Early this year, it all started with the customary discussion on our Buddies Whatsapp group of a get together that’s long overdue. Every 3 months, we come up with the discussion and it soon fizzles out J . This time however the response rate was higher and the enthusiasm was full on. After a lot of brainstorming, we decided the venue as Goa and accordingly all the bookings were done well in advance.
We started with a number of 15 people and after constant confirmations, ended up with 11 people. Vinaya and Bibu couldn’t join in last moment due to unexpected contingencies.
The rest of the gang were coming in from different parts of India – Lady Salem ( Vaishali), Ms.Pune ( Saritha) , Roop ki Rani ( Roopa from Chennai ), Gaanakokilam Nisha Ammal (Chennai), Calicut Model Sheethal , Ravishing Rajeesha ( Calicut) , Humour girl Hema, Bubbly Bournvita gal Binija ,Rainy Girl Rhena , Scintillating Shri & yours Faithfully Me.
The trip started with the Calicut gals boarding the train from Calicut station, where our admin Sajna reached the station even before the station master arrived to see off our gals. The big bag that Admin carried raised loads of expectations (goodies J) in the mind of Rajeesha but much to her dismay, Admin bid her adieu with empty hands. If Rajeesha insisted, I’m sure that Sajna would have handed over her laundry bag to her to carry all the way to Goa.
Vaishali landed in Bangalore the night before from Salem so that she could accompany us – Shri and myself from Bangalore early morning at 6am. Roopa & Nisha were the first ones to reach Goa and waited patiently at the airport for us. The 5 of us were met by Mr.Saulo, our charioteer for the next 2 days. A friendly person, he gave us basics on what to see, where to go etc and dropped us to our Villa in South Goa.
Our fears of the rains and monsoon were put to rest looking at the lovely weather. The sky was clear and had a beautiful breeze blowing. The roads of Goa were so green and tidy. The smell of fresh wet mud was so nostalgic that it took me back to the fields where I used to laze about during holidays back in Kerala. The nearly 1 hour drive to South Goa was totally chitter chatter and refreshing.
On the way, we stopped for a quick breakfast at a local Dhaba. The tea / coffee / dosas and parathas tasted just the same to us since we were so busy chatting with each other .
Once we reached the Villa , we could see Rajeesha awaiting us in the balcony and smiling away to glory , as we neared the villa realized that she hadn’t seen us and mistook us for LOCALS as per her.
As soon as we reached, the non-stop chattering started. Some of us were seeing each other after 20 years but it felt just like yesterday that we left from college. The Villa was actually booming with our noises and I was scared the neighbours may actually come and complain on the noise. Thankfully, we realized later that we didn’t have neigbours nearby which was a solace to them and us J
Thanks to Airbnb , we had booked a 5BR villa in Betalbatim, a silent and laid back village in South Goa . The Villa was in painted in the bright Portuguese colors of yellow . The furniture was quite a mix of the Victorian style with the poster beds and cupboards and the painted tiles were the ancient Portuguese style. Beautiful balconies , spiraling wooden paneled staircase added to our galore.
After sometime of chit chats , we walked up to the Lover’s Beach ( the name raised hopes though much to our despair we didn’t see a single person there other than us ) . Non-stop chit chats , unending photos and selfies , we managed to send the first lot of exciting pictures of Goa and the beach to all our dear and near.
After spending sometime at the beach , we walked back to the other end of the village to buy some knick knacks and supplies.
A small and simple café Anjuna Bakery had real fresh puff pastries ( lovingly called as patties) and cold coffee which we gorged on . We walked back to our villa , now waiting for the remaining 3 of our friends to join us.
By 3pm , Rhena , Binija and Sarita landed and once again the otherwise non stop talks became more noisy and reminded me of the noises during our lunch breaks in college.
All the buddies had brought a lot of eatables from their side starting from the Cochin bakery ghee cake, banana chips ,homemade chattipathiri ( courtesy Bibu), Mysore pak, Puranpoli, Butter murukku , Athirasam( does full justice to the name), Dry fruits halwa, yummy Methi Theplas and the amazing tamarind chutney ( homemade by Vaishali), Mumbai wala Aflatoon, walnut chocolates and loads and loads of stuff. The king of the jungle however was the Hyderbadi Biriyani which Rhena carried all the way for us. There are rumours she was stopped by the Airport police on doubts whether this was for personal use or for unauthorised sale on the airplane . We had a sumptuous lunch with all of this and these food items continued to last us ( except for the Biriyani ) for the next 2 days .
