I went on, what in retrospect sounds like a big deal, a cousin’s trip. Every time I tell this story, people are surprised at our management and our intentions.
All of us, people who knew each other as children, made time and space in our timetables, life events, wallets to go and hang out in Goa for a week. I, in my Suraj Barjatia glory, wanted to get to know better the people I spent every summer of my childhood with. I wanted to look closely at the boy who sat on the same seat watching ‘Main Hoon Na’ and feel asleep on me, the one who I told people had fallen into a hole because he refused to play with me, another one whom I wrestled with regularly when my parents weren’t watching. We put ourselves into make-believe domesticity, in pillow forts, under trees, in tractors and on slabs over the terrace. We were all assigned roles and professions in the game. We ate biscuit crumble and dirt.
Now I wanted to see the non-make-believe versions of these little bubs and note what features the update brought. I hated the thought of us not knowing each other more than Whatsapp group updates. Most importantly, I wanted to make new memories. I had exhausted the Main Hoon Na, the hole and kick-boxing in Birthday posts and Rakshabandhan letters. I wanted newer, more updated anecdotes.
So we went, backpacks, bookings and everything. I called it our Little Miss Sunshine trip, mostly because we had a car and we aimed at spending most of our time in a closed space with each other, beyond the point of comfort, beyond the point where we could keep up pretence, getting on each other’s nerve, getting to know each other for better or for worse, without an option to not be family.
In the week, I got to know them better, I swam a lot, drank even more, got into fights, go hit on by an uncle, developed interest in Football and made Suraj Barjatiya proud for now I love them for who they are not their (n-15)year old selves.
Gokarna is beautiful, in an untouched sort of a way. It isn’t commercialised even though now it is crowded. It is one of those places that I will see grow into a tourist spot. Right now it is a village with tiny colourful houses & udupis. If you evesdrop, you can hear people talk in Kanada. It is ironic that a tourist like me should come to Gokarna & talk about commercialisation. For one, we stayed in a resort, not a local establishment.
In addition, I am having a hard time saying that I won’t do it again because that resort was one of the highlights of our trip, what with the beautiful bathrooms, the swimming pool, lawns & reading corners.
The bathroom was big & beautiful. Built to entertain, not just bathe. It had wooden shelves, a big showering area & plants, in addition to which was a corner that was open to the sky. Imagine bathing right under the open sky. I might have been excited just at the square-footage. This was bigger than our living room back home. R was excited about the sinks. Plural. Two, so two people could brush alongside each other. Like in movies.
Then there was the pool, that I had been looking forward to for weeks leading to the trip. I wanted to sit in the pool at night & drink wine. I started my night in the evening. Everyone spent these hours doing their own thing. S kept throwing a coin in the water & retracting it. R spoke about her childhood. I floated on my back & A tried. We all stayed in the pool till everyone became raisins. Like over-soaked peas, we shed skin & became a clump, in a corner of the baby pool at 2 in the morning, talking about relationships, about our respective careers & plans for the future. I was floating on my back still, only the view had changed. Every time their energy waxed, they would play a game wherein each person tried to swim from under me in a 2 feet pool. At waining energy, we spoke of insecurities.
Imagine that, cold water on my skin, cool breeze in my air, a sky full of stars to look at while floating next to shoulders with the strength to hold my head when I need it. Close your eyes, imagine that, play La Bamba in your head & stew in this joyful moment for a while.
Those 7 days were sprinkled with ad-lib, joyful moments.
One of my favourite ones was when I spoke to my cousins about my tattoos and what they mean to me over an offhand lunch. Speaking about my tattoos essentially meant speaking about my childhood, mummy’s mental health, my fight with depression and trauma, my insecurity that happiness and healing are fleeting.
How this one specifically denotes the moment I felt free from the grey matter of anger, anxiety and sadness that I thought was a default state of a brain. I remember going to my doctor and saying “I feel like my mind was cleaned blank. Your medicine broke something” and he said “that’s what normal brains feel like”.
