As she sat behind Josh on his Royal Enfield, she felt a pang of conscience, asking her what on earth was she going to do. Going with a stranger to a strange place in a strange city, it didn’t seem like a good idea after all. But fighting the emotions, she told herself she was going to be fine. Josh seemed to be a nice person. Besides, that’s what she had come here for, to get away from her past and to enjoy the moment, regardless of the consequences.
As they passed through the Miramar circle, Yashasvi laid her eyes upon the Unity Statue one more time. She had visited Miramar beach earlier that morning and didn’t like it much. Now watching this statue, she once again shifted her thoughts to the myth of Dona Paula that Josh told her minutes ago. The statue of Dona Paula looked old and scruffy. Even the Unity Statue looked better than that. Yet, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Could this be true? That the spirit of Paula wandered the Jetty, still searching for her one true love.
Minutes after leaving the Jetty, she discovered that tomorrow is going to be a full moon night. And although she also felt an urge to visit this place tomorrow, she didn’t express it.
After a few minutes, Yashasvi caught the first glimpse of the Mandovi river bathed in Sunlight. The refreshing coastal breeze hit her body in soft splashes, cooling down her anxiety levels and filling her with a vibrant zeal. On her way, the sight of cruise casinos drew her attention and she wondered if that’s where Josh was taking her. Josh, however, didn’t slow down at any of the Casino terminals. After another ten minutes as the bike approached the Mandovi Bridge, he slowed the motorcycle and took a left toward what seemed like another cruise terminal. A colorful sign of Boat Cruises De Goa welcomed them as they parked the bike in a gravel parking area.
The port was overflowing with tourists. There were hundreds of them, waiting in long queues to board their boats. Yashasvi spotted several river cruises at the port, Paradise, Santa Monica, Coral Queen, and Princesa. Josh, however, walked further and further, passing by all these cruises and never stopping at one.
“Where are we going?” asked Yashasvi. “We just passed by the last cruise terminal. Is there a different entry point?”
“Not really. It’s not a cruise actually,” he replied. “My friend, Lucas’ gig is on a Yacht. Just a five-minute walk from here.”
“Oh, alright then,” she said. “But all those cruises also looked nice.”
“Trust me,” he laughed. “You don’t want to be on any of ‘em. They’re all so crowded, brimming with locals and Indian tourists.”
“I see, so you don’t like Indian tourists, do you?”
“It’s not like I don’t like ‘em,” he was quick with the reply. In fact, it’s my job to train these Indian tourists, who come to experience Flyboarding in North Goa. I just don’t like the way they celebrate or party. I mean I don’t have any problem with that either, but I wouldn’t like to indulge in those parties, it’s a different way of thinking, that’s it.
“That’s pretty honest of you,” she smiled.
“And besides, you’ll mostly find married Indian couples on those cruises, who have come here on their honeymoon. All they’re going to do is getting sloshed and dance to the tunes of Indian music. Oh, and yeah, there’s a couple of folk dance activities also, in case you are interested in the Goan culture.
“And what about this Yacht you are taking me to?” she asked. “How is it different from all those cruises?”
“It’s different in every way,” was the answer. “You’ll find out pretty soon. See that white-colored catamaran over there? That’s where we are headed.”
Yashasvi saw the yacht, just a few meters away. It was a miniature motorcar-styled boat, nearly half the size of the smallest cruise on the port. As they approached the gates, the sun was right above their head. The area was almost vacant, just a couple of guards and a few foreigners standing outside the boarding gate. The guard asked for the invitation card which they weren’t carrying, so Josh had to call his friend Lucas who sent a man to receive them.
The boat departed five minutes after they boarded. There were close to 50 people on the yacht, most of them were Germans, Russians, and Portuguese. There were a handful of Indians as well, Yashasvi recognized one from the TV serial her mom used to watch. It was a multi-level private yacht owned by a Portuguese millionaire, Rodrigo Costas Da Luz. The yacht was a little bigger in size than the ones you would occasionally spot in Mumbai. It had a vibrant charm and you could sense royalty in every corner. The intricate designs, plush floor mats, exuberant furniture, and huge glass windows, providing a startling view of the Mandovi river. To Yashasvi, it was a feast for the eyes.
“Yashhvi, meet my friend Lucas,” Josh said as he waved. “Hey Luke!!”
