Fancy a journey on the Tejas Express?

Everyone’s talking of the latest train on the scene in India “TheTejas Express” (to ply between Mumbai and Goa [Upto Karmali station as of now]) but what do you know – even before the train could start it’s maiden journey, it was damaged..the glass window of which was found cracked.

It definitely isn’t a common man’s train – check out the fares below:

Tejas Express’s executive class fare is Rs 2,940 (with food) and Rs 2,540 (without food), and for AC chair car the fare has been fixed at Rs 1,850 (with food) and Rs 1,220 (without food)

Isn’t that a little too much to spend on a trip – per person? That way the Jan Shatabdi is much cheaper and takes around the same time or an hour or more to reach Goa (i.e Madgaon station instead of Karmali)

Automatic sliding windows, a coffee vending machine, an LCD screen and WiFi..Indians don’t need luxuries, basic cleanliness will do. So, No Thank You, I’d rather take a flight.. at least there we’d get to see some pretty air-hostesses if nothing more.

It is simple..The Railways..logo ko chutiya bana rahe hai…

Find some of the comments below, that Indians have made on various platforms regarding the new train.

— >”govt is doing more than enough for people.. It’s just people need to cooperate and maintain the cleanliness and wealth of train.. I think to achieve this, strict rule need to be made. Otherwise people will litter all around [well said]

— > [referring to the LCD screens behind each seat] “kya is screen pe modiji ki speech chalegi?”

— >”Give it a week, All the fancy stuff will get stolen, bathrooms clogged, seats ripped, Touchscreens damaged. Everyone knows what happened to the Gatimaan Express. Its not that the Govt is not doing anything, its the public who think they have the right to deface public property and then blame the govt. My advice to the railways: Impose unconditional hefty fine or even jail for violators” [the harsh reality]

— > [during the journey] “sirf ek announcement hoga, train ki WiFi service uplablad nahi hai kripya agli bar try kare

— >”Aaj kaal ke chutiye Modi ko baadnam hi karne me lage hai. Kuch kiya to bhi kyu kiya ,nahi kiya to kyu nahi kiya .Mr modi ko 5 Saal to pm rahne do, saalo adhi jindagi khatam ho gayi kuch naya iss desh me hua nahi abhi ho raha hai to uspe bhi ungli karte ho” [clearly a PM Modi fan]

As we all have an opinion about everything that happens in our country, people will talk and then forget and life will go on. I hope to write a similar post on the ‘Tejas Express’, 2/3 years down the line, when the train is not so new anymore. At least one thing we can expect is, considering the route the train is plying on – we can hope the train remains clean.

I love travelling by train, but even for me.. the fare of the journey is a little too much. I’m yet to travel on the 11085||Mumbai LTT-Madgaon AC Double Decker train, so a journey on the Tejas isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

P.S: Expect a few selfies to be taken with the train on social media..

Noooooooo..Not Again!!

Now there is one thing you should know before reading ahead is that ‘every journey I have undertaken, there has ALWAYS been a ‘something-will-go-wrong-moment’ that screws up the entire journey which puts a dampener on what would be a wonderful trip/holiday, until that point of course

Every single time..every single freaking time I travel, something has to go wrong. What is with me and travelling? I mean am I jinxed or something? Though I love travelling a lot, something unexpected is bound to happen..some kind of obstacle is found on my way in the form of a delay, or a missed flight, an accident or simply a Tyre puncture at the wrong time.
However, no obstacle has been big enough for it not to be solved, thankfully.

Sometimes when nothing works, prayers do..Yes, they really do. GOD never fails and a way is made guiding us to another option or to safety. I guess that’s FAITH, I don’t have truckloads of it but that is again ‘work in progress’

We’re just back from the Ganesh weekend holiday, having decided to drive down south (Karwar and further…across the Goa border) Mum, dad, sis and myself, only the second time driving out of state together. A slow drive it was, traffic understandably but once we got to our destination things were much better.

