'Not all that a man earns is by honest means; there are more ways than one to get something...'
As the days passed, they took on a mantle of laziness. The late nights and afternoons in sleep, the evenings in getting ready, then work and finally getting home. Meals were paid by the coupons they got at work, their food stamps. One day, Arihant and Kamlesh decided to break this circle. They decided to take their first leave, four days of leave which they had left in their Casual Leaves for the year. Both hadn't taken any leaves till then and the leaves don't accrue, they are not passed on from year to year, so it would be wise to take their allotted leaves before they expired. It was December, a time when the cold chill of the Bangalore winter made the two of them feel a little homesick. They remembered their town of Shillong with fond conversation that ranged from;
"Do you remember Kamli, the street dogs in Shillong?"
"Yes, we became friends for that dog, remember, what was its name... yeah, we had called him Snowy"
"Hell, I remember Snowy, the permanent feature of our college!"
"I miss Shillong, Kamli!"
"So do I, Rehan; by the way, what are you planning for the leaves we have in Convergys?"
"We have seven days of Casual Leave; they will expire if we do not take them man!"
"Ok, should we go to Shillong?"
"We could ask Kanya and Madhuri to take their leaves together, then we can show them around Shillong with Cherrapunji thrown in, and Guwahati"
"Let's discuss this with them."
That night, at work, Kamli was the one who broached the subject of their leaves with Kanya and Madhuri when they met for dinner. Kamli went all out for selling the Northeast as a dream destination. After making Shillong sound as beautiful a destination as they possibly could, Kanya and Madhuri seemed convinced. They would have finalised their journey to the north-eastern part of India, but for a question. The question was asked by Kanya, "Have you guys ever been to Goa?"
The question was a loaded one in more ways than one. Everything pales when that word is spoken in India. 'Goa'
At once Kamli and Rehan's brains started conjuring up the images associated with this word, pristine beaches that seemed more inviting by the second, skimpily clad damsels that their eyes almost saw, the Sea... who could forget the Sea that you get as a bonus for travelling to Goa for free. Shillong didn't sound that inviting, not because it was any less in terms of beauty, but because Goa with Kanya and Madhuri seemed like a dream destination. They wanted to go to Shillong, but that meant going home. They had already been to Shillong all their lives; they had never been to Goa.
"What about Goa? We haven't been there" Arihant sounded a tad embarrassed with this confession.
"Well, Goa is an awesome place. I have been there and I can vouch that four days in Goa is exactly what we need."
Arihant and Kamlesh let their silence make it obvious that they were willing to accept this change in plans.
"But, promise that the two of you will visit Shillong and the Northeast with us?"
"We promise!" Madhuri and Kanya spoke in unison.
"Ok, we will plan the trip and make the arrangements," Kamlesh was his responsible self.
That night when they left the Convergys building, the smile in their faces was broader than it had been for a while. Both Kamlesh and Arihant felt that excitement that all youngsters do when they encounter the word Goa. They were silent because both of them feared that if they said something, their dream would get spoiled, that it would be taken away from them. They reached home and Rehan broached the subject.
"Kamli, how do we go about making this a reality, this trip?"
"First things first, how do we get there?"
"Yes, I believe there is a train running from Majestic to Goa!"
"Yes, that leaves the road, we could try finding if any buses ply."
"Let's try calling Ravi. He would be the best person to know."
They made the call to Ravi who picked up at the first ring.
"Are youa and Kamlesha ina trouble againa?" Ravi asked in his usual accented English. The sound of Ravi's voice made Arihant feel at ease at once. He had started liking this voice of a man who was not only their driver but friend and the first person they turned to in their times of trouble in this city, in Bangalore.
"No, Ravi this time we are not in trouble, thankfully."
"Thena you remembera me to takea my services?"
That made Arihant smile and he decided to broach the subject of the reason he'd called.
"Ravi, do you know anything about Goa?"
"Yes, it isa the best place for Holidaya"
"Can you help us then?" Arihant enquired in his usual manner.
"Sorry, I cannota drivea to Goa, it too far, perhapsa another driver I arrange?"
"No, Ravi...we will not drive there, is there public transport to Goa?"
"Oh! Yesa, my goodnessa you two going or four of youa? Arihant could almost feel the smile in Ravi's voice.
"The four of us" Arihant said this with a little pride because he felt that they had entered the world of grownups and this was their first foray as grown men.
"There be two girls with you and Kamlesha, Madhuri and Kanya, hmmm?"
"Yes, Ravi they will be there"
"You have to be very carefula. I suggest that you take a bus from City Marketa. It travels to Goa, you reach in eighta hoursa."
"Ok, so we take a bus, day or night?"
"Nighta preferred because you reacha early in the morninga."
"Ok and we have to make our tickets then. Are there any Volvo sleepers?"