“Ahh, look who’s here,” Lucas smirked. “Endlich Zeit, deinen alten Freund zu sehen?” he spoke in German.
“Ja, ich war zwischen Arambol und Chapora gefangen,” Josh replied. “Ich hatte kaum Zeit, irgend wohin zu gehen.”
Anyways, Luke, meet my friend Yashhvi,” he said, still not able to pronounce her name correctly.
“Ahh beautiful girl,” Lucas replied. “Herrlich. Herrlich.”
“Luke,” he extended his hand.
“Yashasvi,” she shook hands with Lucas.
“Jashhvi?” he looked baffled.
“No it’s Ya-sha-svi,” she made it easy for him to understand.
“Yashhvi?” he tried. “Is that correct?”
“No, but that’s also fine,” she laughed. “I’m getting used to it now.”
“Alright, schönes Mädchen,” he said. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. You guys want to go upstairs to watch the sunset? Oh, and have some champaign guys, look around you,” he said as he took one glass from the slab to his right.
“Yeah, we’d love to,” Josh replied as he took two glasses and offered one to Yashasvi.
“Awesome, I’ll see you upstairs then, in five minutes,” said Lucas as he left.
As they went upstairs, the sun began to show its magical display of colors. The uppermost deck or the Sun deck was relatively small. It housed a tiny bar, a small dining area, and a miniature version of Jacuzzi. Down below was the fore deck’s exterior space containing a slightly bigger dining area, a few sunbeds, a pool, and yet another minibar. It also featured a 55 inches TV screen that played a live soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United. A handful of Portuguese could be seen below cheering for their star player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
As they crossed the bridge, Yashasvi noticed that all the other cruises were going in the opposite direction. And there was hardly any boat in front of them, just an open river expanse leading to some distant shore.
“Why are we not going that way?” she asked as she took the first sip of her champaign.”I thought I would see how they party on those cruises.”
“We are taking a different route toward Old Goa,” he said.”Most people on this yacht prefer complete isolation, especially from the maddening crowds and noisy atmosphere.”
“Isn’t that a bit racist?” she argued. “Imean despite being in India, you seemed to have alienated yourselves. Instead of indulging in our customs, you are keeping a distance from us, like we are some sort of aliens.”
“I told you,” he laughed”It’s just a different way of thinking. I don’t have a problem with that, if I had, then why would I be interested in your company?”
“That’s not the point,” she said. It’s easy to spend time with one member of a community rather than living in that community itself.
“Yeah, I know,” he replied. And let me tell you, I’d love to spend time between the locals if I ever get a chance. In fact, I’m planning to go to Kashmir next month, for a week.
“And besides, I don’t own this yacht. If I did, I would happily turn it around for you, right away,” he smiled.
“Oh thank you,” she smirked. But I won’t say I’m flattered.
“Yeah, you wish,” he smiled. But I really doubt that the owner of this yacht would let that happen. He doesn’t like Indians very much.
“Oh, why is that,” she asked in a frenzy.
Well, he’s a Portuguese. And many of the Portuguese still see Goa as a part of Portugal, not India.
“But it’s so untrue,” she was furious. Goa was never a part of Portugal. They colonized it, just like the Britishers did.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. But for centuries, they have invested so much in Goa, built countless infrastructures, all the beautiful churches, chapels, cathedrals, and whatnot. Then the Indian Army invades Goa in 1961 and forces them to surrender, and they had to leave. And you know what they say, “when you live at a place for a very long time, you become that place.” That’s how it is for these people. They miss their colonies that are now inhabited by North Indians and South Indians.
“Oh, don’t get me started on this subject,” she bluntly said. What have they invested in Goa? I’ll tell you what they did to Goa. They forcefully converted millions of Goans into Christians, forced them into slavery, and restricted them from higher positions in the government. Don’t teach me history alright, and that too, about my own country.
“Alright, you win,” he laughed. Just don’t be mad at me.
“Look, you don’t want to miss the sunset here, do you?” he said as he pointed his finger to show the beautiful view of the fading sun and the Mandovi river down below, bathed in beautiful shades of red and orange.
