Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Merry Christmas !!!

Nowadays I am volunteering with a school in a slum in Kandavali east (Mumbai) , it's tiny school with the most wonderful kids ever. These images are from a Christmas party we just had.I went slightly crazy with the camera, and ended up taking hundreds of pictures. Little children make such eager and wonderful subjects. 
It was a fun party, with music, biscuits and cupcakes --kind donations. 
(Click on the IMAGE to enlarge, it is lovelier then ...)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goa Travelogues : Soliloquy

More on Goa : click here 
As the last day drew to an end, I marveled at myself, I never talk to people so easily, never smile so often while walking the roads. My body feels great. I walk beaches and streets in a bikini top and shorts. I find me shedding so many of my inhibitions and even more misconstrued perceptions. I feel evolved. I have never been out of my country and yet the past few days make me feel I have travelled scores. It has made me re think my life, my goals, of what is important, rather what should be. That things can be so simple is actually possible. Past few years I have hemmed and hawed about my life and my ambitions. The rat race has made me so frustrated, so wanting, I am forever struggling. Maybe I am meant to do something else maybe that is why I am struggling so much more than usual. Should I just stop? There is so much effort, but hardly any heart in the effort I realize. My ‘Why god Why? ‘Question feels less overwhelming. The soft sand under my feet feels like a reassuring pat on the back. The sea breeze an embrace. I cannot help but be poetic and quixotic. I can see the beach shack tingling in evening lights.
The worries still linger. As the sun sets on my last day, a deep melancholy sets in. If things work out, I might not be back for a while, and if they don’t … I slightly shudder. I need more sunny days on the beach to be a complete convert. Complete evolution of disenchantment might take more than mere 6 days.
Past year hasn’t been very straightforward with me. Most people I know actually all, have embarked on some path — be it right or wrong. But I see them flying at least, which will take them somewhere, anywhere. I am at the edge, flustered to take a leap, for no direction seems welcoming. Hence heart lacks in the effort I have put in, n I find myself letting go of chances and of opportunities. Not knowing one’s heart is always unpleasant.
At present my problems back in Bombay (my life that is) remains just the same, I sigh as I see my problems peeping from a distance, far beyond the horizon. They seem so out of context here. In a day, I will be on the other side of the rising sun. But now I am happy to know I have a place to escape to. Happy to be introduced to a ‘Me’ I wasn’t well acquainted with.
This has been a holiday I have read about, seen on TV, fantasized about, so serendipitous and gay and so close to home. Maybe my state of mind and state of being set me on this path of self discovery, and I realize it is a long quest. My need to be alone and disconnected triggered a dormant personality I wasn’t aware of. The people I met… Andrea, Diana, Brad, Liz, Niels , Sally , Petra ,Romeo, Pramod and myself . I want to travel more and write about it. For in writing the experience lingers longer, perspective resurges’ in a different light, feels more romantic, more meaningful and extended. I find myself dreaming Spain, Finland and New Zealand, but the fantasies feel more grounded, not an illusion anymore. The task feels more sincere than most things I do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interactions (Postcards)

Benedicted !!!

Feeling Blue ???

Blue Walk

Strawberry vodka meet Capo ..Capo meet Vo.. 
Blissful Carnage ...
It did Happen !! 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Rants of a Sick sick Woman !!!

So I am sick, down with Jaundice. It really sucks, sucks to the core. For starters it’s my birthday month and no coffee for god knows how many months; also I lost my apartment back in Bombay. I am tempted to lash out abusive nothings about my whack landlord and pmsing house mate, but all the feelings of ‘being wronged’ seems out of context here.

I’m home, recuperating; being spoilt on Mumma and Dadda’s showers of affection and care, which is good, but Kolkata is still a city I can never really feel warmly about. 

Good thing is, I have lost oodles of weight. My skins glowing, don’t know if the yellowness of jaundice makes dark skin glow or just being indoors ... But all the healthy eating, juicing and souping really seems to be doing good. I’m still weak, and miss working out, but ehhh I’ll live.

The first week, I was too weak to really do anything much, so in between cat naps and lion snores, I found myself taking stock of my situation. Not sure whether it was a neural antibody kicking in sensing depression or plain rationalization that always creeps in when all’s jammed and fucked, but after the usual platitude within the lobes, followed by rants of regrets and pointed anger , I felt an odd sense of calm. The usual desultory thoughts got flippant and the ruminations barely meditative. At least my mind seems to be coping well with the illness and all the stillness.

So maybe it is the weakness and inability to do much that my mind feels at ease, since it can not really compel the body to do anything. Doctor’s order – Complete bed rest. And watching wasted hours of lame crime series and sitcoms such as Criminal Minds and Frasier reruns feels really therapeutic.

But now with wellness creeping in, the calmness seems threatened and I can only imagine how I will feel, in a few weeks time when the privilege of doing nothing will near its expiry date. I will have to face life and my decisions again. Gosh I wonder if it reads as dramatic as it sounds in my head.

