Renault Live Lodgycal Drive: An enchanting holiday in a Shangri-La-esque haven named Goa

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

Team Cartoosh
It’s not every day that one is presented with an opportunity to relax in a Shangri-La-esque haven like Goa, far away from the drudgeries of life.  Thanks to Blogadda, one such opportunity did come my way in the summer of 2014 but, alas, I couldn’t grab it owing to a personal exigency. So, I passed it over to my good friend and fellow blogger Shwetabh Mathur (@shwetabh2) who was kind enough to accept it.


Fast forward to June 2015, the wheel of fortune took another favorable turn. Yes, I got another invitation from Blogadda.com to be a part of a fun event in Goa (#LiveLodgycal Drive organized by Renault India to promote the launch of its latest car Renault Lodgy) as one of the 40 distinguished bloggers in the country invited for the event. Only this time around I was in no mood to miss the opportunity. And so I accepted it with rapturous glee. Within a few days of my confirmation, I received my air tickets through email. From what I had learnt from Shwetabh last year, I was more than certain that I was up for an action packed weekend in Goa (19th -21st June, 2015). Only this time it was going to last for three days instead of two. And we were to be accommodated at the The Leela Beach Resort in South Goa.


The Leela Kempinski Beach Resort, Goa
Harish from Blogadda introduced me to my colorful team members viz. Rutavi Mehta (@rutaagayire), Satish Vijaykumar (@bombaylives), and Madhumita Phukan (@madhumitaphukan) a couple of days in advance. Voila. We straightaway got connected through Twitter and WhatsApp.  Now, all we needed was a suitable team name for the event. After some brainstorming, Rutavi came up with the catchy moniker “Cartoosh” which we all seconded in unison. Ever so proactive, she also came up with an awesome-looking banner for Team Cartoosh. Finally on Friday morning, I boarded the IndiGo Flight #6E 399 to Goa at 1130 hours. I landed in Goa at around 1500 hours. The #LiveLodgycal team was at the airport to welcome the 40 bloggers travelling for the event from different parts of the country viz. Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, etc. There were buses to pick us up from the airport to The Leela Beach Resort. At the airport I bumped into the renowned Radio City RJ Archana Pania who told me that she would be anchoring for us over the weekend. The bus which I boarded had bloggers mostly from Bangalore. My teammate Madhumita was also on the same bus. And, of course, Harish was there to welcome us on behalf of Blogadda.


Renault Live Lodgycal Drive: The Beginning
It was an hour drive to the resort and so enroute I did get the chance to interact with a few bloggers including Piyush Bhatnagar (@soulfultrips), Ankit Garg (@graciousgarg), Giridhar (@cgiridhar), and Nirav Thakker (@normaltusker). I had an extended chat with Piyush, who himself turned out to a movie enthusiast, about the world of cinema at large. We talked about everything from Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) to The Dark Knight Rises (2012) to Seven Samurai (1954) to A Clockwork Orange (1971). As it’s customary among movie buffs, by the time our discussion reached its crescendo, we had already finished exchanging dozens of movie recommendations between the two of us. For the remainder of the bus journey, it was mostly both our voices that kept reverberating through the bus and I must confess that our fellow passengers were too kind to bear with us. When we finally reached The Leela, we were welcomed by the resort staff with garlands. It was then that I and Madhumita got a picture clicked together as the idea was to score as many points as possible through social media interaction. At the reception area all of us were greeted by the uber-energetic Blogadda and Renault teams led by Ankita and Kautuk, respectively. After treating ourselves to some tea and snacks, we left for our allotted rooms in special club cars.  


A candid chat with Radio City RJ Archana Pania
The first thing that caught my attention was the exotic beauty of the resort. So I took a quick bath and got back to clicking some pictures. The view from the balcony was so stunning that it took me some time to come to terms with the reality. For a moment there I got lost in a reverie that seemed to continue till eternity. I only came out of it at the sound of the doorbell. There he was standing in front of me: the one and only Satish Vijaykumar who runs the famous blog 'Bombaylives' (His article on 84 Things Not to Do in Bombay is a must read). Satish told me that he had already finished taking a round of pictures with Rutavi and Madhumita. We spent the next hour or so discussing about the enchanting city of Mumbai. It didn’t take me long to realize that Satish knew almost as much about Bombay as Google would, if not more.  I was enchanted by the tales he shared with me. The more he told me about the city of Mumbai, the thirstier I felt to know even more. Alas, we had to stop prematurely as there was an activity planned for the bloggers later that evening. So, we all gathered at the Banquet Hall at around 1900 hours. It was here that I finally met with Rutavi. RJ Archana was there to address us along with the Blogadda and Renault teams.  Archana soon began with the introduction session and to my surprise she called out my name at the very onset. Of course, I wasn’t prepared for it but in hindsight I can confess that it turned out to be a great opportunity to introduce myself and my movie blog “A Potpourri of Vestiges” to one and all.


Renault Live Lodgycal Drive: The Team of Bloggers
Archana, as good as she is at doing her job, posed some intriguing questions about the challenges of being a film critic. I tried to explain her how important it is for an independent film critic to be honest and candid with one’s opinions as it’s the only way to win the reader’s trust. I also explained her why it is of paramount importance to understand the needs of one’s readers: Say, if a film site is targeted towards the Indian diaspora then it must present its content in a manner that suits their sophisticated tastes and so writing in Hinglish may not be the ideal approach.  Similarly, someone who targets the local readers should avoid using a language that’s too refined as it may unnecessary make them feel alienated. I also told her that it's the love for movies that actually keep an independent film critic motivated more than anything else. I believe that I did succeed in putting my point across. The 40 bloggers had been divided in 10 teams and one by one the teams introduced themselves. Almost everyone had an interesting story to share. While Satish told us about the “The Sapling Project” he is running across India as an environmental initiative, Mr. Deepak Amembal (@magic_eye) shared his experiences as a biker and a travel blogger. Of course, there were many more interesting stories. This was followed by the product presentation from Mr. Manish—the product manager of Renault India—who briefed us about the different features of the Renault Lodgy. Needless to say, it turned out to be a very knowledgeable session. After the session, we played a round of treasure hunt in which Team Cartoosh finished third.


