As it occurred to me that any series is most successful in its trilogy, I seek to bring an end to my travelogues, also realising that although I take great pleasure in commemorating each of these eventful trips by recording them as memoirs in my blogs, I have also found that since I always knew what I was about to write I have found myself incessantly delaying it for no good reason. So not having enough to divulge I bring my travelogues to a closure, and what better trip to end it with than the town which is not only famous in the entire world for its luscious and savoury alphonso mangoes but also happens to be my birth place. A town where I had my first conscious memories, a town that had only been hitherto in the subconscious recesses of mind, constructed only through the broken memories dimly aided by old pictures that piece the blinking reminiscence together and make up for an empirical evidence for our presence there. When at the tender age of 3 I left the town, I had promised myself that I’ll preserve its memories in my head so that I don’t forget where it all began, not knowing in the slightest that I might actually get a chance to revisit it almost 18 years later, as if to acquiesce that three year old’s wish to actually permanently etch the memory in the mind by an actual revisitation.
We had never set out to visit Ratnagiri initially, it was more of a detour trip, the trip was actually to Goa, which coincidentally, although not as importantly enough is my brother’s birthplace (excuse my vanity; I am the author of the blog after all and besides we have no memory of living there). At the time of booking the tickets when we were almost set to book the air tickets back from Goa to Delhi, my mother suggested why not check the Konkan railways that we had heard about so much ever since we left that part of India. I could understand her insistence on checking out considering the countless times she had recounted to us the giddy and motion sickness laden road trips she had to take from Ratnagiri to Bombay in order to visit her parents. Although I sentimentalise over it now, honestly I wasn’t too excited with the idea, because it took a day away from our stay at Goa. But our mother had her tricks at place, and she used the emotional ticket, evoking our dormant nostalgia for that peaceful, blissful town and levelling down our brimming enthusiasm for Goa, which we had already visited once before. She got us all excited telling us we could go to the house where I was born and my brother began to go to school, where we spent one of our most precious, innocent and evanescent times of our lives. This was quite enough for us to reconsider the plan and we decided to set out for a déjà vu that seemed promising enough.
We had the most wonderful 4 days at Goa that hardly need any description because I wouldn’t be able to add anything that hasn’t already been dished out by travel enthusiasts and travel magazines and in comparison to their accounts my own would sound rather dull and bland. I believe it’s not too important either because everyone going to Goa has almost the similar stories to share and similar places to rave about. In fact as much as I would have enjoyed myself in Goa, the two following days heave stronger in profundity and significance. We made way to Ratnagiri on the morning of the 5th day, still finding it difficult to leave Goa, not quite still realising the overwhelming experience that awaited us.
So we arrived in Ratnagiri after a short train trip of 4 hours or so, it was evening time, we reached to yet another shanty hotel (ill luck in terms of hotels never seems to be absent from any trip, this one had been booked by a long lost family friend who had still been living there, but ironically in Delhi at the same time as we were there, such is life!) After freshening up we realised there was nothing much to do in that town that almost seemed as if halted in time. My parents remarked that they hardly noticed any significant changes from the time they had left it almost 18 years back. The town seemed to be lying dormant as if still stuck in the early 90’s when we had formed memories of having lived there. As we took an auto and made our way through the squalid homes, we could see the way my mother was getting all excited, because if any of it made absolute sense to visit the town once again it was only for my parents, and maybe even my brother who remembered some things at least, nonetheless our heart beats were as racy as that of our mother. It was as if we were taking a plunge into the past, digging up memories and images that seemed almost from a previous birth. Since we left the town when we were still very young, the images were hazy and muddled, almost like those foggy scenes shown in bollywood movies to indicate something paranormal and mystical. As we were inching towards the house I was born in and in the courtyard of which my brother played bat and ball and hide and seek with my parents while I rocked in my cradle, we had an intense experience of a déjà vu, like we had been here but could not fully recollect how and what of it.
To our enormous surprise, as we stepped out of the rickety auto that drove at snail speed as if divined to orchestrate the climax of the scene, we saw that the house where I was born, where my brother played and wandered, where my father learnt his love for gardening and my mother battled snakes and other such creatures of peril, was just about the same as it had been left 18 years ago. I wondered if the marvellous and the magic realism that people write about could really exist. The house looked as if waiting for us to witness it for what it had been. It was as if the promise of retention that I had made to myself had been shared by the house and it had kept its word to uphold it. We squandered about the house for a little while, then tried to open the front iron gate which did not budge even after much effort, so we climbed over the fence and sneaked a look at the insides through the broken windows. It wasn’t that great an experience for me as for my brother, who had memories associated with each room of the house, as he peeked through the broken windows, he was not only emotionally astounded but was choked and overwhelmed with a nostalgia of a lost time, a lost age.
As if by another play of the marvellous, we forgot to bring our cameras, that has never happened in any trip before, (except for the Khambat trip of course but then we had never intended to click pictures on that trip anyway) It was as if the house wished to be recaptured in memory and not in digital pixels. We took pictures from our cell phones, promising to preserve this last reservoir of memory. And at that magnanimous moment in the grip of emotional welling up my brother made a claim that he would buy the house someday, even if it didn’t fetch him anything, he would buy it to preserve it in both memory and in actual physical terms. Moving on from his fantastical ideas, we checked if any of our old neighbours still lived. The ones living just next to our house still lived there, they too had aged like us, but still seemed as if stuck in time like the rest of the town. They expressed great surprise on seeing us, but since they were not on excellent terms with us and were not the socialising kinds, they couldn’t match our excitement or our sentimentalising. Some of the members of the family had passed away, and some other married and therefore had moved on. My brother reminisced how he used to fetch packets of sugar by prancing on the little bylanes that had been now concretised. All nearby structures had changed except that house, that reservoir of our past. So after we all let out our final Sighs! and oohs! and aahs! we finally decided to move on realising there was nothing much to do there after all.
The next day we made way to Ganpati Pule the place that we had planned to visit because there was otherwise nothing to do in Ratnagiri than commemorating our past. So we set out to the temple which is both really famous and still not very well known, but its arguably the most wonderful road trips that I have ever taken. The beaches were pristine, untainted almost virginal. After returning from Ganpati Pule we realised we’d have been such utter fools had we not heeded to the pleas of our mother. So other than savouring the plush beaches and quaint churches of Goa, in that trip we reconnected to our pasts, making its link stronger in our present lives, I realised the place of my birth was not just another weird name on the Birth certificate but an actual town that was both peaceful and tranquil, that Ganpati Pule and en-route was one of the most scenic beauties I could ever witness in my life and also it reaffirmed the old belief that mothers are always right.
The places I have covered in my trilogy of the travelogues are really not exceptional, I may not even over enthusiastically recommend these to anyone, especially not Darjeeling of course, but these have been trips that have had the most significant bearing on my life and despite their brevity have in fact survived longer than other fleeting, although enjoyable escapades. One was about a quaint unknown town in western Gujarat, another a mortal combat for life, food and Mp3 and the third a revalidation of my past, my childhood. Although, these have been subjective pertaining to individual experiences I hope you enjoyed reading. I might come up with another new topic of discussion next time, a little impersonal this time, until then ‘Au revoir!’