Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Murud Janjira Diaries

We had decided some time back that we would go to Mumbai this weekend. My room-mate’s long-time girlfriend had been posted there on a temporary project, and they had to meet this weekend. Considering that she had flown down the previous weekend, it was now his turn. It was decided that this ought to be turned into a fun weekend trip where we would utilize this opportunity to meet up with our dear batch-mates, most of whom we hadn’t seen since our MICAn graduation about five months ago. So the plan was set. The two of us (roomie and I) would fly down to Mumbai on Friday night, meet the rest of our travel group, leave for Murud Janjira on Saturday morning, spend Saturday and Sunday there, and come back to Mumbai either Sunday night or Monday night, depending on circumstances. We fly back to Delhi on Tuesday morning.

We were flying Go Air both ways. The flight was to take off on Friday evening at 7:10. So, we decided to leave office by about 5 pm and get going to the airport. So far, so good. As we got to the airport, the first signs of trouble started appearing. I got two phone calls enquiring as to where I was and, when I replied, why I hadn’t bothered to inform the boss that I would be leaving early. Then, we got to the Go Air counter where we’re told that our 19:10 had been delayed and would now take off at 20:20. First blow. So, we went and got some grub and a smoke. Go Air is a low-cost carrier (LCC) and does not serve food on the flight. Instead you have to buy everything on board, even a bottle of water. We went into the terminal and checked in. We were carrying only hand luggage, a direct result of smart planning. We did the security check-in and walked into a very packed airport departure waiting lounge that was akin to a train or a bus station. The digital display boards had pushed our flight back to 20:30. We stood around, graduating to sitting around when flights came and went and cleared the lounge for a temporary period before it was refilled by the steady throng of people that had the need for wings. Close to 8 pm, the PA system announced that our flight had been further delayed to 21:30. We resigned ourselves to our fate and got a bite to eat. By about just past nine, the disgruntled Go Air ‘guests’ had started to crowd around a small, harried airline employee. So, to diffuse the situation, they announced that boarding is to begin. And we all stood and waited in line, then stood and waited in the bus, then sat and waited in the flight. Finally, we took off, over three hours late. The captain had sounded either drunk or sleepy as he got on to the PA system, and it showed in his flying. He pulled stunts that city bus drivers are well known for, weaving wildly during take-off and banking sharply thrice immediately after. The fact that the over-head storage compartment above our heads had shiny silver duct tape holding it in place didn’t ease our minds one bit. So, after a horrendous flight, that included a stop-over in Jaipur, we finally landed in Mumbai at 1:30 in the morning. I have never been so glad to set foot on terra firma.

We came out and there was roomie’s girlfriend, waiting with two signs in her hand - Abhishek Bacchan (me) and Hrithik Roshan (roomie). We had decided the previous week itself that we were going to pull this little stunt at the airport. Unfortunately, since we landed so late at night, the crowd at the airport, that we had hoped to get all excited at the prospect of seeing two celebrities, had thinned out considerably. We still had fun doing it though. We went to our batchmate’s house, had a nice reunion in the dead of night, and left early in the morning for Murud Janjira, with little or no sleep. The drive in the hired Qualis was beautiful, though the driver was a nasty lout who had trouble keeping his eyes open. Greenery became the norm of the day with lush rolling hills soon replacing the dreary concrete jungle that Mumbai is. Everything around us nearly screamed Kerala. The road got progressively worse as the potholes made their presence felt. Soon enough though, we reached, and the bumpy ride with the annoying driver suddenly seemed worth it.

The resort opened out into the most pristine flat beach untouched by the human hand. The sea was placid, gently lapping the shore and forming pretty designs while retreating. The beach looked like a place where we could shoot our version of “Chariots of Fire”, and we did seriously contemplate it. There was this vast expanse of water right in front of our eyes, and lovely hills of myriad colours flanking us on either side. It was breath-taking.

The plan was to do nothing, and that’s exactly what we did. Nothing. We just hung around, caught up with each other, lazed around, and felt content. The next day, we went to see the Janjira Fort that was in the middle of the sea, and had apparently never been conquered. We had to go in a little sail boat that put us completely at the mercy of the elements, mainly the wind, the sea and the sun. A peaceful calm came over me as the boat gently parted the water to allow itself through, and the water responded by softly lapping against the sides of the boat, almost as if they were having a conversation. All phone networks had conked out in Murud, except Airtel, and as if to prove its advertising line “Go Wherever, Do Whatever”, my roomie received a call in the middle of that sail boat journey. He was tickled as he answered it and said, “Ummm…listen, I’m in the middle of the sea. I’ll give you a call once I get back to the hotel.” Hutch flopped miserably.

So, anyway, we spent Monday also doing nothing, packed up our stuff, and caught a middle-of-the-afternoon bus back to Mumbai. It was an old rickety bus, but the driver was absolutely fantastic and we made it to Mumbai in record time (with a crab falling on me from a basket above en route) and in better shape than what the Qualis had left us in. We again spent a few hours in the middle of the night in the batchmate’s house and my roomie and I caught an early morning flight (Go Air again, but much better this time around) on Tuesday back to Delhi and work, thereby capping off a simply brilliant trip. One of the best trips I have been on in a long time. I feel really happy and content.

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