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Goan New Year’s

January 8, 2010

Before we begin, I wanted to preface this entry with a few words.  YES! I have been slacking.  Over the last couple of months, I have not been a good writer to you.  Since we last chatted, I have experienced more of India, than I ever thought I could in a lifetime.  Selfishly, I’ve been keeping too busy enjoying my travels without taking the time to share these experiences with you.  Oddly enough, I’ve received more feedback since having stopped writing than when I was writing regularly!  It seems there are many of you who have been following the journey and have been eagerly anticipating my next post.  Thanks to all those who are reading and for the motivation and kind words.  I really am glad to hear you have been enjoying the ride!

On that note, I do encourage anyone following to leave comments at any time.  Please share some of your own stories, similar experiences, or write anything that would engage further discussion!  In this manner, it makes it more interesting for me because I get a sense of what your thoughts are and this blog suddenly becomes more interactive!

Okay, now for what you came here for.  Grab a cup of tea and let’s catch up a little.  (Seriously, feel free to go and make a cup of tea, as I just did!). Mmm nothing like a proper cup of Masala Chai!  According to my last post, I left off when I was enjoying Leh, the roof of the world.  I have since been to  a slew of places.  Jammu – the city of temples, Dharamsala – home of his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Amritsar – the golden pride of Punjab, Delhi – the cutthroat capital of the world’s largest Democracy, Agra – the ancient land of the legendary Mughals, Rishikesh – the yoga capital of the world, Haridwar – home to Swami Ramdev, Varanasi – the source of Indian classical music and Darjeeling – a world of tea fields in the clouds.

Wow, that was a mouthful!  When I manage to catch a break, I shall have to play catch up and make a few entries to offer recaps on my adventures in these places.  I shall have to entitle that post ‘The Forgotten Pages’ or something along those lines!  Until then I am going to hit the fast forward button and tell you the story of how I wound up sitting on a beach in Goa writing to you now…

The Journey Continues. . .

Lush Darjeeling Tea Fields

I could still smell the rich aromas of Darjeeling as I drove down from the scenic hilltop through endless tea fields.  After enjoying a tremendous Christmas and sipping some of the world’s finest teas I had decided it was time to finish my tour of North India.   Incredible as the North was, I thought it was time that I go to a place where I didn’t need a scarf and jacket – after all, I am in India!  I packed my bulging backpack and made my way to Bagdogra airport, a couple hours outside of Darjeeling.  The plan was simple, fly to Mumbai and spend New Years with my cousins.

When I arrived in Mumbai, I encountered a strange emotion.  Returning to Mumbai felt both foreign and familiar. Before I left Mumbai two months back, I had very quickly made the flat in Bandra feel like home.  Seeing how the flat had changed did not feel like home at all!  It was great to see familiar faces, but the place had changed.  Somehow, when you leave a place behind you expect to return to familiarity and yet even in a short while, it can all seems new.  Perhaps Mumbai hadn’t changed and it was me that had changed my perspective.  This is what two months of playing hopscotch in the north is very capable of doing to you.  Physically, I had certainly changed.  I had shed a few pounds and I had decided not to cut my hair.  Beyond the physical changes, perhaps it was just that coming back to Mumbai now felt like I was returning to the ‘real world’ after I had gotten used to spending my days on the road.  The chilly adventure through the north was riveting and throughout my travels, I was sure to encounter new life experiences each day.  Life in Mumbai would surely feel like a return to homeostasis.  When it was all said and done, all I had to recall the journey was a handful of trinkets.  A marble elephant with its trunk upward for good luck, a wood carved miniature of a shikara boat from Srinagar, a shawl from the Golden Temple, a yak wool shawl from dharamsala, a Tibetan prayer wheel from Leh, cheap sunglasses from Delhi, traditional chappals from Agra, a wooden chessboard from Rishikesh, yoga books from Haridwar, my Tabla notebook from Varanasi, and a silver tea set from Darjeeling.  It’s sad to think that this portion of my travels had come to a close.  Funny how time flies even when you have all the time in the world!