So ya, this Jaundice is like a break from life, not the kinds that is welcoming in the first place, but now that I got it, have it, will have to bear  with it --  I am warming up to my plight.  

Haven’t really gotten down to writing anything meaningful, began working on a Slacktivism promised article, but slacking on that.

 Anyways I am supposed to be asleep by now. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Open Space Blogging opportunity

So I have started blogging for Open space. Open Space is the civil society and youth outreach initiative of the Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS). I’m really excited about this opportunity. It is always so nice to be writing on an outside platform and not just ranting on one’s own blog aint it?

It’s a tubby baby step towards that ‘I want to be a columnist’ dream I secretly hold .Of course I shouldn’t harp and hope too much too soon since I have only just started.

As for life in general.. The Mumbai monsoons get on my nerves on days I have to be at work, and make me merry on days I don’t. Mumbai is getting filthier by the hour; I won’t be surprised if it bursts open very soon. I can see an obvious, extremely obvious degeneration in sensibilities of the people around me. But I’ll leave this gripe for another blog post. But seriously look around you, walk slowly and just observe the people ..You will be oh so surprised at the de-evolution.

Work on Athayogashala is going on.
Advertising is interesting, wrote some lines on my experiences at Saatchi & Saatchi, yet to post. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

So what have I gone and done now??

Let’s just say, I finally decided to let go of my inhibitions and confusions, and do something about my misery.

I went ahead and did it. And I am still trying to understand the consequences of my actions. I cannot help but mournfully whine about the fact that there was no drum roll, no red carpets, no ‘gosh love you’, no ‘this is where I belong ‘ moment.

Instead for the first time in well quite a few years I feel an odd sense of unbelongingness towards my own better nay crazy sense. Nonetheless better sense prevailed (rather held on) and I continue to trudge along. Never been so unsure. But I know I have made the right call.

I feel that even though I might not exactly be an authority on life and its matters, I really don’t need much of an experience in such matters et all when I make a reflection that ‘Life’ can sometimes really be a bitch. Even if the ‘Don’t Panic’ text is written in large friendly letters, it does very little to calm the ‘Let’s Explore, fug what have I gotten myself into’ state of mind.

All in all, Life can sometimes really be doggish … big and fat, round and hell bound. Smells too.

I would like to add that the hammer man has left town and so has that dull throbbing of my head I had been suffering from for over a year. And that is what is keeping me afloat, for I am definitely breathing better. It is still murky waters and I am struggling to swim. I could do with some friendly lift me ups.

I do tend to go into this ‘What’s with the attitude, people’ line of thought, but lucky for me I realize that it will resolve itself (or them self) in due course of time or maybe I am just being stuck up. Both ways it does nothing to help my cause, so I have dropped it.

It is exciting though, often I am amazed, impressed and almost always learning interesting things. I guess in the end, I just gotta suck it up, forget past laurels and triumphs. Stick to the fact that I am here to learn and understand in order to realize the bigger agenda of my life which fricking remains elusive.

Lot’s of feel n felts – the thesaurus offered no ‘I’m feeling it’ alternatives. Oh and I also got to learn to write shorter precise leveled sentences, for my own good.

Such esoteric rants makes my head spin too.

PS: The england goalie Green is in so much trouble.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The kids

Teach For India /Akanksha

Cotton Green is a tiny suburb close to Parel. Huge empty cotton mills, a beautiful Heritage building which use to be the cotton exchange and unused smaller granaries mark this central Mumbai suburb.

Akanksha, the NGO runs a primary English medium school in Abhudaya Nagar Municipal School in Cotton Green.

I began volunteering as a teacher assistant in this school a few months ago. Reason: I found myself in a space where all I did, felt and experienced was so very mundane. To do something meaningful became the order of the day, while I struggled with my rat race syndrome. While helping a friend write her TFI fellowship essays, I felt just enough inspired to sign up for the volunteer program.

The approach to the school from the station is rather tedious and I felt a strange sense of glory in my purpose of social work. I had never really done any serious volunteering, a weekend here there apart. This commitment felt substantial and meaningful. The approach is through a tiny slum, the narrow by lane passes through small pale blue two storey structures (Kacha pakka house) on either side where a hundred households are squeezed together –one room apartments with no bathroom. A long line of men stand waiting their turn in front of the common bathroom of the settlement. It stinks! As I mentioned I felt somewhat extraordinary, taking the effort to take time out from my busy, muddling and always stressed mind to volunteer at an underprivileged municipal school. The false sense of worth lasted for less than a week after I found myself interacting with highly inspired, dedicated and strong minded group of teachers, care takers and Teach for India fellows in this tiny space of overwhelming goodness called Akanksha School in Cotton Green. My effort and intention seemed so common among this lot.

Yash Kumar, the Teach for India fellow, an IIT Bombay Grad, a young boy of 23-24 has dedicated the next two years of his life to teach at this school. We all know what starting salary IIT grads are offered on graduation. So to see a young, smart and highly motivated guy counting down from 10 to 1 after a lunch break to bring to order an unruly classroom of seven year olds is indeed a revelation.

