Saturday, March 22, 2008

An island… and a man – 2

Genuine apologies for the second part coming in so late. But I really couldn’t help it… it’s been a pretty hectic week, whew! Over this week I’ve seen over a thousand snaps of our vacation, reminiscing the great week at Andaman! The places, the water and the beauty of the trip is surely recorded in its own limited way, but the other side to it, the good times with my fellow vacationers isn’t that easy to remember. But here goes my feeble attempt, the much awaited sequel to part 1.

A bunch of 21 XLers in a faraway land, with little else to entertain them, decided to play something. But what could you probably play with no skills and no equipment… just loads of people, an empty hotel room and a lot of time to kill? MAFIA!! (If you didn’t know that… well, go drown yourself!) An addiction that followed us everywhere at all times, we played mafia in crowded little rooms, on the beach, in the car, even on a volcano site! Pretending to be innocent, strategizing, accusing friends, killing enemies.. surely, this is the most fun game ever !

For the ignorant, here’s a crash course. A bunch of people sit around, preferably in a circle. One guy is appointed God, the rest of us live in a ‘village’. We start the game at ‘night’, when everyone is asleep. Some of us are appointed Mafia (by God or by chits) without the knowledge of the others, the innocent villagers. Hence, there are two sides, the villagers and the mafia, each trying to eliminate the other, those who manage to stay alive, obviously win. There are also two parts to the game. During the ‘day’ everyone pretends to be villagers and they ‘discuss’, (accusing and defending) and finally vote out one person, by a majority of votes. This brings the ‘night’ where the mafia kill one person of their choice. And then it’s day again. So basically, the game depends on how the mafia fools (or fails to fool) the villagers. Certain complications include, ‘Vampire’ and ‘Doctor’, played by choice.

When there are 16-18 people playing, one game takes 2 hours or more and it’s exhausting! People are surprisingly talented, loud, intuitive, vociferous and attentive. The seriousness of the game is hilarious in hindsight. Stupidity is immediately punished, silence is misunderstood. The most tactful players eventually survive. This game teaches you to talk, listen, defend, summarize and be strategic. Nowhere else have I seen such appropriate GD practice! And RG’s points, Mafia 101, Sushant’s plight and mostly Reddy’s brilliant moves, made the infinite hours we spent on this game, great fun!

The rest of the trip was always spent in Mafia’s shadow. The post-game discussions went on for hours! On the last day, when the volcano had brought down our spirits immensely, I thought to myself that only a game of mafia could cheer us up. But one man proved me wrong! Standing tall, with a cowboy hat on his head, sipping a drink and looking at the water in deep thought… what was running in RG’s head then, we don’t know. But a certain someone sure found his butt pretty attractive. ‘Slurp’! In front of a sizeable audience, ‘consult boy’ got his butt licked, by a beautiful black cow! The wet patch might still be evident on his pants. Starved for entertainment, everyone seemed jump on this momentous occasion to pull this great man’s leg! A series of jokes.. everyone laughing our heads off. A small part of me felt sorry for him, but it did seem like it was a part of Great design! Just a sample of what we came up with…

Qn : Which bike would RG ride?
Ans: ‘Cow’asaki!

Qn: What is RG’s favourite Indipop song?
Ans : ‘Bull’a ki jaana main kaun

Qn: Why is RG scared of cows?
Ans: Because he is a ‘cow’ard

Qn: How would RG greet all of us?
Ans: “Hi, Gaays!”

This list is never ending, but it sure brought the trip to a great end. With everyone headed off in different directions, it seems pretty unreasonable that we’ll ever get a chance to have such fun. But, as a great man once said, “Such is life”! Thanks for making it a great trip, guys!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

An island… and a man – 1

As a part of the traditional post-CRP pre-convocation vacation, a bunch of us went to a tiny ignored part of India. And that week turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. Two reasons – the place and the people.

As our flight started descending on our destination the view from the tiny windows was breathtaking. It seemed like the God has dropped little pieces of heaven on earth. The little of bunch of islands that were together called the Andaman Islands was indeed welcoming. A quick ride to our hotel, a few hours of sleep, lunch and then we were finally ready for our first beach.

10 mins by car, we reached Corbyn’s Cove. A cozy beach tucked in to the far end of Port Blair. The water seemed like it was calling out to me. And when I stepped in to it, it was ice cold. Did I need a better reason to stay in it? I don’t know how to swim, but that made no difference. Just splashing around was more than sufficient. But we had to leave at some point and so we made our way to the Cellular Jail for the ‘Light and Sound show’. I was looking forward to roaming around the premises, peeping in to the cells and in the meanwhile discovering the story of ‘Kaala Pani’. But instead, we were made to sit and listen to Om Puri narrating the story as a peepal tree, in orthodox hindi. My best efforts of following the narrative were of no use, the nap was refreshing though. Some dinner at the dingy little Gagan Hotel followed by shopping meant that we were tired enough to sleep well through the night.

