It seldom happens that one gets an opportunity to go on a fully-paid trip to happening paradise like Goa. One such opportunity came my way very recently, courtesy of BlogAdda, wherein I was invited to be a part of first-of-its-kind experience presented by TATA Motors, on the occasion of the launch of the brand new ZEST, on the 26th and 27th of July as part of which I was was supposed to have the privilege of spending a weekend in Goa royally.
Alas, a travesty of fate prevented me from joining the bandwagon which was to comprise some of the best bloggers in India, meritoriously handpicked by BlogAdda, who were to fly to Goa from the different parts of the country! But, BlogAdda did provide me with an opportunity to redeem myself by allowing me to nominate another blogger in place of me. Since I was anyway not going to be a part of the extravaganza that was to take place in Goa, I thought of nominating someone through whom I could at least relish the Goa experience vicariously. The first name that came to my mind was that of one Shwetabh Mathur. Shwetabh has earned the reputation of not only being one of the most enthusiastic and passionate bloggers on the circuit but also for being someone with a knack for writing brilliant travelogues. Another thing that I like about him is that he usually writes his heart out, and, although, he is most verbose, I really like his candid and heartwarming writing style which almost invariably relies on the artful use of Hinglish.
So. without much ado, let me present to you the TATA Motors ZEST experience which Shwetabh recently published on his personal blog, Memories (shwetabhmathur.blogspot.com/).
The character named Murtaza is real, a friend of mine who runs a movie blog named http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/
Murtaza: भाई क्या कर रहा है ?
Me: कुछ नहीं
Murtaza: दो दिन के लिए free है ? एक event है
Me: mail भेज पहले
Like all stories of mine this too started with a backstory. So when the mail did finally arrive I was shocked..an all expenses paid to Goa by TATA motors. Blogadda was taking us there to test drive the Zest . Murtaza was on complete bed rest and asked me to go on this trip. He told me, “ No one else can cover it better than you do. The way you write the experience , it would seem like I have made the trip.” When I made sure that he was ok with forfeiting his seat, I said a yes. Some 15 mins. after my yes to him, I got a formal invite mail from Harish from Blogadda. I filled up the required form online with all necessary details of fb name, twitter handle, blog url etc. Not used to surprises like these I thought it was a joke but trusting murtaza enough I said to him that I wont believe all this until I get tickets on the mail.. and they too came. By evening Ankita called and confirmed all details and now it was only wait ( and an agonizing one). The next morning was a surprise, surprise… Manjulika calls me up and asks whether I am going or not? How did she knew? I hadn’t told anyone( apart from jatin who knew by the blogadda tweet where they had announced the names of the first 4 people going there and my name was one of them).
Very nervous , Manjulika said yes to the trip after she came to know that I was going too. Atleast she knew someone now. By the night our tickets were on the mail which meant that I had to go now..it was confirmed that it was no joke. But there was a catastrophe. 2 infact- First there were 9 people going from delhi and apart from me all were ladies(Me was the minority) . Apart from Manjulika, Ritu Lalit and Anupama Mazumdar were the 2 people I knew well. Secondly, my return ticket from goa had a salutation mistake ( Mr. की जगह Ms. ) . I immediately dispatched a mail to blogadda team pointing out the mistake. They sent me a assurance mail but I was nervous as hell. The airport security doesn’t allow entry even at the minutest of things, what if I had no entry…ahhhhhh. With mails flying thick and fast between me and blogadda for the minutest of queries and clarifications, documents sending they must have thought किससे पाला पड़ गया यार . By the evening I was in a state of panic attack regarding the trip. My voice was shaking and I was nervous as hell. I have been to numerous trips but don’t know why this happened.
In the morning I was the first to reach the airport, Manjulika was 5 mins. away and ritu ji was this-
Me: Hello Ritu ji, कहाँ हो आप ?
Ritu ji: अरे पता नहीं मुझे यह कौनसा taxi ड्राइवर मिला है जिसे airport का रास्ता ही नहीं पता .
Chattering and blabbering me and manjulika didn’t see where we were going and we were at the checkin counter for people with special needs. When the lady at the counter (beautiful one) pointed this out, we were laughing and had to go to the normal one. In the meantime Ritu ji joined us and we proceeded to security check where I made a basic mistake. Forgot to put the cellphones for xray in the laptop bag and when the security officer checking me pointed this out, had to rush back to do that and go and stand in another line ( which was short). So basically my whole luggage ( laptop and phone) were on 2 different x ray machines and I had to literally collect them from places. कोई उठा के न ले जाए , कहीं पार न हो जाए . All tragedies happening with me. Later on we met seema and rekha( food blogger). Khaana… sounded yummy.. It was lovely talking to them both. Exertion was taking a toll on Manjulika as she was suffering from fever. We went in search of some seating space near the boarding gates but found none. Ritu ji and the rest had gone for a quick coffee and we 2 decided to board the flight. The boarding started and in 15 minutes we were in the aircraft. Anupama didn’t come. Met Christine there. She was also destined for goa. In between all this my eyes were desperately searching for that one thing I find always.. It was there when I got a glimpse of it. 3 Indian Air Force IL 76 transports on the tarmac.
