I had just turned thirty-four. It was 1994. Ash was about to turn eight and Zoë was going to be six. I was happy they were going to be old enough to help with the baby. Three mothers are better than one. We were all so excited.
Life continued at a rapid pace and before we knew it, it was time for our three week Goa holiday. It was too expensive for us all to fly, so we started planning our long road trip. Tony took the jeep to the carpenter in the bazaar and showed him our ingenious design. We wanted to turn it into a bed so we could stay anywhere along the coast and not have to spend money on accommodation. The ply-wood bed was put on stilts so there was plenty of room for our luggage underneath. The bed was at the height of the driver and passenger seats. There was a section on a hinge, which could flap over and rest on the dashboard. At night the whole jeep would become one big bed; big enough for one man, two small girls and an almost seven month pregnant lady. Or so we thought.
We packed the car and the girls were happy on their big bed. There wasn’t much height for them to sit up, so they spent most of the time lying on their backs or tummies. It wasn’t long before their elbows started getting red and raw but they were happy with their books, toys and plenty of water and snacks.
It all went well until our third day on the road. We were crossing a narrow bridge. A jeep came from the opposite direction and onto our side. Tony swerved and slammed on brakes to avoid him. The girls were lying on their tummies with their faces right near our heads. They flew towards the dashboard and I screamed out the name of Jesus so loud it freaked Tony out. I put my arm out to stop them in their flight and Tony somehow managed to get the car under control. When we pulled over we were all crying. We looked for blood but there wasn’t any. Disappointing after such an ordeal but we were grateful to be alive.
We went to Palolem, our favourite beach. Tony talked Gaitonde, a resort manager, into allowing us to set up our tent on his property. He said he would charge Rs 50 a day. We agreed. We found a spot under a lamppost. There were two coconut palms for our hammock and a tap right nearby. The showers and toilets were a few metres away and there was a children’s park in the middle of the resort. The beach wasn’t even 500 metres away. It was so perfect.
We spent the whole day setting up, getting rations and hanging up big bed sheets for some privacy. Tony got some fresh fish and fried it on our little gas burner. We were all so happy. The girls were excited about sleeping in our tent.
It was a five-man tent and there was just enough room for all of us including my tummy. Tony felt the need to be our security person. He did a good job of locking us in so that nothing could enter or escape. Including air. It was tight and the ground was bumpy but we all somehow managed to find a comfortable position. We lay there talking and laughing about storms and wind and what would happen if the weather changed.
We talked until we were exhausted. It was hard for me to breathe in such a tight air-less space but I did my best to concentrate on other things. Just as we were about to drift into much needed sleep, Tony decided to fill up the tent with his pent up gas. We all started flapping which made things worse. We couldn’t breathe and we couldn’t get out of the tent. Our eyes were burning and we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We hit Tony with our pillows and told him he would be sleeping on the beach if he even thought about doing that again.
As soon as the sun came up, I crawled out of the tent on my hands and knees. I took a deep breath of fresh Goan air. It was so different from the air in our small blue tent.