After a good 48 hours out of station, we were set on our journey back to Goa and that’s when things began happening… Well for one, I did notice on the way my car brakes weren’t really working.. working but if applied hard enough it would (I guess). However that was not all, with still 2 and a half hours away from reaching Goa..the car wasn’t really picking up speed, like it normally should, the car would go really really slow on climbs but as we got to plain land it would gain speed again, so there was really nothing to worry about I thought..little did I know we were heading for a Tyre puncture on our way ahead.

the culprit

           the culprit

Having entered Goa and entering into city limits, passengers from cars that overtook us from behind started signalling to us that something was wrong. I did stop the car to check but found nothing strange but for a door not shut properly and continued on our way. 12 kms ahead and another man signaled me something and this time pointing to the tyres. I stopped again…got out of the car – FLAT TYRE and mind you if I wasn’t alerted, I would have continued driving (With Maruti Vehicles it is really difficult to detect a flat tyre in movement, unless its totally flat and then the car starts to wobble). Stranded!!! Luckily for us we were right in the middle of the city, it was a different issue that it was afternoon time and GOA is having her siesta time..so all shutters were down..the shock didn’t end there.. I couldn’t find the car tools to fix the tyre..very silly of me not to have checked that important detail before leaving on a long trip.

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  the prick in the tyre

After 45 minutes, the car finally moved again..thanks to the Mobile Van from the car company. What was the best family outing we’ve had, our last being in 2003..ended in an anti climax. The 2003 trip again was another Flat-Tyre story..of course then, we were 12 years younger.

A few of my ‘something-will-go-wrong-moments’ in the past..

(a) Holiday to Sri Lanka :- Missed two flights ~ stranded at Chennai and Bangalore Airports along with 79 other passengers (group) 🙁

(b) Holiday to Ooty :- Bus collision with another oncoming bus, glass pieces all over us (collision on the side of the bus) 🙁

(c) Return journey Mumbai-Goa :- Bus breakdown (middle of a highway with only trees on either side) sitting by the road side for over 5 hours. Reached Goa in 23 hours instead of 16 hours 🙁

(d) Train journey back to Goa from Bangalore to Goa :- Engine Failure. Stuck on some unknown platform for over 5 hours in the peak of the Indian summer 🙁

It can be safely said, when you’re travelling with me or when you find me travelling with other people..expect some adventure 😉

What good is earning Money…if we don’t spend it fruitfully?

Indian rupeeWe all earn MONEY

We all love to spend MONEY

We all save MONEY

…but what if we strike the right balance of saving and spending the money we earn, in a way that it doesn’t really take us on a guilt trip after we’ve spent a huge chunk of our savings…and reaching back home checking our account statements and saying to ourselves… “Gawd! I’ve spend so much” and then as days goes by you try to save on the little things you would otherwise buy but now because you are on ‘Save Mode’ you avoid.

Relax! Money is earned, to spend…and why not?

We basically have three kinds of people, the rich who throw money around like no ones business, the poor who don’t have enough to feed themselves and “Us” the middle people who have enough money…not too less, not too much but don’t really know what to do with it when it comes to using it wisely. We focus on the ‘Us’… the middle people

Everybody dreams of a better life, a nice vacation, a few certain luxuries, but then our salaries never match our expectations. Can we still have the things we wish for? Of course we can…let me take myself for example. I am no fat-earning-salary-worker. I work not to earn money but to remain happy in the job that I take up. Of course money is the bonus I get at the end of the month for the service I lend and it helps me with my everyday needs. My salary goes into an account which part of goes into savings, another part into everyday expenditure and a chunk of it into a special part which I call “A-Treat-Myself-Quota’. I don’t segregate money into different accounts…and tho’ it seems that I may be mis-managing my money, I am actually planning the best way to use it when required.

What do I do?

Step 1: I am in a constant state of planning, a plan is always there and it is always surrounded with the idea of travelling within the state or country.

