Ramana was at the driver seat in the BANANA Ride. Behind him, were the four girls (Anita, Vanita, Sunita & Vinita). He was about to start, then, Anita said, ‘I know scootering. I shall drive and you just guide. It will be very thrilling to go riding the waves.’ Ramana wanted to caution them. Driving a scooter on plain roads in mainland, was far-far different from riding on the tides. He was there to take care of them and ensured that all had worn life jackets. They were tourists. They had come to Goa seeking fun and thrill. Why should they be deprived of? To be on safe side, he told them that one round, he would take them and the next one, if they still insisted, one of them could try.
He noticed that these girls had gone crazy, behaving like small children. It was as though they were reliving their childhood, --- splashing the water, jumping high and low on water as and when, a strong wave struck the shore, screaming and shrieking, often and again, clapping hands, and when nothing else, just giggling. Their enjoyment was a greater amusement for all around them, including Ramana.
He switched on the boat and zoom, it whirred. All girls screamed and sea water splashed on them liberally. Depending on the veracity of waves, he turned and tilted the boat. The girls’ screech of ‘ooh and aah’ were on high decibels. Their joyous moments were contagious. Even he got into the same spirit of fun and thrills. He was whistling. Before their excitement got subsided, the first round was over. He was about unhook their safety belts and jackets. All of them resisted in chorus. It was evident that they wanted one round more. He deliberately did not ask if anybody wanted to try scootering. In any game of thrills, obviously ‘Play safe’ was the thumb rule. Anita, in spite of her sportive nature, remained silent. When Ramana was about to start, she gathered guts to ask him and Sunita also prompted her, ‘Come on, Anita. Try your skills.’ Other two girls pulled her back and stopped her. The second round was also equally enjoyable but not as much as the first experience. All four girls were like chirrupy birds, tweaking and screeching. Ramana in his jolly mood, was humming a local folk song. That triggered their senses. Each one was trying to brush their memories of Bollywood beach songs, Bobby, Sagar etc. film songs. They asked him to sing. He was not a good singer. It did not matter at this jolly hour. His singing was only to add, fun and excitement and keep their spirits high. For the song and tune of music, others were clapping and nodding their heads. A sudden strong turbulent tide hit them and blew them off. They were overthrown. They were totally drenched. The Banana Boat got toppled. All were thrown into the sea. Ramana was used to such sudden attacks from sea tides. But the girls? He sprang into swift action. He swam and dragged them, one by one to the shore. It was after all, a small jerk, But the girls were shattered and fear stricken. He was not foolish or sadist. Otherwise, he would have asked ‘do you need one round again?’
Banana Ride was a simple jerking game. For that simple thriller game itself, those girls were torn apart. Rest of the water sports were stronger in curdling the stomach and rising the adrenal level. He thought, ‘Will they withstand? Or will they wind up their tour and go back?’ The girls decided to call it a day, but were back again next day. Oh! They rejuvenated themselves and determined to have some more doses of thrill and fun. They understood now that they were very safe with Ramana and also that, more the thrill alias adventure, more the fun. Ramana suggested them to go for Parasailing, which was less jerky and easy for any starter. But they preferred spine-chilling, stomach-curdling, adrenal-rising, bumpy risky rides. Finally, Bumper Ride was chosen, that too, after prolonged discussion. Vinita argued Bumper Ride was no better than any horse ride. In both the cases, the rider would get his whole body jerking up and down with every bump. A horse ride on inland plains and Bumper Ride right on top of waves were totally different. Only the rider on his personal experience could explain which one was more thrilling. In Bumper Ride, participants had to go one by one. No grouping! That killed half of their excitement. They, then agreed saying, ‘Let us give a try. The inflated boat was tied to the normal high-speed boat. Each one had an experienced escort. His only job at normal circumstances was to enjoy the excitement of the first-time rider. Occasionally he would deliberately tilt the float slightly, such that the rider would feel the impact of falling into the sea amidst turbulent waves. The very boat would capsize and both the rider and the escort had to climb on to the float and carry on. All the girls had their turns and they enjoyed. They enjoyed the deliberate tilt also. At some points, there were racing and chasing between riders which added some extra doses of fun…. In order to maintain safe distance, racing was avoided. If they had gone as a group, they would simply scream, howl, jump, giggle… all that was missing. As a solo rider, they felt less thrilling, but it was not a damp one. The Bumper Ride, otherwise a fun-filled sport, got a bit tamed down. That was all. Ramana was happy that though it was an event-free day and there was no untoward incident either.
