Last weekend I had driven to Murud Janjeera with my roomies and another friend. No biggie, except that I drove all the way there and…get this…all the way back. Alone. By myself. Solely.
Again, no biggie, since it’s only 165 kms or so from here. But only a couple of months ago, I was scared of taking the car out to the market place. So it was a definite challenge for me to drive on highways, through crowded village roads and, at one point, reverse on a slope (I still break out in a sweat when I think of that). Now that the trip is behind me, I feel…umm…strange. There’s a weird, unknown, vague feeling of happiness. I guess, after a long, long time, I’m feeling proud of myself.
I must say, I had great company on the trip. Friday night, they insisted that I go to bed early, shutting off lights, tucking me into bed and making me cheese and chilly sandwiches the next morning.
Our trip to Murud was really cool. We listened to radio at 5:30 in the morning, and from what we heard, I think we had stumbled upon the Nadeem-Shravan-Kumar Sanu channel. They were playing that whole spate of songs from the era when Mahesh Bhatt still made movies. It was pretty nice, but unfortunately, the driver never gets to listen to her choice of music. So, although I would have liked to listen to Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, my roomie started singing a perfectly horrible song from Ashoka. (I don’t remember this song but it is so ridiculous that it could have been part of the movie – it goes, “Aa taiyaar ho ja, aa aa taiyyar ho ja…”. Apparently, this song comes on when Shah Rukh prepares for the Kalinga war…actually, no not Shah Rukh, but King Ashoka…he he! a little humour there, see..)
Anyway, one of my friends was dressed in a cute, teal-colored fringe top and another one was wearing a pretty smouldering safari skirt. Now, such attire had a pretty interesting effect on people who served us in pokey-little eateries. They would clamour around and open long forgotten cupboards to pull out tea cups and saucers…because these madams could not be served in regular chai glasses. That was funny.
We had pretty good brekkers – I liked my crisp vadas and soft idlis, but what I was eyeing very longingly were my friends’ huge platters of masala omlettes. They looked so tasty, all spiced with turmeric, and chopped onions, chillies and tomatoes. I tried very hard to savour my medu vada the way my friends were wolfing down their eggs, but it wasn’t very convincing. I just sighed very loudly every few minutes. Nope…I’m not a very nice dining companion when there’s non-veg food on the table.
Oh, and there was a beautiful detour. Just before Alibaug, we took a wrong turn and drove on a narrow muddy strip. After a bit it was clear that we were headed the wrong way, so we stopped by a little stream to ask for directions. That stream was thickly shadowed by trees and lined with big, brown rocks were speckled with sunlight – that place looked straight out of a storybook. I half expected a badger to come out of somewhere and invite us to tea.
There were some washerwomen and some men hacking coconuts from trees. That moment, right then, with the cold stream water under our feet and a sunny sky over our heads and the smell of a happy balminess all around, that moment – felt green. Leaf green. As if, that little slice of our lives were tightly wrapped in a bit of betel leaf and tucked away for ever.
What’s more – we bought ourselves some coconuts and slurped them sitting on rocks and dipping our feet in the cool stream. It was so idyllic. Us having our coconuts and my cute, blue car winking in the sunlight beyond.
When we reached Alibag, we decided to make a stop at the fort. Now, everyone had different reasons for going there. The more ditzy amongst us just jumped out of the car on seeing horse carts, another one wanted to know the ‘history’ (pffft!)…but me…ever the one with above-average depth wanted to go there because the fort was called ‘Kolaba’ (my most beloved place in the whole world – marginally more than Bandra. In fact, if I had been able to afford a SKODA, I’d have called it Colaba. Because I got a Swift, I named it ‘Bandra’. I think of everything.)
This fort is really pretty. There are places inside the fort that have ‘Jai Bhavani’ temples. Some of them are not more than small clearings with stone statues overgrown with thistles. But they are decorated with marigold and smeared with sandalwood and that seems to lend a certain civility to the whole thing. But the most interesting part of that place were huge brightly coloured walls that were almost crumbling down. They were in bright glossy blue (a blue where indigo, violet, and turquoise got into a fight and lay splayed and splattered), Jaipuri pink and capsicum green. All of these walls formed a backdrop for some outrageous poses that we captured on camera…lending a different meaning to guerrilla tactic.
Finally, after driving through Kashed and wondering why our respective companies couldn’t open an outfit on that beach, we reached Murud. As we didn’t have any reservations, we couldn’t get those charming cottages by the sea. So we settled for one BIG room with one BIG bed for 500 bucks some 5 minutes from the beach. We got our luggage into the room, told each other that we must leave for the beach right away, and promptly sunk into the sleep of death for the next 4 hours.
I can’t explain that sleep – it was so dreamless and soft. And feathery and satisfying. It felt as if the light that shone outside dusted itself off before it came into our room. It was pleasantly cool and dark, yet we knew that we weren’t losing time because it was still bright outside. It was a sleep that filled our bellies and kept away any niggling doubts or unpleasant thoughts or unfinished lists. It was a sleep where portions of us became whole again.
When I woke up, I found that that the people I had travelled with had somehow regressed to a pretty disturbing state of childhood. Two of them were yelling and throwing pillows at each other, and another one was probably scaring away Satan by singing in the bathroom. They were having fun – so I was informed rather curtly when I looked alarmed.
Anyway, we headed to the beach soon after, carrying our purple mat with us. Now, this purple mat has an interesting story. I had got it with me because I thought I’d do some suryanamaskars in the day. But I never got around to that. My roomie then wanted to borrow it so she could do her tarot readings on that. But she found she was more comfortable on the cool marble floor. The other roomie, on the other hand, prudently decided to use it as bedding when guests came over. And that’s how it has been used ever since.
Of course, now the mat seemed to be on the threshold of assuming a new avatar – a happy beach accessory instead of a rebuked spiritual prop. And, maybe I’m imagining things, but it looked happy. Since my body was still a little stiff from all that driving, I’d decided to pass up on the swimming. I’d decided to sit on the shore and watch waves after waves just wash up and recede and not get in there to feel the thrill of being one with the sea. That’s what I’d decided.
And what did I know?
My other friends who were wearing their swimsuits waded in and splashed around and all…and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just dove in and started swimming. I couldn’t let the small matter of not wearing a swimsuit come in the way of such pure joy!
The sand was clean and soft. It wasn’t as gravely as the strip in Juhu (and perhaps I sound like the regular Bombay hick – but to me, Juhu is a beach). And I felt the waves just come up to me and take me away like the meaning of a poem – something you probably learnt as a child, but understood years later. Like the sense and strength of that line – A thing of beauty is a joy forever…The waves just felt like that. There was a bizarre craving… of wanting to get subsumed by a huge colossal wall of water descending on you…or that brilliant feeling of lightness when you are floating on your back and you get lifted so high that you feel you’ll be able to peep over a palm tree now…that surreal moment when you become a mote in a stream of something large and seamless and…you dare to hope…eternal.
A couple of hours later, the sun began to set. A few hours after that, a wee mole of a moon came out. And even later, the vivid blue-black sky shattered with a few dozen fireworks.
Time stripped the canvas around us to paint something different and phenomenal in the course of an evening. And whilst all this was happening, we sat huddled on our purple mat, shivering the breeze and sipping hot cups of ginger tea.
Some of us just took in the satiety of a perfect trip and sighed. Some clicked the blitzes for posterity. Some wondered how, in this huge world and this mammoth planet, there was a miniscule piece of earth that had four blissfully happy hearts.
Some silently raised a toast to Keats - for reassuring the world that they would never lose sight of their constellation of memories; for writing '...A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'