Thanks, man.

First year.  

My class was given the traditional farewell today by the rest of the English department.

I didn't think, as I shuffled my way into the cafe feeling horribly embarrassed about having to wear matching t-shirts with the rest of my class, preparing myself for long and tedious speeches that meant nothing because they could apply to anyone and everyone, that I would be moved. I'm not sentimental about leaving college. I had a good run - if not perfect, as someone said - and I have a lot of wonderful memories, but, just like when it was time to leave school, I'm done, and ready to walk through the gates one last time without a backward glance.

But I was moved.

The second years organised it, and they'd gone through a lot of trouble. They put up a string of beautiful black and white photos of all of us - strangely endearing, because of the time and effort that must have been spent facebook stalking in order to get them - and they made delicious cake, and they gave us personalised glasses (mine was based on my blog - I knew it would be). We squealed over the photos for a bit, and then took our seats, and I was already feeling something.

Thampu made a speech - the usual "I have seen you from a distance and though we have not closely interacted I can sense (how?) your fine characters, blah blah blah" - and departed. Then Dr Roy said something along the same lines, but his voice is awesome so there is no way not to love what he says especially when he smirks, and you could tell that he genuinely meant a lot of what he was saying, though he refrained from making allusions to awkward silences in tutorials because no one knows the answer to any of his questions. It was especially nice when he referred to meeting some of us in unexpected places ("the culprits will know what I'm talking about") which was obviously a reference to  all the times we have avoided eye contact with him (and he with us) while smoking behind the shed outside Happy Park.

Anyway, I don't want to go into the details, but I wasn't bored, I wasn't embarrassed, and there were some genuine moments of hilarity and fun and comradeship: a reflection of similar unexpected parcels of happiness that college has occasionally carelessly flung at us over the years.

Susan told me later that she felt surprisingly touched too.

"I thought it would be lame," she said, "but I got really emotional at times. I was like, come on Susan. What's wrong with you?"

Someone told me - a lifetime ago - that college would be the best years of my life. I fervently hope that is untrue, because otherwise it's all downhill from here, but I do feel I've gained something. I even know how to iron now, for crying out loud.

I know a couple of my juniors occasionally visit this blog, and this post is really for you: a thank you for a truly wonderful farewell. It made me realise that underneath all my complaints about Delhi weather, and piles of tutorial readings (unread, mostly), and the mosquitoes that plague me in my bedroom, and the wasps that plague me in class, and the birds that plague me wherever I go and are not relevant here, but I might as well put them in, and the occasional desire to strangle a professor, or a fellow classmate, and the embarrassment, suspicion, and boredom, I associate with events like this, there lies something incredibly precious.

It is precious because it is a beginning, and not an end. Though most of us will eventually take paths that lead to misery, oblivion, or obesity, right now we are only just setting off, and can easily believe that the world is waiting, ripe and heavy, to fall into our outstretched hands.

Third year.


Goa: Part IV.

When we first started planning our Goa trip, we zoomed in on one particular beach: Palolem. According to Mawii, it had white sands, wasn't too crowded, and was the perfect kind of beach for sunbathing and sea splashing and fresh juice drinking.

Aditya scoffed when I told him about Palolem.

"Sure, it's pretty," he said, "but that's it."

But pretty was all we were looking for really.

After our two days near Anjuna, we asked Jordan the best way to get to Palolem.

"Probably by taxi," he said. "It's right at the other end of the state; eighty to ninety kilometers away."

But taxis were too expensive, we told him.

"In that case there are local buses you can take. But it'll take you four to five hours, and you'll have to keep switching."

"That's fine," said Mawii, ignoring my look of disbelief.

We were due to leave on Monday morning. We packed our things and left our bags in Jordan's office, telling him we'd collect them after breakfast. Then we went in search of breakfast.

On the way there, a local man on a motorcycle passed us, and I think he started flirting with us, either that, or he was just trying to be nice - I can never tell the difference. But he was very cheerful and friendly, and not at all sleazy, so the conversation wasn't too bad.

"Where you from?" said the man. "Japan?"

