That Sudden Goa Trip

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The author has tried to recreate locales and popular destinations from her memories of them and woven stories around them. 
Clock was ticking. But I'd no idea. You know all that rush when you are working at something really big? You are running left to check if the procurement is fine,  assessing the quality,  thinking if it is befitting for the biggest business tycoons of India,  running right into your cabin and looking at the numbers – making things happen. Basically, running around,  ordering your juniors and living the inevitable pressure along with them. Team work. Suddenly, all is done. You did everything. Time to go home.
Oh, Shit! I can actually go home! 

It's a three day holiday and everyone you know is going somewhere. All these fancy places. Three day trips. I couldn't even go home like some, to Surat or Pune,  because I lived exactly at the other end of India,  far away from the big bad city called Mumbai. I also didn't have enough money to be spent unscrupulously on 30k a flight ticket to home. Not justifiable.
Yes, I was doomed. As humungous tyrannical work ended, I actually couldn't breathe. It was a sick, sudden, silent killing moment. You know, like the times one would gasp for air?

'Hey,  Ayesha!  Happy holidays, man! Where are you going? ' 
Ouch. One more.
Sudden turn to left from my swinging office chair. I found myself smiling back. ' Nowhere yar. '

' Really? '
I tried giggling.' At least no plans yet. You know how we were all so caught up–'
' Ya, man! Good job. You guys have been working so hard for all teams. Happy holidays!  Enjoy!! ' the tall other team guy waved at me with dimply smiles as he logged out.

A three day holiday in a corporate job is a bliss where you actually get so stressed on worrying how to enjoy, that you can get a nervous breakdown. At the FEAR OF MISSING OUT (#FOMO) . Because you know holidays won't come. Ever. And if you have been used to more than a month old summer vacations to just chill all your childhood, you are going to have a cultural shock when you suddenly start working. No, I agree that colleges don't get shut, but you get semester breaks. Suddenly at work, life changes. 360 degree. And you also know that it is going to be ten holidays a year forever. When you don't even have a Saturday off,  a long weekend is like a month old Summer Vacation. Because you know it's gonna be the same Monday after the long weekend. Yes, that same boring and hectic one.
I took my best recluse. My phone. Facebook is something I usually go to at times like this. Suddenly, I find a message from someone I don't know, in my 'Others' folder.

Interesting.

At least some drama in life. Again.
' Hi, I'm Krishna. I read that bio of yours in group tour forum. We have one last minute cancellation. Why don't you join us?'

Whoa. God sent. God's namesake. But my over cautious mind delved way deeper into talking to him about every other detail–especially the money.
Like liberal cultures,  going out to Goa with someone could have saved every penny. But then one would also be killed for that. And honestly, if you are with just one man, you never know what psychopath your date may turn out to be. Group tours have a lot of other human beings, which is actually better than travelling alone or with a psychopath. So, in the next few minutes I found myself hurrying down the elevator, gasping for breath, pushing open glass doors and reaching my saviour colleague from Goa.

'So, it's ok? This much is ok? You really think—'
I was jumping, of course. After a small hurrying out of cabins while packing up for a joyous three day weekend, I could grab some information out of him. When I returned, (which, I did), he said he had thought I was just kidding. Usually, he is the go-to-guy for vacation plans and trips. But if you decide or are at the brink of deciding few minutes before you actually have to leave, you do NOT HAVE A LOT OF OPTIONS. 

Let's face it. It's not that simple. For someone who has never travelled before anywhere in life—and by anywhere— I mean anywhere, it is indeed impossible. Not only because everyone else believes it is unsafe. But well, because you yourself believe it is not safe ! Watching a Deepika Padukone running out of her house in a last minute trip with a bunch of strangers and some school friends she knew nothing about, may only work in our Bollywood. Not in real life. But like you know, dear diary, my real life is way more interesting than reel life. So, there had to be a lot of tension, lot of judgements and of course, lot of excitement!

And permissions? No, it was not just my Tam Brahm colleague Anuradha Phalghunan who still needed permissions to go anywhere in the world — even a dinner with friends. Well, Anu's life is as screwed as my life was. Or maybe I was luckier. Actually, come to think of it, I've always had a very understanding family. We can't forget how once mom had literally allowed Vikrant (Vik), Rohit and Raj to take me out for dinner. No, of course I was not on a date with three men at the same time. They were all my friends and mom knew them well. And they dropped me back in Roh's car safely to my mother's hands. Also, as persuasive as Vik, the flamboyant little harmless thing was, who could have told him No? All of them at some point were infatuated and Raj still loves me but that dinner was a simple, let's get together for dinner — just three men and one woman. 

This was when I was eighteen. But I've never in my life been on any school picnics. Not one. And as a single mother of a tall young girl, I obviously understand her concerns. My mom is the most mature and sensible mom in the world. There can be no one better than her. But try telling the most matured, sensible and chilled out mom in the world that you want to go to Goa in the night with twenty strangers that you know nothing about. Also, it might just help that you have never travelled in a train before apart from that one way internship journey accompanied by Raj and mom and that chair car trip to Kolkata. No, I don't count chair car as a train for God's sake. It has to be like Jab We Met! The blue Indian railways, the blue curtains, the upper berth. Ok, no more being nostalgic. What I'm trying to say is, with not even a return journey for a credit, try telling you want to go to Goa in a night train with twenty strangers. Yeah, exactly. Even I won't have allowed my daughter. So, being practical we will drop that idea. 

