The old homestead in Pilerne, Goa

The old homestead in Pilerne, Goa
There is a bond that binds us Goans all firmly together. Our old and decaying homesteads in Goa and the drive for some of us sons ( or in my case- daughters) of the soil goans, to revive and refurbish them to their former glory. But then comes the all important question of money. There are many takers, but very few givers. Everyone wants their ‘rightful’ share, without doing anything! That is the true blue goan, but again, not all are the same.

So let me paint a word picture about our old house in Goa. The bottom portion that I remember as a child, had a cow-dung floor, when we visited as small kids and I don’t think the roof was tiled yet. My memory says there was a rustling thatch for a roof, which seemed alive to me as a child. Dad swore there was a house cobra in the bathroom which would not hurt us house people. I was simply terrified of the cobra and the civet cat that he very nonchalantly spoke about that was resident in the loft in the bedroom! We thankfully never saw either and the loft was removed during the renovations. I also remember this dank and dark smelly lower part of the house, where the food was cooked on fire- wood.

It had a piggy toilet outside which was separate from the house, which we hated as kids. The reason being there was a tall stack of firewood kept in it which probably played host to a family of vipers. The rustling in the stack while we used the facility, made sure we were in and out of there in seconds. And the flimsy and falling apart door for privacy, barely hung on weak hinges.

Dad always took us out at the back near the well to have our ‘showers’. The four of us stood in our vests and undies and he pulled up ‘korsors’ of water from the well, with a brass pot that clanged on the laterite as it went down. The sides of the pot were dented because of hitting the sides, but it gleamed in the sun as he tightened the rope to let it down into the greeny, ferny depths of the well. Usually after the rains the water level rose up in the well and there was always plenty of water in it.

Lovely fresh smelling water with the occasional dead leaf, was poured over our heads which was icy cold, to our quick intakes of breath! “ Rub that soap, rub that soap and work up a lather,” Dad would shout and we laughed and giggled, the four of us standing around the well as he drew out the water and we left the cake of soap on the steps leading up to the well.

The huge mango tree threw dappled sunlight around us, as we helped Mum wash our dirty clothes and string them out on a line to dry in the breeze. The breeze, warm and ticklish came undulating over the green rice fields, scented by the ripening rice and warmed by the sun. The clothes needed no fancy drier and when removed to be worn, they gave off a clean and delicious scent which I associated only with Pilerne. You cannot get that in any washing machine.

The boys loved chasing after the pigs which seem to have dissapeared in the village today because of the new Swine Flu which they carry. Today ofcourse there are soak pits into which the sewage flows and is absorbed into the soil. The glow worms too are missing in today’s Goa that we enjoyed as kids in the village. We caught one of them, wrapped them in cotton wool and enjoyed watching them blink like little lanterns which was cruel, as they finally died in there.

However I would love to redo the entire homestead, leaving the exterior and modernising the interiors. Leaving the massive doors and windows with their mother-of-pearl windows. Gleaming tiles on the floor, rather than the horrible red oxide flooring. The roof with steel girders, rather than the wooden ones that the white ants devour. A more modern kitchen with cupboards to hold dishes, which we can use when we visit. A gas stove and a more uptodate fridge.Maybe a washing machine to handle the dirty clothes, rather than cart them home to Bangalore.

I need to get the plumbing fixed and fence the entire home stead, and finally cobble stone the frontage so it looks good, rather than messy and overrun with weeds.

All that takes a lot of money, but when one has a dream, it finally will take shape and I will make it happen, in my lifetime. As I did promise my Dad to look after his beloved homestead when I took the huge front door key from him.

And then of course there will come many takers to claim their share!

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