A Weekend in Guirim | Milaap

A Weekend in Guirim

I believe everyone in this world is hodophile (love travelling). Roaming is required for each one of us at some point or the other. So, in a simple cliché phrase, “to quench my wanderlust” after the completion of a month of Milaap's Fellowship Program, I decided to travel to Goa, a three-hour journey from Belgaum, Karnataka. This time, I wanted to revive the touristy feeling by revisiting the places that I had travelled to as a kid. However, I did take care of my peace by booking a homestay at a village dotted with gorgeous homes and prayer halls.

It was an exciting Saturday when the Belgaum-Panaji bus arrived at the Belgaum bus stop in the morning. I booked my seat till Mapusa (Mapsa), a town before the Goa capital. After a three-hour journey of zigzag roads with landscapes reminding me of the Guwahati-Shillong route, I arrived at my stoppage. Mapusa is just like any other town with the exception of an extremely tourist-friendly spot. The bus stop had shops that rented out scooters and bikes to tourists for their Goa trip, a very obvious sign that two-wheelers are the most preferred mode of transportation here.

You can rent any of the two-wheelers from the Mapusa point (aka bus-stop)

Goa does not have Ola or Uber services but the city does have a similar app called Goa Miles. I preferred the auto over everything else that drove me through the quieter lanes and dropped me at House No. 145 of Monte Villa Road in a village called Guirim (Giri). A small wooden plank had “The Old House Homestay” written on it with chalk. I did not feel comfort at the first sight of the house but since I prepaid, I headed towards its entrance anyway. I had spoken to Edric regarding my stay so I started looking out for him. While my vision missed the human figure, my ears heard a “Hi!”

The Old House Homestay

“Edric?” I asked in a confused tone. “Welcome home. I was having lunch here. Sorry, I startled you”, he replied. Edric hosts The Old House with his bae, Mao (a cat). While he selflessly takes care of his guests, his bae selfishly takes care of herself. I had seen her sunbathing most of the time without caring about anyone around her. “The property is more than a hundred years old”, he said while we sat down in the verandah for a conversation. It belonged to his great grandmother who had passed it to his grandmother and then his mom. Coconut and neem trees stood strong within the premises while creepers and flower plants gifted by the nursery adorned the old house’s entrance.

Stories of people and places waited beyond the entrance and I left no time to embark on my stroll around the locality. So, Monte Villa Guirim aka, Monte de Guirim is a small settlement located on a hill. The houses had a blend of old and modern Goan architecture and the most common sight was the vines of bougainvillaea. Every house had red, pink, yellow and white flowers at some corner. A house with the white one particularly attracted me.

White bougainvillaea is a common sight in the lanes of Goa

I managed to take this image of a beautiful house in Guirim (in the evening)

The right turn past the house leads to the magnificent St. Diogo’s Church.  Builtin 1604 by Fr. Miguel de Sam Boaventura, this church has an interesting bell story. I’ve been told that it is shared between Guirim and another North Goan village called Sangolda. The elderly and learned of the two villages had decided that the rights on the church could be claimed only after completing the installation of the bells. After installing one bell, the Guirim folks decided to sleep since it was late and thought of completing it the next day. However, the Sangolda folks continued to work and installed two bells and rang them aloud. Hence, Sangolda woke up the villagers in and around with the sound and claimed their rights. Here, every church had history and every corner had stories, be it about people or culture.

A part of St. Diogo's church

As I walked a little ahead of St. Diogo’s Church, I came across a small, neat food joint called D’Souza’s Goan Food. The eatery cooked food on a wooden food cart. Mr D’Souza told me to have Goan Chicken Cafreal and I agreed. The dish is a local favourite and is savoured with pav (Indian bread) or loaf or salad. The chicken is marinated with fresh coriander, vinegar, spices, and ginger-garlic paste. “You can also skip spices and add tamarind pulp or fresh lime juice if you want,” D’Souza said.

Chicken Cafreal at D'Souza's

Mr D'Souza started this eatery not many years ago. It's a new venture. He spends his day listening to the radio and serving his guests

Thanking Mr D'Souza, I descended the hill and walked towards the Guirim Cross on the highway. This is the pickup point for travellers who wish to take a bus till the Mapusa town. Mine arrived within a minute and in another 5 minutes, I reached the crowded bus stop again. If you want to shop, Mapusa has a whole shopping area of clothing lines, wherein you get all you need to survive in Goa. My mood was to walk around the small town. So, after buying myself some Goa cashews that would last for about two months, I got lost in the lanes of the small town for good.

Mapusa town

I met two inspiring ladies while on the go - Savia and Sunita. They run a cosy corner titled Perfect Tailor. Savia makes wedding gowns and partywear. Her friend, Sunita helps her in the evening hours. "I am not taking that many orders this year. My husband passed away very recently and since then I had been staying alone. I need time for myself", she said. Her two daughters are happily married. She showed a few dressing hacks and also the brand new dresses right out of the needle and thread. I personally love to check out the work of cloth-making. The colours, buttons, laces and all the accessories that go into the creation, the stitching time and everything about it attracted me. I grew up watching my aunts make our favourite dresses. We had sewing machines at home that delivered the fanciest homemade frocks and skirts. Those days are a happy remembrance now and these days will be happily remembered.

Since Savia wanted a picture of both of us in the mirror. "Nice one. I can see my store here. It looks good," she said and laughed.

Perfect Tailor workspace. The machine you see does the overlocking stitch, the kind that sews the edges of two cloth pieces

"Happy around clothes." - Savia

I was in Goa to look out for things that were easily overlooked during my first visit. So, spending all my time lazing around by the beachside was just a tiny part of this trip. I did visit Baga for the namesake, Calangute for dinner, Colva to relax and Anjuna to boost my evening mood. Goa would have been incomplete without getting a glimpse of the famous Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception aka the Panaji Church. I was awestruck looking at the white-blue structure against the blue sky. Tourists throng to this site to ensure that their Goa trip is done right and I did it right by sitting on one of the benches outside on the pavement.

The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception aka. the Panaji Church

The trip was an interesting one. There were stories within stories. The Old House Homestay narrated just a few out of the countless memories it has stored over more than a century. I am more than happy to be part of its story. However, I left a few things unheard and unseen. For instance, the story behind the name ‘The Old House’. Edric told me that he would love to host me again and narrate the Naamkaran. I didn’t ask him again and let it be.

Story-telling, particularly mine, is a never-ending episode. The next Goa trip, hopefully, will have stories about the portuguese houses in Old Goa and the families’ view on tourists like us.

At ease, at peace

Since watching the sunset is mandatory