I knew exactly what my mom would have said. 'Are you mad? I do not allow you to take the train to come home because God knows what will happen once you sleep. That's the very reason why I make you take the flight so that you reach home in two hours. And that's why I've been able to console myself that flights are safe— only because that's the only option left for you to come home. When you stay with someone for twenty three years, you just know. I couldn't blame her. I'm one Kumbhakarna. And never in my life have I proved to be responsible. I've never even travelled to my uncle's or aunties' place alone or ever stayed alone there. My family was always over protective. But my mom did have a Make Ayesha Independent Project under which I was made to go out for errands, like buying vegetables or stationery from the gali. The little urgencies, you know. Later by grad, I'd started going to malls and pulling a cart home. 

Of course I used to go to college alone. But even in seventh grade my mom used to drive from work to make me cross the street for the school bus and again drive back to resume work. And in Odisha, we also had the fear of my Dad coming and kidnapping me, maybe. But this is Goa, we are talking about. And I'm 23. Somethings can only be learnt when they happen. One has to plunge, take the risk. Oh dear, it is easier said than done. Even if I convince myself to go, how on earth am I going to handle mom? Now that she's living all alone after gran's death, it is my responsibility to be always there for her, no matter what. Will this little urge of mine not be deceiving her? Isn't this selfish. But I go out nowhere. If I don't do all this now, certainly there's no time to do it once I'm married. Exactly! See, I've begun talking to myself, also like my mom. My mom would have said exactly the same thing! Ayesha, darling. You can go Goa and everywhere else in the world with your bara. After marriage, it will be fun to go roaming. The husband will be there to take care of you. And to protect you. And I'd not need to worry any longer.

Krishna was chivalrous and more like a gentleman who could be trusted. But then, when I'm daring to take such a risk, it is my responsibility to know that I am going to be safe. If youngsters our age do not ask our parents, that does not mean that we do not love them. Of course we love them. And of course, we understand that it is really dangerous. Anything could happen. One needs to be sure. After all I know nothing about Goa. Not that I know anything about any other place, either. But I did my background homework. For three hours. I kept talking to Krishna and to all other girls' numbers that he forwarded who had gone on earlier trips organised by him. Apparently, it did not seem a very big deal to travel from Mumbai to Goa. I mean, I understand had it been from Bhubaneswar to Goa, it would have been a really big thing as the Dil Chahta Hai trio of my life, Vik, Roh and Raj had gone. 

Everyone I know has been to Goa. And let's not talk about the back home friends who are now placed in different places. Everyone I know in Mumbai has been to Goa, But it was a lot of money. But solo was anyways going to be expensive, now wasn't it? So a group thing is going to help me save money. Plus, they are saying that they will take us to two discs. Wouldn't that be amazing ! This entire year in Mumbai I've been trying to go to discs. But never really made it in a good way. All I want is dancing. What's wrong in that. But would it be really worth the money. Can I explain it? Only Goa has all night discs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to discover nightlife. In Mumbai, anything that has a dance floor shuts down by 1 or 1.30am. I can never make it abroad. And I really want to experience this once. This entire year has been a Ayesha ko disc leke jao project for everyone who knows me.  

Time was ticking, of course. It was not going to stop for me to do both prosecution and defense. The verdict had to be given. An entire twenty member gang was obviously not going to postpone their trip for my indecisiveness. It was a big decision. Come on, give me some credit. I come from an orthodox family. Raj had gone all the way to Kolkata to drop me. Mom had approved because there would be a man along with me to keep me safe. So, now it was just me. But then there were so many women. Krishna had sent me pictures of the luxury villa that we were all supposed to stay in. It was one apartment bed and the luxury villas, that I was comparing. Some will come by car and some by train. 
'We will put you in train, Ayesha.', said Krishna ' You are new and since you have so many safety concerns and that you are the youngest, it will be better if you travel with me. The other organiser will escort the rest. And you will also get a chance to meet the most of the group, which will warm your concerns.' 

While my thoughts continued, I'd already been added in the whatsapp group. People were so cheerful and excited. It was a complete adrenalin rush. Everyone seemed to be as jam packed as me in thinking, #whattopack. Going to Goa seemed to be as much a dream for everyone else as me. It was a life changing moment at that time.

Footnotes:
1. Jab we met is a Bollywood movie that has fascinated a segment of youth with the chance of meeting the perfect guy on a train journey
2. Bara means husband in Odia
3. Krishna is the organiser of the group tour.
4. Anuradha Phalghunan is Ayesha's colleague and close friend who has a lot of restrictions in Mumbai.

Read the next episode, or next chapter below

Mumbai to Goa Trip | Boarding that train

Season 3 Episode 1 S0301 That Sudden Goa Trip

Episode 2 
S0302 | Boarding that train 

As much as I didn't want to accept it, I was feeling jittery and at the same time brave. I'd started opening my cupboard looking for whatever I could possibly pack. Oh.My.God. Two discs. I must pack the dresses. But I've become all bhaalu with no time to groom myself. Epilator! Yes, that must be packed.

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