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Rafik – the man who restored my faith in humanity; and Goa.

14 Aug

If there was anything I learnt from the movie Death Proof, it is that there are two kinds of good luck in the world. And yes, despite my lack of belief in abstract concepts, I have to face the fact that sometimes situations have magic or tragedy just instilled in the butterfly wings that change them. The first kind of luck is when you never, ever get into trouble.

Jean had that luck. She and I travelled to Old City in Hyderabad with nothing but a notebook full of instructions and transportation options I had taken from Google and her Android. If it were me in that situation with anyone else, or by myself, I would have lost my way, missed the local train that came once in 5 hours, gotten leched at in a discomforting way, or worse. With Jean, it was the simplest, easiest journey to a never before visited place, I had ever taken. I used to call it traveler’s luck. Absolutely nothing went wrong. We caught the train, went to char minar, went to the bazaar, had beautiful Lassi, had Fish Biryani at Shadab, caught the train back, got on a bus to JBS and at JBS, caught the last bus in a long time, to college. It was a beautifully uneventful day. We had some fifteen year olds being weird in the train but it was laughable.

Then there is my kind of luck, but I don’t know if I want to call it luck. It’s the luck that brings you to the very precipice of hell in the context of whatever you’re doing. If I have the whole day planned, I would forget my wallet; If I catch a bus with my friends other than Jean, it would turn out to be the wrong bus, leaving is in the middle of nowhere. If I go to Goa, we may get stranded in the rain with nothing but a broken down car and the garage we end up in. The good luck here is that my friend would agree to spot me; just before a bunch of horrible Gult men get out of their SUV, presumably not to help a group of girls stranded in the highway in Hyderabad, one of your batch mates passes by in an Auto and stops; and the garage on the side of the road would happen to be run by the nicest man I have ever encountered in my life.

The starter on the car was screwed and we got helped by a group of touring men in a mini bus to a garage. Which garage owner told us that his brother Rafik, would help if we could drive down the road to him. And we did.

 

This was it.

 

It was raining. All of us were in skirts and dresses. We were just girls, and it was a stretch of road where people don’t have any reason to stop. They happened to be working on a bike when we reached the place. Rafik spoke Marathi and in our insane luck, Nose Twitch spoke Marathi fluently. A rapport was established. He examined the car and told us that we should go see the city while he checked out what was wrong. We left to see the churches in heavy rain and all we ended up doing was go to Basilica Bom Jesus, see the dead guy therein and leave V in the hands of her boyfriend, who left soon after.

We decided to walk back to the garage, by which time, Rafik informed us that we had done nothing wrong with the vehicle and the starter was screwed. All that was left to do was talk to the lady who rented out the car. She told us to wait while she sent another car with a driver.

We spent two to three hours in that garage, in our car, with only Rafik, his colleague and the latter’s little brother working on their bike, because they hadn’t yet gotten instructions from the owner to fix up the car. The rain was as bad as it ever got during our time in Goa, and Me and S were soaked from going to the nearby shop to buy chips so we could eat something.

An hour and a half into sitting and gossiping, it occurred to us. Rafiq and Co. were working on their motorcycle in the light of a hand held bulb. There was no electricity supply but that. And he was called Rafik. In our worrying, we had missed the fact that during Ramzan, there were two Muslim men who had obviously not intended to work after dark, and had not yet broken their fast. They hadn’t looked up once while working on the bike. They made no suggestive remarks, and they didn’t look at us except to talk to us. To our faces.

 

This is them

 

We felt guilty beyond words. We ventured out in the rain again and this time, brought back a big packet of Kurkure and Oreos, gave it to them and told them to eat. They refused but we insisted. Thankfully, the kid brother had no reservations about eating the Oreos, and we left them to it. Rafik didn’t keep roza but his colleague broke his fast on Oreos.

Soon after, the driver came with a car, negotiated a price for the repair with Rafik, who adamantly insisted that we were not responsible for the starter fucking up. After thanking him and his colleague, we went back to our hotel for the night.

The next morning, we went back to the garage. He had bought a new starter and fixed the car, and took the money from the owner. We had told him we would be using the car again that day, so he had checked the engine, filled the coolant tank and generally made the car ready for use. He also refused to take any money for the extra service till we insisted that we would feel rotten if he didn’t. He took a hundred bucks. He also told us that if we needed help getting around the city while we were there, to call him, and he would send someone to help out.

We spent that day seeing Panji, Churches, collecting V back, and a little bit of shopping. We gave back the car to the lady who lent it to us, and checked out of South Goa Hotel to stay at Irish Pub Guest House in North Goa. We didn’t know how to get from there to the Station because the taxis cost a mother and her children, and JustDial would no doubt give us expensive and useless options.

