India and Goa’s first cruise liner is here: (clockwise from top) The 5-decked `Angriya’; Merchant Navy’s Capt Nitin Dhond; pub on one of the decks offers beverages, welcome peanuts and snacks while you may dance to the music or lull yourself into meditation while the sea wind blows into your face


LAST week, my dears, all I wanted to do was to run away to a bit of wilderness to clear my head. Christmas was here and I was wondering where to run away and then it clicked. What better place than aboard a ship on a wind-swept deck promising a “voyage of wows”? Believe it or not, that’s the promise they’re making aboard the Angriya — which is Goa’s and in fact the country’s first real cruise ship, courtesy Capt Nitin Dhond’s new business adventure.
This is a real cruise ship from Japan and nothing like the gissa pissa casino boats cluttering up river Mandovi or whatever is left of it! The Angriya stays quite far out in the river close to the more open Arabian sea, and a nice Paulo Travels boat took us out to from the new Captain of Ports jetty at Panaji riverside…takes about an hour and a half but it’s worth every bit of it. Nirmal Kukarni, executive director-ecology, with us says when the Angriya is not taking folk from Goa to Mumbai and back, it is anchored off Panaji and one may go have a rocking cruise party aboard it! You may book anyone of their decks for a birthday party or a marriage at sea…what a rocking idea!
But we were aboard the Angriya with some friends for a soothing evening out with no worries and spent most of our time Deck B, me nursing a fruit-filled red wine sangria and a bowlful of scrumptious salted and savoury peanuts, fried spring rolls, etc; don’t kitchen staff make steamed spring rolls anymore? Night had really set in by 9 pm or so and there was not so much of a starry starry sky above, but a cool salty sea wind blew and in the soothing darkness one could make out the cluster of lights in the distance like Dona Paula jetty, Raj Bhavan…what time does Madam Governor Mridula Sinha go to sleep, someone asked, hope she won’t be disturbed by the party music!
No, no, we were too far away although in the near distance the Aguada lighthouse winked away. We were not even aware that the Angriya was moving further out to the Aguada bay and put down anchor somewhere where it was perfectly calm, and I decided to take a tour of the ship because I was tired of party music urging me to shake a leg! I was in no mood to do anything but to drink, eat and just take in the scene-scenery as they say in Hindi films.
Running friendly interference for us were Capt Dhond and Nirmal Kulkarni, both naturalists and wilderness friends at heart…and Capt Dhond agreed the closest one may find a bit of wilderness is out on a boat or ship at sea. He must know for he’s a veteran seaman of the Merchant Navy with lots of adventures beneath his belt (apart from Angriya, also the brainwave and MD of Wildernest up in the Sahyadri Western Ghats, if you haven’t been to Wildernest you haven’t lived!)…as for Nirmal Kulkarni he is also all kinds of a nature’s child and professionally trained ecologist (currently I think he is trying to teach his little 3-year-old daughter Naia how to recognise wildlife!).
Anyway, both men are together in the Angriya cruises venture and I told Nitin bab that if he is organizing a cruise to the Lakshadweep Islands off Cochin, please count me in, I want to go one more time to Bangaram island before I’m gone with the wind (I have memories of one birthday trip to the Lakshadweep Islands oh so long ago in my 20s)! Capt Dhond smiled and said be patient, they haven’t got a license to go places yet except the Goa-Mumbai-Goa voyages…in that case maybe I’ll just catch the cruise to Mumbai one of these days to have breakfast at Arya Bhavan in Matunga (East). The travel bug is beginning to bite me these days for so many of my friends are going off here, there and everywhere while I’m stuck in a weary domestic rut of life!
This is to say sea voyages can indeed chase away any blues miraculously. The hours aboard the Angriya lulled us into a real serendipity mood and we went and dined at one of the two restaurants …some of the dishes were a little spiced up but I relished the veggie biryani, very agreeable fruity Russian salad and tender coconut pudding. Chatted some more with the reception girl who clued me up some more about the Angriya: It has 104 cabins, yes, six decks actually and one “monkey’s deck” …I thought it was an eagle’s deck? Anyway, no one is allowed to go up to eagle’s deck without permission and unescorted by an crew member, definitely not if you’ve been partying and even half tipsy!
There are dormitories with 18/16/14 beds for very often even party folk book them so that if they’re not in the mood to catch the last boat back to shore at 3 am they may stay over on board. The night we were there something like three parties were on with one group arriving late with a group of friends, naturally all had booked cabins…(sigh)…I didn’t get to see a single cabin for it was house full that night on board the Angriya.
HOW much would it cost to hire one of the decks for a party? I asked Capt Nitin and he said, “Maybe `17,000 something per night…everything laid on!” They can accommodate 400 to 500 passengers on board at a tight squeeze. The Goa-Bombay voyage takes 15 hours with all things going fine at sea…the Angriya is no dilettante ship but equipped to handle all emergency situations if they arise. The captain of the ship is Capt Earnest and he has a professionally trained crew of mostly Goans, after all the sea is also in the blood of many Goans.
Don’t worry about nitty gritty, Capt Nitin Dhond admonished me, “Come aboard whenever you wish!” Capt Dhond is one seasoned and weathered guy with a fund of stories to tell, must catch him for a down memory lane soon. In the meantime if you’re dreaming of spending some time at sea over Christmas/New Year quickly check out what Angriya cruises have to offer by way of their “voyages of wows!” That’s actually their out of the box business slogan and I love it.
For a while there we wondered whether to sleep whatever was left of the night in one of the cabins but mercifully there were none vacant and the good captain said some of his staff were taking the fast boat back to Panaji, would we like to take it too? We said, yes, thank you, and returned home a little past midnight and not with dawn blushing the skies. To be honest with you, my dears, I’m a daytime person and not a nighttime person.
And one of these days when I’m in a mood to feel young, footloose and fancy free, I’m booking up for a cruise aboard the Angriya…to go somewhere far, far away and I never want to come home again! Which reminds me they have a crewman names Abhijit who sings pretty ditties in Hindi about not taking time seriously. Be sure to say hello to him.
ON that note it’s avjo, poiteverem, selamat datang, au revoir, arrivedecci and vachun yetta here for now. Don’t get so wrapped up with the Serendipity Arts Festival in town, that you forget to go to the Saras festival on at the Kala Academy grounds from 11 am onwards…lots of goodies of the homely and organic kind here to buy, good stuff papad, pickles, masala powders including Indian tea masala, piles of translucent green bilimbim, packets of steam-cooked polle (soft lacy white dosa-styled roti but these are made of ukdyacha tandu or country rice)…and khadi towels, Kunbi sarees, cotton nighties, chunky jewelry, ikat sarees and gamcha from Orissa, bamboo pickle from Manipal and so on! Worth a dekho. Have a very merry berry Christmas, my dears.

— Mme Butterfly

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