I assist Yash in teaching the second standard class at the Akanksha School. The class room walls are pasted with charts and posters and wonderful pictures. Yash and the Akanksha Team have taken efforts to beautify each classroom. The young children coming from various backgrounds are lively, cocky and cute. For me, it brought back memories of a time in school, which most of us cannot recollect and our parents reminisce about most.

This age is wonderful, children are wholeheartedly accepting, loving, and eager to please and easily impressed. When a young Geetanjali wrapped her arms around my waist and rested her chin on my side her gazing up at me as I spoke to Yash, I struggled to keep a straight face as Yash continued briefing me on my task. I wanted to do a skippity hop as Geetanjali’s warmth emanated. I sighed as I watched Yash struggle to walk as three kids had wrapped themselves around him the same way.

It is a primary English medium school – junior KG to third standard. The children come from various backgrounds, with faded uniforms and slippers and sandals. The staff is young and smart. There is Yash Bhaiya of course, the TFI fellow as they are called, Rekha Didi who reminds me of my favorite English teacher when I was a kid – short stylish hair, tastefully dressed, kind eyes, a warm smile and an air of sophistication which as a child is always such an enigma. Then there is Serenity Didi, an international volunteer from London. The language barrier is obvious and so is the fascination most Indians have with foreigners. Serenity seems at home, she is like any other teacher Then there is Nahida and Shahnaz, Akanksha trained girls, their confidence, their vibrancy is quite impressive. People like me who come for the first time to such an environment always have certain pre conceived notions, well at least I did. I found each and every person I met in the school unique and noteworthy. Shuttling between the rat race (each to his/her own) and this place makes you obviously regard the above mentioned people as special and so much more meaningful.

At school it is business as usual. English, Maths, EVS, Music, Play, Hindi/Marathi are the subjects taught. The teachers make it a point to speak with each child in English and also the children are expected to reply in English. As I watch Yash rattling away instructions in English, I see young eager faces trying to grasp the meanings of the words spoken; from their faces it is obvious they are looking out for familiar words which can help them understand. Along with the official syllabus, the management of Akanksha is also actively working on bringing a comprehensive depth in the learning. Yash explains that it is important to really make sure that they understand what they are speaking instead of blindly mugging English text. A practice common in most government run schools.

Akanksha and Teach for India are fully committed to the cause of bringing about substantial change in the society by way of education. They operate in underprivileged and tough neighborhoods. They have managed to set in motion a movement of sorts to inspire young, educated college students and professionals to become teachers and role models for kids and have touched so many lives.

The school follows certain set rituals to nurture hygiene practices, healthy mindset and good manners.Parents are reprimanded if nourishing food is not found in their child’s lunch and snack box.Play time, the kids play either play games or with toys. The toys are clearly donated, some are missing limbs, some a wheel and some just resemble a game that use to be. The little children still pick and choose with zest and play along making the most of the school hours. {Please donate more}

As my initial incredulity and awe settles in, I see that much work needs to be done.I know I hazard an expected preachy, mushy and clichéd discourse. Social awareness in India among the educated privileged mass is definitely increasing. A social revolution on the horizon as community service becomes a part of a person’s life plan and not just for those individuals seeking admissions abroad and unable to get a fake volunteer certificate. Initiatives like Teach India, Teach for India and varied volunteer programs are on the rise. College students even more involved. It feels nice when I learn that individuals like Yash and Purvi are two of many many.

And yet I find it a bit disconcerting when I realize that I have been doing this for only a few months at the age of 25. That it is now that I found the time, the inclination and desire to contribute towards a meaningful cause. And in my social and friends circle, a lively, well meaning, motivated, aware and educated bunch of individuals who love to bitch out India (over drinks and coffee mind you ), I know of only two persons who do community service of any form.

It is not easy, very often tedious. I sometimes struggle, get lackadaisical and distracted. But the experience of it all makes it worth while. I am not quite there, but I am on the path, a part of a change, a social awareness and I find myself eager to give more.

Please visit:


Teach for India

Teach for India/Akanksha - My work.

Yash assigns me eight kids, the ones who are struggling with class room work and need special attention. That is where I come in.

I start writing exercises with the little runts, and it is a struggle. Rehan seems to comprehend nothing, when I ask him to write ten sentences on ‘My School’. Little Pratik begins to write but is unable to string even simple words, Sajida narrates 5 beautiful sentences verbally and fails to write a single sentence, Sabina sits thinking for days together, Imtiaz (a cute one I found myself being slightly partial to) speaks random gibberish and struggles to write, Ayaan seems disgruntled and angry so I humor him initially, Sahil is just a bit slow.

Three days a week, I would spend 30 minutes with each child as they struggled with Basic English sentences. By week 2, I realized who were plain distracted, who were disinterested, who only needed special one on one interaction to get them on track and who all had a genuine problem.

