Tina Leithner is an Austrian writer who lives in the pristine hills of Dharamkot in Himachal Pradesh. Writing professionally for 5 years, she finally lands in Goa after 13 years to finish the project which started here long time ago. Writing has been her passion since childhood, although it needed few different professions to finally acknowledge it shall be only writing. Studying psychology in Vienna was helpful in order to write about people, their country and their culture. her last job working as an operation assistant in an emergency and accident hospital lead to the writing of teaching manuscripts for example about sterilization and hygienic .
This article was written by her in German and Monalisa translated it to English. It speaks of her first observations after thirteen years.
“10 days later from Dharamkot to Goa on a bike and in the train, I was very disappointed at what greeted me in front of the restaurant in Candolim. After 13 years, everything had changed. Disheartened already, the only comfort was the real bed waiting for me.
The name was the only information I had about this place, apart from its history that it is 150 years old. Its age assures me not only of my luxury but also of the hope of returning to a Goa I had thoroughly enjoyed over a decade ago.
It is about the same time that it was in Goa where I fell in love with this country. The love, that still holds a special place. And all I have of it now is the modernization and the traffic and the high prices. All the scary stories that my fellow travelers have been narrating for so many years was also true and I was nauseated with what I saw. The only anticipation was to find a slice of it, somewhere: tucked in.
Almost dark now, the local businesses switch on their display of lights and it is like day again. I panicked to order from the laminated menu of the fancy restaurant that we stopped in. I was craving for a chai and a vada pav. But Alas! They are hardly there anymore.
A last call with my host, lead me into the lanes of Assagao. It resembles the quaint Goa. It was comforting. Assagao, a small village, evidently everyone knew everyone here. The German lady I bumped into was also a resident and directed me correctly.
A little later I was in front of the villa, warmly welcomed. As I entered, old memories rushed back in the blink of an eye. I was already reminiscing the good old days that I spent in my rented Portuguese villa in Anjuna, years ago. The feeling was almost identical because of its Portuguese architecture. I was in my happy place again. This time, drinking great Assam tea. I was glad to be back.
The old villa was built by Portuguese settlers in 1863.It immediately speaks for itself as the décor is kept simple and spacious. The rocking chair or “Cadeira Voltaire” is in the perfect place for an afternoon nap. I was already made to feel at home by the hosts who have done all these striking things with the villa that used to be the Post Office back in the days. So many love letters, so many heart breaks. This could be a saga of never ending stories. Only who would be alive after 150 years? Maybe that could take a while. Meanwhile, they have delightfully brought it back to life.
She leads me into the room next to the living room, well laid with a four poster bed. It is called Himmel Bett in German, which translates to Heaven Bed. It did look dream like to me as it had pink covers and because of the flawless lighting, the effect was astonishing. I was at peace.The villa has high ceilings and because they had no fans in old times, the height helped in the circulation of the air. Living in the mountains for some time, I am selfish with what I breathe and now I am enjoying the space they have created. The ceiling fans hung low and was newly installed as it was only in 1988 that electricity was introduced here. The elevation helped in the air passage and it is so pleasant here.
The walls retain its original glory. Mud walls, they are whitewashed and candle-hangers still protrude from them. It reminds me of the one who must have done it not really understanding its value in the after world or the fact that someone from a totally different reality will look upon it now with lights hanging from them. A room is adjacent to mine. Its old fashioned dressing table and wooden partition made it feel cozy. Just across the corridor, once a bedroom it is now practically divided into two parts. Like a small luggage room for guests, it also has a closed shower with 24 hours hot water and not to forget the toilet with the flush. I think of the joy of just turning a knob and enjoying a hot shower in comparison to the uncountable trips I made to the well carrying my blue plastic “matka” the last time I was here.
As my thoughts wander, I reach the dining hall. Even though Villa Aluizio has more than one guestroom, the 8-seater dining table indicated that all meals happen together here. That contented me of my choice to come and stay here and it was almost the same moment I felt enormously welcomed.
The master room opened in to the dining hall. It was the most charming room of the villa. A suite, its huge king-bed lay in the centre inviting you. With a table and antique cupboard, it was spacious. Adjoining it was the warm space with just a single bed. Transparent Goan fabric hung making it warmer.
The villa seems to be never ending. I entered the kitchen now and it still looked conventional. The only replacement was the initiation of the stove and the cylinder. The sink was huge and made of mud. Colored red, it is fully functional. Freshly washed utensils fill the space. The most interesting feature of the kitchen was the well-bay window. It is called as such because of its location. The well is right below it and a big pulley is connected to a coconut rope from which hung a bucket. It took me only a second to realize its immense convenience during the times when one had to walk a mile just for a needle. I will be served breakfast, lunch and dinner, on request. Fresh fish from the jetty, roast duck, grilled calamari, or chocolate pancakes, deliciousness will be ensured. Pancakes are a specialty in Austria and there are shops dedicated just to pancakes. Anything you want to be mixed to the batter or added to your pancake is possible. But what possibly amazed me the most that I was to relish an authentic Austrian meal made by a 19 year old Indian boy all the way in Goa. I will definitely relish them for breakfast everyday.
With the tour done, I was still sipping on my welcome tea and we sat to talk. It was 3am already the next time I checked the clock. A typical Goan phenomenon, I thought to myself, where does all the time fly? Sleepily I bid them goodnight and dragged myself into my Pink Heaven. They said Bye-Bye and I was surprised that they don’t live there. I had the whole villa to myself! They explained how to lock the main door before they left and the key was old and strong. A big piece of heavy teak is cut into a shape that fit perfectly into the hole made in the wall. A carved wooden piece is on top of the log which helps in sliding it out and is security enough for the entire villa. Apart from that, the helpers live in the behind quarters keeping in check for all other necessities or my requests. Also to help, are Coco and Chloe, the pet puppies who will definitely be a part of all your activities.
As the morning sun-rays passed through the glass tiles, I woke up completely fresh and at home. I quickly freshened up and sat down in the Balcao, which was the area just outside the main door with mud and cement structures in the shape of chairs to laze or socialize. My coffee was there already and I sat to enjoy the Goan village life. Fresh whitewashed walls glowed bright in the morning light. Village kids dressed in maroon checked shirts and shorts go to school in groups, a skinny Indian lady walks her seven Labradors and smiles at me, Coco and Chloe play in the open and I sit there for hours feeling overwhelmed. As I finished my coffee, I was asked for breakfast.
I was so comfortable even though it was just a day that I had been here. The idea of looking for a new place somehow seemed ridiculous and I immediately elongated my stay, in the greed of the whole villa all to myself for a little longer than I had planned. I now had ample amount of time to absorb this and look at completing my project that I started years ago. The entire Goan experience changed completely because of somebody’s efforts to keep alive heritage that has been long forgotten for the luxuries of the urban life. It is indeed a delightful way of living in any place giving some rest to the usual hotels and resorts that are so abundantly flooding the lanes that once gave way to many stories. I continued my stay there for the next ten days and moving back to stay for a good one month. This villa rightly deciphered “Home is where the heart is”
Tina continued to live here for the rest of her time in Goa. It inspired her unending and the experience was nothing less than that of a long lost home and family.
Originally published here
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