story short, he spoke these words when almost the entire group who had planned a Goa outing had backed out and Atul was also asked about the same. It was this moment that he chose to say these golden words. But, a day later he backed out totally disregarding his statement like a politician does after winning the elections.

Seems I have said enough. After some lashings, its time for some goodies. Well, I know Atul since the first year of my engineering college days. Hyperactive, energetic, lively, bubbly, active are the words that can best describe this guy. Always smiling and planning something, he is quite unpredictable. The center of attraction of all the plans...he never misses our group meetings. He sings praises of the product he uses and rebukes all its competitors. When he uses Airtel, it is the considered as the best service provider and now that distinction goes to Trump.

Totally passionate about Linux, he loves to hate Bill Gates and all his products. Armed with loads and loads of knowledge...he has an answer to every question. And I can safely bet that no one can beat him in any technical debate. I don't know from where he gathers this information from, but he possesses tremendous knowledge that can challenge the smartest of IITians. I, Tarun, Naveen bear the testimony to this fact. We have seen him discuss Robotics and HAM Radio with IITians who looked at him with their mouths wide open. An avid fan of Dexter, Cartoon Network and his PC... he can be seen online the moment he is up in the morning.
With talent to go places, he is still stuck with our Nikamma and Awaara Animal Kingdom. We all believe that if he uses his potential in the right direction, there is no one who can stop him. He is the guy in our group who if even selected in NASA will not be surprising. Because we believe - HE CAN.

I guess I have praised him enough to extract a nice treat. I hope he falls for this trap. So, Happy Birthday Atul once again on behalf of the Animal Kingdom. If your party fails to live upto our expectations, get ready for another post that will reveal many more and wicked truths...(Remember Mr. Bombastic???) So...better play a good host... ;-D

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tour de Old Goa

After spending 4 days on the beaches of Goa, our bodies had taken a severe beating from the blazing sun and the raging waters. So, we arrived at a unanimous decision of taking a day off from the beach and visiting some beautiful places of Old Goa known for its picturesque old churches.

Being our last day in Goa we wanted to make the most out of it. Our tickets were already booked for the next day. That left us with only 24 hours and we did not want to waste a single second of this precious day. And having breakfast meant wasting a minimum of 30 mins. So, we skipped our breakfast and went to the Calangute bus stand to catch a bus which would take us to Old Goa via Panaji.

A one hour ride from the Calangute brought us to Old Goa. On the way to Old Goa or Velha Goa as it is known, we saw the Goa Institute of Management which is located at Ribander, Panaji. The way to Old Goa is simply amazing as you get to witness the Mandovi River. The Mandovi River flowing towards the Arabian Sea is the lifeline of Goa. Both the Old Goa and the capital city Panaji are situated on the banks of the River Mandovi.The majestic beauty of Mandovi River is further enhanced by the beautiful Mandovi Bridge.

Fighting hunger all the way we reached Old Goa. Now, we were in for a surprise. There were no restaurants in sight. But our hungry eyes did manage to find a posh restaurant just near to the Bom Jesus of Basilica Church. I don’t recollect the name of the restaurant but its reception area was nothing less compared to a 3 star Hotel. That intended that I and Rehan go and check out the rates. And we found the rates good enough to have a hearty meal without draining our pockets dry.

After some fishes from the Arabian Sea and the Mandovi River were transferred into our bellies, we set out for the Tour de Old Goa. We started with the Bom Jesus of Basilica Church. This basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier which attracts millions of devotees from all over the world every year. Every 10 years (last held in Dec 2004), the body of this revered saint is taken down from the silver casket kept in the church and kept for public display.

Bom Jesus of Basilica Church

Though the saint died in the year 1552, his body has still not decomposed. You need to witness this spectacle to believe the miracle. This splendid church built in the year 1695 has been conferred with the World Heritage Monument title. The church is also famous for its first and the largest art gallery of its kind in Asia, comprising of many oil paintings and ink drawings. In this world of electronic media you have the luxury of viewing this magnificent gallery here.

After spending an hour in this church we went to the Se Cathedral, located bang opposite to the Bom Jesus Church. Se Cathedral is the largest church in the whole of Asia and was built by the Portuguese. This church is dedicated to St. Catherine. Earlier, it was at Se Cathedral that the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier were shown to the public.