After a month of relenting and unrelenting sessions, one day little Imtiaz sat on my lap reading from an A4 size sheet, a story he wrote on his own. I treated a friend to coffee that day. But every class is a different story. Ayaan the moody one would some days write long dreamy sentences and on other days just grunt and give me attitude which I finally learnt to handle. Pratik , I realized after few weeks was one of the lucky kid who had someone educated in his family, only more so, unfortunately that someone was doing all his homework. Sajida has dyslexia, Rehan is plain disinterested and always distracted.Sahil just needs personal attention, eager to please, eager to learn and eager to rush through lesson just to attract my attention .Then there is Sabina. Sabina lost her father last year; her young mother is a care taker in the school itself. Sabina is struggling more than the other kids in her school work-- she is struggling with her sentences, her words and sometimes even letters. She is unable to grasp even the basics and always seems distracted. Initially I found her exasperating and extremely difficult. Also I realized she did not like me much.

My learning and understanding curve gradually rose, as I began to get more involved with the kids.Each assignment held an interesting lesson for me. For the assignment -Write ten sentences on –My house, I found most of the children struggling. They were unable to write more than 3 sentences. I failed to comprehend the reason even though it was staring at me in the face. And one day on my walk from the station to the school past the slums, I realized why. Most homes had nothing in it; a single room housed a kitchen, a bed, a small chair, a table fan and five people. This is where my children came from.

For the seemingly innocuous assignment – ‘My Family’, I learnt even more lessons.Most children come from difficult households. Abuse, domestic violence, dead parents, lack of basic amenities, money and space and many more problems is a part of the society they come from. The kids are earnest; they smile, grunt, sometimes whine through the lesson, but never seem to lose heart and spirit.

A lot remains to be done.

School is closed for summer vacations. I make my way through the tiny by lane towards the school. I continue going to the school, an hour before work, to teach little Sabina. I am still struggling with her. But I think she is beginning to warm up to me. I feel guilty on the days I am not able to make it. Summer school is going on, and I get to meet some of the other kids I taught and young college volunteers. I feel happy, a bit proud and very satisfied.

The walk from station to school which I found always ever so unpleasant and worth bragging about to add a sense of glory to my volunteership has now made me humble and so much more aware. It prepares me for the class ahead; I smile at the little kids running around, wondering whether they are from my school, or whether they go to school at all.

I realize now how small a part I am playing in my society. So much can be done, and so easily , if each one of us can take some time out.

Most importantly, this experience has made me hopeful in ME, in society and in the power of Community Service.

Friday, April 30, 2010

When you're Griping and You Know it.. Clap your Hands

At the end of the day a Relationship triumphs. You can spend a thousand years fathoming the unseen intricacies and the misunderstood squabbles and whines. But you have to understand that in the end, when the end comes, it is simply because there is nothing left in you for the relationship to take. So it decides to leave you.

I treat it as an entity. You, me and relationship-three entities. It takes the best of you and your beloved, and what is left in the end are nagging, groveling, griping, selfish, hurtful, spiteful and nasty people while Mr Relationship attains sainthood –of all that was good.

A relationship takes away so much of good in you, that you are left with nothing but regret, despise and a whole load of other debasing and damaging thoughts and foreclosures which sometimes (subjectively speaking) might drown you into the murky waters of intro and retrospection.

I hope you make it to the shore.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sometimes I sound like such a teenager... tibit tibiptitit

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Helloooooooooo readers..

Yes Yes.. I am being sarcastic.. Recently I discovered that my sarcasm is lost on so many that I find it important to point it out specifically.

I wish I could converse with people with Cue cards.I speak holding a cue card -- interpret --Sarci, please respond appropriately in a robot voice…Stop > ..

Well a lot has happened, and a lot remains to unfold. I got a new job, a new hair cut --spent a bomb on my hair which looks just the same as before, I have gained some weight , I have practically given up on staying fit , I have read a million books --Gabriel Garcia Marquez --rockss!! , I have started using ‘ROCKS!!’ a wee bit too often. It seems I am getting younger -- have had an attack of the ACNE -- last time I had it was when I was 18.. I'm being hopeful here. My social life has been engaging—some what, which is extremely amusing.

My Existential crisis has definitely surpassed Hamlets.

I went home and back. I am finally over cup cakes, but I am back to the donut frenzy. I have thirty three brilliant ideas a day, it is an up from twenty. I managed to finish some of my self 'inflicted' writing assignments and I came up with a new word -- Beeverful --can be used as noun, adjective and even a verb --- Beevy, beeverful, Beevandom , it also has an antonym—add suffix ‘UN’ to all.

And now that I have a ten hour a day job, my mind is swimming with ideas of what I could be doing otherwise –quirky things to write on, Capoeira, Yoga, Photography classes, teaching Sabina . Writing like this on Monday 2 am … ahh yes, I got a job. I am amazed at my innate ability to spin my life into these constant tedious circles ever so often.


