So, it seems that I might have been a little angsty the last time around. But here am I, dear reader! Five shades darker, eight pounds heavier and ten degrees happier. Because that is how, crazy, stupid, impromptu trips make me.
This is how it happened, dear reader. There I was, during the last week of July, contemplating matters of the heart, wandering through life listlessly. Having resigned myself to the boring birthday weekend looming ominously ahead with nothing to look forward to, I was as usual pretending to work, trying not to sleep when the call came. "Listen. I know it's last minute. But I have like a week to go before I join work. Do you still wanna do the trip?" she asks. Heh. Did I want to? The next week, I'm filling out leave forms, wrapping up at work, throwing clothes into a rucksack and running to the bus stand.
After this point, many many things happened. I remember little. So I resort to chronology and notes from the iPhone. So, humor me. Okay? Okay.
I try to sandwich my bag into the overhead compartment. Like me, its curves seem to preclude it from sitting anywhere prettily. I'm on the verge of throwing it out of the window when I feel a swatched hand reaches past me and glides it in, as if to show that's how it's done . Even before I turn, I know I'll regret it. He's tall and dimpled. And now, he's flashing them and smiling down at me. I hate him. I wonder if his is the empty seat next to me. No. He's the one in front. So he leans his seat into mine and starts to read. Bright Shiny Morning, I find out.
I'm seated next to a woman who looks uncannily like my grandmother. I dismiss it as a tragic coincidence until she starts to talk. And confirms it. I check my phone obsessively. Maybe Smugface did say goodbye. But no, no new notifications, Apple informs me mercilessly. Aunty is still talking about the temples I must visit. I fall asleep.
It's a rainy, green, morning. Aunty is still talking. To her husband on the phone. Something feels wrong. My feet are bare. My shoes are gone. I'm flapping around like a headless chicken. I've woken up Swatch. Aunty is trying to comfort me by touching me inappropriately. Swatch's standing over me again, smiling. He's retrieved my shoes. I feel like throwing them at him. But I smile back like I'm Cinderella.
There's an ominous silence. Aunty has stopped talking. She's looking at us look at each other. She doesn't like it. She waits until he sinks down in his seat. And tells me about me. How gullible I am. How trusting I am. How boys only want one thing. How I should never talk to one. Never even make eye contact. I can see Swatch tilt his head so he can hear better. He's smiling that smile again. I hate him.
Aunty's still talking.
The bus stops and I reach for my bag. But Swatch gets it before me. I give him a dirty look. He grins at me. Aunty is tapping her foot, making her disappointment known. We get down. He's waiting a few feet from me. Aunty's husband has come. But she looks at Swatch and decides to wait until Aghori comes to fetch me. He's looking serious, tapping on his Swatch as if to say "your move." I pick up my bag and walk towards him. Past him.
Onwards to detox.
We are sitting with our feet dangling high over the river. It's sunny one minute and raining the next. It's misty and windy. And, freaky. It's perfect. Everything in our damp, little alcove rattles as a train passes overhead. We sit and talk. She tells me about Falooda. I tell her about Smugface. I don't even have to explain. She gets it. Then, it dawns on me. I'm here. With Aghori, my travel sister.
Eat at the Udipi temple, Aunty said. So we packed and ran. Completely sure we were going to miss the daily meal. But we made it just in time. Never was there/nor will there ever be Sambar rice or Payasam I'll love more. It's decided. I'm marrying a Kannidaga. If god wills, maybe the temple's poster-boy who stole my heart.
I'm weary to the bone. If I have to sit in a bus one more time, to have one more man lech at us, to not be allowed to think about peeing, I'll kill myself. But we have to. We have to head on to Goa this evening. But I'll think about that later.
Our "shack" is an unapologetic euphemism for shit. Its only saving grace is that it (literally) opens out onto the beach. Which, by the way, didn't look like much last night. Still, until it's time for the train, we are going to walk along the shore. We walk the > shaped stretch, waiting at the fisherman's cove (the tip), entirely unprepared for what lay on the other side.
Bear with me, dear reader. How do ones explain stepping into a Monet? The feeling of being the sole person on an island? To walk in the sand, lie on rocks, sleep under blue sky, swim in the sea, feel like the warm lick of the sun on your skin,in this universe that's all your own? To do as you wish. To not see another face for a few days? To have the voices in your head switch off. To simply cease to be?
Laugh at me all you want. But its true. Near this tiny temple town, on this beach, my soul comes to rest.
None of us seem to have the stomach to travel some more. So we throw anchor at Anjuna, the very place that Aghori and I so dreaded last time. The beautiful lantern-filled places are gone. So are the markets. With them, the crowds. So we find a nice inn by the beach with a fancy restaurant next door that serves great food. And spend our time climbing up and down the rocks to the beach. And later, sit by a tiny shack on the top, overlooking the sea, feeding sparrows, fending away crows while stuffing our faces with hot vada-pav and mirchi bajji.
It's my birthday today. We are at Titos or Mambos or some such. I can feel the thrum of the music in my bones. But I don't dance. I'm sitting outside. Answering calls on autopilot. "Thanks so much. I'm still in Goa. Ha ha. Yea, its great. No, quite sober actually. Listen, I have a call waiting. But I'll definitely catch you later. Thanks for calling. Means a lot." I do this over and over until I begin to sound like a broken down record. Smugface saves me even that. Sends me a text instead. I throw the phone away. But then, I forget it all when Aghori and Falooda do a YMCA style Happy Birthday gig for me and I suddenly feel a rush of love for them. Given a choice, I wouldn't be any place else.
But I have to say it. I am melancholy. 24 sucks.