Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Viva la Goa

I've been to Goa before..but it has been for work conferences that invariably happen in the posh resorts of South Goa. So our impromptu plans to go to North Goa for the Good Friday weekend created much excitement. And true to my belief, both North and South Goa offer a very different experience. While South Goa is swanky and secluded, North Goa has character.

Of course, for a Gurgaonite, the weather is the first thing that puts you at ease (or shall we say, the holiday mood). There is surely something in the air. And couple that with the lush green foliage and the Arabian sea playing hide-and-seek with your sight, you already starting to have pleasant thoughts of the days to follow.


I couldnt fail but to notice the portugese influence during our long ride to the hotel. (Btw, they really need to figure out a better location for the airport, it really is in the middle of nowhere, at least from a tourist's point of view)...Portuguese style churches and houses sprawled across ghettos of palm trees and pasturelands. But what portuguese..it appears that the russians are trying to conquer Goa these days. Every other road sign we saw had a Russian translated footnote.

One hour later we reach the destination. After oogling over our resort and a customary dip in the pool, we headed to the world-famous "Tito's lane" in Calungate. Just for the dance-challenged and similar nerdy clan, Titos is not just a nightclub..its a cult in its own right, with followers across the globe. But with a child in arm and no dancing shoes on our feet, we decided to settle for an equally uber-cool joint across the street called "Fiesta"..(based on a reliable recommendation). With an ambience so romantic, and food that transpose you to the hole-in-the-wall eateries in Rome, needless to say, we had a great evening.

The second day was spent in kid-friendly beachy stuff: sunbathing at Candolim beach, Dolphin-watching cruising at Sinquerim beach, sight-seeing at Fort Aguada, alongwith tasting local cuisine at The Plaintain Leaf, drinks at the Fort Aguada Taj followed by another lovely italian dinner at Mamma Mias. (What to do? My kid has an insatiable appetite for pasta!). Btw, one thing I have to give it to the Goans, they know how to do their food and drinks right. All the meals were a pleasure-trip for our taste buds so far.

The next day was reserved for water-sports. So Baga Beach it was! Where else can you get a combo deal (includes para-sailing, banana-boat ride, sea-tubing) under Rs. 1000? Btw, dont think you were ripped off if you've paid twice the amount for similar stuff before. This is the Gujju group negotiation skills put into use..i.e. we could only pull it off bcos we were in the company of another Gujju family..Pls. dont attempt such bargaining unless you're a group of Gujjus or can fake looking like one!

But I digress. Anywho, for the thrill-seekers, I recommend the banana-boat ride. This is where you are seated on a banana-shaped inflated log that is being tied to a motorboat. Once you are in the middle of the sea getting zoomed at ~80km/hr, they decide to invert the log, toppling you into the sea. Sheer Adrenalin-rush!

By now, if you've started wondering, 'But isnt that what most beach destinations offer?', you're probably justified in your thinking. But let me tell you whats so strikingly different about Goa. Its the commingling of cultures at every level. Luxurious five star hotels co-exist harmoniously with roadside shacks. There are equal number of temples to visit as there are churches. Konkani lyrics jam melodiously with Western beats to create mesmerizing Goan music. And Goan people that have portuguese surnames, speak Konkani, follow Hindu traditions but are stark Catholics.


And finally, want to leave you with some "Only in Goa" sights/experiences:
Bitches on the beach (this is quite literally..pls refer to my FB potos for evidence.),
Bouncers on Blackberrys,
Waiters in the water,
The most stylish beach wear hanging on cheap roadside manacins,
Prisoners living in a fort (that too with a sea-facing view),
Petrol getting sold in Bisleri bottles (Recycling, the Goan way),
And last but not the least, the Goan airport security check...its really is a "lifetime" experience...Let me just leave it at that!


So Viva la Goa! Its guaranteed to show you something you've never seen before.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grippin' Zippin' Tale

'Good luck! You'll need it' said George, the bulky British instructor, trying to get an expression out of me. 'Yeah, yeah...I've done many such adventures before. This is nothing thats not up my ally.' I thought. And so began my Sunday "Flying Fox" adventure, at the Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan.