Soon, a handful of other spectators joined them at the sun deck. The DJ that was originally playing Jazz switched to a Spanish pop album of Chambao. The song it played was Ulere from the album Caminando, making it the perfect setting to enjoy the sunset. Yashasvi seemed to be enamored by the magnificent expanse of the river and the beauty that lay ahead.
After almost half an hour, the sun disappeared like a fireball drowning into the water at a distant horizon, leaving only traces of reddish illumination in the sky. The colors changed as the day progressed from different phases of twilight to dusk, and then darkness took over. The illuminated Mandovi bridge on the backside and its reflection in the river was something to marvel upon. Complementing the view was the beautiful expanse of Panjim boasting its city lights like a metropolitan.
Looking straight, Yashasvi spotted the beaming lights of moving objects to the right and a faint glow of a distant town straight ahead.
“What’s that place over there,” she was curious.
“As I told you earlier, we are moving toward Velha or the Old Goa you can say,” he said.
“Oh yes, that used to be the old capital of Goa right?” she exclaimed.
“Correct. Until the repeated plagues forced them to abandon Velha and Panjim became the new capital of Goa in the year 1843,” Josh explained.
“Wow. That’s impressive,” she quipped. For a foreigner who’s been here for only a month, you seem to know so much about the history of Goa.
“Yeah, I do a little bit of reading sometimes,” he chuckled. It’s important to know the place where you’re going to spend the next few months, right? I bet that you also did a little bit of reading before coming here, didn’t you?
“Yeah, I did,” she admitted. Hey, where’s your friend Luke? He said he was coming upstairs, but it’s been almost an hour.
“Busy man he is,” was the reply. And besides, he’s going to perform in less than 20 minutes. I don’t think he’ll come. We should probably go downstairs too, or to the lower deck perhaps.
“You’re right. And I really want to explore the other parts of this yacht,” she said as they descended. So your friend Lucas is a musician, right?
“Yeah, he’s a bassist,” Josh replied. He used to play in a rock band back in Germany, and they were pretty good. In fact, they have won the Echo Music Award for one of their albums in 2009.
“Wow, what’s that?” she asked.
“Ummm, how do I say?” he continued. It’s the German equivalent of the VMAs.
“Oh, nice. You both are from Hamburg, right?”
“No. I’m from Hamburg and He’s from Bremen, a one-hour drive from Hamburg.” We first met in Hamburg though. At a club in Reeperbahn.
As they entered the compact dining hall at the promenade deck of the yacht, the gig was about to begin. Lucas was there on the stage, holding the bass guitar in his hands. Seeing them downstairs, he waved and said something in signals which neither of them could decipher. Within minutes of their arrival, the man on the lead vocals made the announcement.
“A very good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for joining us here tonight for this private concert,” said the lead vocalist. What a wonderful evening this has been! And before we start with our first song, I’d like to thank the very person who has made this evening possible. Without whom, we would be sitting in our homes, getting wasted, or probably playing at a nightclub in Berlin like every other weekend. The man who landed up in Goa only this morning in his Learjet 40. Well, he’s the only man on this boat wearing a Rolex Albino. He’s standing right over there, the figurehead of Lison, Mr. Rodrigo Costas. Everybody give him a big round of applause.
Soon after the announcement, the band sprung into action, playing hit rock music from the 60s and 70s. It was mostly the English songs from bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Porcupine Tree. While the band including Lucas on the bass guitar played with utmost zeal and enthusiasm, this private concert was different from the others in many ways. People on the yacht were barely interested in watching the band perform. They seemed to be indulged in their own way of celebration, drinking expensive wines and champagnes and having serious conversations with their peers in hushed tones. As the night settled, Josh took Yashasvi to the infinity pool area. As they were having another round of champaign, admiring the distant views of Velha, the conversations grew deeper between them.
“So you didn’t tell me,” Josh enquired. The reason for this spontaneous trip to Goa. Oh, and it’s fine if it’s personal or you don’t feel like sharing it with me. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, I assure you.”
“It’s okay,” she took time to respond. It was not a spontaneous trip, it was all planned. A plan that didn’t go well after all. So yeah, the decision of executing that plan so suddenly was spontaneous. “
“Go ahead, I’m listening,” he said.
“Abhijit and I, we have been planning this trip for almost a year,” she blurted. Abhijit was my boyfriend. We were together for almost six years.
