Room No. 1 in the KRCL ORH in Ratnagiri is designated as the MD’s Camp. It is primarily meant for his stay while on tour and for his special guests. The room is comfortably fitted out and the service is excellent. Wherever I have stayed during the journey, except in accommodation provided by the Police in the North East (not the one with bars, of course!) and while staying with friends, I have insisted on being given a lock to secure the room when I move about. However, last evening when I was told that the GH staff will take care of the belongings when I am out for sightseeing, I agreed on the arrangement. I had asked for a cup of tea at 6 am and it arrived promptly a couple of minutes before the appointed hour. With the tea in hand I opened the door to the huge L-shaped balcony and was greeted by a jet of fresh, cool breeze. The ORH is surrounded on three sides by trees, which is dense in the North face. I luxuriated in the salubrious environment and watched the Sun rise in full glow. Such pleasures are not one’s fortune often. The early morning start was summarily dismissed from the schedule and replaced with one after sating the inner self.
Late starts also have their benefits. Because of it I was in time at the Raymonds shop, in close proximity to the main road, which had a sale going. I experienced that late starts could empty your pocket too. The heavy breakfast from the ORH digested on paying the bill at the store. Initially, as I left Ratnagiri, I decided to savor the countryside and drive slowly through it. This resolve lasted less than a half hour. Though the road was winding, undulating and in some places not too well surfaced I did the 250 kms in about four hours. The road condition on NH17 was quite good, particularly the Goa portion.
I had not tanked up fuel in Maharashtra as I thought that there was enough of it to get across the border, where it would be cheaper. I was desperately in need of fuel when I spied the border post. My racing heart calmed. After crossing the border there were Wine shops and Bars all over, but not a single Fuel Station was in sight. It was nearly 50 kms to Panjim and I feared I would run out of fuel if I were to drive on to reach the capital. My heart started racing again and I suspect it is that which provided the necessary momentum to reach the Fuel Station nearly 20 kms into the border. When I parked at the BP outlet I did not mind the rusted dispenser or the grouchy attendant. Fuel was the only focus. I was reminded of a scene from ‘The Party’ in which Peter Sellers sheds copious tears when he finds an empty loo to relieve his burdened bladder (which was later copied by many movie makers in India).
I stopped in front of the Secretariat in Panjim and quaffed water to signal my visit to the last State Capital during my journey of the country. Thus, all the 28 States of the Indian Union have been accounted for, their capitals visited and recorded. In fact, even though I covered the capitals of two States by visiting one location (Chandigarh) I had to travel to two locations in J&K (Jammu and Srinagar) and Maharashtra (Nagpur and Mumbai) to cover their capitals. Now I have only one Zonal HQ to cover before the journey ‘technically’ ends. The HQ of South Western Railway is Hubli, which was my last place of posting in the Indian Railways. Therefore, I consider it quite appropriate that the ‘technical’ part of the journey ends in Hubli. When I embarked on the journey the number of Railway Zones was 16. I learnt in Mumbai that Metro Railway, headquartered in Kolkota, was recently declared the 17th Zone in the Indian Railway firmament.
After a late lunch of Rice and Fish Curry (Goan style) I went to Vasco Railway Station to meet the Area Officer, Rajkumar, who worked with me in the SWR HQ in the Commercial department. He was recently promoted to Group B and posted to Vasco. After exchanging info on the railways and the journey Rajkumar suggested a fix of coffee in a Café near the station. On the way I picked up four slabs each of Costaz Bebinca and doldol, the local delicacies.
My accommodation was arranged in the Mormugao Port Trust GH by the CME, Mr. Kuncheria, who had worked in Cochin Port Trust till a few years back as Assistant Traffic Manager. This is one of the most impressive GH locations in the Government Port sector. It affords fantastic views of the harbor and excellent walkways to keep one fit. But for me it was a couple of bottles of Baccardi Breezer.