They are like my good luck charm and I always wish to see them in one form or the other when I travel. When the plane was taxing to the runway noticed a thing which I probably saw the first time(or noticed it), the ground crew saluting the pilot before take off. Done to communicate all systems good to go and ready for flight, I had noticed it only with the air forces but for the first time saw the civilian side. So off went the flight and I tried sleeping but to no avail. Got up only after the announcement of preparing for landing. The view from the top was marvelous. Quickly snapped it up.
This time guess who welcomes me to Goa? The Indian Navy. I had seen a ski jump at a secondary runway and knew only one fighter type operates this way. Scanning the eyes for it, saw them finally. 2 Sea harriers standing on the side with tanks loaded. No weapons though. So it was a welcome to goa by the Interceptors. Although wanted to click the pic of it but as always decided against it. Nothing of the sort which can put the security of the country at risk. My disasters with luggage continued, the luggage was the last to come on the belt and I was muttering in mute mode.
Out of the airport there was no welcoming party. We saw no one with a placard from blogadda. Noticed a guy holding a Zuri resort placard but he was not there to pick us. I called up Harish to enquire about the person picking us up, meanwhile Manjulika made a quick enquiry from another person holding the TATA Motors board. In 5 minutes we knew that Ankur was there to pick us. He was inside waiting for other group to arrive. Meanwhile we waited for the bus and met the group from Mumbai. So the first interaction was with Hemant. सब airport पे ही शुरू हो गए about blogging and all. अरे पहुँच तो जाने दो पहले .. The trip to Zuri resorts was all alive with greenery and dark clouds, just the kind of weather I love. At the resort welcomed with the tika and I felt happy. Manjulika was like , “ अब तो तसल्ली मिल गयी न , टीके से स्वागत हो गया सबका ..” At the delhi and goa airport I was rusing the fact that there had been no welcome or send off. It didn’t matter. Surprises and welcome moments started from here.
Harish was there to personally welcome us, so was Ankita. The 2 people who must had been fed up by my small mails every now and then. All I saw there were smiles and the happiness to see the people. It was the top 50 as they had called it. Signing up for my room I headed that way after a welcome drink. Time was short, lunch was only till 4 and we were already at 3.15 pm. The way to the room was a typical bhool bhulaiya. So many turns and room numbers that anybody could get lost. Luckily mine was the easier way. The room was wow. There was literally a mad rush to charge the phones ( Manjulika`s phone had a dead battery and she was relying on mine to convey messages to the family. Not a problem with me, that’s what friends are for). After some 20 mins headed to lunch. 25 mins. to go. At the reception desk when I asked Sneha the way to the food hall, she first looked at the watch and said, “ Oh there`s still 15 mins. Please head that way”. J . Hungry since hours me and Manjulika sat down and had lunch. An awesome variety of food.
Till now we had not interacted much with anybody so were busy giving company to each other which would change during the next 30 mins. I noticed a Zest bag with her and she told me that it was there at the reception which we had to take and sign a declaration form too. All about not posting any obscene or objectionable stuff during our live blogging session.
Decided to take that while others were having their craving for the sweet tooth, found Anand on the top of the stairs waiting for me with my personalized badge requesting me to put it so that its easier for everyone to remember. At the reception the kit contained a blue zest t shirt to be worn the next day, stickers, a strap card, a layout of the way to the rooms in case you get lost (which many had done already), a personalized welcome message from Nirav. When I went back to the hall everyone was done and I had decided to put this in the room and come back. There was tea at 5 pm. अभी खाना खाया और अभी चाय .. खिला पिला के मारेंगे क्या ?
Just out of the hall and we were requested for video bytes. I don’t give it generally but it felt so nice that I surely said yes. No harm in sharing with others. Already the photography team had treated us as complete celebs. So many pics clicked of us that we lost count. Sharing with them and on opening my room met my room partner – Aseem. Destined for the Unicorn hall where tea would be served, we tagged behind Anand and still got lost in the way. Managed back and found Harish there to welcome us. The hall seemed big enough. Met Pranay and Shashank there. Then it was a formal welcome by Ankita who highlighted the agenda and stuff. After about 20-25 minutes we headed for tea. The so called Masterclass was to begin by 7 and we had plenty of time. The star attraction at the tea- the 4 cakes of Youtube, Linkedin , twitter and facebook. Multiple pics were clicked and not one dare cut it. गाली कौन खायेगा ? There was a general announcement that the cake is going to be cut so please take the pics if anybody hasn`t. Just to be safe.