After a minute of silence, Josh chose his words carefully. “Well, I know it’s none of my business. But if you want to tell me what happened, I’m all ears,” he finally said.
“We met in college,” she began. He was my senior and used to the star basketball player of our college. You know, the kind of guy who’s got ample female attention already.
Although I developed a secret crush on him the moment I first saw him, I knew that our match was too good to be true. I was a college topper and he was a backbencher who would flunk in many subjects. But fate had something else planned for the two of us.
It turned out that apart from being our college’s heartthrob and the so-called stud of the CSE department, Abhijit had a good quality as well. He was a compassionate person who liked to devote his idle time in social welfare. Of course, he was not an activist or something, and neither was I. But only weeks after I saw him in college, I discovered that Abhijit and I had one habit in common. The habit of helping others and serving the needful.
After a few weeks, I saw him at a place where I wasn’t really expecting to find him. It was the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Connaught Place, New Delhi. When I was in 10th grade, I had developed a congenial habit of visiting the Gurudwara every Sunday and indulging in Seva, a selfless service where you perform trivial routine tasks like cleaning the Gurudwara premises, feeding devotees during the Langar, polishing shoes of the pilgrims, and more.
It was a bright Sunday morning, I was at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. I was poised to follow my routine ritual. Every Sunday morning, I would enter the Darbar first and kneel before the Shrine. Then I would listen to Gurbani for half an hour and then finally I would indulge in Seva. You see, in Gurudwaras, you can’t take your shoes inside the Darbar. If you are wearing any shoes or slippers or anything like that, you’re supposed to deposit them at Joda Ghar (Shoe House). That’s where I saw Abhijit.
While I was depositing my slippers at Joda Ghar, I was greeted by a familiar face, who took my shoes and gave me the token. Collecting shoes at Joda Ghar and giving them back to the devotees is also a kind of seva at these Gurudwaras where any person willing to serve others for the greater good can take part.
“Hey wait,” he spoke. I think I’ve seen you somewhere. Are you from Amity University?”
“Yes, I’m a fresher,” I said. Joined recently. “
“Oh. Great,” he said. Have you come alone?
“Yeah, I come here every Sunday,” I replied. Wasn’t really expecting to see you here though.
“Please don’t say a word about this to anyone in the college,” he was quick with the reply. If the word breaks out,…. Not good for my reputation you know?
“Yeah, I understand,” I laughed. You can trust me though. I won’t say a word.
“Okay, I better get going now,” I said, ready to leave for the darbar. It was nice meeting you Mr…
“Abhijit,” he extended his hand. Abhijit Sikka.
“Yashasvi,” I shook hands with him.
“Hey by the way, I’m about to get free from here,” he said. If you’ve got some time, we can go for a coffee at Diggin. What do you say?
“Thank you, Abhijit but not today,” I replied. I’ll be here to don’t know how long. I’ll see at the college though. And maybe we can go some other time.
“Fair enough. Nice meeting you Yashasvi,” he said as I left. I’ll see you soon.
After spending about 30 minutes inside the darbar and another 10 minutes at the Sarovar, I returned to the Joda Ghar and entered the hall to do some Seva work.
I sat inside the seva hall and started polishing the shoes of the devotees. Minutes after that, I was joined by a young masculine figure who sat next to me and started doing the same thing. It was Abhijit.
“I thought you were leaving,” I said.
“I was leaving,” he said. But then I decided to stay.
“And why’s that?” I asked.
“Well, if I told you the truth, then maybe you would think I’m stupid.”
“No, I won’t, I promise. Tell me no.”
“Okay. So as you told me earlier that you are going to stay here for a while, I thought that maybe, just maybe, you would come back here to collect your slippers and I’ll get to see you again.”
“And maybe this time, you would change your mind and we could go for a coffee together,” he smiled.
It was the first time I realized what a charming personality he was! He always had his ways to get things done and you couldn’t say no. After spending another half an hour inside the Seva hall, we left for coffee. He took me on his bike to a beautiful cafe in Chanakyapuri and we had plenty of sweet conversations over coffee.
