By Shubham Goswami
The Familiar Goa
Stereotypes are common in our daily lives. Take, for instance, the state of Goa , one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. What is the first thing that strikes your mind, when this tiny name is pronounced? Well, it’s the beautiful beaches and Goa is famous for them. You can imagine the sparkling, white sand giving way to the serenity of the ocean, a glorious blue eternity. Tourists spend the day in uninterrupted languor, sometimes wading into the sea, sometimes just basking in the sun, enjoying coconut water or Goa’s indigenous chilled beer, King’s. The more ebullient ones may volunteer for their favourite water sports. Others may just pass the hours gazing at the ocean, drinking, relaxing or just absorbing the dreaminess in the atmosphere that is so characteristic of Goa.
At night, the same tourists are likely to be found in one of the several night clubs that adorn the beaches. There’s loud music, alcohol and groups of young men and women, willing to indulge in innocuous revelry.
The Unfamiliar Goa
But Goa is much more than the beaches, the parties, the intoxicants and bare skin. When you arrive in Goa, you may drive your way to the beach or you may take a detour and explore something very different. We choose to do the latter. Let’s embark on a journey to discover a part of Goa that you are not so familiar with.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the coastline, from the loud music and drunken revelry, lies a small Portuguese quarter in old Panjim. Welcome to Fontainhas, the only remaining Latin quarter in India.
- Fontainhas lies along the banks of the Ourem Creek on the foothills of Altinho
- The road leading to Fontainhas is a meandering and upward sloping one.
- The houses flanking the road speak of olden times and colonial influences.
- Fontainhas is a picturesque little colony with winding lanes and colourful houses.
- The houses have red tiled roofs and overhanging balconies.
- Every house in Fontainhas seems to be an exotic scene out of a postcard. You feel transported to some beautiful European City.
- It’s is a majestic blend of old and new houses. On the southern part of it lies the chapel of St. Sebastian erected in 1880.
- There are also several small modern art gallery cum cafes for visitors like you. Hop into one of them if the journey has made you tired.
Fontainhas was established in the late eighteenth century by a Goan expatriate after he returned from the Mozambique with a lot of wealth. The neighborhood attracted several Portuguese settlers. In the mid-nineteenth century, the governor of Goa erected the Phenis fountain which became the main source of potted water for the neighbourhood. The ‘Fontain-‘ in Fontainhas refers to this particular fountain.
- The rich and affluent built their houses on top of the hill.
- The poorer sections lived at the foothills.
- From the onset, it was very densely populated.
As more settlers came, houses mushroomed with little space between them. The governor, however, made it imperative for the residents to wear good clothes and keep their neighbourhood clean and tidy. Thus, Fontainhas exemplifies a good standard of living.
Photo Courtesy: Bindya Murgai
Even today Portuguese is the principal tongue of Fontainhas. However, people do converse in Konkani as well. Here’s what you can expect to see as you walk along the winding lanes:
- Young maidens in flowery dresses chatting on the balconies.
- Exotic birds fluttering in cages.
- You may hear a violinist playing some soothing Portuguese melody.
- You may also see vintage cars parked in front of the houses. Old Volkswagen Beetles are not uncommon.
If you have come to Fontainhas, you are probably a seeker. You are tired of what is urbane and superficial. What Fontainhas gives you is a respite from the chaos of urban life and infuses you with new energy. So the next time you visit Goa, do come to Fontainhas to revitalize your battered soul.