Should I attend Goafest…

13 Apr,2022

 

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Sanjeev KotnalaI wish Goafest 2022, the flagship Industry celebration of advertising excellence and networking all the best. But will Goafest 2022 be different this time? Only time will tell. Goafest  has given birth to many stories. Reunion of friends. A cold, arrogant walk-by competition. Too many drinks and loosening of the tongue. Awards appreciated and criticised. A simple meeting of eyes and a friendship of decades. Expectations and imaginations play havoc with the sense of direction at Goafest. Everyone wants closure, even if Netflix insists on a script with a sequel possibility. So, here is one.

 

It is an old story. One where I tried hard to find the closure. It all started in Goafest 2016 and remained unfished till 2021. There was no Goafest in 2020 and 2021. It’s a long story but maybe worth a read. Even if I say so.

 

EPISODE 1. THE BEGINNING. GOAFEST 2016.

It is 2am, late last night at Goafest 2016. The after-hours party is in full swing at Grand Hyatt, Goa. I am tipsy and am having meaningless conversations with friends in the reception area. Soon by tomorrow afternoon, you won’t find signs of Goafest here. I can’t dance to save my life, so I am outside the after-party arena where youngsters are busy outperforming each other. While I think, what the hell I am doing here, something magical happens.

I find a young lady politely asking me if I have cigarettes to spare.

Me, young at heart, who was lonely in the group of friends and colleagues, obliges. I have enough. And even if it was the last one, I would have still given it to her.

She seems alone, and maybe her friends are inside. She lingers on smoking expertly, and we start a conversation that meanders across topics that I have no memory of. The after-hours Vodka must be confusing the beer foundation laid through the day.

We talked for some two hours, or so it seemed. I never asked her for her name, and I don’t remember if she told me her name. I am sure she would never remember me. She had no reason to do so; what if she had borrowed and smoked 3-4 cigarettes with me. I remember she was working in digital space and planning to pursue an MBA from one of the IIMs. Like every IIM alumnus, I let her know I was from IIMA.

 

 

ALL THAT I REMEMBER.

I have a faint memory of the slightly tipsy lady in her mid-20s. She was wearing a light pastel dress and smoking. She had a dimple on her left cheek; maybe it was the right cheek. She wore a silver ring with Neelam. I remember telling her Neelam and Saturn. Even said that she could not be Taurus because she was wearing Neelam. And, she said something about her sting harder than the bite- and so I thought she was scorpion- this was a late realisation.

Few of my friends tell me that they left us together and moved on, as it seemed we were on a different trip. I sat on the ground, looking up at her. She stood stylishly in her pastel dress, playing and ruffling my hair. That’s all I remember…

 

 

EPISODE 2. UNFINISHED STORY. Woh Nahi Aai

For one whole year, the memory lingered, and I tried many ways to search for us. So, nearer the Goafest 2017, overestimating the power of Twitter and my reach in a moment of desperation, I twitted, ‘Dear young lady, if you are attending the Goafest, do connect. And yes, you can find me around 1230, you know where. I did not mention A.M or PM. Forgot even to ask my limited industry followers to RT for reach. However, few well-wishers still re-tweeted. I even declared my intent on my blog and the weekly column on mxmindia.com. Clearly, I was hoping for a miracle, for my message to reach her, and it was ‘Mission Impossible’.

Here was a complex situation. My identity was out in the open. My tweets, as well as the article, carried my not so exciting mugshot. I, on the other side, had no way to tag her. All I had was a faint memory of an overtly tipsy lady smoking with me and having a purposeless conversation.

At Goafest 2017, Night #1, I left the awards function early. Took a luxurious bath and made my way to the bait area, and I waited for the full three beer bottles and four cigarettes. Someone must have been laughing at my cost. I questioned my expectation while taking a long walk back to the room. And I tweeted an update ‘Woh Nahi Aayi’.

 

 

MESSAGES KEEP THE HOPE ALIVE.

Goafest 2017, Day 2, two emails landed in my inbox late in the afternoon. Both suggest a meeting and are full of cryptic clues. The e-mails came within two hours of each other from two different IDs. The writing style clearly indicated they were from two different people. Men will be men, and I am no different. I happily accepted the challenging invite.

I had no option but to wait at the designated area. I lazily smoked and slowly sipped on my Kingfisher. My eyes scanned the site, and nothing happened. So, after a long sluggish wait, I give up. Dejected, I dragged myself to the room.

As I was swiping my room key, my phone beeped with an SMS notification. It read, ‘Sorry could not meet. There were friends who she could not shake. Another follow-up message instructed me to Meet tomorrow at the same place but not to call or reply to the message. She had already left the venue.

I checked on Truecaller, and it showed the caller’s name as Priyanka*. It was tempting to send her a funny reply, but I stopped myself. She was clear, and I was not supposed to send her a message. Why spoil my chances!

There was also an e-mail. Similar message but signed with a different name. I was confused but decided to play along. Now, all I could do was wait. Tomorrow would be my last chance to meet them, and there was nothing to lose.