"Yes, Arihanta there are!"
"Well, thank you Ravi, you have been a lifesaver as you always are."
When Arihant turned to Kamli, he appraised him on the situation and told him that they were travelling by bus. Kamli agreed when he was told that there were Volvo sleepers available at nights which reach Goa in the morning. Kamli agreed for he wanted to go by bus, which seemed a safer option. Arihant asked Kamlesh to make the call to Madhuri and he decided to tell Kanya himself. After the calls were made they decided to leave on a Friday, so that they would reach Goa on a Saturday and get all of Saturday night that Goa was famous for. Arihant and Kamlesh did a little snooping into what they could do in Goa and they were pleasantly surprised at what they learnt.
They learnt of the beaches Bagatore, Calingut and others that were thriving tourist hubs with accommodation available for all budget categories. They wanted to stay somewhere that was not too crowded so that left the popular beaches out. As they searched further, they chanced upon Panaji or Panjim as it was called, that was Goa's capital and was not as crowded as the other popular beaches like Baga. Panjim had a beach of its own, Miramar beach which was an extension of Goa. Somehow, both Arihant and Kamlesh felt that they would be safer and more connected with each other, especially Kanya and Madhuri in a place like Panjim. They heard that they could rent bikes for their stay there and since both of them had valid two-wheeler and LMV licenses, they decided to take bikes on rent which would cost them around 500 Rs a day. It would save travelling by cabs though. They could explore the crowded beaches like Calingut whenever they left Panjim. Now that a plan had been conceived in their minds, they felt even closer to reaching the place they had only imagined in their younger days. Kamli had another idea, though...
"Rehan, do you know that in places like Goa which are tourist hubs, the cost of staying is more if we pre book the stay. We end up paying the hotel or Inn almost double of what we'd do if we go there and book a room."
"Yes, you have a plan, don't you? Accommodation is next on our list, now that we have the place and transport sorted."
"Yes also, Rehan I am a vegetarian, I will not be able to stay in some places."
"So what do you suggest?"
"Let's go there and find a place to stay. That would be as much of an adventure as any."
"Are you sure? We've two girls with us remember? It is not just you and me."
"I am sure that will be better Rehan."
That left the girls and when Rehan and Kamli told them of their plans, they readily agreed. That left making the bus tickets and Rehan left for City Market before going to work on a Wednesday. They got four middle row seats and with the tickets in their hands, they felt ever closer to this dream that they were all of a sudden a party to. Everything would have progressed as planned if it had not been for that call. The voice was now almost familiar and Rehan was surprised that the man had the temerity to call him. It had been months since their last encounter where the voice had asked him to call him 'Bhaity', an Assamese term used for 'younger brother'. It was the same voice. Only, this time it sounded more sinister.
"Rehan, what is this I hear?"
"What?" Arihant flinched when he heard the man called Bhaity call him by his nickname. Arihant wanted only those close to him to call him by his nick name and not, especially not this man.
"You have plans of going to the sea?"
"Who..o..told you that.. How do you know?"
"I told you, Rehan, nothing is hidden from us, Our master knows everything!"
"Well, if you should know, yes, we are going to the Sea."
"Rehan, you will meet a man there. He will show you the power of our God and then you will become one of us."
At once, Arihant went on his guard, he said nothing because he remembered the shadow that had powers beyond Earthly possibility. He decided to remain silent and said nothing back. The last words that the voice spoke was, "Beware of the waves!"
With that the conversation ended. Arihant felt relief and told Kamli about this new turn of events. Kamli, his usual prudent self;
"Do you think we should cancel Goa?"
"Are you crazy, these are madmen, just forget what he said"
"Alright, if you say so"
"Kamli do you have any doubt that Sankardeva and Mahavira can save us from the worst kind of fear?"
"No, I don't!"
"So, have faith Kamli and let our Gurus and the Lord take care of all the rest"
So it was, with faith in their Gurus, with dreams in their eyes, they began their trip to Goa. Kamli had convinced all of the small group that they would explore Panjim and search for a place to stay there. They talked about available options and they decided on either a Bed and Breakfast or a small Inn. They didn't want a Five Star property and neither did they want shared accommodation which was available at very low rent. The D-Day arrived and as they got on their Volvo bus, they took a look around to see who they'd be sharing their bus ride with. They saw everyone had smiles, probably because of the destination, or because of the weather. They took their seats and decided to sit as couples, Kamli and Madhuri on the left and Kanya and Rehan on the other side of the aisle. This was their first trip together and for Kamlesh and Arihant, their first to Goa and as couples, at that! Arihant smiled when he thought of that man who called himself Bhaity who'd had asked him to beware of the waves.
His last thought was that there were waves alright, He and Kamli were making them, making waves...