Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Best of Places

So, I'm not exactly going to stick to the chronological order of our travel. Simply because, I did not record everything, before I decided to write down my experiences. You're also not going to get any professional advice on the best places to visit and the best time, best prices. You will get to know the time we visited, our best and worst experiences. So, yes, you can save tons of money based on our experience, because we're the last minute backpackers and are pound foolish. I am not claiming we're penny wise. We're just silly when it comes to handling finances. But we're getting better, and I'll share those stories as well. 

This post is dedicated to the best place I've ever visited. Digha. I know, I'm sorry I disappointed you and didn't say Paris or Australia. To me, this place is special. This was among the first trips I ventured out on my own. Well, I didn't go with my parents. I went with friends. So still, this was an 'on my own' experience for me. This was way back in XLRI. During the Durga Puja vacation, a few of us ventured out to the closest touristy place near Jamshedpur. We were tight on budget, and going to Digha seemed a lot more affordable and fun than going home. Besides, my Mom had her own travel planned around the time. So even if I did go to Hyderabad, I would've only met my Granny. So instead of learning to read Tamil -my Granny by the way, has still not given up on her objective and makes every attempt to teach me the script, I decided to go on this trip.  I love languages, don't get me wrong, but it's just that Tamil seems to be very Scroogey, when it comes to using more letters. They use the same letter for 'Pa' and 'Ba', which is why my Grandma calls me Badmaja, although she was the one who named me. Digha incidentally, was also the trip where I made an arch enemy and met my husband. So I think I made the right decision.

I hated the beach. I am a Piscean alright, but I prefer mountains and plains to beaches and water rides. But my best friend was coaxing me to accompany her in this trip, which had three other boys and  another girl. She had a crush on one of the boys and felt this trip would be the ideal location for the silent hide and seek of the eyes to become more vocal and open. She wanted me along, because, well - India and all - girls need to be with girls. The other girl was not very close to her, so she wanted me to join in. The only reason I was reluctant, ok, in addition to the beach thing, was this annoying boy who was also coming. I hated him for reasons that seem too trivial to pen here. But I let myself be coaxed into the trip and we went to this 'exotic' place closest to Jamshedpur. 

I read a little about Digha, to know where we were going. It was originally known as Beerkul, and then I guess like Kolkata, Bengaluru, somebody decided Digha was much cooler. Digha's is mentioned in Warren Hastings letters to his wife as the 'Brighton of the East'. Shame on those guys who read his personal letters. But Digha became famous and hopefully a good tourist spot. Atleast, was when we visited back in 2004. 

We rented a taxi and a sleepy driver, who almost got us killed in the middle of the night. It's just about 4 hours from Jampot (Jamshedpur), but we didn;t want to waste any holiday time in college, so we set out on the evening of the last working day. So the night journey turned out to me a tough call. My friend took over from the driver and chauffeured all of us to Digha. The taxi driver didn't pay him for the ride, but gave us a Rs 50 rebate. Breakfast money earned.

Digha is full of hotels. A number of them line around the beach. We had made no accommodation arrangements. But ofcourse. The boys were supposed to make the arrangements and naturally they didn't. So we went ahead and hopped from one no star hotel to another. That was all our student pockets could afford. Most hotels were not ok, giving us the rooms as we were not a 'family'. Now it's too difficult to explain the concept of friends being family to the inn keepers, so we were careful enough  not to divulge our marital status at the next tiny hotel. But the thing is, the boys did not tell us they were trying to project us as a family. So when one of them went in and reassured the receptionist, that we're a family of new couples, I bravely walked up and asked for a student's discount. I  did get to hear a ear full when we were rejected accommodation in that sidey inn too. But in my defense, I wasn't debriefed!

