Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Helping hands are better than praying lips...

I read the above quotation today in a forwarded mail, and an incident comes to mind...

Few years back, when online train reservation was still not functional in India, I used to go to New Delhi Railway Station reservation office. Even though the office has about 25 counters, the sheer number of customers ensured that it took over an hour to buy any ticket.

Once, when I was in a queue, I heard some commotion at the ticket window. Normally, I do not interfere in any such commotion, but this sounded different. So I requested the gentlemen behind me to remember me so that I can join the queue back, and went to the reservation counter to know what was happening. Turned out that a poor fellow was trying to buy 2 tickets for long distance travel, for which, he was short of about 20 rupees in the total ticket price of about Rs. 1000. He was at the window, confused about what to do next, since people behind were shouting at him to go away from the counter. I asked him for his story, and turned out that his concern was that he was already losing half day wage by spending hours in coming for reservation, and waiting in line. If he needed to go back, get money and wait in queue again, he'll lose his full day wage. He was proposing that the clerk makes the ticket, but keeps it with him, and gives it only on receipt of Rs. 20 the next day. The clerk was refusing, and the fellow was feeling helpless.

Many people were sympathizing with the fellow, but no-one had any real suggestions even though the solution was staring in the face. The poor chap needed 20 bucks. I immediately added Rs. 50 to his small wad of notes, and asked him to buy the ticket. He proceeded, and afterwards came back to me in the queue, trying to return Rs. 30, even though his home was pretty far from the reservation counter. I asked him to use the money to get back home, and rush for his work. Now he wanted my address to send the money back. I just asked him to help some needy person, and I'd consider my money returned.

I'm not a very benevolent person. But when I see someone in trouble, which can be solved by a very small effort from me, I do not hesitate. I am fortunate to have seen more good done than bad in my life, and intend to keep my overall contribution positive to this world.

Just reiterating:

Helping hands are better than praying lips...

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Goa Trips

Goa has always attracted me, and during each visit, I plan to relive the experiences of previous trips. However, in each trip, Goa has something new in store for me, and each visit adds new unforgettable experiences. In summary, I've been to Goa 4 times: 1994, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and each trip has been with a different set of people, each having an important place in my life.

December 1994: My first trip to Goa was with parents and siblings. My father loves to travel, and I've toured much of South India and Himalayas with him. He always prepares the itinerary himself, doesn't books hotel rooms in advance, and plans things on run time. I've inherited many of the traits, enabling me to plan long trips with confidence.

December 2005: This was with my brother and cousin, where we tried to relive many old memories, and went to most Goa beaches, especially the ones on extreme north (Querim/Arambol) and extreme South (Palolem/Betul) etc. We rented bikes, scanned the length and breadth of Goa, visiting places disregarding distances. We started a bit early in morning, and were usually back by 10 pm to our staying place, and hence left with a desire to come back and explore Goan night life.

December 2007: Recreated the magic of 2005 trip with friends. Smarting from the experience of riding bikes for 4 days in 2005, we rented a Maruti Zen this time. This also helped us explore Goa in night. Under strict instructions not to smell, touch or consume alcohol (by yours truly's about to be formed SARKAR), I spent hours watching my friends getting high on spirits, and listening to the excellent live music being played in beach side restaurants that spring up in everywhere in Goa. We also enjoyed many water sports being organized on Colva beach.

September-October 2009: This is the latest, and most adventurous trip I undertook with my SARKAR (also goes by the name of अर्धांगिनी or wife). It was not supposed be so adventurous, but the incessant rains made it so. It did not stop raining for the 5 days we were in Goa. Contrary to my earlier trips, these days, I usually book a Hotel for first one or two days now whenever going on lesiure trips, to avoid initial fuss of finding a SST (sasta/sunder/tikaoo or cheap/lovely/reliable) Hotel. We booked Nizmar Resorts near Calangute beach for two days. This turned out to be an excellent choice, with nice room, good breakfast and well maintained swimming pool. A brief summay of how we enjoyed goa in September/October amidst continuous rains.

1st day: We reached Goa late afternoon, and took a taxi to the resort from the airport. My Sarkar was ready for the beach with her new Crocs shoes. Immediately, we rushed to Calangute beach, played at the beach and made sand castles till sunset. Later, we found an excellent Maruti Zen to rent, and it served us very nicely during the whole trip. It was raining intermittently since the flight touched down, but we were anyways ready to play on beach, and it did not bother us much. Later, we had a nice punjabi dinner and then went to the famous Mambo's disco.

2nd day: We visited Arambol and Mandrem beach on 2nd day. Both of these are amazing beaches, though Arambol has now become polluted to some extent. It was raining, and we played on the beach in rain. Very few people were around. Mandrem beach seemed like it was reserved exclusively for us. Had dinner at a restaurant in Calangute itself. I was getting jealous of my Sarkar's crocs shoes, and she got me a pair at Arambol beach.

3rd Day: It was raining heavily, and the resort pool looked inviting. So spent time there. Sea sometimes gets too rough when it's raining. Checked out of resort, put everything in the rented zen, and went straight to Palolem beach, about 100 km from Calangute. We enjoyed a lot there, and while returning, went to Agonda beach, which again seemed like it had been reserved for us. It became too cloudy to remain at beach as the clouds practically came to the ground level hampering visibility and we found a nice cafeteria full of foreigners on a road near the beach. When the visibility improved again, we went to the beach again, and stayed till late afternoon. Then we started our return to Panjim. We drove through beautiful roads (avoiding highway) though were worried for some time since there was almost no-one in sight for quite a distance. We put the car back on highway at madgaon, and had evening snacks at Monjini's. We'd recommend Monjini's to everyone for snacks, and they are present everywhere in Goa. We went to the Old Goa church (at about 9 pm), and had to contend ourselves with a view from outside, since it had closed for the day. then we wne to another church nearby where an all night vigil was being held. There were about 1500 people present for the service which surprised me because it was already more than 9 pm. After some time, we started for Panjim, bought some famous Goan Cashews and asking directions, found Ginger Hotel in Panjim to spend the night. It was still raining, and hence we had dinner at the Hotel itself, which turned out to be quite good.

4th day: Checked out of Ginger, and went to see Augada fort and Jail. Had brunch at a nice hotel on the way. Roaming through the fort in torrential rains is an experience not to be forgotten soon. The fort is amazingly beautiful, and we walked along the perimeter, taking in the breathtaking views. We decided to visit the Chapora fort as well, and though the car stopped and gave us a scare, it restarted soon, and did not give any further trouble. Chapora fort is at some height and again offers excellent views all around. We enjoyed thoroughly, and returned back to Calangute and took a room in 'Popeye's Lodge'. Spent the evening walking at Calangute beach, and had dinner at Domino's.

5th Day: Reluctantly started packing in morning, and gave back our rented car. Then hired taxi to Madgaon, and caught Rajdhani Express back for home. I was surprised to see the number of families boarding the train. During the trip, we saw very few families at beaches, forts or churches. Most of them must have spent the vacation in their hotel rooms.

PS: Went to Bangalore on an urgent trip for Official work on 10th October for a day. Adding it here since it gave me opportunity to see Bangalore's new Airport.