Well, I have decided to become a slacktivist. It was a difficult decision, because a strident announcement of allegiance to a pledge of fulfillment of an exercise of much magnitude and negligible effect needs a sturdy commitment. But to be honest I realized soon enough, a bit too soon that I wasn’t being very modest. There’s no one who really cares… Helloo ello loo o <>.

I have always have had opinions, judgments and point of views.

To be able to read the paper in peace (a dedicated 2.5 hours) with a good cup of coffee -- as a part of my daily routine – forms a part of my daily prayer to the lord above everyday. And I spent a good part of the day being upset over the certain and very many news pieces I read.

News has always affected me; it makes me think and wonder about the world I live in. It is not a deliberate effort but it is an unconscious element of my being and as with most around -- Crash cart --CLEAR --Mediocrity beckons--bichick. But it is etched deeper than thou . And with my new job, crowded hours -- suddenly the urge to write even more so has quadrupled. .

It is not a new found awareness that I accidently came upon at an 'about time' age. I never really found the need to write about certain things – you talk about it, ponder and maybe tweet two lines. But I wish to take my slacktivist alter ego to the next level –she doesn’t have a name…only this title.

The above rant was an almost necessary preliminary.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Goa tavelogues : Last 3 days

More on Goa : Click here 
The last three days, I divided my time and my lazy hours between Kola beach and Agonda. One morning we trekked up to Agonda , a four kilometer hike I think and spent the whole day there –lounging, eating, playing the frizzbee , swimming and eating some more. Of course a considerable time was also spent in chatting up with other tourists.
We ate at the Greek place (Agonda) one evening, where we made some wonderful friends – Diana , a hypnotherapist and Andrea, a flight attendant . It is amazing how people meet and how several connections just unfold. We met them coz we did not have a table and ended sharing a table with them. Diana and Andrea knew Niels and Rachel (our Galgibag friends) and in turn had already heard about us. I still remember the look on each of our faces, when suddenly Andrea interjected –“Wait a minute… “.Everyone got so excited, and suddenly we all weren’t strangers anymore. Further on, Suveer and Diana found out that they follow the same school of yoga, and have also trained under the same teacher at some point. They were ecstatic, as both gushed hawed and chattered away excitingly about yoga while Andrea and me looked on. The next day they came over to Kola beach, and we spent a lovely afternoon together. Met them again in Bombay, where Andrea related her fantastic, truly Bollywood style love story that unfolded the last few days she was there. Diana stayed on for few more weeks in Bombay to practice yoga, we met often , an amazing amazing lady with an interesting life story.
We spent a lot of time with Brad and Liz too, another wonderful couple from Cornwall. Retired and living it up. They have been coming to Goa for 10 years now. We shared so many stories and so much of our histories. Thanks to them, we discovered another tiny beach close to Kola, which was incredible and so isolated.
Then there was Petra, travelling with her mom and aunt. Back home Petra has a chocolate van. Little did I realize then, that she wasn’t simply making and serving milkshakes. Check her out:
Foodies and chocolate lovers ..rejoice!! :)
She had so many questions about Mumbai, she was reading Suketu Mehta’s Maximum city and was much intrigued. We spent a lovely morning doing yoga on the beach and slurping on pancakes.
Sally and Fran were an absolute riot. Fran especially. We spent one evening playing Adupuli Attam, this ancient game Suveer was carrying. Sally was travelling alone, and had some wonderful tales to relate. She was missing her boy friend, a tree surgeon so much. I was much intrigued by what a tree surgeon does. Fran’s knowledge of Goa was incredible.
It was amazing how many people I met and befriended. Most had such intriguing professions—Dog trainers, tree surgeons, thinker, chocolate van driver, hypnotherapist and the likes. Conversation was so easy. Everyone was friendly and eager.
I spent the other hours of the day floating in the calm lagoon, reading reading and more reading.. Downing pancakes at odd hours and going for long walks in the evening. The nights had gotten slightly chilly; I’d snuggle under a blanket on a beach bed and stare into the dark ocean, the lit sky and into my thoughts. One afternoon I went for a long swim in the lagoon past the resort and the next one into the jungle behind. It was really quiet and so green. The water was cold and at one point, I sat still in the water, a thousand tiny fish came around me, I could feel their tiny bodies against mine, it was fantastic.
I also had 'my spot'. The lagoon would join the sea by way of a tiny stream which was flowing over the beach past big rocky boulders. The water was very shallow; it felt like a water bed, the sand was soft and wet, the flow of the water gentle. I would lie on the water, perch my head on the soft rock and read or just stare at the blue sky.