Step 2: Keeping myself updated with bookings / places to visit / fares and in touch with people related to travel etc

Step 3: Execution: Right Place, Right Time and bammm! I am off…

A colleague of mine often tells me, “I get very jealous of you, that you travel often, how do you manage it?”. Well the key is to have several small holidays rather that have that one big holiday, that way it keeps you moving and thinking ahead, of course a certain plan is required.

A holiday is time away from work and the mundane life you live back in your house, hence keep 3 things in mind when on a holiday

-> roam around in local transport or walk around. Have a feel of the place you are in. What’s fun in always travelling by taxi around….so boring!

-> talking with the local people helps with knowledge of good restaurants/hotels (the small hotels normally serve the tastiest of local cuisines) , good and cheaper accommodation and fun things to do.

-> switch off your cell phone, you don’t want your colleagues at work irritating you with news from the office. Your cell phone on holidays is a tool for entertainment – internet and music.

The idea is… A holiday should be enjoyed…tho’ money will be spent, but when you return back home, you should feel that every rupee spent was worthwhile.

… and that’s when you realize the actual joy of earning money is not in the saving but in the spending it on something that you love doing… in my case, travelling. 1

Travelling makes me happy…and every rupee I spend on it, gives me a joy I cannot put into words.

There’s another plan brewing in my head…to see snow, real snow, play in the snow…Himachal Pradesh and surrounding areas…now that’s gonna be fun!! So much fun 🙂

8 days in God’s Own Country

22nd to 30th May…8 days to a fresh start. Today I am on the 8th day and I am back to square 1…and am I glad I found my way back.

I believe I have been on buses and trains more than I have been able to find the time to relax – ALL IN 8 DAYS and finally today on the 8th Day I have decided to return back from the point I started it all from ‘The Train Station’. Yes, I am going back to Goa and I am absolutely thrilled about it.

Why does it happen that sometimes you make a decision and it goes all horribly wrong? Thankfully I wasn’t too far to turn back. 8 days and I feel I made the worst decision ever! It has been a series of errors…one error after another and you would think 2 or 3 errors would finally get one to change his mind, I took 8 days, just with a single statement that I told myself every morning that I woke up “Today will be a better day than yesterday, hopefully” as I went to sleep at the end of the day, the story was the same if not worse.

Today’s date is the 30th of May and I finally decided, this cannot go on…by the 1st of a new month I am either in or out and nowhere in the middle.

…by the 31st I’ll be out of Kerala and on the 1st i’ll be in Goa…and even as I type it it brings a big smile to my face and a huge relief on my face…phew!!

If you are a Malayali reading this and you understand the geographical map of Kerala…you will understand the distances I have traveled….from the hills to Wayanad… Calicut…. Trissur…. Muvatapuzha.. .Ernakulam… Aluva… and some of the places that I cannot even remember. It’s a lot!!

Amidst all the chaos I have met and made a few friends, some genuinely nice people and eaten some of Kerala’s best dishes…I like their evening snack ‘Pazham Porimaxresdefault(banana fry) it’s oily but I love it!!

Kerala can get the best or the worst out of you…it all depends on one’s perception and attitude, maybe mine wasn’t the best, to be fair to myself… I at least tried, 8 days is quite a lot!!!

HUBLI 12.15 – 23.00

Day 01:

I’ll start with a question…

Q. What do passengers normally do first when they get down from the train onto the platform?

I’ll answer that 😛

A. Most people go to the loo/toilet…yes they have toilets in the train but then u know the platform toilets will be cleaner…so people hold their pee a wee bit longer and run to the nearest toilet at the station and relieve themselves.

Another thing… never understood why people have to ‘pay to pee’, I think its unfair. The government can look after the maintenance of the toilets atleast…what will they do will all the 1 and 2 rupees they get…!!??

At Hubli station, you don’t need to pay, you have waiting rooms (A/c) I was mighty surprised…you just enter the loo, do your job and come out. Forgot to mention, Hubli station is impressive, I liked what I saw, not exceptional but good, lots of scope for further improvements. That was one thing I was looking forward too and I wasn’t disappointed.