I rolled my eyes at Mawii and resisted the urge to scream. I understand Mawii being mistaken for Japanese, but I never understand why people think I am. And it's not just Japanese either - when I was in Thailand, everyone kept talking to me in Thai, because they thought I was Thai, and one time I was walking back from college, and a bunch of school children in a bus started pelting me with paper, shouting, "CHINESE! CHINESE!"

"I'M BENGALI, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!" I'd yelled after them, but the bus had passed by then, carrying them and their raucous laughter away.

Anyway, this man asked us whether we were from Japan, and Mawii said no, we were from Thailand.

"What are your names?" he said.

"No name," I said grumpily; it was hot, and I was hungry.

This amused him very much for some reason.

"No name? You have no name? You're No Name!"

"Yes," I said, "we're No Name."

"Looking good, girls, looking good," he said, before winking at us and driving away.

"Did you just thank him for that?" said Mawii.

It doesn't hurt to be polite.

We walked and walked and walked, and walked some more, and arrived at a cafe that we'd often passed, but never stepped foot into because they didn't sell beer. But we decided to give it a go - it was really pretty, and it had pancakes on the menu.

"We should have a big breakfast," I said to Mawii, "because we're not going to have time for lunch,"

I ordered a bowl of muesli with fruit and yoghurt, a plate of banana pancakes, and a chocolate shake. The man taking our order looked at me in disbelief, and I muttered something about how it was supposed to last me all day. Mawii stuck to a cheese omelette, but she followed it up with a bowl of fruit and ice cream which made me feel better about myself.

On the way back, we passed a couple of stalls where sarongs were being sold, and before I knew what was happening, a small, but determined lady grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me into her little shop, bullying me into buying a couple of sarongs.

Mawii, usually so good at haggling, found herself minus a earring by the time we came out.

"She just took it," said Mawii dazedly. "She just pointed to it and asked me to give it to her, and I didn't know what to do, so I just took it out and handed it over."

We went back to Orange House for the last time, thanked Jordan for everything, and heaving our bags over our shoulders, we headed towards the junction where we were told we'd get our bus. We passed Motorcycle Man on the way - "HELLO, NO NAME!" he yelled, and we waved merrily back.

"I'm glad we're going by bus," I told Mawii. "It'll be an adventure. I'll write about it on my blog. It's going to be awesome."

Twenty minutes later, we were sitting on the road, on top of our bags, the sun beating down on our heads and I was doing what I do best - whining.

"It's so hot. And the buses are so small and crowded. And it's going to take forever. It's so hot. Would a cab really be all that bad?"

Mawii, trying desperately, I'm sure, to stop herself from whacking me on the head, said, "Look, let's just take a bus halfway or something, and then if it's too much, we'll get a cab."

"Alright," I said grudgingly.

Sure enough the bus trundled towards us: a twisted lump of metallic hell. It was full of local women, who stared at us as we clambered on board, and naturally, there was no available seat. So we dumped our bags on the floor of the front of the bus, and solemnly sat on top of them, staring and being stared at, as it hooted its way through dusty lanes, occasionally coming to a screeching halt, to drop someone off in the middle of nowhere.

We switched buses a total of four times. It was fun at first, I won't deny it, and I wanted to take photos, but I didn't have the courage to take my camera out and start snapping away at people. The second bus we were on, comprised mostly school children going home, and it kept stopping to drop them off at random fields. By the time we were on the third and fourth buses, I paid attention to no one and nothing, I just gazed blankly out of the window, my chin on my chest, waiting and wishing for the nightmare to come to an end, while the man behind me chewed paan without restraint.

Eventually, eventually, after four and a half hours of my buttocks being jolted up and down, and my intestines being twisted into a life threatening mess, we reached Palolem. We were dropped off in the middle of a road, which was the main market road that led to the beach.

Mawii and I looked at each other and started limping down the road, towards the beach, hoping against hope that we would reach there and find a little hut miraculously waiting for us. But after only a few steps, a man asked us if we needed a place to stay. We said yes, Mawii haggled, and then he took us through a 'shortcut' - a little trail in the midst of a wooded area - and soon we found ourselves standing in the middle of a bunch of huts.