Day 3 : Galgibag

More on Goa : click here


A remote beach further than Talpona, one of the last beaches of South Goa, it is also a turtle nesting beach. Lined with fir and pine trees, the beach stretches long. As usual, only visitors other than the locals were foreigners.
I really don’t know how we got there. But the drive/ride to Galgibag beach is beautiful. Past green hills, winding roads, paddy fields, old Goan villas, rivers and more rivers. If you wish to get there, ask the foreigners you meet on Patnem, or the boho ones speeding on bikes. Most know. Locals might blank out.
The access road to the beach is narrow; we whir past tons of foreign tourists who seemed at home. It is a small village, with rustic old Goan homes, few hutments, churches, bungalows with large courtyards and tall towering coconut trees. I spot scores of foreign nationals lounging, walking with cloth bags, peeking from houses, eating and sipping tea at chai shops and ambling along. Most are long terms tourists, who come often, living on months at a stretch and some are even permanent residents. There are no shacks on the beach. Apparently not allowed. We spot some Russian sign boards. The locals still serve food to the visitors. Picnic tables are set under the fir trees. It is picturesque.
MEET NIELS, a German dog trainer and criminal (he introduced himself like that) and Rachel – a New Zealander teacher and ardent cyclist.
We got talking with Niels and soon both Niels and Rachel joined us on our table.
Niels has been coming to Goa past 8 years. In November 2009, he was involved in an accident. An accident where three Indians were injured and Niels had half his face, from forehead to the nose cut. I also noticed deep scars on his thighs. Stuck at the government hospital in Goa, Niels describes the doctor treating him nothing less than a butcher.
Passport impounded, money over, insurance cover gone, Niels is stuck in heaven under hellish conditions. Yet we couldn’t help but laugh at his situation.
‘You could be stuck at a worse place you know’ I couldn’t help but philosophize with him. He laughs, so says everyone I meet. A dog trainer by profession, Niels and I talk for a while, about dogs, about my dog Elsa, and some more. A good looking guy, the scars on his face only add to his enigma. I found myself enamored. J .
Rachel is a teacher from New Zealand. Loves to cycle. Travelling alone, the initial impression of a shy demure girl soon evaporates when Rachel relates her travelling tales. She has bicycled through Indonesia and another country I can’t quite remember (must be eyeing Niels that time…sigh). Her cycle was parked outside, as she checked the position of sun to determine the time she had to bicycle back to Agonda. She wants to travel north now, maybe Leh. We express our reservation as she’s alone, she smiles, I find friends, she says smiling at Niels.
We bid good bye to the pretty people. Wished Niels the very best of luck. His court hearing was in 3 days. I thought that’ll be the last of them I’ll ever see, little did I know.
The water in Galgibag is magnificent. The sea bed is flat, the flat beach extends deep into the water. If lucky, you might spot the Olive Ridley turtle. As the gentle waves crashed against my body, I found myself floating into oblivion, wishing time would just still, as I watched the top of the fir trees gently sway in the breeze, nirvana seemed close by.
Further down the beach another site treated me, the Galgi River meets the sea. The patch is slightly rocky, the backdrop lined with green hills and coconut trees. The salt water lagoon rests on one side of the beach and the sea on the other side. The beach stretches till the union of the water bodies. On either side I see people lounging in water, some liketh the sea, and some the lagoon. It was unbelievable to be at such a spot, I marveled at my day, of how things collaborated through the day –the people, the food and goodness so that I could finally dip my body in the lagoon and float, while listening to the waves crashing on the other side. .

Day 3: Agonda -- Patnem -- GalgiBag.

 (more on goa : click here 

Day 3: Agonda à Patnem -à GalgiBag.

Sometimes we have good days and sometimes bad. But having a good good day on an already brilliant holiday is something one cherishes even more so.It was serendipity at its best.
The day was long and eventful. We discovered 3 beautiful beaches, met some wonderful people and ate really good food.
The day started with a dolphin ride, a short motor boat trip to the sea, a few kilometers off the coast. It is a 600 rupees trip. Out in the open sea, it is quite peaceful, the thrill of spotting dolphins is contagious; we managed to spot ten to twelve dolphins. Magnificent creatures dolphins are, out in the wild the enigma increases four square. Few even put up a show – they jumped out of water, and flipped twice.
On the boat, we meet Brad and Liz, a British couple from Cornwall living at the same resort as us. A retired professor and nurse, they have been coming to Goa for the last ten years and know Goa better than most people who claim to know Goa. At 70 and 63 years, Brad and Liz are truly living it up. . We convinced our boatman to drop us at the beach next to Kola-- Agonda Beach. On Liz’s recommendation and reference we break feasted at a shack called Gratitude.

