Or, Beware the Pink-Bellied Lager Gulper
It took five days, but I finally saw a beach. This is ironic because Goa is famous for its beaches – Calungute, Candolim, Baga, Anjuna. Hippies started congregating to Goa’s beach shacks in the 1960’s (see A Brief History of Goa, coming soon) and now U.K. and Russian package tourists fill its resorts.
The closest I hadcome to “beach life” was passing glimpses of its fauna: the Leather-Skinned Ex-Pat (its seasonal plummage being a deep brown colour, trailing dreadlocks and tank top) and the Pink-Bellied Lager Gulper (white, sweaty skin with patches of red; dangling shoulder bags and an inability to make eye contact unless sharing a pitcher).
Uncle Aloysius is adding a cement grille to the rear verandah of his Porvorim house and one of my first trips out of the house (in those meek new days here) was to drive the 15 kilometres north to Mapusa (a bustling, housewares kind of town) to buy supplies and visit concrete-making stands along the roadway.
We’ve basically spent the week alternately running errands and visiting people I’m apparently related to.
In the hamlet of Olaulim on the Mapusa River, Aloysius and I first dropped in on Ronnie and his 91-year-old mother. “Auntie Eulalia” is my grandfather’s brother’s wife. Ronnie’s vision had weakened over that last few years due to deteriorating retinas, and he cautioned that his mum drifted from the past to the present, but I found that lapse of the space-time continuum quite intriguing. Auntie spoke of her days in Burma as if we were in the present, but Ronnie would step in and remind her that that was a long time ago.
A few kilometres further, we found ourselves sitting in the house my grandfather built. This – as they like to say in Goa – is my “ancestral home.” Unfortunately my grandfather sold it just a few years after completing it in 1943, but the Hindu family that has lived there ever since were gracious enough to invite us in for a tour after we hung over their front gate and explained that I’d come all the way from Canada to be here.
The house and the property it sit on are stunning. Tucked at the end of a village lane, the estate has a typical front verandah, main hallway and rooms to each side of the corridor. This allows for cooling cross-breezes in hot weather. The immense kitchen has a well right outside its back window, and all the rooms are laid with imported Portuguese floor tile.
Aloysius suggested we take a short jaunt down an even smaller lane to see what is left of the Rodrigues (pronounced locally as “Rodericks”) house that my grandfather’s family lived in while the estate was being built. I stopped at a clothesline to snap a photo of the Goan sausages drying in the sun, and Mrs. Mendes started chatting with us and caught us up on the comings and goings of the street for the past 55 years. She led us to another Portuguese-style house where Mrs. Fernandes (nee Rodrigues) invited us in for a glass of fresh well water. Both the ladies remembered my grandfather’s family, especially my aunt Bella and other children running around.
“Ah,” said Mrs. Mendes, “It’s not like the old days.” She looked around. “Now it’s just old ladies like us – no more children.” The lanes were shady and quiet except for an odd rooster or sleepy dog. A buffalo chewed grass in a adjoining rice paddy and this tiny part of the world was absolutely gorgeous and idyllic. I desperately wanted to tell the ladies that the streets will see life again – I imagined how thrilled other visitors would be to see this off-the-path spot – and then I saw the tour buses, hotels and white-skinned Lager Gulpers that could follow, so I bit my tongue.
I promised the ladies that I would return once I got myself a bicycle. I climbed back into Uncle’s car and spotted a couple of tourists on a rented motorscooter. they were of neither the Leather-Skinned nor Pink Bellied variety. I enviously watched them pull over to take in the white elegance of Saint Anne church, while we motored by to complete more errands and visits.