May 26, 2013

DIL DOSTI ETC

GOA DIARIES: MEETING THE ENGIGOS


From Left: Sai, Pri, Niks, DD & Sav

Almost two years... or to be precise, nineteen long months had passed since June 2011 when we had graduated from GEC (Goa Engineering College). With me leaving for Bengaluru in July, few others going to Pune and the rest staying back in Goa, it had been a long time since we friends had a reunion. I am pretty sure that like me, the rest of the gang was looking ahead to a get-together. The preparations for this day had already begun about a month back at around the third week of March. Once my trip to Goa was confirmed, I immediately called up the guys in Pune - Niks, Sav & DD to check if they could make it and they were more than happy to come down over the weekend (April 27 - 28). Pri was reluctant initially. However, constant persuasion on WhatsApp paid off as she finally gave a green signal. Actually, we had made it clear that we were not going to listen to any of her natkas and I don't think she had any other options.

Though Rach was a little disappointed as we had declined her invitation to come to her new house (Next time pakka ayenge), she was sporting enough to adjust her tight schedule to make some time for us. This was inspite of the fact that she was expecting guests at home on the same day. And finally, one phone call was enough to convince His Majesty - Sai to 'grace the occasion with his auspicious presence'. While this will certainly be one of the most memorable days of this year, atleast for me, I am pretty sure that everyone present there will agree that it would have been much more fun had Amba joined us. The group seems to be incomplete without him. Amba, if you ever read this then remember one thing - you have to be there for the next reunion irrespective of whether it is held in the frozen caverns of Antarctica or the hot sand dunes of the Sahara desert.

The Fantastic Four

Now continuing from my last post (Link), I joined Niks and DD in the latter's car at the Goa Velha bypass road. In the many months since we had not met, the two guys occupying the front seat of the Wagon R had not changed at all, well... except for DD's new hair style. Though he may be more famous in the gang for his 'classic jokes' aka PJs, one cannot deny the fact that DD is one of the best brains in Goa. After all, not all of us can crack the tricky NTSE (National Talent Search Examination) tests. Besides this, what sets him apart from the rest is that he is a 'good boy', firmly entrenched in the values that his parents have imbibed in him. Actually, his decision to come by his car on that day proved to be a masterstroke as it allowed us the liberty to even go to Vagator beach in the evening, thereby doubling the fun and on a personal note, fulfilling my desire of visiting my favourite beach in the state (Link). Thanks DD... mein tera yeh eshaan kabhi nahi bhoolunga.

The other guy occupying the front seat was Niks - arguably the most bankable of all my friends. A non-Goan like me, he is undoubtedly the 'soul' of our group. From collecting notes and question papers prior to semester exams to printing our projects and assignments to organizing group picnics, you can give any kind of work to him, no matter how mundane, yet he will do it with complete dedication. Actually, even this reunion was largely arranged by him. Niks belongs to the rare breed of people who treasure friendship above everything. Many a times, I have seen people exploit this quality of his but he still continues to go that extra mile even for the guys who do not deserve it. Apart from this, he is a complete techno-freak who (according to his own CV) enjoys exploring new softwares and repairing computer hardware. Itle bhopke purro dista re.

Clockwise: Sai, DD, Niks and Sav

DD seems to be pretty good behind the steering wheel and he raced along the Margao-Panjim road. As our Wagon R zoomed ahead, I remember seeing paddy fields along the way. Since it was summer, the fields had turned wheatish brown. I was enthralled at the sight of cattle grazing in one such field which had a Khuris (Cross) at the centre against the backdrop of the clear blue sky. Sights like this that make this state so special to me. Some time later we rode along the winding uphill road at Bambolim which is dotted with advertising boards of various telecom subscribers, alcoholic beverages, banks and what not. The view down below from this road is enchanting as the Zuari river meanders across the plains covered with dense vegetation. Next, we went past the famous Phulancho Khuris (Shrine of Holy Cross), the brightly painted Shiv Krishna temple and the Goa Medical College (GMC) - Asia's first medical college which was bustling with activity as usual, all in quick succession. Seeing all these places which I would often google on the internet in Bengaluru was very satisfying. As we descended along the slopes of Bambolim towards the north, I got my first glimpse of beautiful town of Panjim on this trip.