With so much time on my hands in Hubli, I decided to take it easy…so went to the restaurant and had my lunch slowly, well the rice was salt-less…no probs! I ate it…small sacrifice 🙂 After that I decided I’ll go and see around Hubli…so walking out of the station an auto driver came up to me and asked if i wanted to go anywhere…I did want to see around but did not know what…so I asked him to show me a few places…so for the next few hours, the auto was my vehicle and the driver was my guide.

Went to a famous garden (really huge one) ontop of a hill or something coz the auto had lots to climb. It was wonderful, awesome and yes as expected lots of couples ‘coochie cooing’ with each other. It brought a smile to my face. I noted the place, so when I have my significant other, lover, girlfriend or wife level, I will get her here. Visited a church too, St Joesph’s, awesome church, could not go inside coz it was closed but did go to the blessed sacrament and prayed for dad specially, celebrating his birthday today, mom, sis and the driver who was kind enough to show me around a few place in Hubli as I went around click click to what he showed me on the way. (Pics I will update later). He took me to a mall too… he said it was Hubli’s biggest… well lets keep it to that…Some Oasis mall or something.

I finished with him by 4.00 and told him to drop me at a cyber cafe so I could share my day with all of you 🙂 its 4.40 now, still around 7 hours to go for my next train. I’ll be heading back to the station and well relax in the A/C waiting room.

Will see you all on another blog post from Bangalore…. same time, same place.

Its bye from Hubballi (that’s the new name for Hubli…cya! <3 to all

Day 1 – The journey (half way)

So I am in Hubli finally, have been here since 12.15 in the afternoon. I have to waste time doing something till I catch my next train which leaves Hubli only at 23.00. Its 4.00 in the evening now….and I am at the Cyber Cafe…on WordPress 🙂 yes I miss you all already 🙁

Wait…I’ll tell you about my journey…no wait…I’ll begin with yesterday night. I went off to sleep at 12 midnight, I was packing last minute as usual, well I always do…from finding my mobile chargers, to charging my camera batteries, all happening between 2 crazy hours 10 & 12. I went to sleep only at 12.30, but really did not get a wink of sleep. Maybe it was those dreams I got of missing my train that helped me stay awake…I awoke at 1.30, 3.00, 4.30 and finally at 5.30…but that’s okay I guess, it not everyday that I am awake at nights, I am a sound sleeper otherwise.

My train arrived surprisingly on time, actually before time, my ticket said departure 7.50, the train left from Platform 3 at 7.40. Vasco to Howrah was the train I was on, it felt like a passenger train, but surprisingly reached Hubli Junction 5 minutes earlier. The one time I did wish the train reach late to the destination…and what happens? It reaches 5 minutes earlier. Unpredictability of the Indian Railways.

Now for the people around me…lets start with the youngest person around me. There are some people who have the most voracious appetite, well this boy sitting diagonally opposite me, around 23 it seemed from his face…maybe younger.

7.40 train leaves the platform (Madgaon -Starting point), I see him munching biscuits, 8.15 thereabouts a packet of lays, 9.00…Bhel puri…9.30 upma. It was 10.15 on my watch, he’s eating idli, vada with chutni…Good Lord! He has some appetite. It was still a good 2 hours to reach Hubli where I get down and in all this while I have eaten just one bread accompanied with half a bottle of water.

10.20; reached LONDA station, hawkers are seling Dharwad Pedha, supposed to be really really good, but then I thought Dharwad is the next station…why are they selling it one station before. Yes, stupid questions come to my head too sometimes. Anyways when Dharwad station did come, the train halted for less than 2 minutes…not enough time to purchase a box. I shall do it on my way back to Goa, I hope I remember 🙂

10.31…good news, 2 pretty girls have come to sit in our coach, everybody looked at them, I did too, just a passing glance and guess what they were speaking in English, atleast now the 2 hours would pass faster I thought. Meanwhile the boy is no where to be seen, he suddenly disappeared after eating his idli-vada meal. I am sure he was eating a vada pao somewhere, I saw the vada-pao hawker pass by.