We had heard about Neemrana from friends before...but ever since I found out that it operates a "zipping tour", my adventurist soul had been aching to go there.

5 ziplines (with one of them the longest in Southeast Asia), a two-hour aerial journey, a bunch of college kids for company (as opposed to my 3-yr old, who my loving husband decided to babysit for while I zip), should keep it all very exciting - I figured. Conveniently they forget to mention the hike to the starting point. Well, no big deal! Its just a kilometer and a half to the top of the mountain from where we start zipping. But hang on..its 1.5 km where the first km is all vertical, that too under the gruelling Rajasthani summer sun. And on a path that would give the Registan desert a run for its money. So after the first ten minutes, I'm gulping water like a camel. The flying fox folks - the British company that operates the zipline tours had given each of us a bottle of water, anticipating the need of the hour. After the next 10, thoughts are racing. 'Why am I doing this? What do I have to prove? I'm sure I'm never doing this again. Why cant they operate a trolley like the ones they have on the ski slopes?'

Uh oh..what is this?! Is this water leaking from my bottle? S##T, I only have 1/4th bottle left now. How did that happen? Water is important. And leaking water is not good..followed by flashes of James Franco drinking puddle water in "127 Hours" running through my brain. I definately dont want to be drinking water from an Indian puddle! Calm down, calm down! I said to myself. I fastened the lid of the bottle and that took care of the leak. After that point, I decide to concentrate only on the entertaining banter of the college kids..that encompassed everything from hair straighteners to their sex lives.

And so we reach the top...the cool breeze already starting to soothe my nerves and my dehydrated-self. We rush through the instructions and practice to get to the first zipline. The sight of the first zipline, about 350ms horizontally and vertically, from the highest point on the mountain makes me skip a beat. My nerves have started getting the better of me..and I ask George - 'What if we stop midway?' George is in full form now , 'Then there's only 2 options you see..you can either cut the chord and jump, or you can take the opportunity to build some muscles by manually crawling the cables'.
I remember and miss my son and husband, not knowing what the next hour will entail. I decide I'll go last..at least I'll learn from watching others. They all zip through, some willingly and some unwillingly. Finally its my turn. I'm more mentally prepared now. I can do it. And there I go...the jitters vanishing as I flying through the cable, like a dove in the sky. Its actually enjoyable. I start seeing the other end now..Oh cool! And suddenly I remember..George had asked me to brake. So I put my other arm on the cable and start braking. But George is shouting..'WHY ARE YOU BRAKING?' I dont understand. But I'm completely stopped now with still 50 meters to go. I quickly understand and realize that the braking was not supposed to happen until his signal.
Well, I do use the opportunity to build some muscles after all!

Lesson #1: If you can conquer your fears, you can make it. If you cant, you dont.

The next one is more tricky he says. Its the longest and the steepest and with the current wind direction, almost a 90% chance that we wont make it all the way to the end just by gravity. I'm determined that I dont want to build any more muscles. I wont look good with bulging biceps I figure. I decide to use my first trick and let a couple folks do it first. Both of them dont make it. I ask why. George says, 'they are not keeping their bodies inclined enough so as to use their body weight as a counter balance to the wind direction'. Oh okay, I keep that in mind. Its my turn now. This time my motto is to follow the rules, even if its from the smart alec George. And viola, I do use my body weight effectively this time to finish exactly at the finish line. (Finally, all those extra kilos on my body found some use!)


Lesson #2: Follow the instructions and keep faith.

The next zips were just pure fun. Felt like a monkey jumping from one end to another.

Thanks to my BB, I could capture pictures of the fort from above..the never seen footage is for your viewing pleasure! :)




And more thanks to my stark supporters, my son and my husband. Without their cheering, shouting and clicking pictures for 2 hours, it wont have been so much fun.



Lesson #3: Enjoy the ride. Thats most important.

Btw, for all the eager souls: If I did it, you can too..Its lot of fun if you can endure dust, sun, and cowdung smell, hike a mountain without complaining, and just let it go when George asks you to. And would I do it again? Only if they start running a trolley for the hike up the mountain. :-)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of traditions and values!