Ramana suggested one water sport a day and coupled with other local site- seeing for the rest of the day would be ideal. There were many interesting spots in North and South Goa worth undertaking. Goa was and is much more than, mere beaches. Much beyond that! But the girls were not interested. They dismissed the very idea saying. ‘we have plenty of such sites on Youtube. We can see those places umpteen times. But there is no fun in viewing these thrilling sports on Youtube. One had necessarily to partake and indulge, to feel the thrill of it. Our trip is confined to this aspect only. So, what next now?’ He listed varieties of sporting events to them, Para sailing, dolphin sighting, Jet ski, Flyboards and on. Suba diving was available, but he wanted that to be last. He informed them that Fly Boards required a bit of training both physical and mental. It was purely balancing one’s body up in the air, by rising up and down as the boat kept moving on. No doubt that it could be a highly fun-filled amusement. Such a sport activity should be taken up on empty stomach. Or else. people tend to vomit. All the four girls did not show interest in a sport activity which would induce vomiting sensation. They were satisfied with watching a live programme, a few Fly Board riders attempting on it, --- standing upright now, then bending, stretching hands wider and wider, suddenly rising high, falling into the shallow waters and then come back to the flat board, rest a while and again set forth on water riding… Even after watching others doing the rounds, it did not invoke their enthusiasm levels to try themselves for the Fly Board Ride.
Ramana felt that it was the same story with Parasailing. It did not carry any attraction for them. There was no bump, no jerk, no risk, no adventure and hence no fun. It seemed that they already had a similar experience in Rajasthan’s plain deserts. There they called it as Hot Air Balloon. Sometimes, it was frustrating for him to note that each water sport activity in this beach city of Goa, they connected haphazardly with some vague ride on plain grounds of mainland. The Banana Ride was certainly not the same as Scooter driving on water. At least, they should have termed it as a jerky River Rafting. Next one, the Bumper Ride was reduced to mere horse riding. Now Parasailing they said was, no better than Hot Air Balloon. ‘The chill sea breeze blowing on the face, the parachute swaying and swinging in tune with the moving boat, you trying to look around in all directions from such a height, the roaring sea, right under you, sometimes trying to catch you up on the Parasails with its high tides, filled with all these minute details ---- how such a wonderful sport with these finer elements can be equated to a bland Hot Air Balloon!’ He felt the only ride which they might not compare with any other inland game could be local fishermen going on a country boat called catamaran, that too a rowing one and at intervals, casting their nets. Needless to say, fishermen’s boat ride was for their livelihood, not for fun or thrill.
He advised them to go for Jet Ski, an item which nobody could resist. All fun-seeking tourists definitely wanted to attach themselves to high speed jets. This activity was also a self-balancing tactic game. The rider would be standing on a ski board which would be linked to the boat. He had to hold the rope tightly and remain well balanced on the ski board. Jet boat’s speed would determine the rider’s level of excitement. Higher the speed, greater the fun! Girls wanted it and loved it. Vanita was about to equate this sport to a flamboyant cyclist having a jolly ride by trying to hold a moving truck with one hand, but that would be fatal and dreadful, almost risking his life. Jet ski did not require such gimmicks. It was a safer one. Enduring happiness alone, was the sole spirit behind the game. Lifetime memories!
By and large, the girls had tried their hands (sometimes legs, bodies) on all varieties of water sports. They were talking about returning home. Ramana stood there patiently. Then he told them to stay back for a most thrilling sport now available in Goa. It was not available at all beaches, just restricted to a very few beaches, like Baga beach. The rider would be well equipped with life belts, jackets, oxygen mask and would be required to dive from a steep height. The sudden fall from height, right into the waters was all the fun. A thrilling sport, an unforgettable event, never to miss a life-time opportunity! Ramana was repeatedly explaining the excitement and entertainment value of the sport. But the girls seemed to pay no attention to him. He kept saying SCUBA DIVING, Madam! SCUBA DIVING!
Vinita and Sunita touched him and enquired, ‘Are you ok? What scuba diving? Wherefrom you got that into? Do you know what it is? At least do you know the spelling of such a word? In this mid-summer time, you cosily are dreaming of scuba diving! In this city of Pune, in this apartment of eleven stories, you want to attempt scuba diving from the terrace! Ok. Wait, we will first call the police. Then you try. From a long time, we are demanding our well pressed laundry dresses and you, very nicely lost in your scuba diving dreams! You fool! First get our dresses ironed immediately. Then you can bury yourself into your stupid dreams.
Ramana gave an awkward sheepish smile, for being exposed of his dreams, that too, on off-beat adventurous games. The strange and the only connection was that he had to press and neatly iron out clothes of the same four ladies, whom he had taken on rides. Lady luck also ‘took him for a ride.’ A simpleton washer-man cum laundryman was riding high on dreams! Only dreams keep a hardcore labourer’s life easy.