A statue of Jesus at Se Cathedral

After spending some quiet moments in the church, we set off for the St. Augustine Tower located just 10 mins walk away on a hill. Even though in complete ruins after it was deserted by the Augustinians, it still seemed striking to us. With a soaring 46 metre high tower this was one of the largest churches in Goa. Now, it is one of the excavation sites of the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). Our fascination and investigation helped us discover a cave and a hidden chamber in the ruins. It was quite a treasure hunt location for us.

The location where the fight sequence of Josh was shot

Cave Men

The location where Gumnaam was shot

Even ruins could not prevent the Bollywood directors, who have shot the most famous scenes of Gumnaam and Josh here. After a short photo shoot we went on our way towards Panaji but not before we were duped by a local ice cream seller. He was selling the cones on prices marked higher than M.R.P. We caught him but then our hearts of gold let him go. *Chuckle*

A local bus ride brouht us to Panaji. I have never understood one simple thing that why do locals pronounce Panaji as Panjim??? Anyways, when in Goa do as the Goans do. The last time I was in Goa, I had seen a beautiful church in Panaji in the night. I wanted to experience exquisiteness of this church once again.This is the Our Lady of Rosary, one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen. Standing tall on a two storied portico, painted in spotless white with some borders of blue, it is a church you should not miss when you are in Goa.
The most astounding thing about this church is that it's name is not engraved on the church building nor displayed anywhere. The only words engraved on the white building in blue letters are “ORAPRONOBIS”.

Our Lady of Rosary Church

The meaning is unknown to me. After ascending the stairs of the portico, we were at the entrance of the church. As the Mass was in service, we waited outside for sometime. After the Mass, we went in and knelt in front of the altar. It was a moment of calmness and peace.

You can catch a splendid view of the Panaji city from the Church. Well, the origin of the name Panaji or Panjim has many explanations. One of them means “Ponjy” – the land that never floods. As the Church is located opposite a busy road, we sat on the steps and watched the traffic flow. It was a beautiful moment. A striking lavender India Tourism building added to the beauty of the place.

Opposite the Church - Whats our Future???

After a long break, it was time to buy some mementos from Goa and what can beat the Cashews and Wine of Goa. With Cashews loaded in our bags, we sent out for Calangute. On the way, we saw Santa Monica which is famous for its cruises. This time we did not have time to go on a cruise. The last time I had been on this cruise with Tatun and Naveen.

The return bus journey to Calangute was tiring and sleepy. But, it was made memorable by a foreigner. You will be surprised but he managed to surprise as well, especially Ali. He managed to bamboozle us with his fluency of Hindi. When asked, he said that he had been staying in India for the past 20 years and had also taken the Indian citizenship. Something to ponder when you criticize your country.

Back to our rooms filled with excitement and tiredness, we had a quick wash and made plans to visit TITO’s - the most happening night club of Goa. All of us were really excited to dance the night away but our legs were exhausted thanks to our “Keep Walking” Adventure. So, we dropped the idea of pleasing our legs and thought of flattering our stomachs instead. This time, there would be no restrictions. Anyone could order whatever they liked, no questions asked. A royal feast was on the cards. This brought us to a nice restaurant in the Calangute Market which was only filled with firings. There was a pool table too. We only posed with the cue sticks but did not play as it was already late in the night and most restaurants in Goa stop taking orders after 10:00 in the night.

Just imagine this scenario. 7 animals… no restrictions… order to your likes… Wow!!! The orders started flying and every sea food on the Menu was ordered. Right from the Sharks, Squids, Crabs, Prawns and King Fish we ordered it all. Can you believe we also ordered Prawn Cocktail? It was simply amazing. There was a power failure once and this meant we ended having a Candle Light dinner.

Chocolate and Protein milkshakes were ous desserts. The manager of the hotel was a nice guy. He summoned us to his bar. It was a nice bar with the bar stools and all the alcohol in place. We sat on the bar stools and clicked more photographs. After thanking the manager for the quality time, we set off towards the Calangute beach. The beach looks as awesome in the night as it does in the day. It was here that we discussed our future, our plans our ambitions and our friendship.

Late in the night we reached our rooms. It was an unforgettable day for us all. But Anna and Gala won’t ever forget this night. Kyun..Sahi bola na Anna??? We all retired to beds late at around 3:00 in the night… oops rather early in the morning. The last night in Goa had come to an end and a new morning was in the offing to begin a new day for us.

The new day will rise with a new post. Till then… keep discovering… And is Mother's Day. I think we need to celebrate each and very day as Mothers' Day. Just one day doesn't make a difference. Anyways, I take this opportunity of wishing all the moms over the world and especially all the moms of the Animal Kingdom... A HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY... You all deserve it!!!