Agonda Beach

Agonda beach is great. Stretches long almost 3 kilometers , the water is calm and shallow till a long way in, so a weak swimmer can definitely go deep and still feel safe. Occasionally dolphins come close to the shore and swim around. Agonda feels like a global settlement. A single dirt path ambles along with shacks, hutments, small houses, a line of coconut trees and other shrubs. Cows and buffaloes often cause traffic jams, and you can hear faint squeaks of protest from bikers. Most are patient as no one is really in a hurry. Simple and amiable village folks walking, loitering , lazing around, sitting on benches , eating home cooked rice and fish curry at the road side dhaba and chai shops, many on scooters and bicycles ambling along.. only the so called village folks can be Germans, Brits , Greeks or Asians or scores of east Europeans -- name a country, you have a representative.
We ate at Gratitude.The moment we took Brad and Liz’s reference, Rajesh the owner, became a friend for life
Break Feast: Israeli Breakfast – Hummus, Pita bread, fries, a green salad, black coffee (as Goa usual horrible) and orange juice.Then a Chocolate pancake and more juice.
Pramod our server is far from home. The long hours of work and no extra time wage makes him a bit whiny. Every morning he wakes up at 5 am, goes for a long run on the beach and is a karate black belt. He wants to get back to Nepal and complete his higher secondary, but hates farming, so reckons he’ll have to leave home soon. He says years in cities have made him lazy, so says a young boy who works 15 hours a day. He likes bartending and claims his Caprioshkas are the best. In conversation I found myself telling him my life story, we spoke in hindi at length. He’s yet to master English, and was thrilled when an Indian trotted along, he sighs that it is such a rarity. Imagine hearing that in India. I learnt that he was once working in Pune, at a restaurant quite close to my college. We gushed and hawed. My second glass of juice I noticed was in a bigger glass and more thick.
We watch Vishnu, his fellow compatriot welcome few extremely white girls with –‘ Hellloooo , welcome beauties, how arh youh ? , Pramod shakes his head; he has a long way to go. I hope he comes back next year; I’d like to meet him again.The day was going great, only 10:30 am, and I’d already met and befriended some wonderful people.
After the huge meal, my friend and I hopped on a bike, courtesy Rajesh and took off. The plan was to hit Patnem and the famous South Goa beach -- Palolem. We never reached Palolem.


The beach is indeed lovely; right blend of frolic and peace. Not too isolated as Kola and slightly more urban than Agonda. Way less crowded and much cleaner than Palolem. The water is great similar to Agonda’s. One can walk way into the sea, splash and even swim. The sea feels calmer here.
A great place to eat would be Sabai-Sabai. An enchanting place on the main beach road, this is Sabai Sabai’s first season.
Meet Mario – An Italian, the owner, the chef and the bartender. I found Mario an endearing character, extremely stressed and amiable.
I sip on one of the best iced coffee I have ever had. We take a look at the rooms and the beach huts. The design, the style, the high standards and the affordable rates blow me over. Mario is warm and slightly temperamental, but I hear all Italians are that way. His rates are nominal. Ranging from rupees 600 for beach huts to 1000 for single rooms. The rooms are comfortable with modern bathrooms, something which most other establishment provides at much higher rates. If I wasn’t in love with my Kola beach, I‘d shift.
Mario even lets us use his shower in his room (as all rooms were occupied) to freshen up. Classy guy I must add.
We chat up with another employee there, Amita, a shy Goan girl. In conversation she opens up, and seems thrilled that we speak Hindi. She suggests a beach; not very many people know about, it piques our interest.
And off we go …to Galgibag.Back from Galgibag ... We head back to Sabai Sabai . To thank Amita and try Mario’s food. I wasn’t disappointed.
Mario cooked and served an exotic sea salad with crab, mussels, prawns and fish and oven baked thin crust authentic Italian pizza. Sabai Sabai is probably one of the few places you’ll get good coffee. Mario is warm and a brilliant cook, he has an open kitchen, and I could see the stressed Italian cook with a zest and intrigue quite enchanting. Plus a meal made with so much heart was bound to taste great.
To top that, the Tiramisu made me weak in the knees. It was as if Mario was in love with me, and had just made it for me. It made me feel special. I have never tasted tiramisu so good, so rich and so fresh.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goa Travelogues -- Day 2

Day 2: Blue Lagoon, Kola beach.

The Blue lagoon portrays a sense of remoteness, yet it is not isolated. A small beach tucked in deep . The bio diversity engaging and the ubiquitous tranquility ensuring.

Wiki Map -Kola beach

I wake up in a thatched hut, which is somewhat rickety –the floor boards creek, the wooden bed looks ancient but soft, and the hard board floor is covered with a red carpet all around. The single room hut, erected on stilts, is divided into the bedroom and bath/toilet by a wooden partition which means the toilet and bed are barely a few feet away from each other; I did not mind it at all. Though sometimes, I can hear my roommate taking a dump.*Shudder*

There is no electricity till 6pm, and in the evening the resort is powered by a generator. The lack of electricity is hardly of any consequence; take it from a city girl who loves her warm bath and light in her bathroom even during the day.

The slightness and bareness of the hut with the beach and lagoon as fore is like a lesson in contentment and how it ought to be.

My hut is right by the fresh water lagoon. From my room, I can see the calm lagoon, the beach, and the clear blue sky, a line of coconut trees, a few shrubs and the crashing waves. I breathe in deep, close my eyes, and open them to the same sight. I smile.

Meet Romeo, Sandeep, Nana, and Anil –the care takers, waiters, bartenders, fisher men and the go-to guys. When in the Blue Lagoon resort, you will need to get to know these guys well to make sure your stay is far more pleasant. Befriend them. They are a great bunch of guys - kind, hospitable and chatty with their broken English, which they insist on speaking.

