Left behind in Nachinola
Uncharacteristically, Aloysius’s voice grew faint and his sentence ended with the shake of a head. We were lunching on fresh Goan prawns and lime soda at the family-run Andron Restaurant in Nachinola, a village on the Mapusa-Aldona Road.
We were discussing our pre-lunch visit to my grandmother’s (and Aloysius’s father’s) ancestral home just down the road. I watched him go silent and knew that our tour of the vacant estate had brought up some memories and troubling thoughts for him.
Now empty except for a caretaker, the house is grand and typical in layout to other Portuguese-Goan style homes I’d been in: a generous, wraparound verandah reached by a grand BALCAO staircase; wide, airy main hallway flanked by sitting and bed rooms; kitchen, pantry and toilets at the back; and a drying loft up a narrow flight of wooden stairs.
It also had a wide-walled, deep well that the caretaker said he didn’t use since two cats dropped into it and didn’t come up. A separate stone building behind the house served as both a storeroom and outhouse. Aloysius pointed to a cement bench with two toilet holes.
“Your grandmother didn’t like using it because – see that?” He pointed to the area under the holes, which was a trough rather than a pit. “That’s where the pigs would eat,” he paused for effect, “Then they’d eat the pigs! They say pork sausage doesn’t taste the way it used to in the old days – maybe that’s why!”
Though structurally intact and with many original mementos and figurines on its walls, the house felt – lonely. Handmade chairs needing a re-caning had been stacked in a pile in a bedroom. Metal bed frames covered the floor of another.
The house wasn’t empty, it was left behind. Like many other homes and properties I’ve heard about in Goa, this house is “in dispute” and as a result, it sits here on a beautiful tract of land in a pretty village in a lush valley, abandoned by its own family.
The caretaker proudly showed us the shrubs and trees he’d planted in the front yard. “I’m not good with house fixes, but I like plants,” he beamed. He pointed to a tall Norfolk pine and told me he’ll decorate it at Christmas for the pleasure of his 11- and 13-year-old daughters and anyone who might want to visit.