It was a badly planned trip; I could sense it from the beginning. I was working in Mumbai, my parents wanted to travel to various places in Maharashtra along with a dream Christmas in Goa. My maa wanted to travel with the travel planners this time, as at times only three people going for a trip with their closely guarded antics becomes quiet boring and she was not in a mood to spend time pacifying me and my dad while on trip, leave aside the trouble of searching hotels & booking, carrying luggage and thinking about lunch and dinners and all that follows.

It was mid December, and I was waiting in front of the Hotel Oasis near VT Station. The hotel was nothing like a Oasis, a Oasis still gives you a primary ‘feel good’ impression. My parents were out with the manager and other people to see the places in and around Mumbai. They came back at around 11 in the night, meanwhile I had taken 4 -5 rounds of the VT area to gauge some good restaurant, where we can go and have dinner. It was a Sumo, I thought, oh wow!! These guys don’t use buses, which I hated while going for holiday with parents, came out 7 people, along with my maa and dad.

So after primary introduction with fellow group members, an utterly disappointed me, went up to the room where my parents were staying. Disappointed, yes as I had thought that there will be a large group of people who will give us company at least there will be a few potential good looking young girls to make the trip exciting. Alas! My luck was never good on that and it was proved earlier and again.

The manager explained that many people has opted out of the trip in fear of terrorist attack and also since the amount of money was less this time, they could not hire a cook, and he will arrange food and other requirements as we may need during the trip. I was utterly disgusted, first with the Hotel, second with the kind of ‘taken for granted’ attitude of the manager. Later, I came to know that he was in such a rush that he could not bring enough money, and his owner will be sending it in small quantities from time to time. I was mad. But had nothing to do, as our money was with him, and we were stuck. He said, we won’t have to worry, since from Goa, everything is planned.

I enquired, what kind of place you have booked for us in Goa, I hope it’s near the beach. He said, we need not worry, as they have an agent in Goa, and he is taking care of it. Take care, my @$$@. Next day, we were standing with our luggage, which each of us had to carry ourselves along with the constant morning pressure bothering us and it’s already 12pm. We were waiting there from 8:30 in the morning. The cab was supposed to come, to take us to the hotel. The person was not picking up our calls, the manager, giving us a “Why are you blaming me, it’s not my problem” face. His owner, who’s enjoying the winter back home, told us that he doesn’t think it’s a huge problem, and we need to make these kind of adjustments. Then came the person for whom we were waiting at the stand and said that he only came out of his home after he got an sms alert from bank, only after a certain amount of money being transferred to his account.

Whatever it was, I got the signal, that our trip is badly screwed. It was first right turn from Porvarim, and we reached this place called Casino Motel. My curious nature played up again and I asked everyone, where the beach is. The owner of the hotel, a bull-dog faced gentleman at the hotel said, its a few minutes from the main road.

I said – which beach is it?

He proudly said – Calangute

I said ‘ok, but how far is it, in terms of distance? I didn’t see anything while coming to this place. After a few minutes of pestering, he said it’s around 12 KMS and Auto’s will charge 300 for one side. I said – can I check the rooms. I knew it was going to be bad, and to use the word “bad” for the rooms is really an under statement.

We revolted, and said, we can’t stay here, it’s dingy. It’s bad. We have not come here for one night stands. The manager said, we can’t as we have already paid them advance. I said " I don’t know, we can’t stay in here for a single day". Later he revealed its 2000 bucks per night. I said, I won’t pay a sum of 300 for these rooms. We won’t stay. Fortunately, the other two families also had the same feeling. The owner when asked about the kind of treatment he was giving us, said “you don’t have the “aukaad” to live near beach, this is the best you can afford”.

I have never been to Goa but I knew that this crap cannot cost 2000 bucks a night. I asked another person from our group to give me company, and we ventured out of the trash. Meanwhile I took a number from a friend in Mumbai, who once had said that she knows someone who has a staying place in Calangute. We were waiting for a running cab, and meanwhile had a few drags, as it’s been almost 24 hrs without a single smoke. Fortunate enough we got a cab, and he took us to our destination. It was Joes’Inn, you need to take the in-road that goes inside from the opposite of the Chapel. It’s right in the middle of the congress of three roads, on going to Porvarim, one towards the main Beach area and another toward the Kinfisher Villa. Joe’s Inn was like a dream place, 2200 bucks per day, clean and clear rooms, toilet, balconies, and a small backside road that takes you to beach in 30 seconds flat if you wear slippers. No, Joe is not the person, for whom I remember the trip, she is good but not the lead of my story.