After tea we 4 (me, aseem, shashank and pranay) decided to relax our backs. The stools punished the body. While we relaxed, a lot of people went to the beach (behind the resort). Met Senthil who introduced with a very special set of card.
By 7 we had Miss Malini welcoming us and the team from TATA. The team told us the journey of the TATA ZEST and what all we can expect from the test drive the next day.
In came the biggest surprise. In walks Narain Kartikeyan and everybody is stunned, awed, surprised. Harish and his team pulled this out perfectly. Seeing him on the screen was another thing and there he was just inches away. Although the team from TATA was busy explaining the features and details of the Zest but my concentration was on Narain. I just could not believe my luck. After a talk of some 30-35 mins regarding whats new, the features it was time to pose for a pic with Narain. He is the most shy celeb I have seen, even more than a newly married bride. When it was time for the group photo his expression had to be seen. With solo pic we had to request him to look at the camera. Pranay did the work for me clicking the pics. Quickly got hold of a marker and the autograph is now mine.
After he went and the masterclass got over, we all met and chatted like old friends. Not possible to meet the rest 49 but I made sure that I could meet as many as I could. We were a group already of 4. Testing the audio system, voice recognition, game and stuff like that we did not realize the time until there was a call for us to come and join dinner. On dinner 2 things happened with me- Harish as usual was the helpful sort who asked me to take the call as to not drive the car the next day ( I am a paranoid driver plus I had suffered a recent injury, doc told me to take it easy). It was all upto me. While I was getting to know Sushmita , another awesome girl from delhi who is just fab I was thinking that its so strange that people connect with thoughts. It was like finding a gem out of nowhere. We talked and enjoyed that too. I really wanted to know Harish`s version of calling me to goa on Murtaza`s recommendation. He told me that I surely was not the ultimate choice which I knew considering I am an Indiblogger first(write all events). Despite opposition he took the call to take me to goa (after having a look at my blog) and going after his instinct. Going by the bond he and Murtaza share, he decided to see the person whom Murtaza had recommended in the first place…. And he was delighted to see me there. I was there on multiple missions- experience the zest, experience goa, go back and write about it so that all my friends can read about it. When somebody had put so much faith in me I would repack that trust back. We called it a night around 11 keeping in mind that we had to go on the test drive and also me and aseem had planned to go to the beach early morning coz we had missed it. In between Sneha had told me that my ticket had been rectified, not to worry.
In the room there was a bag containing a white shirt on Aseem`s bed but he had no clue what it was doing there? There was 3 complimentary bottles of water in each room and he was asking me that will we have to pay for it? I had to show him the welcoming letter telling him that it was free. The room was already freezing at 16 and despite me increasing its temperature, it did not seem to work. We took out our laptops and got down to tafree on fb and twitter. The room was becoming antartica so I switched off the AC and the temp. went from 16 to 19 in 20 mins. Meanwhile we had placed a wake up call for 4.30 am to go to the beach. We knew that we wont be able to go before 6-6.30 in any case. The morning tea was at 7. Rain had started and I opened the door to the garden hoping that the hot air from outside would have some effect on our room.
गरम हवा तो नहीं आई ,मच्छर ज़रूर आ गए . The room looked like an electronics shop. 2 laptops charging at 2 different points, my portable charger plugged into the usb port, 2 different mobiles charging at 2 other points. Had police raided out room then, surely we both would have been behind bars on suspicion of betting. I uploaded the pics on facebook while aseem was busy “analyzing” twitter. We had set our sleeping time as 2 am and then this happened-
Had to finally call it a night although Aseem was thinking of waking through the night “ आखिर 2 घंटे बाद फिर उठना तो है ही ”. After 4.30 we had a wake up call, I received it, saw outside that it was pitch black and decided to sleep. The all night जागने वाला was sleeping.. At around 5.30 I was awake automatically and when I was pondering over to get ready there was another call from the reception as the wake up call. I was thinking, “ एक बार तो उठा दिया , अब कितनी बार उठाएगा ?”. It was a call to inform that tea would be served at 7 and before that we had to check out. This wake up call was sent to all rooms and there was a bit of panic when I informed Manjulika that we had to check out by 7 and not just get ready for tea. Harish managed that quite well again. All systematic. So we both were the first ones to check out completely by 6.45 and headed to the beach. It was serene and quite. Nivedith, Senthil and the others were enjoying the stroll.