This blurry picture depicts the xmas tree with toilet paper snow!

Beyond the handful of items I collected, I took away memories from each of these places that I won’t soon forget!  The people I met were gifts to the trip.  Each of them added an ingredient along the way and without which, the recipe would be incomplete.  It’s so lovely to share pieces of yourself with complete strangers.  Miraculously, strangers can feel like family when you are all in the same boat.  For instance, Spending Christmas in Darjeeling included decorating a proper Christmas tree, building a snowman (made of toilet-paper), a Christmas dinner, singing Christmas carols, and gift-giving.  All of which was with a couple fellow travelers I met only a few days prior.  As lovely as it is to meet new people and enjoy new connections, it is equally unfortunate that there comes a time when these moments must become a memory.  Many of the people I met, I may never see again in my life, and yet what may have seemed like such an insignificant moment at the time, could offer rewarding life lessons in the future!

A must see movie! Bee Movie. Very Clever

As I was unpacking I thought about how strange it is that I can so readily make a new place home just by the people who occupy the that space.  They say home is where the heart is, so what if my heart keep changing?  Where is home for a nomad?  Humans are creatures of habit and we long for

consistencies in our life to keep us sane.  Whether those consistencies are going to that breakfast spot every morning, or going to work each day, or settling down in one place, finding a mate.  Eventually, if you follow this road long enough, you’ll find yourself in a life of routine.  How mundane.  Is this all we were meant for in this world?  How is this any different worker bees in a beehive?

If during all this travel, I find myself in a state of consistency, then am I at at risk of making life mundane?  Just then, without hardly having a chance to finish my thought or settle, an impulsive decision was made.  Along with my cousin Kunal, we  would head to Goa for New Years Eve.  Sure enough, the decision to venture to Goa would defy all the consistencies which I was preparing myself for in Mumbai.  I figured I would first head to Goa for a few days to bring in the new decade and come back to Mumbai to make arrangements for my tour of South India.  In lieu of that, I dumped most of my things in Mumbai and packed only a pair of shorts, a bathing suit, jeans, a couple T-shirts and a toothbrush and set out for the open road!

Quite literally in fact! Oh, didn’t I mention?  This was going to be a road trip.  I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, but in the end, we weren’t about to give up a chance to enjoy an India road trip!  A friend had offered us the ride and holding true to Indian Standard Time, we set off just before dusk.  Off we went, into the night, windows down and music up.  In the middle of the night, we took a break for some Chai and waited to meet up with other Goa-bound travelers.  It wasn’t that we were looking to socialize at this hour, but we didn’t 100% know the route so following another team of traveler’s seemed clever.  The road was a blur between the ubiquitous and dark of night.  Eventually, we had to take another break for some food and fresh air.  As we were relaxing by the car, a voice emerged out of the darkness and told us we should get inside the car to avoid the guard dogs.  Moments later we watched as a handful of Dobermans conquered the area!  After a short nap, we were off into the morning fog again.  Next stop, Goa!

Arriving in Goa, you can smell the ocean air.  Instead of the things most people might prioritize when arriving on December 31st, such as finding accommodations or planning the evenings festivities, we opted for our own priorities.  Swim, drink, swim, eat, swim, frisbee, you know – the important stuff.  Somehow things just managed to work out as it usually does.  We ended up finding a hut which was situated right on Morjim beach in north Goa.  It was quaint and had a pleasant straw house charm to it.  Something like a house out of the Three Little Pigs.  Sure I saw a rat or two in there, but you tend to overlook these minor details when there aren’t any other options!  As the sun went to sleep over the Arabian Sea, Goa began to wake up.  This is the Goa, after the Portuguese, the Goa away from the hippies.  It was the Goa of New Year’s eve with non stop Psy Trance.  This is the sort of music which you could have a jackhammer blasting right beside you and it would make no difference.  In short, it wouldn’t be music you would find on my top 50 most played iPod list.

