I had a rather fun long weekend. Eventful too. It amazes me how much you can pack into three days--if you try hard enough. Maybe it's the being in a new city that makes me more energetic, I think if I was back home, I probably would have spent it vegging quietly, perhaps making the occassional trip outwards, but still vegging. It's funny how much we take the cities we grow up in for granted, like the old family retainer or something. They're always going to be there--the main attractions, like say, Jaipur, or the hills. In my entire lifetime in Delhi, I made perhaps four or five enthusiastic trips outwards to the hills, Dharamshala twice, Manali once, and when I was younger and my parents were too, we went hiking a couple of times. Jaipur and Agra, by virtue of foreign cousins visiting, were much seen, that and on school trips, so much so, that if I never see the Taj Mahal again, it'll be too soon. Sad, really. I have some ten thousand pictures with me and the Taj in the background, and the only thing that has changed in all these photos is me.
Anyway, back in Bombay, a friend of mine, the Intrepid Businessman (IB from here on now), had dropped by for a visit from Delhi. He had mentioned to me, before I moved, that he would be visiting in January, and so I called him to find out when exactly he was landing.
- I'm already here. I was planning on calling you tomorrow.
-What's your scene for tomorrow?
-Well, I was planning on going sailing. Want to come with?
Well, duh. Of course I wanted to go sailing. I don't know whether I've mentioned this before, but travelling by water is my most favourite method of transport. Although I've been a little wary of the sea, ever since I saw Tsunami: The Aftermath on HBO, on Boxing Day, and the second year anniversary of the tsunami. (I met a taxi driver while I was in Bali who told me he had a dog called Tsunami. I thought that was like the best name ever.)
I turned up at our meeting spot a couple of hours late, apologising profusely (the boat was booked for 12.30, and it was now 2) and we rushed off to the Royal Yacht Club. Apparently if you're a member of the Delhi Gymkhana, which is a lovely place, very Days Of The Raj, you have automatic membership to several places all over India, including the very posh Wellington Club, down in Ooty. There's a 20 year waitlist though, so I keep telling my parents they should have signed up when I was a child, so I could've at least enjoyed it in my youth. Now there's no point applying, unless I want it for my kids. Selfish bastards. Why should they get what I didn't? There's still hope though, if you want to be a member of the Yacht Club, it costs either five lakhs or fifteen lakhs to jump the queue. Or, like K's mom once told me, when me and her son were about to whisk off to the Gymkhana for something or the other and I was complaining about not being a member: "Just marry someone with a membership, eM." Hmmm.
We rowed (when I say 'we', I mean the boat dude. I was most useless) the dinghy to the sailboat, a lovely little vessel called Petral (see, see, how nautical I sound) and I sat port, or was it starboard, while the two men yanked at the sail and undid knots, wrapped my hair in a scarf, because it gets awfully windy on sailboats, popped open a can of Coke and lit my Benson. This was truly the life. Especially after we took off--but I don't think 'took off' is the word to use on a sailboat, no? Set sail?--and then me and IB went and stood on the pointy thing in front of the boat (which I thought was called a hull, but apparently not) and I shaded my eyes and said, "Land ahoy!" We sailed around some navy ships too, unfortunately Vijay Mallya's big fancy yacht had gone off to Alibagh for the weekend, but I was so looking forward to seeing it and doing my da-da-da-daaaaaaaah-Lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous voice. We also spotted a tiny little orange boat, with a windmill on top of it, that is apparently owned by some firang who wants to paddle it from here to South Africa. These foreigners are crazy.
The next day, I packed a tiny backpack and took off with IB and two of his friends to Daman. We had a boombox in the car, three iPods, and a bottle of Grey Goose just begging to be consumed. We hadn't heard very good things about Daman, the Lonely Planet describes it as: "the main attraction is booze, rather than the grey beaches and uninviting sea." Still, that description alone was enough to pique our curiousity, so we headed outwards. One of IB's friends had heard glowing reviews about a place called Bordi, about two hours out of Bombay, so with great excitement, and anticipating pristine tourist-free beaches, we took the detour, asked some people how to get there and headed. The first good sign seemed to be that the tourist guest house, with its attractive little cottages was all full. We decided to look around for some more accomodation, when one of them sensibly said that perhaps we should check out the beach first before we made a call. So we drove down to the beach, and, um, there was no sea. No seriously, I'm not kidding. The tide was so low, that even gazing into the horizon, past the forlorn looking beached boat, we saw nothing, only a line in the distance, mocking us. There was an eerie silence too, and the pine trees around the beach rustled ominously. "This is part in movies where they play the scary music and the four unsuspecting people decide to stay anyway," I said, stepping gingerly onto the Land Formerly Known As The Ocean Floor. "Only to die one by one," said the other girl. The boys looked at each other and then at us. "Perhaps we should leave?"
And so we found ourselves back on the road to Daman, stopping only once at Deepa's Food World (which I can recommend to anyone on NH8 in the neighbourhood) where we were ushered into the incredibly cheap bar, given tandoori rotis and chicken tikka masala and an opportunity to make fun of the large group of men and women next to us, who were happily mixing a bottle of wine with Coke. Entering Daman was like a dipso's paradise. At least twenty booze shops greeted us (this after passing several shut because it was a dry day) winking their neon lights. The alcohol in Daman is very very cheap, because they have no sales tax at all. The hitch is, you're not allowed to take any beyond state lines. But considering it's next to the dry state, Gujarat, it's usually filled with drunken Gujaratis, taking their weekend break, away from the women and throwing their heads back and laughing at their incredible good fortune.
We checked quickly into the Cidade De Daman (the food is crap, but who goes to Daman to eat) and started on the Grey Goose. Four drinks later, we were ready to make our way down to the beach and get some sustenance. There were a bunch of people doing what the girl with us described as the 'Daman Mating Ritual', holding on to their crotches and jumping, with one leg extended, around the dance floor. Another seemed to thing cantering, horse-style, around this other chick would be the best way to woo her. She left, soon after, looking bemused, but he gave us much amusement. The beach was not great, but not terrible either--the sand was too rough and the colour of the waves not exactly romance material, but we raced and scampered and worked up an appetite, and then, dinner done, we proceeded to finish the rest of the Grey Goose and have an impromptu dance party in our hotel room.
The next morning, we were due to check out by 11 am (since IB and the other girl were both visiting, they wanted to party in Bombay on Saturday night). Excitedly we all woke up and looked out the window only to find the sea had vanished. Maybe it went back to Bordi. Post-breakfast, we drove around, looked at a very uninspired Portugese fort anda large department store called Liquor Plaza, which I thought was so excellent. And midway on the drive back to Bombay, I got my period and oh, the pain and agony and discomfort of a long car journey when your uterus seems like it's turning inside out, may you never have to suffer anything like that. So I napped, mostly, waking up to find I had no smokes and turning into a complete bitch till they stopped and found me some. I feel quite ashamed of myself, but really, first day period AND nicotine withdrawal? Even Mother Teresa would have been a bitch under those circumstances.
And tra-la, that makes another place I've visited. Here's a Daman fun fact: Daman and Diu, though associated with each other in NCERT geography textbooks, are not in fact, next to each other. They're about 300 km apart, and separated by the sea. Who knew?
ps: I've switched to the new Blogger, let me know what you think.