Breaking Dawn: Early Morning Picture Competition
On my way to the restaurant for dinner, I finally got the chance to interact with Mr. Amembal who told me how he manages to upload a fresh picture pertaining to his travel experiences on his blog every day. It came as a great surprise to me when he revealed it to Madhumita (who was standing next to me) that all these years he had been following my reviews very closely and that he makes up his mind whether to watch a movie or not only after reading my reviews.  It was certainly a gratifying experience for me as I, like so many other bloggers, have always looked up to Mr. Amembal. At the restaurant, I treated myself with some very rich food. It was as if I was more interested in satiating my soul than my body.  After I was done with the main course, I joined none other than Harish for a round of desserts. At the ice-cream counter, the two of us colluded with the attendant who concocted a unique sundae which we cheekily named 'Lodgycal Fruit Sundae à la Blogadda'. It took some serious efforts to finally finish it off.  But, needles to say, it was well worth the efforts.


Lodgycal Fruit Sundae à la Blogadda
When I finally reached my room it was almost midnight. I and Satish chatted for some time but soon retired to bed as we had to wake up early the very next morning for the Live Lodgycal Drive event. Luckily I woke up at around 5:30 AM and decided to click an early morning picture so as to score some Twitter points for Team Cartoosh. After having our breakfast, we took some solo as well as group pictures with the Renault Lodgy. It was going to be a long day. Every team had to complete the round trip in the Renault Lodgy assigned to it starting with The Leela Resort to The Lalit Golf & Spa Resort and back. The constant rains had ensured that it was going to be a real rollercoaster of a ride. Kautuk was accompanying us during the trip. Enroute, we stopped at various scenic spots to take some memorable clicks. Also, we were required to click some specific pictures like that of a yellow house,  red car, buffalo, lady with a pink umbrella, duck, red bike, fish, mango tree with mangoes, rabbit, peacock, man in red shots, etc. We did manage to capture some of them on our smartphones. And while we faced some network issues we ensured to tweet the clicks at regular intervals. Ours was the first team to reach The Lalit Golf & Spa Resort. We wasted little time to run to the beach and started taking some awesome pictures. Some video bytes were recorded based on the experiences of the bloggers driving the Renault Lodgy. Soon it started to rain heavily but as soon as the rain stopped we had our lunch at The Lalit.


Team Cartoosh in all its glory
On our way back we continued to stop at different locations to click the pictures we so deeply desired to share in our social circles. Rutavi convinced us to take a picture with her and Madhumita standing on the roof top of the Renault Lodgy. And, Kautuk, to his credit, obliged us with just the perfect shot for all our efforts.  On returning to The Leela, I tried my hands at Table Tennis. It had been years since I last played the sport and I was quite rusty to begin with. Slowly, I did regain some poise. Later, I rushed back to my room to take a much needed bath.  I returned to the Banquet Hall later in the evening for a round of presentation/panel discussion by some bloggers who volunteered to share their success stories/social initiatives. As soon as it got over, Goa’s leading band “Forefront” took the center stage. The bar was made open to the bloggers. Soon, the bloggers metamorphosed into party animals as some even outshone the best dancers in the world with their latent dancing abilities. Some could even discover their hitherto nonexistent singing talents.  The atmosphere inside the banquet hall was electrifying. It appeared as if the time had stopped.  It’s something that can’t really be described in words.


Goa's top band 'Forefront' in action
The party continued till late night and it can be said with great certainty that its fond memories will remain etched in minds of all those present for a very long time to come. Most of us woke up late the next morning. We had our breakfasts and began packing our stuff as we had to check out before noon. After checking out, I, just in time, caught up with Prashanth (@payaniga) who shared his amazing travel experiences with me. Hopefully, one day I shall join him on one of his cycling adventures. While waiting in the lobby, I met Aayan Banerjee (@Gyanban) who shared his thoughts about the art of fiction writing. During our invigorating discussion on cinema, he directed my attention to ongoing renaissance in the contemporary Bangla cinema  and introduced me to films like Autograph (2010) and  Shabdo (2013). Finally, it was time to bid adieu to everyone. The same buses which had picked us from the airport on Friday dropped us back. While the AirAsia flights to Bangalore and Mumbai got delayed, the flight to Delhi was on time. By the evening I was in Delhi but my heart remained in Goa. And it seems, even as I write this, that it will take some time for me to get over the heady Goan hangover.

Note: The review of the Renault Lodgy can be read here.

Readers, you are encouraged to share your own cult favorites in the comment box. As always your views and opinions are highly appreciated!  

— Murtaza Ali



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8 comments:

  1. Was indeed a great pleasure meeting up with you!!

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  2. Well, Sir, the pleasure was all mine! :-)

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  3. Murtaza......this is a fantastic piece.....you have created every sentence so beautifully to feel the experience!!!! Loved reading it!!!! (y)

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  4. Thanks Madhumita... glad you liked it... I actually wanted to write a longer one but then it would have crossed 3000 words!

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  5. hi murtuza, Awesome post, Thanks for the nice words :)

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