Hoping from party to party, Goa is the one place where you can meet the whole of India in one place.  I am certain that half of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore were in Goa right now.  Because of this influx of people, you can feel this energy circulating through the air and into your soul.  Everyone you meet is in the mood for dancing, singing, partying, mingling, and misbehaving.  Admittedly, I was taken aback by the beauty of the beach as well as the beauties occupying it!

Oddly enough when the clock struck 12, it did so by surprise.  I found myself alone in a crowd of partygoers.  It’s funny how in these moments you could be surrounded by many friends and yet if the people who really count are missing, none of it matters.  I looked up and saw the partial eclipse of the full moon.  How spectacular! I thought of all my loved ones individually and felt connected to them knowing they could see the same moon I was seeing.  Happy New years to each of you!  May you find all of those things which you deserve in the coming year.  I hope each of you have the courage to go after your dreams!

That evening I wound up spending time on the beach with new friends at a campfire enjoying some good laughs and good times.  I woke up to find that our straw hut was hardly of any use to me as I slept just fine on the beach!  Upon returning to the hut, I wished Kunal a happy new years since he had somehow managed to sleep before midnight for the second year in a row.

Later on, Kunal and I headed out for a swim.  There was something magical which occurred during this swim.  Swimming out to sea, well off into the distance where we could no longer touch the sea floor, we lay there and floated for what felt like half the day.  I even have the tan to prove it!  As we lay there, roasting out at sea, I enjoyed the chance to catch up.  It had been long since Kunal and I had some quality time.  As we floated there doing ridiculous things from communicating under water to air guitaring we came up with an idea.  The idea was to do something that I hadn’t done in a long time.  Pray!  It happened when we stumbled on a topic about the existence of God and the role of faith in the modern world.  I thought why not sing the Hanuman Chalisa (a Hindu devotional poem) for good measure.  I think a part of me wanted to sing it in full just to test if I still remembered every verse.  This was when the magic happened.  As we floated lifelessly, and sang verse after verse without a hitch, something came out of the water!  It was a foot long fish!  Jumping out from right between us, it flew over Kunal’s torso and splashed back in to join the school of fish below.  We both paused with blank faces and thought about what just happened.  Could that have been a sign from God? An awesome coincidence?  I like to think it was just plain magic!  It wasn’t until our hands were pruned that we decided to head in.  I couldn’t picture a more fitting way to start the first day of the New Year.

In the days to follow, a few friends that I had made had invited me to join them at their homes.  It was such a privilege being invited to these beautiful homes.  It is a shame that my camera was destroyed in Darjeeling or I would have surely offered a handful of pictures to accompany my narrative.  Nevertheless both of these homes included enchanting terraces where I enjoyed spending quality time with my host(s).  It certainly makes for a beautiful setting when the backdrop of the terrace so happens to offer inconceivable panoramas of Goa!

After a few more days of lazing in the sun it would seem that my adventure in Goa was over and I would head back to Mumbai.  Arriving at Goa airport with Kunal, he had planned on heading back to Mumbai and had already arranged for a ticket.  I on the other hand was considering buying a ticket at the counter and jumping on the next flight!  I’ve always wanted to do that.  It turned out there were no attractive flight options until the next day.  In the end, I decided that I would continue my journey south from here.  After all, what was really the point of going back north to Mumbai only to head on south again!  My guess is it will be quite liberating walking around with only 5 Kilos of luggage.  With a quick cheers, Kunal was off and I jumped in a taxi – destination South!  I came, I saw, I conquered North India with a backpack.  Let’s see what adventures lay ahead in south India as I venture on with only the mere essentials in my knapsack!

Stay Tuned: Scooter adventures in South Goa!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kishan permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:01 am

    amazing post bro! happy new year and hope to see u soon!

  2. Meera permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:06 pm

    Hey Prash!
    Hanisha passed along your blog site….amazing adventures!
    Happy New Year and can’t wait to hear more about this amazing journey when you’re back ‘home’ 🙂

    Take care,

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