November is a time when I drop my work cloak & explore & build the other dimensions of me. This year there were two occasions which made my November extra special. One was a trip to Orissa (Odisha) & the other was a trip to Goa. The trip to Orissa (Eastern state of India) was a work-cum-fun trip and the one at Goa was an all fun trip with no ‘work strings attached’! More on the Orissa trip in a separate article, because I would love to give equal justice in describing the beauty of both places and that of my amazing experiences while mingling with the locals.
The 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was the event for which my Goa trip was planned in the last week of November’19 from 27th to 29th. This time due to a prior outstation commitment, I planned my IFFI trip very short. Inspite of the time crunch, I wanted to make sure I attend because I didn’t want to miss being a part of a cultural phenomenon like IFFI. Its researched proved fact that when one positively chooses to be a part of something larger than oneself, its then a spiritual connection occurs and what results thereafter is natural ‘Happiness’! For some, the larger cause is to take up a religious pilgrimage like Khumbh Mela or Pandharpur Yatra or Haj journey and for some its attending a Sports event, Music/Art festival, running for a cause or, like me, annually attending IFFI, which is the most prestigious film festival of India!
Though I just had 1 and a half day to watch as much films I could, I must say I was lucky to have randomly seen some really good cinema. ‘Marghe & her Mother’ (Italy), ‘Sathyarthi’ (India), Fiela Se Kind (South Africa), ‘My name is Sara’ (USA) & my most favourite being ‘I am Woman’ (Australia). ‘I am Woman’ is a biopic of an Australian born Grammy Award winning singer named Helen Reddy. Unjoo Moon, the director of this movie has beautifully presented the facts behind the making of the song ‘I am Woman’ which had become the anthem of the Women Liberation in United State of America, back in 1970s. The song’s lyrics & the way Helen has sung it, gave me goose bumps as I could connect with the song and which also made me feel proud to be a woman! Here’s the song for you to hear https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6fHTyVmYp4 and here is the trailer of the movie ‘I am Woman’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WLMz8Qeg4A.
I believe, the beauty of attending IFFI lies in the fact that one gets to WATCH world cinema of paramount quality, due to which one gets amazing exposure to various cultures of the world through the medium of cinema in the form of a story. Besides this, Goa being the ‘fun city’ of India, IFFI gets its unique charm as the city of Panjim comes to life even before Christmas, due to the film festival.
After the festival concluded, I still had 1 and half day to explore Goa. As planned, I travelled from Panjim to Madgaon (Margao) to visit a couple who are environmentalist to their core. Irfan and Bhagyashree are my friends from Mumbai who moved to Goa (Madgaon) to nurture their dream of conducting and promoting organic farming and also are creating ‘Go Green’ & ‘Protect Nature’ awareness in and around Goa. The couple are social entrepreneurs running their organization named ‘EASE ECO GOA’. They aim to promote farmers who are committed to organic farming. Every month they organize community market opportunities, where farmers who follow their prescribed guidelines of organic farming procedure are given space to sell their produce. Besides this they visit nearby schools and educate the next generation of how to build garden plants that will be beneficial for their diet as well as their general health. I was touched with the effort that the couple are putting in. I offered my SUPPORT by buying organic products & cloth bags that are so beautifully made! I realized that their good work needs more hands to propel their cause, so through this article I would want to appeal to the people who care for Mother Nature, to consider volunteering for the couple’s good cause. The contact details to get in touch with the couple has been provided in the article below.
As I bid good bye to Bhagyashree & Irfan, I headed to Mormugao harbour located at Vasco. The reason for this journey was to board a luxury cruise from Goa to my home town Mumbai. The motorcycle taxi which I hired dropped me just in time at the Angriya Cruise Terminal that’s situated at the Vasco harbour. I was all set to SAIL on the luxury cruise named ‘Angriya’ and to soak in the experience that would follow. Kanhoji Angre was the Admiral General of the Maratha King Shivaji Maharaj’s Navy. The ship’s name is dedicated to this brave, seafaring warrior, hence the name of the ship being ‘Angriya’. As I entered the cruise I could feel the excitement as it was my maiden journey ever on a big ship. As a kid I did journey in one of the steamers that ply from Mumbai to Elephanta Caves or Mumbai to Madwa/Rewas, but never have I experienced a proper cruise ship that has the strength of 27000 horses! After a warm reception the guests are led to a restaurant for a ‘high tea/welcome snack’. As one sips tea the safety instructions are displayed on a huge TV screen nearby. As I sipped my tea, it was nice to feel the ship move and leave the harbour at sharp 4pm. Immediately I moved to the deck to see the Vasco harbour fading out and feel the breeze flow through my hair as the ship entered deep waters. The ship is of Japanese make and the interior design of the sleep pods named ‘Fraser Dolphin’, where I was lodged, too had a beautifully lit Japanese wooden frame décor. The washrooms and the closed areas of the ship are well ventilated and above all have fragrant ambience. At no point of time I felt stuffy, suffocated or claustrophobic.
The evening that followed was a package of new experiences for me. The sunset view, ‘Live’ band performance, star gazing, exploring the Captain’s cabin (which is called the bridge) and having dinner on board of a cruise was simply wonderful. I believe, the entire concept of Angriya Cruise Service operation has a positive undercurrent to it. It is the brainchild of Dr. Nitin Dhond, who himself has huge sailing experiencing and is an eco-tourism promoter. After successfully developing Goa based ecotel ‘The Wildernest’, (more of it in my article link here: https://b-c-ing-u.com/countries/mumbai-memoir-84-mumbai-goa-getaway-part-ii-travel/) now he has extended his entrepreneurial ambitions into the waters of the Arabian Sea. His leadership & sailing experience certainly is reflected as one experiences the quality services offered by the crew on board Angriya! More of their services here: https://angriyacruises.com/ The 100-member crew of the ship (especially, Sanket, Elena, Hanuman Gavas, Shubham & Sagar with whom I chatted) are very hospitable and friendly and are generous in offering information and tips as one moves around the 3 different decks of the ship, namely Heli Deck (front), Monkey Deck (middle) and the Pool Deck (back). My favourite deck was the Monkey Deck as it’s the highest elevated plateau on the ship. Its called the ‘Monkey Deck’ acknowledging the role of a monkey on a ship, in the olden days, who were used to predict certain information regarding the shores and possibility of habitat around. As the night draped the sky above it was mesmerizing to see the dazzle of the stars that glittered in every nook and corner of one’s vision. Even though it was past midnight, I just wanted to stay on the deck watching the ship cutting through the winds and water and wondered as to how could have my Bhandari ancestors, who were part of Kanhoji Angre’s naval fleet, managed those voyages without GPS systems and other modern equipment! It surely would have been their sheer passion to fight the winds, waters, rains and huge aquatic creatures to have been successful to reign the Konkan coast for centuries long! Also, it was a proud moment to see on the google map that I was passing my native coastline where folks from my extended family still live at Ratnagiri, Dapoli, Anjarle, Hari Hareshwar, Shrivardhan, Murud Janjira & Alibag!
After a refreshing sleep I woke up to see the sun rise at 6.55am. As I shopped for souvenirs on board the ship, the cruise was moving towards the Mumbai harbour by 8am. As I bid good-bye to the crew and the ship I felt a sense of soulful accomplishment, like the character of Julia Roberts felt in the movie ‘Eat, Pray & Love’! In my case it was a spiritual journey which highlighted ‘Watch, Support & Sail’!
*Note: Special Thanks to Radhika Tavsalkar to have supported me in taking this trip while she took care of my senior citizen mom.