My mother calls me today. 'Did you know it was "Gudi Padwa" yesterday?', 'Well, yes..I saw some updates on FB!" 'Then what did you do about it?' 'Well, err..nothing'. The lecture starts...'You are supposed to do this and this..How will you teach your son about traditions when you dont follow them yourself?'.
So unlike her passion for sports, where I've somewhat managed to redeem myself by my cricket-watching this season...I dont "meet expectations" on her scale of the religious barometer. On the contrary, I'm a disappointment.

Well, my take is...teaching kids traditions(esp. the religious ones) is like teaching them the tools..and not the art. Why do we have traditions? Traditions are to affirm values. And religion is just one of those values. To me, values such as truthfulness, honesty, discipline, hard work, ethics are equally important, if not more. Esp. when we are aspiring our kids to become the next generation Sachin and Sainas. We need to create traditions/rituals that inculcate these values.

Btw, I'm not against religious traditions nor am I preaching against it..Just one humble suggestion though: If you have a religious tradition/ritual that you follow in the house, good to also ensure that the kids understand why these are followed..There has to be a value associated with each of these. In fact, I found this interesting link Indian Traditions: Why do we on Indian traditions and the values it depicts.

As far as I'm concerned, the family tradition he's learning right now is yoga. Its spiritual to do yoga together as a family every other morning. Also, something that will make him healthier one day. For the rest of the traditions, I'll leave that to grandma.

And for all those who're wondering how my conversation with mom ended...Here goes: 'Guess what mom, I started tennis lessons yesterday.' 'Oh..thats nice. Keep it up.'

Allz well that endz well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What does "cricket" mean to you?

Resonating with the mood of the hour..tons of thoughts battling to find space in my mind. While 90% of Indians are now catching up on sleep after the victory dancing last nite, I've decided to streamline these thoughts before they vanish through the crevices of my mind.

Cricket culminated in a "larger-than-life" story yesterday..Over the last few weeks, I saw it being associated with politics, religion, corporate practices, upbringing, value systems, entertainment and lo and behold, even sex and porn. (Ms. Pandey as a case in reference.) It truly became the one all and be all for us Indians..more like the "Bhagwad Gita"!

Personally also, it has been an enlightening journey...
A story of a true convert. For all those who know me well, they know I was never a cricket fan. On the contrary, I used to hate it. My parents never missed a game..and I never watched one "ball-by-ball" in my life before. How can people subject themselves to 8 hours of mindless TV watching? What can one possibly get from it? But now I know...You can actually get wiser if you so wish..and not just by drinking Bud(weiser) through the match! I'm proud not only bcos India won yesterday..I'm proud that I, for the first time, understood what it means. Cricket and this win has been a manifestation of patriotism for me and likewise for all Indians(-at-heart). How could these billon+ Indians proudly show their love for India, had it not been for cricket? Way to go, cricket!

Equally enlightening has been the "bonding" experience with family, friends, acquaintances, and even random strangers. My parents now think of me as a "worthy" daughter. :)Yesterday, a total stranger (that too a seemingly snooty-looking Delhiite) wanted to take a photo with us..just bcos we had a flag and he didnt. Btw, cannot ignore the significance of "social media" in that regard. Would the feeling of watching and winning be so euphoric, had I not been able to share it with my loved ones and friends across the globe?! I dont think so. Thank you, FB!

So my advice to myself and others who care to follow: Allow yourself to indulge in new experiences. And keep your mind open. You never know what you'll learn from it.

And at a societal level, it has showed us that:
Even though the confluence of good and bad is ever so pervasive in our psyche, the good news is that we are still in the practise of celebrating the "good" and abandoning the "bad". Some feel if the 1 Cr award money is justified for the players. My take is at least its sending the message that you can make crores by doing "right" things in India, not just through corrupt means. India needed this victory to show to themselves and to the world that...We can also do it, the "right" way!


So to all my fellow "cricket-fans", spare a thought! What does "cricket" really mean to you?