We started Day 2 by taking a boat to Havelock Island. The ride itself was fun! Staring at endless water around you makes one pensive (and others sea-sick). But even after loads of snaps, no monster popping out of the ocean and yet, no land in sight, the ride got a little boring. But we did reach Havelock at the end, and the journey seemed worth it. Crystal clear water at the harbour was just a teaser. A 30 min ride in a dinghy took us to Elephant Island beach. And wow! The tsunami apparently left only a fraction of the beach intact and yet, what a place! Clean sand, clear water, a cool breeze… boats bumping in to each other, huge trees providing the much needed shade. Just floating around, looking at the blue cloudless sky, it was the best beach I’d ever been too. (At that point I thought nothing could beat it, I was to be shocked later). And then God proved His knack for beauty in the smallest things on earth. We went snorkeling. Fascinating fish, colourful corals, stunning stones… I discovered previously unseen shades, colours, shapes! I stepped on live corals, touched orange fish… it was a dream in slow motion. Too bad it had to end.

As I had a lip-smacking lunch at a small place called ‘Nala’s Kingdom’, I thought to myself that the highlight of the trip was surely over. But this was before we went to Radhanagar beach. Known for its sunset, this beach was selected by TIME magazine in 2004 as the best beach in Asia. And it was mind-blowing! Too scared to be a blemish on the perfect shoreline, I couldn’t convince myself to get into water. A never ending walk next to the bluish-green water, waves tickling my ankles, beautiful sand patterns, a hundred tiny crabs running around my feet, an elephant which for once didn’t look that majestic next to the magnificent beach, a green forest encircling the coastline, smooth white sand, turning around just in time to see the sun disappearing behind some clouds… heaven cannot be better than this! No way! I had to return, come back here once more…

… And I did. The next morning some of us ditched scuba-diving plans and the beach in front of our resort to come back to Radhanagar beach. Lying down on the sand, reading a book, chatting up with friends and then I couldn’t resist it any more. The water was fantastic! Playing 20 questions as the waves hit us with amazing consistency was simply brilliant! I don’t know how long we were there, I don’t care. That place made me genuinely happy. No worries, no issues. Quite simply, heaven on earth!

We had to leave Havelock that night. Dinner at Gagan, a late night walk next to the shore, yet nothing could get rid of the memories of a still perfect shoreline in my head. The next morning we visited Ross Island (of interesting historical significance), Viper Island (of a building, boredom and nothing else) and a beach (with some name, dirty water and mafia). Perhaps the best part of the day was walking a mile at night looking into the sea. On the penultimate day we went shopping, looking at a drab aquarium skipped several other non-water places. The last day was interesting though.

We got up at 3 in the morning, having been promised of a scary ride through a tribal reserve. Errrm, we saw 3 tribals looking at us with such indifference that it hurt my little ego. And then we had to cross over in a huge boat to go to the next island. Some of us could have swum faster, but the area was apparently ‘crocodile-infested’. Errrm, we didn’t see a single fish. An interesting motorboat ride through canvassing mangroves lead us to see some sterile limestone caves. After which was supposed to be the ultimate destination – active-mud volcano! We trekked our way to the site, only to see a bucketful of cold mud and the occasional plop of a mud-bubble. Yeah yeah! Not so much of a great day! That’s what we thought, until… you have to read this in the second part of this post! Just have to!

We wrapped up the trip by a second visit to Corbyn’s cove where we ran around playing chain. Our last dinner at Gagan, a good night’s sleep and the next morning we were on a flight again, looking at the same islands. As I sat back in my seat, I thought of the good times. My most memorable moment though had to be sitting on a bench at the edge of Dolphin resort at Havelock with a friend, waves crashing at our feet, a conversation about the past, the future and innumerable bollywood beach songs.

Go to Andaman… someday! You might just run in to me, because I’m definitely going back.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Farewell, XL

Two years gone past,
Too soon, too fast
My time on heaven,
Has come to end, at last.

The place that let me be me
And taught me how to see
Oh! I don’t want to leave
The place that set me free

The place that let me grow
A chance to let me show
The world that I am here!
It’s so hard to let it go.

A place that gave me friends
More in the future, it intends
Why should I still be around?
When my time here ends?

A place where I had my say
Lead me, shown me the way
Why should I leave XL?
When I so badly want to stay?

Yet I depart with no regret,
No worries, I shall not fret
Except I know inside my head
It shall be so very hard to forget

Glad to have been here
A place too special and dear
Very far though I may go,
XL! You shall always be near…