Pilerne in the rains, Goa, India

Pilerne in the rains, Goa, India
“ Ma, let’s all go to Goa for 5 days, I am booking your tickets and your hotel,” said the big son from London. Goa in the rains as I remember much earlier was a different experience as we were younger,but he was adamant.

“ Ok ! Book the air tickets, but we will stay in the old homestead,” I said.

“ We cannot stay there, it’s too musty smelling and been closed up for so many months. Who knows if there will be water and electricity too in the rains and if the battered fridge works at all,” he said. “ Just three of you siblings struggling to maintain it is crazy, I am not bringing the baby to live there. Visits are fine.”

And booked himself and family into the Fort Aguada Hotel. The rates are fantastic during the rains with the same service and everything on offer. But for me I cannot live in a five star in Goa, when the old house stands in the village. But then that’s me, with Pilerne running in my veins.

We travel light with back packs and very light clothes for five days. I have a shelf with my ‘Goa clothes’ like my Dad did, which consist of sleeveless blouses and shorts. They are easy to pack and along with a towel and chappals and my latest acquisition of ‘water shoes’ from the US, we are packed and all set.

I carry one back - pack with small containers of tea, sugar, milk powder, salt and a few onions and if I remember cooking oil.

“ What is this?” asks the security as we pass through. “We are going to stay in a village far away from any shops, so bhaiyya, please let it through.”

He smiles understandingly and ofcourse I think, it’s because of my fluent Hindi, in Bangalore.

We are glad to see Aldrin the taxi guy just outside the airport with our self drive taxis. There is a horrible taxi strike on and one can see milling crowds in the airport. Wow! Am I glad I booked private taxis? We collect our luggage, and jump into different taxis as we are going to the village and the kids to the fancy Fort Aguada.

“ Ma for the last time, are you coming with us to Aguada or not?” asks the son.

“ Nope, its Pilerne for us,” I say and we get into our respective cars and leave. Lucky I have a husband who helps with the old homestead from my Dad’s time.

The village looks the same, in a time warp. I say hello to the house and look at my Dad’s name on the gate and on the door. As we drag open the heavy doors and windows of mother-of-pearl. I think how marvelous it is to fly, rather than drive like we did, for so many decades. In one hour we are there and in another hour we are home and dry, but then we had no money so we could not.

I look up at my grand parents and glowering Grand dad whose beetling eyebrows have softened with our presence, in my imagination. The care taker had put out the Bombay Dyeing sheets my Mum had bought decades ago for the house. Still fresh and lovely. We take out our toiletries and once the water starts flowing we settle down to some tea and poi that we have bought on our way in.

It is not easy as expected. We go into the house which has been closed for months, but maintained by three siblings paying for a caretaker who cleans and airs it once a week. My husband and myself do the bare minimum to keep it standing. The house is clean, the fridge is switched on and rattles away, in all its blue glory, condensation happening on its front door too now.

There is an air block which takes a lot of unblocking before the water flows easily from the indoor tank. Water is not a problem in the village as it flies down the hill from Porvorim. The force pushes it up into the tank, and surprisingly there is no need of a pump. Then by gravity it comes down into the taps.

Electricity was off when we came in, another perennial village problem if a tree falls on the lines, which happens in the rains. Lucky for us, my sister had left some thick candles which we lit and served us till the lights resumed.

It is hard I agree living in the house. Hundreds of centipedes and millipedes run around the walls in the garden and some into the house. They are small and slim and will grow quite large over the months. The rain batters down hammering the massive leaves of the teak trees and I pray nothing falls on the roof while we are there.A small snake suddenly falls from the roof onto the kitchen floor. It’s battered to death, which is really, very sad.

The front steps are a cascade of brown muddy water. The cousin next door had tarred the frontage which slopes into our home. The first job that was fixed the next day -- the drain running past the house is cleaned up to allow the water to rush past the gate rather than into the gate.The garden has turned into a large, brown, muddy swimming pool. The side drain too needs to be unclogged. Help in India will never work unless supervised, so our first day is cut out for us. Getting the house liveable in the rains.

Lucky we had worked the roof issues over time and so there were no large leaks, but with the battering rain even small fissures had a drip coming in. We also tracked in mud on our chappals, so the house had to be swept and kept clean everyday with stuff falling from the roof.

The single gas stove worked like a charm and all Dads cutlery and crockery that he so lovingly carried from Bangalore, were taken out to use. The dekchis too were top quality and the inevitable flask used for tea which was always ready 24 x 7 in the house. While the men slept I dragged my favourite bench out into the balcao and with a steaming hot cup of chai and butter and cheesy pao, I sat quietly in the next morning, watching the rain pour down in sheets.

How many of our ancestors over the years had sat like me I wondered, watching the rain come down in the very same verandah. When the rain stopped the butterflies and Golden Orioles came out. Host plants grew wild along the sides of the house and large Black Crown Butterflies dipped and sipped from the blood red flowers.

The coop, coop, coop of the Crow Pheasant could be heard rustling in the undergrowth and far up on the hill sides, the plaintive cry of the peacock pierced the stillness of the air But the nicest part of the village morning, was the sound of the Ave Maria played with bells, fitted on the church of San Joao down the road. Probably a gift of some parishioner from abroad, because it sounded like the bells I could hear in class, while in Amsterdam.

For lunch the men bring me huge prawns from the fish market in Verem and I sit peacefully on the steps and clean them, saving the heads for the chickoo and roseapple trees I have planted in the garden. I bury the heads near their roots and place a heavy stone over, to prevent rodents from gobbling it up.

The house is filled with the smell of bubbling coconut curry made with Maggi coconut powder and fish masala and I pop the prawns in. It must have been so tough in the early days to grind masalas and make the coconut milk from scratch I thought.

After the men have eaten their fill, we go down to see the Museum of Goa. A friend had tipped me off about the place and we walk around one of India’s largest contemporary art spaces. The Museum of Goa (MOG), is a privately owned contemporary art gallery in Pilerne Industrial Estate. It has no permanent collection, and when we visited the founder Subodh Kerkar, a Goan artist, the founder of the gallery, was on display.I love art galleries and we enjoyed the trip and the video clip shown in the little amphitheatre.

The rain put a damper on our trips to the beach, but the kids got to play in the sand and build sand castles, inbetween rain squalls and the desperate pleas of the life guards, of the domestic tourists, hell bent on killing themselves, in the angry black sea.

The highlight of the trip were the dinners we had in different top of the line shacks -- Fishermen’s Cove, Brittos, St. Anthony’s and Souza Lobo. Of all the places only Fishermen’s Cover came upto scratch. All the rest probably had North Indian cooks, who made a dreadful rechard prawns and chicken Cafreal, never mind the sea food platters and the Sorpotel. Definitely not goan with everything sweetened. Yuck!

But the fun of the holiday was all of us together. That’s what the plan was and that’s what we all enjoyed. And ofcourse the mandatory picture on the front step was taken, like ours was, when the boys were young and I was a young mother, by my Dad.

Life has come a full circle and the joy of the holiday was, when the baby decided to take his first steps in Goa. 11 complete wobbly steps much to all our joy and cries of excitement. My Dad and Mum and all the ancestors would have been happy too.


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