18 years. 6570 days. 157680 hours of anguish, crying, locking myself up, not sleeping, waking up in sweat and tears, in the span of 2 years felt bearable. At least I stood a chance at a happy life. This tattoo, and most of my other tattoos, signify that hope. They signify the idea that my family grew in un-nurturing places like a weed, we looked at the relative smallness of our misfortunes like we do with a dandelion, making wishes on it and we turned it, did not succumb, we got a fighting chance at happiness and we are happy, in most parts, together.
It surprises me, how close my cousins and I have been, we have spoken about sex, insecurities and waxing, how much time we spent together and managed to never share this part of my life. Maybe I never had the apparatus to put this in words, maybe we lacked the awareness of these feelings, like a child with weak eyesight since birth does not know to mention blurrs in her vision. I wonder how different life would have been if I had known to do this earlier; Open up my life and say “hey, can you help me lift this weight, I am tired right now?”
- We sat outside the railway station, sweat-soaked, humidity-lathered waiting for our car. These moments of nothing-to-do-ness, I believe, are the test of co-travellers. We sat under a tree, admiring the flowers, cursing the humidity & calling car companies like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, after which we fell into random discussions about Paytm, dating & food.
- I feel like I know these people better solely because of the long car drives. S is so anxious & organised/responsible that he lends freedom to other people to not worry. A always has dry jokes to crack, he can’t stand a tense situation, & does a beautiful job defusing them. P has become the most patient teacher & R never says ’no’ to an adventure. I now know their taste in music, their reaction when we almost get into an accident, flight or fight. We also spoke about women drivers, consent & feminism every chance we got.
- One night we got the boys to wear our skirts/dresses. P didn’t resist at all, which made me bloat with pride. A lost his mind & I do not remember laughing that much in my entire life.
- P likes Casinos. Everyone else except me was enthusiastic. So we went. I sat in a corner & watched Football. R & A drank 284 kamikazes to make up for the lost money in free booze. I drove the drunk gang back in what was the most entertaining drive of my life. If you gave me drunk conversations & no food, I would live.
- I did not want to get into the pool because I had freshly bathed & moisturised myself. A few drinks later, I was doing somersaults & scolding a boy gang for playing Honey Sing songs. We rolled a white towel into a ball & aimed it at stuff. This was the first time I paid a fine for ruining a towel.
- We shopped for souvenirs for the boys’ girlfriends in a flea market. I smiled the whole time seeing them guess sizes, favourite colours, current fashion.
- We had a go-to alcohol shop, the uncle from which would tell us exactly how to make our fenny drinks and worry about S for not drinking.
- We had impromptu dance parties in the boys’ room every night.
- We spent a whole day doing cartwheels on the beach
We reached Morjim last night. I woke up early. My cousins did not sleep all night & are asleep now, giving me time to read & write. There has been none till now. If we weren’t driving to some place, we were in the pool or dancing in the room. It is very hard to find time for yourself on trips that are meant for catching up.
In addition, we are all very different types of travellers. Some of us like to live it up & some want to lay really really low. & when it is a bigger bunch, I believe everyone is accommodating everyone else in their way of travel, trying to find a golden mean, if there is ever such a thing. We are doing really well till now.
We were sitting at the only restaurant near the beach that had Kings beer. The owner and his friend had money on the Snooker game they were playing. I was imposing my company on them. They were both from Kashmir. When people who live in 2 places talk of a place, you know which one they consider home. Kashmir is their home, Goa baffles them. They asked me questions about my trip. On finding out that I was with my cousins, uncle looked up for his game and said “not boyfriends?” then he went on to add, with apparent pleasure “No one does that. That is so nice. You are a good bunch.”
We reached Palolem yesterday. No matter how many times I come to Goa there’s always a new place to visit & new things to see. Still, everything reminds me of everything else.
Today everything reminded me of a time in the past when I had come to this part of Goa. Everything was so different. I had come with my then boyfriend, who I was very dependant on, in those times, I was reckless, trying to make up for my lost time in fun and adrenaline rushes. The water was clear & blue.
Many years later, I am here with family. I don’t get drunk, cry & make calls. I walk, think, write & swim. I feel proud of who I’ve become.
But now I can see oil on the beach water. It breaks my heart. When I see no stars in the night sky, I imagine a future where children will think of stars as myth, as something from the past, what nursery rhyme will they sing then? I hope they feel proud of who they become.