In the next five minutes we reached the Hanuman temple at the Kadamba bus stand where Sav was waiting for us. If you ask me or my batch mates who was the best programmer amongst us, I guess the answer would be pretty easy and unanimous. Be it pointers, data structures or performance optimization, Sav was at ease working with even the most complex aspects of computer programming while the rest of us would struggle. His grasping power is brilliant; he would study just for a few hours prior to the semester exams and still manage to pass with more than good marks. Wow! However, what I have admired the most about him is his simplicity and sincerity. Inspite of the fact that he was brilliant academically, his feet were always planted in the ground and he was always ready to explain different coding concepts to dumbos like me in college days. Besides, in the four years we spent together, I do not remember even a single instance of him not completing a program or an assignment on time. And finally, the best part is that he loves cricket in general and Sachin Tendulkar in particular. Actually, he is a chalta-phirta encyclopedia of the game and knows all the stats since the mid-1990s.


Striking a Pose

Once in Panjim, DD asked to me for directions to Hotel Texas. We took the road encircling the Ambedkar garden at Patto and then took a right near the beautiful traffic island dedicated to Divja and then passed by the new Patto bridge. The drive through the road with the Mandovi river on the left and city on the right was amazing and has always been something that I look up to, no matter how many times I have done this before. Passing by those places that are so dear to my heart - the Post Office which looks like a spatial Portuguese styled villa coloured in red and white; the Mermaid Garden; the Adil Shah's Palace which also served as the Secretariat till it was shifted to Porvorim in early 2000s; the Jetty which was getting a face-lift; the Quarter deck restaurant where he had our Std X farewell and so on felt very good. The girls who had who had already reached the city some time back were waiting for us at the Ferry Boat bus stop which Niks confused for Jetty - the most hilarious part of the day. Finally, after searching them for about 5 minutes, we picked them and headed towards our destination - Hotel Texas.

As we reached there and were finding space to park our car, I saw a guy of shorter stature coming towards us on a Honda Dio, flashing a perfect 'Coalgate smile'. In his trademark style, he managed to park his bike in between two cars and sprinted towards us. Flamboyant, charismatic, out-going, argumentative, confident, friendly, street-smart and Mr. Popular are just a few of the many words that one can describe Sai with. Always a delight to be with, his ability to get along with all and his positive attitude make him unique. If I am not wrong, I remember him being friends with everybody - with people across the myriad groups that our class was split into, with our seniors and juniors, with our batch mates from other sections of the college, with guys from other engineering colleges, GMC, GPP, Pharmacy and so on. Though he was the butt of most jokes we cracked amongst us, he would never take anything to his heart. I seriously respect him for this but that doesn't mean that I will stop making fun of him anywhere in the near future.


The Sun, Sand, Sea and Friends

All the seven of us then walked to Hotel Texas where we had decided to have our lunch. Situated close to the National theatre, this restaurant aims to re-create the ambiance of the southern American state after which it is named courtesy PoP (Plaster of Paris) sculptures depicting cowboys chasing bulls, waiters dressed in typical hats and leather jeans, guns hanging from the walls and so on. Though it hopelessly fails in this endeavour, the food served here is excellent, probably the best I have had in Goa. It looks like Lady Luck too was on our side as we got a table the moment we entered in which is extremely rare, especially on a Saturday. DD had just turned 23 on the previous day (April 26) and we had decided to celebrate his birthday. The girls had already got a cake from Monginis - Goa's favourite cake shop. Though we didn't give him Birthday bumps, we made sure that we had smeared chocolate all over DD's face, much to the distress of the hotel staff. In fact, like him all the guys ended up having their faces coloured in dark brown.


After spending some twenty-five minutes there on the birthday celebration, we ordered some starters and drinks to begin with. Just having finished her beverage, Rach who was already getting late left soon after with Sai doing the honours of dropping her to the bus stand. Once he was back, we ordered the main course and were done by 3:30 pm. We had the whole evening and of course, DD's car at our disposal. As such, we decided to go to the Vagator beach. After dropping Pri at the KTC, we waited for Sai near the Divja statue as he had gone to Altinho to complete some unfinished business. Once he was back, he parked his Dio at a parking lot in the vicinity (below the bridge) and the five of us left for the beach.


For more on the Goa Trip:
(1) A Trip to Goa... Finally (Link)
(2) The Chance Encounter (Link)
(3) An Evening in Vagator - Part 1 (Link)
(4) An Evening in Vagator - Part 2 (Link)
(5) Life is a Beach (Link)