We finally did find a place to stay - we became one happy family and got two rooms. One for the girls and one for the boys. As soon as we plonked our bags, we rushed to the beach. Ok, the rest rushed and I was pushed out by the girls. I didn;t want to be tanned just before the summer placements. But I have to admit, the sea is super scenic. I know, each place is known for its sun rise and sun set, but this one had something magical about it. If you ignore the sari clad aunties or the uncles with huge paunches frolicking in the water, you will notice the vibrant colors and the breathtaking view. We could never get up on time for the sun rise, in the three days we stayed there. So, we stayed well through the sunset. One of the boys loved birds and this place was his haven. You get to see a variety of birds here and if you have a good camera and good photographic skills, chances are, you are going to get a wonderful shot for posterity. 
All of us depended on my camera - the ancient Kodak, with a reel. And then someone dropped it in water, and we now bank only on our memories. And each of us recollects something totally different. 

We also did some horse riding on the beach and shopped for jewelry with shells. They broke by the time we reached college, but then again it was because one of our friends sat on the plastic bag we had carefully procured to carry our priced possessions.

We spent most of the three days at the beach and by the end of it all, my fears had come true. We were all cruelly tanned. When we were not at the beach, that is late in the night, we played Dumb Charades in our tiny room. The boys came over to our room because they were too embarrassed to invite us to theirs - you know, the filth they float in. So we were more than happy to play hostesses. The Dumb C we played in Digha was the mother of all Dumb Cs. I mean, we played and enacted the sidiest of movies, third grade, C grade you name it - and we played unabashedly. From Casablanca to the fictitious 'petticoat mein hulchul' we enacted all the movies to boisterous laughter. But the boys soon ran to their room and we switched the lights off when we knew the innkeeper was coming. We were not convincing as a family, so we had to keep our guard. 

It was one heck of a trip. Scenic nature, blasphemous movies, student discounts apart, all of us who went on the trip, found our life partners. What could be a more memorable trip?

The Background

I was never a travel buff. Given a holiday, I'd rather prefer staying at home watching the rerun of a sitcom, than venture out. I am an ambivert by nature, so my social skills are limited to being the first person to say 'Hi'. Beyond that I run out of topics to talk about till the other person starts talking. And then again, after sometime I need a break. So you see, home is my haven. No internal pressure to interact ( I have this weird need to make eye contact and say the first word) and no social norms to follow. I can plonk in front of my TV or laptop and watch till my yes start to water.

And then something happened and my whole world changed. I got married. My husband loves the outdoors. He loves meeting people. No, no, he's not a social butterfly and such. He just likes to meet people he knows. I on the other hand, would prefer meeting new people, and then talking to them via mail. So there's no inherent need to meet them. We pushed and pulled and ultimately came to an understanding that we will go out every other weekend and travel once a quarter.

And then something stranger happened. I became a Mom. Now my daughter, well, she's a firecracker. And she is the definition of a social butterfly. She needs people. She loves company and she loves the outdoors. You can still fret, whine and win with your husband, but the daughter - well, when it comes to your progeny, something changes in you and you make so many sacrifices and accommodate so many of their insane requests, it's just unbelievable. When you're going to bed, you'd actually admonish yourself for being played by a toddler. And you'll just smile and go to sleep, to get what little rest you can, before she walks into your bedroom to cuddle with you and display her acrobatic skills while sleeping on your side of the bed.

But, because of these strange events, one thing for sure did happen. I for one, started really enjoying our travels. They're not all vanilla and chocolate type vacations - we don't just make an itinerary, stick to it and come back home safe and happy. We've come close to being kicked out of a country, we've made friends for life, we've been reprimanded for our 'irresponsible' behavior, we've been stranded with no tickets. But at the end of it all, we do come back with great stories and awesome memories. We take tons of pictures. Just don't download them from the camera and even if we do, we don't upload it up on Picasa. We're like that. I blame him and he blames me.

I've resolved today and hope to adhere to it as much as I can - that although not through photos, I am going to capture our adventures through this blog. Well then, this was the introduction. More to come!