We settled into our hut - the Dubeys were to join us later, but they could get their own hut - and, having changed into our swimsuits, walked down to Palolem beach, which was only about twenty steps away.

We lay ourselves out on deck chairs, with a pint of beer in hand (fifty rupees only) and the sand was soft, so much softer than the sand at Anjuna, and it was white, and beyond it, the sea unfolded itself towards the horizon: a shimmering sheet of turquoise, calm and still.

"I'm not used to this much happiness," I said to Mawii.

 She understood, and we continued to sip our beers as the sun set into the sky.


Goa: Part III.

We spent all of Sunday on Anjuna beach. I fell asleep in the sun, and when I woke up, I pretty much looked like an over grilled tomato.

"Is my nose peeling yet?" I asked Mawii, worriedly.

She looked at me critically.

"Not yet,"

Later, we debated on whether we should try to buy some ecstasy.

"I'm twenty one and I'm nearly done with college and I've never tried a hard drug," I said to Mawii, as we sat in Curlies enjoying a late lunch. "I wouldn't mind trying one just to see what it's like."

She nodded in agreement.

"But on the other hand," I continued. "I can barely handle dope. What if I go insane? What if I have a panic attack and my heart can't cope and I die?"

"You're not going to die,"

"I might die,"

"Don't do it then,"

"But I want to do it,"

I called Aditya and asked him where to get drugs. He told me to go to Rocky's, and I took out the map, and looked at it, and after much discussion, I managed to pin point where Rocky's was.

"You should also find the lagoon behind Anjuna," Aditya told me. "If you walk to the end of the beach, and climb over the rocks, you should be able to see it."

Drugs are nothing compared to lagoons.

"Fuck the drugs," I said to Mawii. I suddenly lost all desire to traipse around Goa looking for drugs. I can barely handle reality as it is; the last thing I needed, I realised, was to make sense of it after my mind had been addled by ecstasy. "Let's just go to the lagoon and spend the evening there, and then maybe have a drink later."

Mawii seemed to like this plan.

So after we were done, we walked to the end of the beach - there were lots of rocks there, and they curved to the left, below the edge of a cliff. We climbed over the rocks, and I stood still.

What I saw were even more rocks: they encroached the sea, forming pools of water. The beach was narrow, but empty, and a little further on, it disappeared completely - the sea threw itself at the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. There was one particularly large pool of water that must have been Aditya's lagoon. It was framed by boulders, and the water was silver grey and perfectly still.

 I took my things off and waded through it. It was deeper than I thought - the water came up to my waist - and the bottom comprised pebbles, rocks, and boulders. It took all my concentration to keep my balance. I moved through the water, towards a large mountain of rock; the sea lay beyond it. A crab scuttled away as I stepped foot on to the first stone, and I gulped nervously, and robustly told myself that a crab bite would make for funny bar conversation. Then I started climbing, not very elegantly.

All the rocks were covered in broken bits of shell, and it must have occurred over hundreds of years because you couldn't see the stone, all you could see were perfectly preserved pieces of embedded shell, an eerie shade of green and bronze, and the entire edifice shimmered gold where the sun struck it. It sloped downwards, and I sat on the slope, carefully on top of a rock, and suddenly, there was nothing between myself and the sea. It was violent here; it lashed furiously at the rocks, trying to break them. I was cautious for once, and didn't attempt to move lower; it was easy to see how effortlessly the sea could have pulled me off my perch, and then thrown me back against the rocks.

I did get a taste of that. The waves were barely coming up to my feet, but they started getting more aggressive, and I still didn't move. A particularly big wave threw itself over me, and for a moment, I was blinded, and I tasted salt water in my mouth, and I was flung - not very gently - a few paces back, landing against a sharp pile of rocks.

I groaned: there were tiny cuts and bruises on my elbow and my knee, and they bloody hurt. Second mishap of the holiday, but it wasn't too bad.

