I had been an assistant/associate professor at the government Medical College Kanpur for five years when I got married. Pay was low. After I paid the house rent and the emi for the car, I was left with little money. Just before the wedding, my research paper was accepted at the World Congress in Tokyo. University Grants Commission and UP government granted me some money. But I had to pool-in all my savings to be able to make it to Tokyo. It was worth it. I won the young scientist award of the Congress. But I was left with no money.
Hubby was an Air Force pilot. His pay was about three times that of mine. He had been posted to England for four years for the test pilots course followed by attachment to the aerospace companies, and later for the staff college course. The foreign allowance he received was substantial. But his assets at the time of wedding were one ten-year-old Jawa motorbike and ₹6000 in the bank. Years later when I asked him what he had done with all the money he had earned, he replied tongue-in-cheek, “some I spent on wine, some on women, the rest I just wasted away.”
Our wedding was without band, baja, barat. Hubby couldn’t afford these. So, he and his family piled into a minibus and silently, in the darkness of the night, rode to the wedding venue. Immediately after the wedding, he pushed off to Hashimara where he had just been posted. It was an air base for Mig 21 supersonic fighters, those days the latest and the most modern fighter of the air force. The air base was on Bhutan foothills in West Bengal.
We decided to meet in Bengaluru where I was to present a paper in an international conference. He hitched free ride on Air Force aircraft to reach Bengaluru. Before posting to Hashimara, he was commanding the test pilot school at Bengaluru. So, he had many friends there. They found a vacant apartment for us and loaned us some bedding which we spread on the floor. Meals we had free at the Conference or at the place of his friends. They organised gatherings to welcome the newlyweds.
Where do newlyweds with little money go for honeymoon? One of his friends’ relatives was the boss of Zuari fertiliser plant, at that time the largest industrial undertaking in Goa. So, Goa it was. Because boarding lodging was free and the roadside café in Goa offered cheap wine and cheap seafood and a magnificent view of the road, or at a few, of the beach. Those days Goa was the only place in India which produced wine. It also had cashew or coconut Feni, called fénnim in Goa, a liquor which gave a kick like that of a mule and a hangover to remember.
On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, we took the bus to Goa. Our host’s car picked us up from Kadamba bus stand Panaji. For the next few days his car took us to all the tourist spots in Goa. Then it was New Year’s Eve, 31 December. Those days Goa was Hippie paradise. On New Year’s Eve rock groups from around the world would congregate at a beach in Goa to celebrate. The location of the beach was kept a secret to ward off the locals from intruding. Goa has so many beautiful beaches that it was impossible to guess on which beach the rock festival might be at.
We decided to try our luck. Hired a motorbike and on a hunch rode to Chapora beach north Goa. It was silent, still, and dark when we reached the scattering of coconut trees above the beach and parked the bike. We slipped down a sheer drop of about fifteen feet to the narrow beach and were immediately struck by throbbing, electric, music flowing from a rock group on a makeshift machan on the cliff. We settled down on cool sand. No food, no liquor, no drinks, only the music. One group was followed by another. A mix of guitars, drums, cymbals, and vocal. Unbeknownst we slipped into sleep. We awoke to the sound of sea waves breaking, a red sun rising, and an athletic young white girl with flowing long hair shining in the bronze sunlight performing a fluid mix of yoga postures and ballet.
We have come a long way since that new year night. Travelled the world. Been to the oldest and the most famous Mardi Gras festival in the world in New Orleans, to the biggest Mardi Gras carnival in the world Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro, and to other music events.
But what is etched in our heart and mind is the music and the girl dancing on that night of a sort of honeymoon