Oh No! the girls left. I heard one say to the other “lets go sit there, at least we’ll be close to her” damn! Only 6 minutes… with nothing much to look forward to, I went off to sleep till we reached Hubli station where I was awoken by my fellow passenger who knew I was getting down at the same station as he was.

It seemed I was in a senior citizens coach, baring a few young children (too young for me) to initiate conversation, I was left to looking out of the window, sipping my water and eating my bread.

I still have my connecting train to Bangalore from Hubli….tho’ its sleeping time (23.00), it would be good to know I am around young people. Don’t know if they’ll wanna talk at that time tho’ 😛

Today is dads birthday and I’m not at home, its the first time I won’t be there sharing his day with him…but my dad is very sweet, I know he understands. I wished him in the morning before leaving…I know he’s happy coz I am happy doing something I love, which is travelling 🙂

To dad 🙂

“I’ll miss celebrating the day with you pops but then you know you are always there with me in my prayers”

sav 🙂

I know he’ll read this, because my sister has subscribed to my blog and she gets the update and she will surely show it to dad…she doesn’t need a second invitation 🙂

The travelling bug…

In the middle of nowhere, I’ll pick up dates from the calender and tell myself ‘I’m going on a holiday’. I am an impulsive traveler I just know when I need to get away. Hill Stations have been my targets… visited Ooty, Lonavala, KodaiKanal is my next trip in exactly 13 days from now. There is no better place to go than a hill station to get away from the sweltering heat. Anything above 31 degrees in the morning and 23 degrees at night for me is hot. I have an unusual body heating system. It invariably shuts down if heated up, the mind can’t think, the legs don’t take me far …basically its the same situation when ‘Internet Explorer is NOT RESPONDING’. I can’t believe I was born in India, it is like the hottest place ever and Indians being a hairy race of people, makes matters even worse. Damn! What I enjoy is cool weather, winters (we don’t have winters in Goa, what a shame!) I absolutely love the rainy season, besides getting wet…the temperature drops quite a bit and I feel relaxed. Snow is another option, the closest I have got of snow was at Snow World in Hyderabad, 1 hour of snow at a price of 400! Total rip off! Yeah, Artificial snow…I took off my jacket and my snow cap and enjoyed playing in the artificial snow…and I didn’t feel cold one bit. I believe the temperature was set to -5. It was even ridiculous seeing people have coffee inside snow world, I mean, gimme a break! Just because you have snow (artificial snow) around you… doesn’t mean you need to have coffee. I had a cold pepsi instead, weird I know…people were looking at me, as if I was doing something very wrong. I am so ready for Russia and Switzerland, bring it on! At -5 I could go to the north pole. umbrella-w-star-sun-small-831183-mEven as I sit next to my window, trying to enjoy the breeze blowing in…it isn’t really making me happy. A friend called and said that it had rained in Kerala last week, a couple of minutes back I read a blog written by a fellow blogger and she says how she is enjoying the rains in Indore. While we wait for our share of rains in Goa…let’s hope it comes by soon, it will surely bring back the smiles of a lot of heated up goans!

Its+hot

just for laughs

Its freakin’ hot out here….aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh!!!! Its-Hot

Travel…Travel…Travel…

Train journeys, meeting people, enjoying the weather, discovering a new place…travelling…wow!!