I made my way back to Mawii, scratching myself against rubbery pieces of red rock I was convinced was coral.

She was sitting on top of a little rock, in the middle of one of the pools, and beamed at me as I splashed my way towards her.

"I feel like a mermaid," she said happily.

She did look like a mermaid, that had been my first thought as well, but instead I said, "I think I scratched myself on some coral, do you think it's infected and I'll need to get something amputated? Because I read this book about someone in Australia who scratched his thumb on a piece of coral and he had to get it amputated."

"I don't think so," she said looking out to sea, and I let the matter go.

I sat on a rock too, but this one was underwater, so the water came up to my shoulders. There were a line of little rocks forming an uneven path through the water; Mawii climbed off her rock and started leaping from one to the other, before crouching down. It looked like she was sitting on the sea. I took her place on the big rock, and I felt like a mermaid too. After a little while of playing let's-pretend-i'm-a-mermaid-sunning-myself-about-to-dive-down-to-my-underworld-home, I headed back to the beach, careful to avoid the thousands of little snails that clung to the rocks, which were disappearing as the sea rose.

I took a last look back at the lagoon, and I felt grateful to Aditya, because without him, I wouldn't have found it. I was glad that we'd chosen it over the drugs, and I stood there, enjoying the moment, until a sudden ache in my back reminded me of my accident earlier, and muttering obscene words, I stomped back to the beach.

After it grew dark, Mawii and I went to a tiny shack next to Curlies, and I had the best chocolate shake of my life there.

"Even if we don't do drugs," I said to her, "I wouldn't mind a bit of hash or something."

"How do we find it?"

"Aditya said to just ask people. He said everyone here is on drugs, and druggies are more than willing to share. He asked the waiter at Curlies whether they had any acid,"

"Did they have any acid?"


So when our waiter came up to us, Mawii (because I absolutely refused to) tentatively asked him whether he knew where to find "stuff to smoke".

"Go to Curlies," he told us. "They will know."

So we went to Curlies. The men downstairs seemed unfriendly, so we tiptoed our way upstairs to where we usually sat. Mawii pounced on the first waiter we saw, who was close to our age, and relatively harmless looking.

"Do you know where we can get something to smoke?"said Mawii, in a low tone.

"Come here," he conspiratorially led us to a table and we sat down. Did we want hash, or weed, he asked us.

"Hash," said Mawii, and I nodded, feeble and invisible, behind her.

"Well, my friend sells a tola for fifteen hundred - "

"That's too expensive," she said decisively.

"In that case, I can give you some," he said generously. "But it'll only be enough for a few joints. Did you ask anyone downstairs?"

We assured him that that would be fine, and that no, we did not ask anyone downstairs for drugs. He looked what I felt - relieved.

He disappeared for a bit, and while we were sitting there, a waiter came over to ask us what we wanted.

"We've ordered already, thanks,"said Mawii smoothly, while I goggled behind her.

Our waiter sidled up to us soon after and handed Mawii a little package. We asked him how much it was, and with a little wave of his hand, he informed us it was free. We thanked him profusely, and sang ninety nine bottles of beer on the way home.

We went to bed very happy that night, even me, despite the fact that my nose, as expected, had begun to peel.

Later, I told Aditya about how we got free hash. I admit, I was bragging a little. He disillusioned me instantly.

"It's because you're a girl. Don't think you're anything special. Women always get free shit," he told me.

Later, Sharma confirmed this.

"I remember when we were at Curlies and there was a cute Russian chick there," he said fondly. "She wanted stuff to smoke so we gave her ours,"

"For free?"

"She was cute," as if that explained everything, which it probably did, in their strange little world.



Goa: Part II.

The plane ride to Goa was uneventful. Typically, Mawii and I both slept most of the way.

After landing, as we filed our way into the Arrivals lounge, we noticed that the doors and windows were painted with garish Father Christmases and giant pink and white striped candy canes, and splashes of green I think was meant to be holly, and unlikely looking reindeer. 

"Looks like they forgot to take their Christmas decorations off," said Mawii. 