Morning Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, toasts, sautéed mushrooms, orange juice and Nutella pancake. Ram Singh the cook knows his craft well...

Swam in the lagoon, got tanned and then some more. Lounged on a hammock, read my book. Splashed some more. Watched east European babes sun bathe, they have such beautiful bodies.

Lunch: Golden fried squid, Grilled fish and chips and a chilled Tuborg.


Chatted with few Brits… chatted some more… We were the only Indians on the beach.

Grimaced when the Brits complimented me on my English. Why the surprise ehh!!!

Splashed in lagoon, splash splash slpash.

The day ambles along. There is no cell phone network, I am glad. I have come here to disconnect, to be left alone. I walk on the cool evening sand, watch the sun set. I meet people from different lands, who don’t know my story; it is a break from familiar. Everyone seems calm and content. It is a relief.

Goa travelogues -- Madame Bovary

More on Goa : click here

I am reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I have been wanting to read this book for so long. It is an interesting read 'FOR ME 'on a holiday like this or otherwise ...simply because the book expresses a state of mind seemingly ubiquitous and familiar...

" No matter, she still wasn't happy,she never had been. What caused this inadequacy in her life? Why did everything she leaned on instantaneously decay? ... Oh, if somewhere there were a being strong and handsome, valiant heart, passionate and sensitive at once, a poet's spirit in an angel's form, a lyre with strings of steel,sounding sweet-sad epithalamiums to the heavens , then why should she not find that being? Vain dream!

Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom, every joy a misery. Every pleasure brought its surfeit; and the loveliest kisses only left upon your lips a baffled longing for a more intense delight.

PS : I am not recommending this book as a holiday read ... Just that I love classics and it is a good one.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Goa Travelogues

The past year hasn’t been kind. Ups and downs -- the downs outscoring the ups. Made some decisions, I regret even before the consequences have come to surface. I wait for the results and the consequences. The stress and the anxiety of it make my days very difficult to get by.
When my boy friend offered Goa, I decided to take it up.
I think my holiday started the day I decided to go to Goa.

Day 1: In the train.
I am in the train and I know I have over packed. My fellow commuters are an interesting bunch - An uncle –nephew duo from Bombay, a Swede from Ireland and an extremely pious gentleman from Sinhudurg.
The journey is long. I can never read on a train. But the lively bunch around me engages in interesting discussion, and I find my time passing well. The old gentleman (the uncle) knows Goa well and suggests some interesting places to go—most are Hindu temples. . The Swede is somewhat lost, it is his first time in India and he hasn’t planned his stay here very well. So we all give our two cents each on where to go and what to do. He is patient.
We were travelling by AC 3 tier, Mandowi Express, which starts from Dadar, Mumbai at 7:15 am.
If one plans ahead in time, and wants to travel by train –the night train Konkan Kanya is the best option. It is an overnight journey that one can sleep through and reach Goa the next morning, with the whole day in front of them. If the holiday budget is not too stretched, or if one can plan ahead in time, flights too are a good way to get to Goa.I personally would never recommend the bus. It is torturous, uncomfortable, and long and can really mess up your otherwise great holiday.
We get off at Mudgaon station, the last stop, since we had decided to spend our time only in South Goa.

Day 1: The cab ride.
The 650 rupees cab ride was uneventful, till a certain point. Our cab driver seemed rather scared of driving through the dark and lonely jungle road. He admonished us for not taking the train which reaches Goa in the morning. He whined about the dark roads, late hour (it was 8 pm) and the long distance. He loudly wondered why we chose to stay in an isolated beach unheard of.
Our driver finally lost all cool, when we hit the jungle track which lead to our heavenly dwelling on kola beach. The access road to Blue Lagoon Resort is somewhat tedious, dangerous and in the dark even more ominous. Our driver finally abandoned us in the middle of nowhere and turned back. He swore at the resort people, who had come to lead the way on their bikes, cursed us for wanting to live in such a place and drove away in a huff. His panic was comical. But I wasn’t laughing anymore, when the last light left with the taxi. We were abandoned on top of a hill with our luggage, in midst of heavy under growth, unmarked rutted jungle path, no lights and a bunch of scruffy youngsters on bikes.
We finally reached the resort half trekking and half three on a bike. I held on tight to my two bags (never carry more than a single bag to Goa…never) , the bumps, jerk, the loud whirring added much to my fears.
I was quite scared; I kept imagining a leopard to jump up on to the path in front of us. The jungle around was dense and dark, the road broken, I could barely make out the road and made a mental decision not to traverse this path at night. The evening air was cool, the sky was clear, shimmering with a million stars—a sight not common in the city and I could hear the waves—a gentle gurgle followed by a splash.
The sight that greeted me at the bottom of the hill was the sight I had longed for over a year, ever since my last trip to Goa, when we had chanced upon this little beach and the resort quite by accident.
It has taken me a year to get here, but I am finally here.
PS: These guys really don’t want to be found.