Coakers Walk – Internet picture

kodaikanal

Another beautiful capture of KodaiKanal

  So I am finally on a travel-holiday again, 10 days… Goa – Hubli -Bangalore – Kodaikanal – Madurai and back. Got my tickets booked and quickly googled ‘whats the weather like in Kodaikanal’, it gives me a detailed weather report. If going by what it shows, is true, I am gonna have an ossum time… ie 19th, 20th and the 21st  of April… wooooohooooo!!

kodai weather

My first trip to KodaiKanal and am soooooo looking forward to it… still time to go though, but very very excited 🙂 🙂 🙂

The return journey The conclusion Sri Lanka-GOA

depp

We were 3 hours before time at the Airport, it was only a few days ago I arrived and it was already time to go back. It is true when it is said, ‘time flies when you are having fun’ Had a wonderful few days with people who I didn’t know, when I met them for the first time at Dabolim airport, but as it was time to leave back from Sri Lanka, these very same people were like the extended family I would miss when I got back to the reality of life in Goa.

bye

Bye Bye Sri Lanka, see you again soon!

As we got closer to the departure time, on the electronic board was the latest status of our flight

Air-India – DELAYED by 3 hours. In my mind, I thought…wow!!  I would get a little more time to spend in Sri Lanka. A little later I thought… Oh no!! This doesn’t sound good, recollecting that we had another connecting flight to catch and will surely miss it from Chennai to Bangalore at 8.00. Having passed the information to all the passengers, strangely everybody was calm. While some seemed sad others just laughed it off…saying “shit happens” (not exactly in the same words). We didn’t have anything more to lose, we had already lost our flight.

We finally boarded our Colombo-Chennai flight at 7.00. Having arrived at Chennai Airport an hour and a half later. We still were some distance away from Goa, our trip was far from over. We still had to get to Bangalore to catch our next flight to Goa which was early next morning. Now having missed our flight to Chennai and subsequently to Bangalore due to the delay, we had to make alternate arrangements to get to Bangalore before 6.30 in the morning the next day. What happened next was well…an adventure to say the least!!

After baggage claim, we had nothing more to do inside the airport…we walked out and what was the beginning of a long wait. It happened to be on the same day that we arrived in Chennai, that India celebrated Pongal, an auspicious festival for the South Indians and importantly a holiday in the state… and yes we know how the people of South India like working on a holiday. Not a single taxi was found waiting outside. The couple of taxi’s that were parked outside seemed disinterested in working on a holiday.

So the situation as it stood that night, at 9.30pm was, 60 passengers stranded at Chennai Airport, with well not many options in front of us. The leaders of the group after a lot of phone calls managed to give us some good news that they managed to get two coaches to drive us to Bangalore from Chennai. It seemed that was the only option, considering the holiday and people not willing to work, it was a relief to hear the good news. At least we had time on our hands, our next flight was only at 6.30 next morning. My watch showed the time as 10pm, going by that we had ample time on our hands even if the bus took 6 hours to reach Bangalore.

The buses were expected to get to the Airport in an hour. I don’t know how the Chennaites define an hour, but the buses arrived only at 1am. The driver assured us that he will reach us to Bangalore in 4 hours, based on that we would reach Bangalore Airport latest by 5 or 5.30am with traffic or stoppages on the way. Sleeping is never an option for me when I am travelling by bus especially and that too with time constraints. While I remained awake, others around me slept. We were in two different coaches, one of them a sitter, the other a sleeper. I chose the sitter, and if what the driver said was true, 4 hours of no sleep wouldn’t really turn my life upside down. As time passed I slowly drifted off to sleep, I woke up what seemed like early morning to me, on checking my watch, the time showed 6.00 and it didn’t seem that we were close to the Airport by a long way. I remembered 6.30 was our departure to Goa via Air Asia Airlines, and it seemed again we would miss our flight! We finally reached Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore at 6.45am. It was 15 minutes before that our flight took off.

happe

Looking on the brighter side of things, at least our timings were getting better, we missed our Chennai – Bangalore flight by 30 minutes, we missed our Bangalore – Goa flight by 15 minutes and surely if we had another flight to catch, we would have caught that one on time.

Now what!!?