Our meeting at Bangla Sahib became more frequent and we started spending time together on college premises as well. I would often bunk my lectures to meet him at the canteen or library. Sometimes we bunked our college and went for a movie. Later, we would spend time at famous restaurants in CP, Saket, Hauz Khas, Vasant Kunj, Greater Kailash, and Indian Habitat Centre. Our story began like every other love story happens in Delhi and it took a beautiful turn after three months when Abhijit finally proposed to me and we had our first kiss. Soon after, the two of us were inseparable. It was as if we couldn’t stay apart for more than an hour.
The word broke out and soon, everyone in college knew that Abhijit and I were dating. Of course, there were challenges at first, but we learned to sail through the ocean in the adverse times too. And soon we set an example of how an ideal couple should be. Abhijit was not good at his studies and so I helped him with several subjects. Despite being a junior, I was able to help him with his studies and the results were profound. His academic performance started to improve and he cleared all his backlogs with a decent percentage.
Abhijit’s family was greatly impressed with their son’s drastic transformation and his exceptionally good academic record. Giving me the entire credit for this improvement, he introduced me to his family which was the first time I felt like this could be my family too.
Years passed and our relationship grew stronger and stronger. We made plenty of beautiful memories at different places in Delhi, making out at the weirdest places that one could imagine. We both lived in Delhi, so getting into a live-in relationship was out of the question, given our parents’ mindset. But every once in a while, Abhijit and I would plan a weekend road trip to stay at some exotic locations close to Delhi. Neemrana Fort which lies in the outer suburbs of Rajasthan became our safe haven for most weekend getaways. We were having an amazing time together.
But you know what they say, “the good days don’t last forever.” And on the contrary, good time passes pretty quickly and that’s what happened to us either. Actually not us, I was the one who was going to suffer.
Abhijit graduated from college with a decent academic score. He was my senior and I was to graduate next year. Knowing the fact that I would not be seeing him in college anymore was heartbreaking. What made the situation worse was his offer letter. Abhijit was placed as a QA trainee at a NY-based MNC in the previous semester. Three weeks after graduation, his offer letter finally came and it was not good news.
He had to move to Bangalore for the first six months to complete his training. The news hit me like a hurricane. The thought of staying away from him for even a month felt like a year. But we had no choice. He assured me that we’ll be in touch, all the time. “More than half of the Indian population lives in a long-distance relationship,” he would say to me. We can live like that too, it’s only six months.
Like I said, it was not easy at first, but soon enough, we get used to it. Later I realized it wasn’t that bad either. We had so much to talk about, so much to discuss. Three hours on call, four hours on chat, the conversations would not end. But only after a month, Abhijit started showing signs of disinterest. He said he was busy on an internal project and won’t be able to talk to me during office hours which was also fine. But then the conversations receded, even after office. We barely talked for half an hour on an entire day. Sometimes he would say he was too tired and sleepy, sometimes he was exhausted. Sometimes he had a tough day at the office, sometimes there was a cocktail party.
Weeks passed into months. Abhijit and I had numerous fights over the phone calls. But then he would apologize every time and say he would fix it, and that he just needed some time off alone.
Six months passed after what seemed like an eternity and Abhijit was finally coming back. I was finally hoping to get our dwindling relationship back on track but maybe it was too late then. When I met him, he was not the kind of person that I once knew, not anymore. From the first day itself, I knew he was hiding something from me. And then two weeks later, he finally mustered the courage to confront me and tell me the truth.
Apparently, he met some girl there in Bangalore who happened to be in the same department. They started spending time together, one thing led to another and they were in love, just like that. I slapped him, I beat him, I cried for weeks that followed. I literally begged him to come back but he didn’t. Said he was extremely sorry for what happened and will be there for me always, as a friend.
“AS A F**N’ FRIEND,” she yelled, in tears, down with three glasses champagne and two glasses of Shiraz Cabernet. Like those six years, those six fuckin’ years together were nothing compared to those six months in Bangalore that ruined our relationship.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know what else to do,” she wiped her face but couldn’t stop the tears forming in her eyes.
Josh was doing his best to comfort her but that didn’t seem to help. For a moment, he didn’t know what to say to her, but he couldn’t see her cry like this. In a split second, he took her in his soft embrace and gently leaned down to kiss her cheek, moving on to the lips, as he kissed her like there was no one else on the boat. Yashasvi was not in a position to resist at the moment and she kissed him back with more passion than what she had felt in months or the years that had gone.
(To be continued….)