Evening , we got out for a small stroll in the nearby areas. We had a new rockstar Mr.Mario as our driver with our own TEMPO TRAVELLER which carried us around for 2 days. Mario , again a local was sweet and softspoken, the maximum response would be a small smile . He took us first to the Colva Beach – the beach was beautiful , however due to the taxi strike and also the red alert due to rains, there were very little people on the beach. Due to monsoon time, shacks were closed and water sport activities were also not available. We soon moved to Sunset beach, which was again a smaller beach and hardly any people.
We all put our beauty and gadgets to maximum utility by taking maximum pictures and selfies etc.
We ended the laid back tour by a visit to Martins Corner, the most reputed restaurant in the area. The ambience and hospitality was outstanding. They had live music playing and they played so many songs which would take us back to our yesteryears. The food was amazingly yummy- we tried out the local cuisine namely the buttered prawns garlic , Pork sausages chilly fry, Chicken Xacuti, King Fish masala fry etc, Vegetable Xacuti , Paneer etc. along with assorted Mocktails. As someone said, what is Goa without having Feni ? Though none of our gals drink , a couple of us were curious as to what this was and why the hype on this which encouraged us to buy 2 small shots , which some of us smelled, some licked, some tasted and some gulped J I'm sure the waiter at the restaurant was amused to see our crowd. The ambience, the music , the food and of course the wonderful company of friends made our dinner a memorable experience.
We all got back home by 10pm and got ready… Nope , not to sleep, but to chat. Chat chat chat !! That’s what we did all the 3 days- day in and out.. it was like there was so much to say. .. All of us holed up into 1 room and started with the stories in college / home etc. Everyone would take turns to add into the stories. As always Rajeesha would start with “ Do you girls remember ? “ ( Ningakku ormayundo?”) Trust me , she should be made the brand ambassador for Brahmi /Chyavanprash– such a sharp memory of the school / college days . She comes up with all the stories we would roll up laughing. Shri who was renowned in the group for her constant amnesia , this time got a partner- our own rank holder girl Rhena. She equally had the blank look that Shri carries with loads of self respect J . Vaishali too had the blank look but since she is silent , it didn’t become that evident. Sarita & Roopa have a decent memory , so they added ghee to Rajeesha’s stories…
In between all this, Rhena proclaimed that she hadn’t had pazhampori in years. What a shame for a Malayali… we self-respecting Malayalees didn’t want that happening – so Binija and me, tried out our culinary skills immediately (we had bought some Maida & oil etc earlier) and Shri &Hema had carried all the nenthrapazham available in their town to Goa. At around 12 am midnight , we had a second round of stories over piping hot pazhamporis – the happiness in Rhena’s eyes was enough for our satisfaction, I feared she may be the first person to cry in joy seeing pazhampori. J The day ended slowly with a few falling asleep and the rest continued to chat till 5.30am .
Day2 started again around 8am with coffee and snacks . We soon got ready and started our day to North Goa . The whole journey again was refreshing with loads of stories .
Our first stop was Fort Aguada . Fort Aguada is a well-preserved seventeenth-century Portuguese fort, along with a lighthouse, overlooking the Arabian Sea in North Goa. When we reached atop the fort, we did our customary photo shoots and all of a sudden it started raining. All of us got totally drenched in the rain . Rhena’s enthusaisam can be seen the maximum in the rains with the number of videos she shoots while it was pouring cats and dogs. The only person who managed to stay dry was Rajeesha since she had not climbed up to the top.
We left from there by 12.30 and then started towards Panaji. On the way stopped for lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf at Panaji, the rains had got us hungry again J. Once again we had some lovely Goan cuisine with Fish curry rice / Prawns curry rice etc.
Our next stop was St.Alex Church in Calangute itself. It was a really peaceful and serene place, the church was closed while we reached there. The surroundings and the architecture of the church was lovely.
We didn’t stay long here since we had to do a cruise in the evening and had to reach Panaji by 5pm. We purchased the River Cruise tickets for 5.30 and then went to the famous church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim. The beautiful structure is in the colonial Portugese Baroque style. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enter the Church since there was a funeral going on. Was it destiny or was it coincidence that the 11 of us from different parts of the world happened to be there and pray for a soul who none of us knew ? I still don’t understand … but then it left a mark on many of us then.
We moved onto a lighter spirit with some time for slight shopping on the streets and then we rushed to the River cruise.
The River cruise was the highlight for the evening. The cruise wasn’t anything extraordinary or exemplary, but what made it outstanding and enjoyable was the dance performance by our ace dancers J Roopa , Vaishali, Sheethal, Sarita – the enthusiasm was so infectious that everyone was on their toes. Man, they can dance…hats off to the full team.I have never seen them dance so beautifully and that too to their hearts content J It was like they were lost to the world.