"Or maybe they just keep it round the year to give people that happy feeling," I said, staring at a life size painted mud sculpture (badly made) of a fisher woman selling fish, right in the middle of the airport.

While I waited for my duffel bag to make its appearance on the conveyor belt (Mawii's had, infuriatingly, arrived long before mine), Mawii went to find out the cheapest form of transport that would take us to Anjuna beach (the only beach that matters, according to Aditya). 

"Bad news," she said, coming up to me as I hauled my bag off the belt, "there are no buses and the airport taxi will cost us more than two thousand rupees to get there," 

"Bastards," I said, with feeling. 

We made our way outside though, and found a pre-paid cab booth that wasn't cheap, but better than anything else on offer. 

We didn't say much during the ride, we just sat back, content, occasionally exchanging gleeful I-can't-believe-we're-here glances. Goa is very green. We passed through lots of little villages, and each of them were almost identical - ridiculously small colourful shops, crooked wooden shacks, and trees everywhere, and all of it lay glittering under the bright sun, and the scent wafting through the rolled down windows was that of the sea. The streets were so clean we couldn't bear to throw our cigarette stubs out - we put them back in the box instead. We passed a group of local boys on cycles; one of them was singing 'Baby, Hit Me One More Time'. Not a song I would choose to sing while cars and lorries whizzed past me. Finally, having crossed a bridge that lay over a broad, still, silver river, that seemed vaguely familiar to me, the driver asked us where in Anjuna we wanted to go. 

We exchanged glances. 

"I'll call Aditya," I said, sighing. 

But Aditya did not pick up, and neither did Siddharth, and the driver dropped us off at a small crossing that he said was Anjuna junction. 

"The beach is that way," he said pointing to the road that led to the left. 

So we hoisted our bags over our shoulders and started walking up the road. 

Siddharth called. Asked where I was, I said I was apparently walking towards the beach. He was remarkably unhelpful, and a short while later, Aditya called as well.

"Describe where you are," he said. 

"I'm on the road to the beach."

"Which road?"

"The one from Anjuna junction." 

"Anjuna junction?" 

"Everything's shut," Mawii said behind me. 

I repeated this to Aditya. 

"Everything's shut in the afternoon," he replied. "People sleep there a lot." 

I told him I'd call him back if we couldn't figure out what to do. Mawii by that time spotted a convenience store, and going inside, she asked the lady whether there were any places to stay close by. 

"Go behind the store," said the lady. "It's the orange house."

We went behind the store, and sure enough, there was an orange house, and it was called Orange House. We could see a little office at the end, which we walked towards, and said hello to the man who was sitting behind it. 

"How much is a room?" said Mawii. 

"Well, it starts at seven hundred," said the man, whose name we learnt later was Jordan. 

We shook our heads regretfully. We were trying to keep to a strict budget, and Mawii asked him whether he knew of any places that were slightly cheaper nearby. 

"How much are you willing to pay?" He asked. 

"Five hundred," said Mawii. 

He looked thoughtful, but said that would be alright, and then took us round the back of a house to a little room with an attached verandah. It wasn't bad at all - a big bed with a loud floral cover, a television set that I knew we would never use, a cupboard which Mawii, meticulous as ever, started putting her clothes into, a bathroom which was clean and which had a real working shower, and best of all, the attached verandah, with two cane chairs and a little table with an ashtray, that overlooked a low orange wall, to a patch of ground beyond, framed by banana trees.

We changed into our swimming costumes (Mawii had bought herself a multi coloured candy striped bikini she was very excited about) and, after Jordan gave us a map and warned us it was a dry day because of elections (did we look like alcoholics, I wondered briefly), we set off. 

It was a long walk to the beach, and on the way, a gust of wind rudely tore the map from my hand, and sent it into a ditch at the side of the road. It did not land on the green grass that surrounded us, of course it didn't, it landed neatly on a pile of garbage. 

I sighed, said a lot of curse words, and climbed down into the hollow. Trod my way carefully over the garbage, handed the damn map to Mawii, and tried to climb up, fell off, attempted a second time, cut my knee, and sprawled ungracefully on the side of the road. 