Now we had 3 options instead of 1 like at Chennai. We could either catch a train, another flight or a bus to Goa. It was the passenger’s choice now, while 52 decided to go by bus, the 8 of us decided to catch a plane back to Goa. I personally wouldn’t have minded the bus, but then Dad was extremely tired after the delays and the waiting and the bus journey from Chennai to Bangalore. We booked the next flight to Goa by Indigo which was only at 5.30 that evening. There were options of Air India and Air Asia Airlines but I thought Indigo was a better choice, and also that I never traveled on board an Indigo flight. So it was decided, we would finally reach Goa by 6.30. While the other 52 left by bus we were waiting at the Airport for our flight in the evening.

By 7.00 we were at Dabolim Airport. What a wonderful trip. Probably one of the best!! Not in the delays but in the company and the feeling of togetherness.

For we may have landed in Sri Lanka with the utmost Luxury unlike St Joesph Vaz who had to go through a shipwreck. As for the 60 of us, we returned to Goa with a little taste of suffering and yet we were filled with the enduring spirit of St. Joseph Vaz.

A trip like never before 🙂

sa

Ayubowan Sri Lanka

ayubowan

‘Ayubowan’ means ‘May you have a long life’, a greeting which is made by joining your hands together accompanied with a broad smile. Similar to India, I instantly fell in love with the country and I barely even stepped out of the airport. You have got to see the staff around at the airport, everyone is all smiles and ever willing to help you. What else does a tourist want when he arrives into your country? I was happy to be here.

Even though I was a little tired, taking into fact we started our day early morning the same day and having arrived at Sri Lanka only around 4.30 or so, I was as excited as a little child would be when he is given a new toy. I visited this beautiful country 20 years back with the family, I was too young then to even realize where I was, let alone admire its beauty. As we kept walking out of the airport, laughing and joking with smiles on our faces, after claiming our baggage, we had a couple of coaches waiting for us outside to drive us to our hotel.

There’s something you should know about Sri Lanka, as beautiful as the language is (Sinhalese) it is very difficult to speak or even attempt to speak. Our Hotel was located in a place called Uswetakeiyawa (a little fishing village in Wattala) the pronunciation to which took a little practice before we could master the correct way of saying it. The time told to us, to reach the hotel from the airport was around 25 minutes, somehow took us around an hour.

A welcome drink awaited us as we entered the hotel and kept down our baggage and sat at the nearest sofa we could find, as we waited our turn to collect our room key from the reception staff. The first thing I did was, I asked the pretty lady receptionist “What’s your Wi-Fi password, I would like to connect to the Wi-Fi”, as soon as she gave me the password…my phone said “Connected” Life was good again, 33 notifications awaited me on FaceBook, 7 Whatsapp messages with a 10% battery charge remaining. I was now connected to India, hurriedly updated my Facebook status to “Don’t even ask me how to pronounce the name. Checked in at the hotel. It has been a long day — feeling happy in Uswetakeiyawa, Sri Lanka.”

A quick shower and a quick nap, just before dinner, Fr. Maxi (travelling along with us) from the U.S celebrated the Holy Mass for the next day being Sunday. Food was served by 9pm. Now this was the part I was waiting for, heard so much about the spicy Sri Lankan food. I licked my lips in anticipation of something different and hot. I was a tad disappointed by the toning down of the spice content on my very first meal in Sri Lanka, nevertheless I enjoyed my meal, and it was different from the way we cook the chicken and the fish back home. What caught my eye at the end of the buffet table was what they call ‘Sri Lankan achcharu’ which means pickle in English, now that was, SPICY and FULL of ZING…I had to gulp down 4 glasses of water to stop the coughing, thanks to the ice cream later on.. things got better. I thought to myself “if this was what Sri Lankan spicy food is all about…I was glad it was just one dish” and it was only Day 01. After an hour or so, I was fast asleep. I slept like a baby.

11th January, the next day, we made visits to the various places that then. Bl. Joseph Vaz frequented during his evangelical mission in Sri Lanka. Some of the places we visited were; firstly the church where Fr Jacome Gonsalves (a disciple of Bl. Joseph Vaz) was buried, College of St. Joseph Vaz, St Mary’s cathedral, Galgamua where Bl. Joseph Vaz erected an ebony cross to protect the villagers from elephants. It was at Galgamuwa, that was had the privilege of crossing paths with our own Arch Bishop Filip Neri Ferrao (Goa) along with him Bishop Allwyn Baretto of Sindhudurg and Archbishop’s secretary Fr Loyola Pereira, who were also on their pilgrimage to  Sri Lanka.