J Sarita’s die hard insistence was that we should wear identical Goa Tshirts and pose for pics however ultimately this got compromised to the colorful blue and yellow tiaras that stole the eyes and hearts of many on the cruise J
The journey back was tiring and by then the Calicut gals had to leave the same night from the Railway station. We had a good Italian dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro , once again a beautiful joint with a lovely and hospitable host. The journey to the Railway station was filled with songs and vote of thanks since Rajeesha wanted to make sure that she could listen to all of us. With solemn vows to meet again when time permits for all of us, we filled the night with our favourite songs of the college days – Mustafa Mustafa / Yeh Dosthi / Tujhe Dekha tho ye. We bid Goodbye to Rajeesha and Hema at the Railway station with Rajeesha wanting us to sing Chalthe Chalthe while they departed .
Reaching back home around 12 in the midnight all of us were dead tired because of lack of sleep and excitement for the past days. We still sat up till around 2am and then fell asleep.
Vaishali had to leave by 4am and she left for the airport early morning. Bidding It was wonderful touching base after so many years. I guess with certain friends , years just don’t matter, you can start off anywhere , anytime and trust them to be there for you whatever ! Goodbyes has never been my forte, and especially if someone is so dear to you. but then I guess it’s inevitable…
The last activity was the beach visit near our villa that Rhena had been craving for . So some of the gals left to the beach early morning by 7am while the rest of us started packing up. It started heavily raining by then and the wind was really scary. The girls came back totally drenched in the rains . After that we cleared up all the remaining eatables for breakfast and by 10am , the house was ready to be vacated.
All of us were parting ways from here – Sheethal to a friend’s place , Binija / Rhena / Sarita to the airport and Nisha / Roopa/ Shri and me still had time till evening for our flight.
Once again bidding goodbyes and with promises to meet again, Sarita and team proceeded to the Airport. Once again it was us and our very own Saulo. We planned to roam around in Madgoan market, unfortunately being a Sunday , all shops were closed. Once again we got totally drenched in the rains, since it was raining non-stop. We visited the Basilicia of Bom Jesus and roamed around outside the Se Cathedral , Church of St Francis Assissi etc and took some snaps. We had some Goan lunch from a family run restaurant which was not too impressive and then got to the Airport by 3am. Roopa & Nisha had their flight only by 7pm. The last goodbyes once again and we went to our respective gates of departure.
Thus ended our Goa trip.
After coming back, we heard so many stories of people who got stuck in Goa due to the taxi strike and the rains etc. The day we landed we came to know about the private taxi strike against GoaMIles (the Govt cab ) However , not once did we find it really difficult in all parts of our journey. Would recommend Mr. Arif , the transport guy for ensuring that we were on the road and had no delays anywhere. And special thanks to God above , who definitely helped us breeze through our trip very smoothly. At our end, hats off to Shri to take up the task of all the logistics and communication with the different parties. Her Ultimatums during the planning phase definitely made many of us book our tickets well in advance J
Each of the girls were integral to this trip- Shri with her excellent planning , Rajeesha with her lil madness and her never ending memoirs, Sarita with her bubbly jokes and Goa Tshirt frezy, Hema and her oneliners that she gives without batting an eyelid, the ever emotional Vaishali who never failed to assure us that she was a Marwadi in every instance she got, Monokini Roopa with her funfilled enthusiasm and lively nature ( and Wow she dances ! ) , Binija with her ever caring nature , Rhena – the carefree bird who found happiness in everything – be it rains or the pazhampori or just us…..Sheethal -self-reliant and supportive and not to forget her constant model pics, Shri –the always Don’t care attitude but highly dependable (though she doesn’t like to show it much- HOW RUDE eh ?) & Nisha - always sportive and thanks to her advanced yoga classes which she gave a free session on and not to forget that poor Saulo managed to break her suitcase which she never forgave the poor chap for . We were a bunch of extremely mad friends but put together the trip was lovely and leaves so many fun filled and beautiful memories .
I am sure all the girls would agree that no amount of words can fully convey our spirit and joy that we actually went through each of the days. The long nights full of stories and funny gossip, how we never missed a chance to pull each other’s leg at every instance, as usual how I got cornered by Sarita & Shri for my group-ism comment ( long back- these days I dread to say itJ), the mono-kini & bikini expectations; the same old excursion stories, Rhena and her assistant Ms.Rosa avatar which scared poor Rajeesha, the never ending selfie demands , Rajeesha and her exciting stories, morning coffee times with all – all these experiences are beyond words… I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the feelings and excitement we had. Goa was definitely a beautiful place, but I think the friendship we had was even more beautiful that wherever we are put together, the place & experience would turn more beautiful in our hearts always.
Until next time, it’s Go Go GOA all the way !