(more pics to follow)
I woke on the first ring of the alarm. It was 4 a.m. and I was vastly disoriented. I put it off. I had no time to ponder on how much I could snooze. 3.5 hours. That’s how much I’d slept. A host of last minute changes and running around meant I finally had everything packed and tucked into bed by 12:30. Ideal for the first day of paddling. A flurry of activity followed and by the time the driver showed at our door, we were running late. Bundling food, clothing, equipment, paddles and ourselves in, we rushed to Gateway. When I say rushed, I meant meandered like a river in the flat plains, as our driver is one hell of a cool cat.
By the time I was at the Yacht Club, I had received a bunch of calls. A wake up call to Rajan and our kayak was out the back door. Homi had come down to see me off, and as we strolled up to the Gateway, I observed my high school seniors Akash and Suven were helping dad put up my banner on the perpetually pestilent police barricades that marr Gateway’s morning beauty. Mom was content watching it unfold. Good mom. Nikhil and his wife were a welcome sight and as we started to set up things, a good crowd
started forming. Our local policeman was not to be left behind as he came asking for permissions at the first sight of a congregation of more than 5 people. This must be a habit evolved from the Raj, of which he was clearly a strong believer. Content with our papers, he left us to it.
I have to say that it was a real pleasure having Zubin Dubash, one of the strongest supporters of my expedition, at the flag off early in the morning. Just as with all these months, he was full of that miraculous energy he just exudes. Thanks Zubin.
One of the biggest surprises was Avnish Dhall walking right through the crowd to announce he was there. It’s been a relationship that has been a cornerstone of this journey and despite his crazy travel schedule, his advice and help has been pouring in constantly for the last 2 months, so it was great of him to shuttle straight from the airport down to the flag off. Melanie and Patrick were quick to tell me it was a bloody brilliant expedition and I had to agree.
And just like that, the flood gates on well wishers blew right open. The old gang was there with Meds, Pooja, Arun and Swati driving down for their cups of chai and Ali (minus Zoya) walked up to tell me he would rather sleep off my next launch than kayak out with me.(I’m going to have you on the water next time man) Anurag Aggarwal, a spitting image of his brother and dear friend Ankit came all the way from goregaon to see me cast off, and it was a very sweet gesture indeed. Fali, the christener of my
nickname KK, and a rock behind me in tough times, came down and it was great meeting him after these months. Hermann, one of my oldest sailing friends was kind enough to get my mom a PFD, and as always brought a smile to everyone there. Ninad and Mithu, both seasoned sailors and great people to hang with, came by to wish me all the best and it was really good to
get their backing on this expedition.
I had been hoping that the promise Joieta and Jaideep, both stalwart of the cause, had made would come true and then, right in the middle of it all, making the chai conversations a full blown party were the children of MagicBus. Adorned in their lovely blue t-shirts they made for the biggest and loudest and funnest contingent to see me off. It was fun being introduced to the gang again, a ceremony everyone should do in their lives. And I wasted no time in showing them the shiny new kayak and explain to them what I was about to undergo. Just like at Shivaji Park, I could see it spark their imaginations. The white kayak eventually took center stage, and we spent a good deal of time posing and cheering in front of the kayak and the banner. One of the nicest gestures of the day, was that they brought a big cake out for MagicBus’ 16th birthday. Yes, it’s been fighting the good fight for 16 years now. And along with the youngest of the fray, I cut the cake. Thanks so much for being a part of this. It’s been a real honour and a pleasure working and doing this event in support of you.
Shanj and GC were both the most active people at the event making sure every moment of the event was captured and without them, Tarun, Cam & Shreepad, I’m not sure this would have been a success.
Finally, my mom and dad, who’ve from the moment ‘Goa’ have said ‘Let’s do it’ were on set and we took some shots with the banner and the kayak.
A round of photographs ensued. A moment to spend some time with all the people who’d attended the event and it was time for warm up. There’s a different charm to doing your stretches between the Gateway and the Taj as the morning crowd swept past. The kids who’d taken some time to take in the Gateway were back in time for the Pooja of the kayak and the journey. Family comes first and when my aunt or chotti-atya as we lovingly call her, my cousin Prasad and his father showed up, we took a moment to ourselves.
Finally it was time to hit the water. The jetty was open, and as I lifted the Kayak, I could feel the collective eyes on me. I walked it down to the water. Stretched my legs a little. Assembled my paddle. And got in the seat. As I swept my feet in, I looked back to a crowded slipway, and the walls surrounded by well wishers. I must be doing something right.
So I paddled hard.