5 month reckoner

November 3, 2009

It is now 5 months since our move from Bangalore to Goa. Besides the obvious urge to spend some part of our lives away from the hustle and bustle of urban India, the prime objective for us in setting up Arco Iris as a homestay was to experience first hand and subsequently make available local experiences which reflect the culture and heritage of “rural” India in general and Goa in particular to the world at large. In the particular case of Goa, we wanted to explore life beyond the touristy stereotype of sun, sand, beaches and feni.

During this period, “discovery” of the life around us has been exhilarating and we are excited at the possibility of sharing this with our friends and guests. As you can well imagine, this is a continuous process of discovery which has just about commenced and will continue to unfurl as we move along. It is still, thankfully, some way from being a finished product in that sense. Our explorations have led us, for instance, to:

1. the almost 400 years old Rachol Seminary, one of the oldest in Asia and just about 8 kms from Arco Iris. There are currently about 70 odd seminarians along with the administrative staff and faculty housed in the seminary. During the visit you will have an opportunity to meet and interact with seminarians and understand their journey from a seminarian to a priest. The building itself is rich in history, having being owned by Muslim and Hindu kings in the past. The well stocked library, which is open for the public to browse, has an extensive collection of books on philosophy and theology ;

2. a boat ride across the Zuari with a local “Gondolier” !!. The Zuari can be reached by walking about a km from Arco and since there are a couple of fishermen resident there, one can go on a leisurely boat ride with them ;

3. a birding trip with a local naturalist and birder to the Maina, Curtorim and Corjem (which Arco overlooks) lakes. If you are lucky, you will spot species endemic to this region ;

4. a visit to and lunch at the Palacio de Deao (about 10kms) or Figueredo mansion (about 15 kms). The Palacio is a 225 years old palace in Quepem and the 400 years old Figueredo mansion is home to two charming Goan ladies who relish the opportunity of talking to guests who drop in for tea or have the lavish lunch that they serve ;

5. a heritage walk in Chandor followed by a visit to the 4 centuries old Braganza Mansion. Incidentally the Fernandes house is an Archaelogical Survey of India excavation site. The chapel in Chandor is the only church I know of where once a year during the carnival period (February or March) the Catholic priest performs a “puja” dressed like a Hindu priest ;

6. the bakery which prides itself on being the preferred supplier to the Rachol Seminary for the last few decades. To this day, they use a wood fired oven for the baking process. You will be encouraged to try your hand at making delicious Goan “pao” for your dinner ;

7. a chance meeting with the venerable Mr. Mathew Fernandez, a retired lecturer, now teaching Portuguese to whoever is interested.

Other possibilities include visit to a prawn hatchery, witnessing the process of restoring antique furniture and picking up a few restored pieces, viewing a second division football match at the local grounds, visiting local artisan and skilled workers like weavers, potters and toddy tappers at work. There is also the stretch of beach from Benaulim right to Karwar and further which is relatively unspoilt and waiting to be experienced. Right through this period what has been remarkable has been experiencing the welcoming friendliness of the local citizens.

Ponda is just about 25 kms from Arco and this means that almost all the wildlife sanctuaries in the state can be reached within 90 minutes. This is something that we are very keen to experience at the earliest.


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