After sometime it started to drizzle and we rushed back for the chai. At the breakfast, Anand came and asked me if I had received the white t shirt goodie bag and I said no. Then he came and handed me that and Pranay said to Aseem, “ देख लो बे Celeb bloggers को हाथ में दी जाती है.. बाकियों के तो बिस्तर पर रखी मिलती हैं J”. We went into the hall where we were given safety instructions to handle the automatics. With no clutch, the people can mistakenly press the brake and the car comes to a sudden halt. With a ground rule of NO LEFT LEG we were given groups of 3 each and 2 car variants which we had to drive around a pre determined route. There were markers along the route and we had a route map in the form of a booklet. I got P 6 (petrol version first) alongwith Ila and Arun. My day was about to change. With injury worries, I set off as a Navigator. People going out of the room to test drive looked to me like fighter pilots exiting the debriefing room for missions. There were drivers provided on those cars where nobody couldn’t/did not wanted to drive. Our car had a volunteer from TATA.
We got into the car with Arun driving, Ila on the passenger seat and I was at the back. Flagged off like a rally we just into the drive straightaway with the car into sports mode from the very start. We were looking at the markers and making our way across. We had two pit stops where the drivers needed to swap places to get the feel. We were okay. Arun was giving the input and the feel and I was listening. On the way we noticed the rest of the teams taking pics and capturing the beauty of Goa. We found a nice church and when we parked there, got to know that there was a funeral and had to move quickly as the rest of the teams were all stopping there. There were only few Zests with us and they were all with us and all blue colour. Our dresses, the cars..everything. The T shirt was an awesome fit. We stopped on the way in between and got busy with pics. We finished the drive to Zuri and Arun gave his input and the shortcoming to the TATA person. Now we moved to the diesel version ( the automatic). We were told what to watch out for. Hardly had we gone 100 m, Arun exclaimed “ Man this is power. Its easy you both should give it a try. See I am doing nothing, its only brake and accelerator”. After much coaxing Ila got ready to drive for 200 m. On another wide stretch of road I took over. It was so comfortable. Initially behind the wheel I had planned for 200 m only but ended up with one pit stop and some 5-6 kms. Arun was the best instructor ever. So patient, calm and helpful. Keeping the parking brake in hand, he did not let us feel the jitters. On the way we tried selfies which got damaged due to too much sun on the lens but we did manage to scoop up a few nevertheless.
We were probably the last ones to check in. Filling the feedback forms the first thing Anand asked me ,” So how was the drive?” and the smile and happiness on my face must have told him how was it.For the detailed review of the car head here to my blogpost:
Rushed inside to write the blog as the clock was ticking away and we had to depart for the airport by 2 pm. Lunch had to be finished by that time. Got down to typing as fast as I could but the words were taking time to come out on paper. Quickly finished the car review, posted it and headed out to the group pic. It was raining and everyone was waiting. A few of us rushed out and had a photo nonetheless in the rain. After that it was lunch and while I said goodbye to people I felt like saying goodbye to a family. There were people from all places and felt so close. Bundled into the bus saying goodbye to the blogadda team we went to the airport where another tragedy awaited us. Our Spicejet flight was delayed by 2.30 hours. By the time we would have landed there, we were supposed to take off. Carrying a complimentary “खाने का डब्बा ” given to us by the flight we had the security check done so that we could sit somewhere and plug the phones to charging.
Now these were the awesomest 2.30 hours.. every flight was delayed. The Mumbai flight was delayed by some 15-20 minutes. We said goodbye to them, Harish and his team too came after sometime. Sneha saw me and said,”तसल्ली मिल गयी Mr. and Ms. की अब ” ? Anand pointed to me and Manjulika and said “Hey these 2 are still wearing the zest shirts..they should get a photo clicked.”. We said goodbye to them also. पहले विदा होने वाले थे , अब सबको विदा करके ही जायेंगे . In these 2 hours I got to know Manjulika and Sushmita much better. It was like old pals meeting after a long time. It was memorable. The hangover was still there. Landing at around 9.30 it was a long trip although I had tried to write this experience in the flight itself but got so emotional that had to stop it.
I went to Goa empty handed and returned with a lot of memories for the lifetime. It did not matter whether I am an avid Indiblogger or not or whatsoever. I got a chance, I took it. There are a lot of people who made this possible for me. Murtaza for pushing me to go “for my sake”, Harish for trusting his instincts, Manjulika, Sushmita for putting up with my craziness at the airport..and the rest of the people for starting this beautiful bond of friendship with a lifetime validity. It doesn’t matter which networking site I am attached with( some people think me to be biased towards one) I would always remain one person who likes to write and the management and hospitality of Harish and the others have made sure that it would be one memorable trip.
Note: This post was originally published here