First mishap of the holiday - I braced myself for what would come next. 

As we kept walking, I insisted that my skin was burning and asked Mawii whether I'd managed to land in poison ivy. Mawii assured me I hadn't. I continued to insist I had. However, we made our way to Curlies which I was very curious about, because everyone who goes to Goa goes to Curlies. We went through a deserted flea market, past a little girl who was waving a stick violently at an interfering cow which was trying to enter her shop. She paused in the midst of her activity to wave at us, and we waved back. 

"I can hear the sea," said Mawii. 

I listened carefully, but all I could hear was the sound of a workman's drill. 

We walked through a grove of trees and suddenly, there it was, the sea - a blue grey sea with large waves that splashed white foam over rocks. 

"Curlies is to the left," I said, looking at the map. So we climbed over a bed of rocks, and stepped on to the beach. I could see Curlies up ahead. I could also see a white man playing a game of what looked like ping pong, except without the table, by the sea. He was wearing a thong. I averted my eyes and hurried by. 

Curlies is a two storey building, made of ramshackle wood, overlooking the sea. Downstairs, there are tables and chairs, and a bar, and a pool table, and upstairs, is a room with a ceiling and no walls - just a balustrade surrounding the perimeter of the room. There were chairs and tables, but by the balustrade, there were colourful mattresses and those long cushions that in Bengali are called pash balishes, and low wooden tables. 

We sat on opposite sides of a table, each sprawling on a mattress, and the winds hurling their way from the sea blew our hair about, and stung our faces, and the sun slanted gleaming rays through the open spaces, and through the cracks in the roof. 

I ate a steak - real beef - for the first time since leaving for Calcutta. As I did, I thought smugly of the cow which chased me on Valentine's Day. I wasn't eating the same cow of course, but I felt satisfied all the same.

While we ate, I looked out towards the beach and saw the man in the thong still playing enthusiastically.

"Did you see the man in the thong?" I asked Mawii.

"Yep. You could see his package,"

"I didn't look at his package," I said huffily.

"I did," she said cheerfully.

"He has to be gay. I don't know any straight men who'd wear a thong."

Mawii waved her hand airily. "He must be one of those yoga types. Into womanising and tantric sex,"

"Tantric sex?" I said, intrigued. "You think?"

"Oh yeah,"

I kept watching the man in the thong - I have to admit, he was incredibly toned.

"Now I'm imagining him having sex," I said to Mawii, a little annoyed. I wanted to enjoy my steak in peace. I didn't want to imagine a toned white man with wild hair in a thong having sex.

"I know," said Mawii dreamily.

"You think tantric sex is good?" I asked her.

"Has to be," she said. "It must be so s-l-o-w,"

We caught each other's eye and because we knew we were thinking the same thing, we burst out laughing, and laughed for a long time. 

After eating, we went down to the deck chairs on the beach, and I ran into the sea and dived into the first wave I saw. It felt like coming home. After our swim, when it started to get dark, we sat in a little shack lit by lamps that overlooked the beach - not that there was much beach left, the sea had risen - and drank fresh watermelon juice. The walk back to Orange House was very long, and for long stretches, the road was lit only by the moon, but we started singing ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall, and that kept us occupied. 

We got back by the time we were down to twelve bottles of beer on the wall, and by nine pm I was asleep in bed, looking forward, after what seemed a long time, to what the next day would bring. 


Goa: Part I.

Readers of my blog will know (and judging by the number of comments I get, there is at least one - my father - who is always kind enough to post a comment under the immortal name of Anonymous) that every time Mawii and I planned a trip last year, nothing manifested. Instead of climbing mountain trails, and swimming mirrored lakes, we spent most of our time lying on our beds, eating pizza, saying nasty things about life (in an undertone, naturally, just in case life heard us and decided to make us even more miserable than we already were).

2012 has been a good year so far for the both of us. I'm highly aware that this could change any moment (my little gut feeling says otherwise, but my little gut feeling is a liar and I've learnt not to trust it). Anyway. I was determined to go away somewhere on holiday for our mid semester break, and I began pestering Mawii about it as early as January.

