Palolem, at the southern end of Goa, is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen. It is not too noisy, has the right kind of tourists, has a fairly decent taste in music, and its natural bay is great for swimming. And that comes from someone who likes to admire the sea from a respectable distance (partly because he can’t really swim).
So I was quite happy, swinging in a hammock and sipping my King’s beer, when my friends decided they wanted to go to Anjuna instead. Anjuna was far up north, about 100 kilometers from my hammock. Arguments were presented and refuted, but the matter was put to vote, despite my vehement protests against the very idea of democracy.
So I found myself on a backseat of a gearless Honda scooter, or scootie, as they call them. I dislike two-wheeled vehicles intensely. You know those people who call themselves bikers, and go on about how the wind-in-the-hair and all that crap can never be matched by a car. I feel like smacking those people. It’s fine if you live in Southern France or something, where you can ride along the coast and look like Pierce Brosnan, wearing your wayfarers and passing by ladies in blue dresses with flowers on them. In India, a 5-minute ride will leave you looking like a war refugee. If you manage not to die, that is. So, yes. I was not a happy passenger. (And yes, I can’t drive them either.)
But looking back at it, those six or so hours I spent on the road were not so bad. No, my battered bottoms just sent a shock wave to my brain, reminding it that they actually were. But they did make me realize I could no longer ignore the merciless march of age. A few years ago with the same bunch of friends, it would have been a completely different journey. We wouldn’t have worried about filing taxes and ‘sick-leaves’. We wouldn’t have worried about getting back to the hotel on time, to sleep on time, to wake up on time to reach work on time the next day. And we certainly would have drank more.
Or maybe it’s not the same bunch of friends anymore.
On the flight back, there were an old couple and their grandkid in the row behind. The worst nightmare. First, the old man started banging my seat when I reclined, telling me his knees were hurting. I thought of telling him to fuck off, but he looked so sad, I gave up. The poor bastard looked like he had gone to Calangute, so I could almost empathize. And as you know, I’m a fucking prince anyway. But then, they started eating. Oh, man alive. They had biscuits, Kaju, Kurkure (ah, that noise). And the pre-packed meal, of course. They were Punjabi, so I could hear all this through the earphones. So could the pilot, I’m certain.
But what really wound me up was the constant cribbing. Too hot, too cold, headache, earache, bellyache (really?), too much light, too little water, on and fucking on.
I’m always surprised at how people act in airplanes. Every single person is in a foul mood. It lands and they can’t wait to get out. I wonder if anybody ever realizes what they are doing. They’re flying! They’re in a chair 30,000 feet up in the air, crossing the earth at 800 km/h. Is there anything they’ve done that’s as awesome?*
And what do they do? They complain about the fucking food.
I’m always the last to get off. It looks much better when it’s empty. It makes you wonder how people can be so blasé about this marvel of engineering, of dreams. The cool ‘travellers’, saying things like ‘Oh, I hate flying. It’s so boring, so tiring.’ Really. Look out the goddamn window and you’ll see heaven.
Also, being the last one, you can see the relief on the crew’s faces as they finally start to wipe off those plastic smiles. I sometimes try my best expression of empathy. “I know, those fat bastards”, etc.
I was supposed to be talking about scooters, wasn’t I? Oh, who cares.
*An example of sincere usage.