The 12th board exams were eventually done after being indefinitely delayed by the ghastly Gujarat riots. There were a good 5-6 months for university to begin. Dad said, “Utilize this time. Learn something new. You’ll probably never get this kind of a break ever again.” Right! So I learnt driving for a fortnight and then enrolled in the Department of Foreign Languages for a beginner’s course in German (or should I say Deutsche).
Those were one of the most unexpected fun days of my life! I was 18, right out of high school, never before had I had the opportunity to be part of such a mixed crowd. To begin with, we were not of the same age. My best friend and I were the youngest in the class. There were college students, some PhD folks, some newly working class, people from the field of commerce, arts, fine arts – it kind of reminded me of the TV series “Mind Your Language”! We were a bunch of 20 people being tutored at the picturesque Faculty of Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda or popularly called just the MSU. The old architecture red brick buildings, the never ending green lawns and slopes, the university campus, the freedom… For once, I was attending a class where there was no restriction of uniform, you could put on nail-paint, leave your hair open, even wear fancy accessories – It was fun!
OK. So coming to the trip, at the end of the two-month course, as a parting memory, the department took us out on a two-day trip to Diu, a fishing town by the Arabian Sea. Diu, known for its heavy Portuguese influence, is in fact a tiny island off the southern coast of Gujarat. This was going to be my first trip away from home ever! I had a good hard time convincing my parents about it. Finally they agreed, all because my best friend was gonna be accompanied by her Mom! Her then-good-friend and now husband came along too! 🙂 And it was fun to be around the young hesitant lovers! Those days, neither of them had confessed their feelings to each other but like I told them when I met them in San Diego years later, it was evident and destined!
The Portuguese influence on Diu is evident right from the moment one sets foot in the town. The seafront fort, the cathedral, the beach, the walk around the alleys, the unexpected discovery of hidden caves (and a whole lot of them, like the ones in The National Treasure – Book of Secrets), the incident of losing my wallet and with it 500 bucks (was very cross with myself that day), the Kathiavadi lunch at the roadside Dhaba en route to Somnath, the bus journey in the night! Goosebumps! Of all these, the image that has stayed with me all this while is my parents seeing me off in the night as the bus departed for Diu. My father all smiles, my mother tensed!