Ours is a story of unrequited love. Fifteen years ago, I decided to go to Goa. Fifteen years later, I am yet to reach there. A lot has happened in between. I got married, birthed two kids, lost two dogs, lived in seven cities, survived a pandemic, and yet Goa eludes me like the fake promises of an apathetic lover.
The wise ask you to live in the present. In college, my Goan best friend invited me home many times. Youth and its follies- you think you have time. To reward me with a memorable trip, I put it off till I started earning.
My friend and I had plans of singing on the Goan beaches. Sunny skies, straw hats, hair billowing out in the wind, precariously hanging on to our bicycles as waves crashed at our feet- this was the stuff of dreams and unfortunately stayed so.
Work was synonymous with the legendary low pay. Journalists are at the lowest strata of corporate hierarchy. They work as hard and yet the office peon earns same as them. I couldn’t have afforded an extra litre of petrol for my bike, let alone a trip to Goa.
A steady boyfriend arrived to the scene. The Goa plan seemed more fun with him and yet it never materialized. Why, you wonder? He never got enough leave to fix a beach vacation. Boyfriend became husband. The matriarch dictated that henceforth all vacations had to be spent with them. I watched my month-long leaves vanish in the polluted haze of Delhi air and unreasonable family demands. I would scroll through friends’ photos as they sipped beer by the beach, carving out their initials in the sand, making the victory sign as their hair billowed.
Dreams turned to hope turned to despair turned to heartache. When my younger daughter was born, I gave up. With a special needs child, life is unconventional. The demands are different, as are the solutions. So, I convinced myself that I didn’t want to travel anywhere ever. After all, Marcel Proust spent most of his life at home because of ill-health. If the great could do it, then a lowly mortal could do too.
Until, last January my husband booked tickets to Goa. We were finally going in March. Covid was yet something that was happening to other countries and in as human a reaction, we thought we would remain untouched by it. Disaster was knocking on our door and yet we were sure we would go- come hell or high water. We didn’t account for a pandemic.
The week we were to land in Dabolim, the country went in lockdown. When we should have been in Fort Aguada, we were banging pots and pans in our balcony. Instead of sipping on margaritas on a beach chair, we were stuck at home worrying how to procure the groceries. For weeks later my every dream included a beach. It had taken so long coming and it had vanished as quickly. Is this how hopes die- in a wisp of a breath and with a bad background score?
As I stowed away the swimsuit, I snuck in my dream of going to Goa, neatly folded in a noisy cellophane wrapper. They lie at the bottom of the trunk with the rest of my wanderlust targets. I don’t travel anymore nor do I want to- I escape life with my omnipresent solution to all of life’s problems. I turn to my (travel) books.