"We should go to the sea," I said dreamily, one afternoon, as we lay on our beds (probably eating pizza). "I haven't been to the sea in so long,"

Mawii agreed.

"And we should go to Goa," I continued. "It'll make Aditya sick. Ha ha. Ha." (Aditya Servaia is one of my best friends and is, to put it delicately, obsessed with Goa. He spends most of his life making plans to go there. I suppose he could do worse things with his time.)

"Ha ha ha ha," Mawii echoed.

To add insult to injury, I'd created a group called 'Get Aditya To Goa' on Facebook. What fun, I thought, to go there and send him one of those Wish You Were Here postcards.

(Realisation: I am a terrible friend.)

I went back to Calcutta at the end of January for a wedding, and while there, I worked on my mother for permission.

"Mama," I said, as we wound our way home from the airport, "you know, I get ten days off in March. It's going to be my last college holiday ever!"

"Hm," said my mother, who probably knew exactly what I was up to.

"And I've done really well on my tests. Remember how you thought I was going to fail?"

She grudgingly agreed. She did think I was going to fail. She always thinks I'm going to fail my exams, even though the only time I've ever failed one was Hindi in my first year of college, but to be fair, even I knew that was going to be a disaster.

"Anyway," I continued, squeezing her hand lovingly, "since it's our last college holiday, my friends and I thought it would be really nice to go to Goa for a bit. I've checked the tickets and everything - it's really not too expensive."

"Shouldn't you be studying for your exams during your break?"

I refrained from snorting. You think your parents know you so well, and then they go and make a rash statement like that.

"I'm really not going to study during the break, and we both know it. I promise not to have a life outside of my books after it's over. Please let me go."



"I'll think about it." Pause. "Is Mawii going?"

"She's trying to get permission too. I won't go if she doesn't," I promised, as if this was a huge concession on my part.

"I'll think about it," she said once more.

There was joy in my heart. My mother is not one of those terrible human beings who say they'll "think about it" and then follow it up with a "I've thought about it, and the answer's no". If my mother doesn't say no outright, if she says she'll think about it, it always means it's going to happen - she just doesn't want to appear to be giving into my requests too easily. She wants to keep me on my toes for a bit, and I'm happy to play along with her, because it's the least I can do.

While in Calcutta, Aditya informed me that he was leaving for Goa the following week.

"Really?" I said disbelievingly, because Aditya spends at least four months of the year preparing to leave for Goa "the following week."

"We're booking our tickets tomorrow, yo."

I refused to believe him, but he actually did get his tickets booked.

"MAWII!" I shrieked, as soon as I came back to Delhi and barged into our room, pulling my suitcase haphazardly behind me. "WE HAVE TO GO TO GOA! WE HAVE TO!"

"What? Why?"


I'd gotten permission, it was Mawii who was having trouble getting it. Her parents didn't say yes, but they didn't say no either.

"We haven't had a chance to talk about it yet," she told me. "They're really busy with my brother's paperwork. It's the first time in twenty years they're paying more attention to him than to me. I can't complain."

Weeks rolled by. My mother kept asking me when I was going to book my tickets.

I only told one person about the potential holiday. I had a terrible feeling that if I talked about Goa, it just wouldn't happen.

It became so much more than just having a laugh at Aditya. It wasn't Goa itself that attracted me. I never liked that place. I went there once when I was fifteen, with my mother and an uncle. It was the holiday from hell. My uncle took me up para-sailing, and refused an instructor.

"I've done this before," he told me. "No problem."

Like a fool, I believed him.

"Aren't we supposed to be landing on that hill?" I said nervously, as we flew over it.

"Yes," he said sheepishly. "I think there's a slight problem,"


"I can't figure out how to land this damn thing,"

We did land eventually. On an old lady sleeping in the sun.

That was my first day, and I got sunburnt. It rained the rest of the time, and I spent the rest of the week sitting in my hotel room watching cartoons.