 

 

EPISODE 3. SIDETRACKS.

My friend from Engineering, Shailendra Singh, posted at GOA with the Indian Navy, came to meet me with his lovely wife. I was worried he may ask me for dinner, and I would have no way to duck. Fortunately, as they had another function to attend, they left by 6 pm.

Another friend Satinder Pal Singh (IIM Ahmedabad 87 batch), working with Nestle in Goa, came over. He was more than an hour late from his scheduled time. I met him in the room and, without any delay, opened the beer. Sometime later, he suggested going out for dinner as he had driven some 20km to meet me, I could not refuse.  The only condition I was to be back by 1130 p.m. I knew nothing much will happen. However, how could I leave it to chance. With pregnant possibilities of ‘What-if’. While I went with Satinder to ‘Junction’ at the Mall in Dona Paula, my heart and mind were at the Goafest. The beer and food took their time between two friends. Satinder dropped me at the hotel a few minutes past midnight. I was short on my appointment.

Time was of the essence. I changed, splashed some perfume, redid my ponytail, checked my stock of cigarettes, and hurriedly made my way to the reception area.

 

EPISODE 4. PARTIAL CLOSURE. KOI TOH AAYA.

Night 2 of Goafest 2017. At the designated hour, I reached the reception area. There is a PYT sitting in one corner. She walks up to me, and she wants to borrow a cigarette, and a code has been broken. I smile, and she smiles back. I know Meeta* is not my MissGoafest2016. We talk, and I feel it is a waste of time.

Meeta is standing with her back to the after-party arena. There is no dimple on her cheeks. I see another girl scanning the area, our eyes meet for a second, and she walks up to me. She speaks slowly but with confidence. ‘Finally, you have a smoke to spare’. I smile and offer her the pack. I have enough to spare today.

Priyanka, Meeta and I are meeting for the first time. They agreed they wanted to play a prank. If I was to ask my mathematician friends to calculate the probability of two girls independently deciding to play a trick on a guy like me at Goafest! He would answer without calculation. Zilch.

They had observed me last night and were touched by my harmless dedication that they decided to meet. Thanks, Pratap Bose, for that single re-tweet.

The girls were bored at the after-party. They have been with the same colleagues for the last two days. Both of them had independently sent me cryptic messages. It seems my focus and dedication to the cause impressed them. They have seen me waiting, smoking and drinking at the registration area. ‘Aapki Talash Ke Fan Ho Gaye Hum’ Priyanka joked. ‘They don’t make a man like you anymore’. Meeta joined in. Surprisingly, I believed them. I smile. There is not much to do.

We end up in my room, and I have enough stock of cigarettes and beer. We finally call it a night at 3:30 A.M. they have an early flight to Mumbai. No promises are exchanged to remain in touch. And none is needed or expected.

I believe Miss2016, with the dimple on her left cheek, did not attend Goafest 2017.

 

 

EPISODE 5 THE UNFINISHED STORY. GOAFEST 2018- 2019.

Hope is a silly thing. The gap between expectation and experience is the reason for all problems. Once again, in 2018, I thought I would be lucky. I shared my story and expectations in 2018 to meet Miss 2016. But neither MissGoafest2016 nor Priyanka or Meeta showed up. I gave up the hunt. There is a limit to being optimistic. But, I still wanted to meet MissGoafest2016 to finally know if she had the dimple on the left or the right cheek.

 

 

EPISODE 6. LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES.  

In 2021, I was looking for Brand managers for one of my consulting clients. There is a resume that impresses me, and a zoom call is scheduled in November 2021 with the lady candidate. I noticed that she had a dimple on her left cheek. She is a young MBA with three years of experience. She kept smiling and was very confident.

‘Midway through the call, she randomly asked me- ‘So, do you have a cigarette to spare’. It took me a moment to realise, and then she confirmed she was my Miss Goafest2016. The interview derailed immediately. We started talking about my chase and hunt and how she had enjoyed it from the sidelines, knowing it was her but could tell no one. In the end, she told me, she was not in for the job – but wanted to end my agony and let me put a face and name to it.

 

 

EPISODE 7. I DECIDED.

Recently Shalini* once again called me in March. She was all bubbly and confident like ever. She told me she had registered for Goafest 2022, and maybe we could share a smoke and more in May. I was all smiles for a moment, and then I told her NO- maybe this year I will give Goafest a pass.

She was a bit irritated and asked if she was the reason for my decision, and I could not tell her the truth. I am still not sure if I should attend Goafest 2022. Or should I break my record of attending every edition of Goafest – an industry event that I love and have  always written about. And I heard her mumble ‘Coward’.

What would you do? Tell me should I attend Goafest 2022?

The question that haunts me is, What if she is telling the truth and what if she is lying? And what are the possibilities if I did attend Goafest 2022?

Netflix Interested?

 

 

DISCLAIMER: *The names have been changed to disguise the identity. This is a true story. Ture but not necessarily the complete truth. My desire to meet her again has been sincere and innocent, and I know to differentiate between fantasy and realistic fantasy

 

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