We called Rafik again. He said he would pick us up at North Goa, go to Margao to pick up Nose Twitch who stayed with her aunt that night, and drop us at the Railway station for 1,300 bucks, less than half of what it cost us to go from South to North Goa the day before.

The next day he picked us up. This is the shameful part. He was talkative, and when he asked us where we were from, we gave the silent consensus answer we had been giving throughout the holiday – that we were from Bombay. I don’t know why we did it. Maybe it can be justified by saying that we as girls were entitled to be cautious. I think the likely answer is that being in NALSAR and the world in general, we are simply unused to someone being that nice, that friendly, and all without any ulterior motive. He played music for the most part during the journey.

We picked up NT and on the way to the Railway Station, he had to ask for directions. He told us that this was the first time he ever gave taxi services like he was doing with us. And as terrible as the people we are, I think all of us found that strange and mildly suspicious also. Once we were two minutes away from the Station, he stopped the car because we had passed a Kaju store. He remembered that S had wanted to pick up cashews for her Mum and went along with her to negotiate a good price for her.

Further down, he got a call, presumably from work. He told whoever was on the other end that he would be at work by noon, and he was dropping off a cousin at Margao station. Again, we couldn’t fathom why he was being that nice. But then we got to the Station, and we got off without incident, and I acknowledged that I may be a terrible, hypocritical person in many ways, but here was a man who in the nicest possible manner, had restored what little faith in humanity I had. We gave him 1,500 bucks and made him keep the extra 200.

I don’t want negative comments on this. I don’t want the cynical point of view. That he scammed us in some yet un-thought of way, or anything of the sort. Because here are the facts. If he and his friend hadn’t been the people they were, it would have been insanely easy for them to disappear us for good. We were four girls in short clothes, clearly tourists, clearly without anybody who would settle accounts if we turned up missing, clearly without any men within reach. In that situation, I never ever felt unsafe. I never for a second felt that this is a situation that I need to call my parents, my relatives, anybody, about. Rafik and co. told us we could wait, waited with us while working on a bike with a bulb, didn’t eat, and didn’t look at us or talk to us once in a manner that made us in any way uncomfortable. I have walked the roads in Hyderabad and Delhi in Salwar suits and felt more unwelcome glances on me.

Faith in humans – I haven’t seen you in ages. Hi again.

–          Billy

P.S. – On a lighter note, the trip to Goa was amazing. If Goa has an off-season, it’s not August as far as I’m concerned. Despite or maybe because of the above incident, it was a highly satisfying trip. There was alcohol, seafood, beaches, seafood, alcohol, swimming, Church ruins (you know I always like my churches ruined and silent), seafood and alcohol.

ME: Tell them about your crap songs.

Oh yeah, I discovered latent song writing skills. I’ma be the next Weird Al Yankovic.

ME: ROFL

Ok, maybe not, but I can amuse myself and my friends with my musical compositions about their daily lives. So that’s something.

ME: *eyes popping out for lack of air while laughing.

Anyway, there’s that.

 

Also, I have discovered that I’m considered a slut by some because of certain items I keep in my room, despite the fact that I have not yet had sex. Not that you have the right to call me or shame me as a slut if I sleep with 10 men a day, and not that it is anybody’s business, but you know what? I use stuff and it feels good; and when I have sex I’ll come and describe it in detail, since what I do with my body in the privacy of not-in-front-of-your-face seems to be of such importance to others.

 

Further, above incident with the car has made me appreciate, all over again, certain people that I still hate deeply. The ability of some people to stick around and make absolutely sure you’re ok, despite hating your guts, will always be appreciated. Be it in the form of coming as a group to save your hide, or in the form of melodramatically (and stupidly) handing over their watches to go off with a broken beer bottle, while drunk, into a fray outside a dhaba. So there’s also that.

ME: Weak.

me: True stuff is true.

 

Also, here are some things friends are for – getting high off unexpectedly strong and free Cosmos with. Waking up and going swimming with. Getting into trouble with. Keeping calm during the trouble with. Laughing off the trouble with. Getting drunk after long days with. Making drunk confessions with. Shutting up at beautiful sights with. Making you deal with your inner demons. Forcing you to look at yourself. Listening patiently when things are figured out. And most importantly, to rap and human beat-box with you near the toilets on trains. And this is not emo, it’s a very abridged diary of Goa travels.

 

Also, it’s my birthday, though my friends refuse to wish me due to past infractions of wishing that I may have continued over the years despite trying to be better every year. I find this highly amusing.

 

That’s all. I have to get back to washing my underoos and clothes worn in Goa.

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