So no, I did not share Aditya's enthusiasm for Goa. But I love the sea, I love it, and my favourite holidays are always the ones that involve sunning myself on golden sands, and diving into waves, and leaping off boats. Beaches, Goa undoubtedly had. And the first week of March would be an excellent time to go. I began to get really excited about it.

"Get permission, get permission," I urged Mawii nearly every day.

"This weekend," she'd say.

"Did you get permission?" I'd say, every Sunday night.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to them,"

Finally, convinced she wouldn't get permission, I called my mother and asked her if she'd take me to Goa. It was a low moment, but I was desperate for a sea-side holiday.

"I might not be able to get away from work. I know - why don't we go to Dehra Dun and visit Billie?" Billie is my mother's cousin, who recently took up teaching at a school for spoilt rich children in Dehra Dun, and enjoys hitting them with rolled up newspapers, taking away their mobile phones, and making their lives a living hell.

I could not believe my mother was suggesting I spend a week in Dehra Dun.

"We could sit outside every evening and drink tea," she continued, sensing my silence.

"BUT I DON'T WANT TO SIT AROUND DRINKING TEA DURING THIS HOLIDAY!" I bellowed. Then realising I sounded rude, I lowered my voice and said, "Look, it's just that there's only so much tea I can take."

"I'm not sure if I can manage Goa," said my mother. "But I wouldn't mind going to Thailand,"

Hello, happiness.

All the same, I really wanted to spend this last holiday with Mawii, so I told her that I'd give it a couple more days, and if Mawii didn't get permission, I'd turn to her. I think my mother realised it would mean a lot to me to spend the break with my college friends, and so she gamely agreed to be on standby.

But Mawii got permission.

"I GOT PERMISSION!" She yelled, waking me up early one morning with a phone call.

"Yay," I said half heartedly, and went back to sleep.

When I woke up later, I reacted more suitably, and a lot of squealing phone calls were exchanged between the two of us, and then I called my mother and gave her the good news, and both our tickets were booked straight away.

"Mawii's got an aunt in Goa, so we can land up there if something goes wrong," I told my mother. "And the Dubeys are joining us too,"

I didn't know anything about Goa (I probably would have, if I paid attention to Aditya when he talked about it, but I never did, never have, and even now, never will). Mawii did though, and she said we should go to the south because it was less crowded.

We decided on Palolem beach, and a few days before we left, we agreed to spend a couple of days in the north as well.

For the rest of the week, we couldn't talk about anything else. Mawii in particular kept having random squealing fits, which I soon learnt to ignore. And Mrs Khera was as excited as we were because she's one of those incredibly rare people who genuinely feel happy when someone they're fond of is happy : every morning at breakfast, she'd give us the countdown - "five days to go", "four days to go", "three days", etc. Aditya, having recently returned from his trip, gave me detailed instructions on where to go and what to do.

"How about I just call you once I get to the beach," I said, exasperatedly, "and you tell me whether to turn right or left, and how many steps to take, and so on,"

"Good idea," he said, seriously.

Sharma called the day before I left and advised me on where to find drugs.

"Go to the Amul store at Starko junction, and ask for Rocky," he said confidently.

"Alright," I said slowly. (Mawii and I were toying with the idea of trying ecstasy. I did a thorough google search on it, asked my father about it - he told me he'd never tried it, and to see if my mother had, which I did not, for the sake of my sanity and hers - and kept an open mind).

This trip had come to symbolise a lot of things - it was our last holiday together as college students (we fondly recalled the first, which was in Manali), and it was a sign that 2012 held a lot more promise than 2011 ever did, and it was to be one week of pure pleasure and relaxation, after which we were determined to focus on college and assignments and exams and other horrific, important things.

"It's started," I said to Mawii, gleefully, as we climbed into the taxi on a sunny Saturday morning. "It's happening! Short of a plane crash, nothing can stop us from getting to that sea." 

She grinned back at me, and we both promptly fell asleep as the car jolted its way to the plane that would take us there.


This time tomorrow.

This is where I'll be.