We booked three rooms, and told Joe that we will come back in some time. We left, had a few more drags, and feeling a bit more relived. Next problem was getting our money out for the payment, but we decided to take up the matter later, as it’s already 3 and we have not been able to have one single good experience post touching Goa. Anyway, we had decided to part with our portions of money for the first day, as we knew the hotel owner won’t give it back.

The taxis normally charged 150 bucks from Porvarim to Joes Inn, and while going back to Joes Inn after a 4:30 pm lunch, we just could not get hold of another Taxi that could take us to Joes Inn. It was almost like Rajnikanth making an entry in the halfway of the film. This guy said, 200 bucks, not less than that, but he had this generous smile on which I said, OK, you won, lets go. This guy is a total Junkie, a child of Goa, which is still holding onto the hippie lifestyles and he also uses a Blackberry. Yes. He really uses one. His name, which he very lavishly said was Darshan Korgaonkar. We had some fun time and I am being one of the most foolishly emotional person, narrated him the whole story, and whatever I faced in Goa. He was very sorry for all the trouble that we faced, and gave his number for further car requirements and any other assistance in Goa.

We reached Joes Inn, and I offered him 200 bucks and he said “Saab, give 150 only, I said but you quoted 200. He replied, It's fun to charge from those who doesn't want to give, but since you are giving me 200 bucks without any negotiation, I will take the normal amount of 150” and gave his aww-special smile again.

Our association didn’t end there, we asked him to provide us cars for sightseeing and also for a long trip of going to Mahabaleshwar from Goa after the end of 5 days. Joe was ready with Tea and said “we have a shack over there in the beach, if you go and have food there; you will get 10 percent extra discounts”. I replied saying “I will go to your shack only if you promise to celebrate Christmas with us”. She laughed and said her mother in law won’t allow... and we all laughed at this while her mother in law looked a bit excited, to know that the remaining three rooms got its occupancy and it won’t be a blue Christmas.

Darshan, gave us cars at discounted rates, but didn’t wanted to drive himself after the first day of sight seeing, as one of our group member didn’t knew the use of Center Fresh Chewing gum, and it was a really dangerous to give him company. Darshan, came as a God, every time we required his help, he came forward, so much that he even went out of his way to find out the absconding agent and I told our manager to learn how one should deal with customers. But, no, he was not like a service provider, who gave generous discounts where ever he could, he even took us to the cheapest liquor store in Porvarim and offered me to go to a party with him without any charge. But, I didn’t go due to my parent’s presence. I drank in front of them but didn’t want to put them into any more trouble.

Darshan, was an angel-heart, else no one at that peak season would have given us such generous rates. He also told me that whenever I plan next time, I should tell him beforehand, and if there are 5-6 people in a group he will give me a Beach Villa for just 2000 bucks a night. Now, that’s something of “Atithi Devo Bhava” sanskar, which he said he has learnt from his master. His blackberry is just his fascination, and in between asked me my gmail and facebook id’s so that he can keep in touch.

We are in touch since then; at least speak once in a month. I realized you can find friends in the strange places and under strangest circumstances. Last month while he called me up, he said “I won’t allow you to stay in the Villa next time you come, I have taken up a flat and you are most welcome to enjoy Goa as Goans do. Come for Sunburn festival next time saab, its too good”.

What more do you want from life. Just pray to god that you never forget them, you keep your friendship alive. I also thought that this id such a nice way of traveling. You make friends in every place you want to go, you share their culture, and get shocks at such shock-worthy incidents, you stay for free, you go to places where normal travelers don’t go, you experience GOD at the most amazing manners. My fight with the travel manager went on and on and on, but I thanked up there as because of this bad behaved tour operator, bad travel planner, I found a good friend who doesn’t want anything in return other than good words and good time. Enjoy Bliss!!