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Painting the house in Pilerne, Goa, India

We had carried around 20 large bottles of water from Bangalore to Goa. I know, I know I heard such dire mutterings from the family. Then they quietly drank them while we were there. Reason, it bothers me no end wondering how safe those big bottles of water which are sold all over. I have seen a small autorick loaded with empties, stand and fill a whole consignment of bottles with water from the public tap in Shoolay. Then we go and buy the bottle oblivious to what is in it. Call me paranoid now?

Water flows through the taps and the pressure can be so strong that the pipes rock and clank in Pilerne! That's cause it flows down the hill from Porvorim. Then my brother John has fitted large wooden beams to hold a horizontal tank which fills near the bathroom at the back -- indoors. We cannot have a tank on the roof, as it will get spirited off by some nimble fingered rogue.

In the supplies cupboard in the house dad who is now no more, has stocked it with plates and mugs, cutlery and dekchis, even down to a non stick pan. We have added a small pressure cooker and a 2kg gas stove enough to make tea and coffee and scramble eggs for breakfast to eat with still warm pois (bread).

I chuck all the wet waste out the window into the greenery, where it will have mulched by the time we return. Water melon rind, the skins of pomegranates, oranges and the odd onion. I like getting a kg of Tiger prawns home from the fish market and make a delish curry with Costas prawn curry masala dowsed in coconut milk out of a sachet, as always October is the month for fish, and no mangoes.

This season the Mackerels (bangde) were out and we got the 'pi-po' (horn) man coming to the door with fish. Got six really succulent bangde for Rs 100 which we cannot smell in Bangalore for that price. I scraped off the scales, and beheaded them in a trice cleaning out the entrails and washing them down in a large basin of water. Then placing them on a thaali I poured some coconut vinegar over them and rubbed them down with salt and fish paste.

Taking the basin with the heads out into the garden, I made a hole alongside each plant and 'fed' the plant a head each. Once the ants have eaten their fill the 'heads' will mulch with the soil and make a wonderful compost for the plants. Just be careful of the red fire ants who can bite you, leaving the sting smarting for days.

Outside the painters are scraping the walls of the outside of the house, with sand paper and wire brushes. Decades of dirt moss and old paint come off in chunks and then the walls are hosed down, washed clean of the dirt. Soon a coat of primer is painted across the building and seems to be absorbed greedily by the walls. I give the men their first mugs of hot strong tea to encourage them to finish the job in two days. They sit around the steps taking their first break and thankfully not smoking at all.

'See you tomorrow for the final coat,' they say, as they leave for the day. This time it is a final coat of Apex paint which is expensive but worth it. I sit on the wall reading my book 'Cutting for Stone' by Abraham Verghese, and watching the men paint, while taking notes for the book club that I run.

It's peaceful and quiet with the odd raucous call of the Golden Oriole on the dead branches of the teak tree above. The slap, slap of the men's brushes on the walls is sometimes broken with the sound of a melodious thrush in the thicket near a fallen house close to ours. Drongo's with their hook shaped tails fight in the bushes nearby as Goa is a birders paradise and Pilerne is full of over 453 species of birds we are told.

Soon the last brushes of paint are dabbed on and the house takes on an ethereal glow with this bright pristine white, water proof paint. I sigh happily, while the painters wash up and clean brushes at the garden tap. What a great feeling to look at the house looking all fresh and new even after standing for hundreds of years. Surely our ancestors will be glad.


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