Never fear shadows. They simply mean there's a light shining somewhere nearby...
It happened a little over than a month ago…
I was in Goa; relishing a much awaited rendezvous with old pals from university. Braving through a grand reception from a leaky sky and an amateurish hotel, we had embarked in our journey – the holiday spirit played a good sport in keeping our moods intact. August is hardly the time of the year levelheaded people visit Goa. Monsoon being in full swing, tourism goes into hibernation. But then, we were all coming together after almost 4 years and we were not exactly levelheaded either.
The city of revelers, India’s answer to Las Vegas; or so as is said about Goa. By no norms whatsoever I can be classified as a reveler. But the thrill of getting a taste of that parallel lifestyle which comes with a statutory warning; was too hard to resist. It was like a teen-age ecstasy of trying out something forbidden. The only anomaly is, I have crossed that age a long time ago.
A good thing about holidaying in Goa is the place is known for its night life. You won’t feel guilty if you’ve overslept and missed that early morning beach-walk. Guilty feeling did not stand a chance with us though. We were immune to any such emotion. The Goan skyline might have been hospitable enough to smile through her monsoon veil to her unseasoned visitors; we hardly cared to notice.
We had our first day lunch at a nearby beach-shack. It was then when I had my first taste of alcohol.
Horrible it was. It tasted like one of those acidic medicines straight from a doctor’s prescription. My reaction also was nothing but complementary. I felt like throwing up. I could even sense the grains of First Rice coming alive in my intestine and demanding to let them see daylight. But then I remembered it was my money and civility at stake; with great effort I hold my breath and gulped it down.
Nothing can be more disappointing when you were looking forward to something so eagerly and then when it actually comes, you realize this is somehow not the thing you have wished for. In that moment, the mere thought of drinking alcohol seemed more exciting to me than actually consuming it. The drink was a local specialty; heavily diluted with Sprite. But the aroma was too strong. I poured Sprite more and more and at the end what remained in my glass was only the soft drink. But the damage was already done. It was certainly going to haunt me for quite some time.
That was not the only shock I had that day. Later, in the early hours of night we visited a bar. It was not in my to-do list, but friends insisted and entry was free for girls. Not that I knew these places have entry-fee, but the word ‘free’ had its effect anyway. At the entrance, the bar’s name was stamped on our right hand wrists. It felt like this place is going to suck us in. I’d have preferred an old-fashioned entry-slip instead.
We went inside – the dance floor. And God, what did I see! This place had a DJ and bartenders and bar girls and bouncers and what not! Of course it would have! It was lame of me to expect anything else. I have heard about these people many times thanks to movies and media, but it never really occurred to me that they could be real!
It felt like I am in a film set. The crowd was young; like us or a few years older or younger. They were dancing to a peppy music, too loud to gather its meaning. There was too much public display of affection all around. People here don’t really bother who else are there and nobody actually cares what the couple next to them is doing. These were a hell lot of visuals for someone for whom ‘Bigg Boss’ is the most indecent TV serial!
I stood rooted at a corner. There was a gap of only a few millimeters between me and the wall. I could have easily been mistaken to be a lady bouncer or a cheap onlooker. I realized I am staring and that’s rude. I should’ve danced instead. After all, that’s what this place for. But how can someone just start gyrating out of the blue! This place, the people and the atmosphere around here were so not my kind. I feared even if I move a bit I will do something stupid. A helplessly awkward situation it was. I started to feel uneasy. Finally one of my friends said she wants to go out and I hurriedly followed her. What a respite it was! Even though the open air lounge was heavy with smoke and smell of alcohol, a sigh of relief came out unknowingly.
It was only once I have been to a dance floor before. Well, it was not exactly a dance floor. It was a college auditorium and we were having our annual spring fest. All of us were dressed in our best attires; for me it was a neatly ironed salwar suit, with a dupatta pined to it on shoulders; and we danced to the tunes blurted out by a music band. It was so fun, spontaneous and cheerful. This one inside this bar is also supposed to be spontaneous; but it felt so intimidating and choky and so vulgar. Maybe I was not ready for it yet.
While in school, I had set some rules for me which I vowed to follow strictly. It was like a personal code of conduct. Over the years very few of them have remained unbroken. Maybe someday I will be ready to fathom the eerie world of a dance floor inside a bar. I wonder how transformed I’d be then.
Thrice more I tasted alcohol during our stay in Goa. Partly because I wanted to experiment and partly because I knew I might not get a chance again. Three different varieties of it but all had that acidic odor of medicine, only in varying intensity. People who are addicted to alcohol, are either really unhappy or have uncanny sense of pleasure; I gathered.
Two and a half days of fooling around ended with warm hugs and greetings and longing to see each other again. We promised to each other, going forward we'll arrange a trip like this every year; a new place every time. But we are scattered across different cities now and nobody knows what the future has in store. The possibility of meeting every year seemed highly unlikely. But then, promises are meant to be broken and when they are not, they create unforgettable memories.
This trip didn’t have a great start. There were many things that could have gone wrong. I myself was not in a good mood. I wanted to have this trip to inhale some fresh air away from everyday life. I had planned everything accordingly to give myself some peace of mind. At the end, nothing went by my plan. But it couldn’t have been better. The experiences with the bar and alcohol were not pleasing, but were surely engaging enough to distract mind. That’s all everybody expects in a holiday after all. To have a different take at life from a different angle; so that when we get back on track, it doesn’t seem so gloomy as before.
The sip of sin was worth taken.