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It was a hot day, by the end of it, we were all exhausted. We checked into Hotel Eden Garden, Sigiriya Road, Inamaluwa for the night. Good music and excellent food is always welcome, we dug ourselves into the sumptuous food, spread out in buffet style, a spread of something I had never seen before, varieties of salads, fish, fruits and what not else. I made it a point to taste a little bit of everything. The next morning, Breakfast did not disappoint either, too good to be true. Good food should be appreciated, my dad always taught me. I appreciated every little bit of it. After breakfast we set out again.

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12th January, we visited the church where Bl. Joseph Vaz would celebrate mass at St. Anthony’s church and Weuda where Bl. Joseph Vaz was caught and imprisoned after suspected to be a spy. 13th January was of course the day when our Holy Father Pope Francis was arriving into Colombo, as we lined up the street mixed with the local people of Sri Lanka to have a glimpse of him as he passed by the road. As he arrived with his papal vehicle and waved and smiled, many people has tears in their eyes. Later that day we also visited the Filipe Neri church and celebrated Mass there. As we headed to our third different hotel for the trip, this time at Hotel Palm Village at Watala. If the first hotel was good, the second was better, this hotel took the cake with the cherry on top. It was the best of the lot. Let me not talk more about the food, it makes me want to go back. The ambience, coupled with the musicians and the service. Top Drawer!! The Dinner along with the breakfast the next morning were equally mouthwatering.

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The day we were all waiting for was on the 14th of January. The papal mass was scheduled at 8.30 at the Galle Face Green at Colombo. However we were instructed to reach the venue by 4am (yes 4 in the morning) for security reasons that meant we had to leave by 3 from the hotel and understandably we had to be awake by 2 at the earliest. When do we sleep? I asked. The announcement the previous night was simple. An early dinner at7 and off to sleep if we have to catch at least 20 winks instead of the 40 winks. Early next morning, we reached at 4.15 and what we saw was unimaginable. Hordes of people, trying to find their way into Galle Face at that early hour in the morning. We the 60 of us, with a lot of shoves, pushes and crawling at snails pace, we finally managed to reach our allocated pen at Galle Face at 6.30. Yes! It took us 2 hours to cover a distance of around 300 meters. We were all very excited of course, for in a few hours Goa would receive its first ever saint. The mass begun sharp at 8.30 and finished at 11.00. As pope Francis declared Bl. Joseph Vaz a saint there was a thunderous applause all around Galle Face. It was an amazing experience, especially for me on getting to see the Pope at close quarters as he rode on his papal mobile to greet the crowds.

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It was a fruitful few days in Sri Lanka, we still had one more day, tomorrow as we had our flight to catch later that day back to India. With the whole evening on our hands, we requested the tour guide to take us shopping around the city. We finally decided on two places, Arpico Super Market and House of Fashion. While some of the ladies went berserk shopping and moved in different direction, the guys/men went about methodically looking for things their wives or daughters or relations back in India told them to buy. I on the other hand was in charge of the trolley, as my dad went around putting things into the trolley, I moved the trolley happily following him around. I always love doing the simple things.

At the clothes mall, House of Fashion it was a different scenario, it seemed the men took charge shopping as they bought a lot of clothes while the women picked up a few things from here and there. I on the other hand looked around shirts that were imported from India to Sri Lanka and sold at double the price… and I was like… wait!! Do I really need to buy the same shirt I get in my country at double the rate, not really! Well I still went ahead and bought a shirt in remembrance of my trip to SL. After the shopping we returned to the hotel only at around 7 or so. What a great day it was!

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Tomorrow was our last day… I was sad…

the final part: The return journey