Sunday, 8 March 2015

Malvan Notes 5 - Life In Malvan

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           This post is the last of the Malvan Notes series. If you haven't already been through them  you may like to read the first, second, third and the fourth posts. Initially, it  was intended to be in four parts  but the hours spent in the region cast an enchanting spell with it's simplicity and languor that the fifth part was inevitable. Frankly, it was also a desperate attempt to hold on to the charms of  small town pleasures.


           It was the Konkani homes that consolidated the magic which was spun along the route through the alphonso mango groves on our first day. Homes that are signature of a region,  have character and an identity, and speak volumes of the people they shelter, their relationship with the elements and the surroundings. And together they tell the tales of their land. Every structure here was built of  blocks of pock marked laterite soil -  those porous reddish compound walls, shops, offices, verandah pillars, schools and not to mention the Sindhudurg fort. Jambledagal, they call it if I remember correctly. It's omnipresence is easy to guess. The region has an abundance of it and at the same time it is perfect for the hot and humid days. Lying down on the cool floor of these homes on muggy days, looking up at the exposed rafters under the red tiled roofs,  the sea air breezing in through the gaps above, must bring a lot of relief. Speaking of roof, some of these old homes have aesthetically carved eaves scalloping the edges of the roof.  And one such home caught my fancy while I was loitering around the fishing village that we stayed in. A mud track edged with bricks that ran beside every home  in the village, led me to this rustic beauty.

Konkani  Home

Carved Eaves

       All the homes here had a tulsi planted on a pedestal. The first time I came across this feature was in Sudha's blog post on TulsiVrindavan with an interesting story behind it. It was an engaging post on Tulsi  Vrindavans in Goa, a place popularly associated with colonial milieu. It was a pleasant surprise to come across the same when least expected here in Malvan. The feeling was synonymous with bumping into someone a friend has often talked about and regaled you with anecdotes. The pedestals that I'd come across before were not regular fixtures in people's courtyards or maybe they  had a discreet presence. On the other hand these here were very brightly painted, drawing every passing individual's attention. One of them also had a tiny garden around it that was netted in to keep unwanted visitors away. Every  home that we passed by irrespective of their stature had a nook for a Tulsi Vrindavan.

  Continuing on the  path around the fishermen's home, I came across this little bay, Kolamb Bay. It had a small jetty to accommodate a few of the village's boats that homed into this nook from the Arabian sea. A few men  were busy inspecting and mending their nets at the jetty. At an average they earned around four to five hundred rupees from their day's catch. The women soon joined them in sorting out the pricier fish from the minnows.

At Kolamb Bay Jetty

Day's Catch

   A couple of steps up from the jetty was the tiny opening through the flower bushes into the village temple, the most magnificent building in that part and the most colourful.  The facade sported a fresh brick cut design. The priest urged me to seek the blessings of the presiding deity and offered prasada.

Entrance To Village  Temple

Village Temple

        Away from the tourist archetypes, this corner of the village offered the solace and solitude that seeps in quietly leaving an impression to be relished long after the trip comes to an end. Shaded by the many leafy whorls of the coconut trees, it peeked out at the Arabian Sea. A shack nearby was stacked with firewood and planks. The lapping waves and the breeze were the only sounds that could be heard. A few morning glories here and there raised their purple heads  to the sun. It was a place one would like to have a book for company or just watch the sea play with one's thoughts. The beach across the bay looked inviting but we were warned that beneath that benign looking water, were strong undercurrents where the sea rushed in to fill the bay.

Shack Near  The  Bay

     Far from the maddening crowd, taking in the little details of quiet places, is the preferable mode  of enjoying a place. The people here are simple and helpful. There have been  drives to train the local people in providing services to the tourists to supplement their income. Home-stays and guesthouses have opened their doors. Some package scuba diving and snorkeling activities. Then there are the water sports  that I mentioned in my previous post. Numerous roadside kiosks beckon with promises of the best Malvani cuisine. And if you are  a sea food lover, there is an array of choice to pick from. Since our food was cooked by Vishal's ( caretaker  of the cottage)  mother, I am sure  we had the best of the Malvani kitchen. We tried the food once during our stay at a much acclaimed restaurant but it was no match for her culinary magic. And like youngsters gone astray sheepishly returning to the fold, we came back to her much to her delight.

"You know, we had foreigners here for  one whole month and they never tired of the food I cooked. Everyday they ate food that I cooked with my own hands. One day they also took us out for a  meal in that shop that everyone goes to. It was not at all good!Why waste money there  when I  am making home food  for  you?"

   We couldn't agree with her more and settled down to tuck into that prawn curry all over again and again till the last meal before we left. I had always suspected that kokum, that integral part of  Konkani cuisine, was what  an Assamese would relish as thekera on a hot sultry  day. Belonging to the mangosteen family, thekera or kokum, brings not just relief from the heat but also has many digestive, nutritive and medicinal properties.  I remember, mother concocting thekera sorbot to soothe a rumbling tummy or serve it as a refreshing drink  to a visitor on a summer day. It also gave the right tangy taste to the our masor tenga  ( a light fish curry popular in Assam).

      And  here we were lounging  by the Arabian sea shore, relishing some great sol kadhi, a lightly spiced drink made of coconut milk and mangosteen extracts; making notes of similarities in our lives and at the same time  intrigued by the novelties of the people, excited with epiphanies; listening to their stories, their adventures, their dreams... One lady proudly declared that her husband had been to Delhi  on more than one occasion and even managed to give a petition to none less than   Indira Gandhi. He was representing the fisherman's cooperative association which  seemed to have a strong presence in the town. Another worried that there was no worthy match for her worthy son who managed guests with a smile always and  looked after  their needs. So we conversed on the travails of everyday life between swapping recipes.

Boat In A Courtyard

         A radio blared somewhere  floating melodious notes of local music. A pan hissed over the fire in a kitchen tossing up the afternoon meal for a family. A happy boat rested in a courtyard under a couple of young coconut tree catching the sun and the shade.  A few shy girls ran away giggling from their hopscotch game, on seeing the camera aimed at them. A cat crouched on a gate eyeing the pigeons...and life went on in Malvan...