November 06, 2009

The Mystery Woman



I have no idea how long she’s been there, nor how she came to be there and I know even little of why she’s there, sitting on a platform by the road, surprising travelers as they round the bend on their way elsewhere.

The red of her blouse accentuates the sky blue of her sari, and on cheerful days she might as well have stripped a length off the blue skies overhead before wrapping herself with it. The silver border, exposed to elements over time, has lost some of its shine but it is more than made up by her smile, no less enigmatic and mysterious than the narrow Goan village roads that hide serendipity around unexpected corners.



She looks over an old well and beyond to the road. Behind her a temple to Ravalnath or Bhootnath sits in quiet reflection, of shade and contemplation of an occasional pilgrim making his way to the temple. The deep stambh, a mandatory sight outside entrances to Goan temples, stands in the shade of a tree. A scooter is parked at the entrance to a house adjacent to the temple. A mud path leads to the gate. Blocks of laterite stones are neatly arranged to one corner.



An elderly man is busy working his axe on a coconut tree, splicing the trunk into neat strips, likely for use in fashioning fences or maybe to shore up enclosures in the backyard. It takes skill to splice lengths off a coconut tree. A steady twack-twack-twack interrupts the afternoon. In time it will begin to sound like a part of it. On the back roads nothing is orphaned.

A bicycle is parked by the side of the mud road. The woodcutter probably rode it to the small clearing where he is now working his axe. It’s likely he is doing it for a fee and that the coconut tree belongs to someone in the vicinity of the temple.



The well is old. Three-fourths of the opening is covered by a metal mesh. A rope hangs from the wooden wheel. By the looks of it the well is not very deep. Wells in Goa are usually not deep.

I turn to look at her. She’s tucked her hair into a bun, flowers adorning it. Jasmine probably, I tell myself. Anything else would not befit her posture. It’s easy to imagine the fragrance if you’ve ridden village roads in Goa and stopped by elderly women selling flowers at street corners, often on their feet and holding out flowers wrapped in leaves. While they wait on passing customers stopping by to buy the flowers they lend fragrance to the roads.


The dignity of her pose reminds me of singers of yore, on stage and singing. And of dancers as well while they awaited their turn on the stage. However it is not a pose I would expect to see if she were to be singing religious hymns. She would be sitting cross legged then, eyes closed, her hands seemingly in offering but actually moving to the pitch of the song.

Whatever the case maybe, she seems at home in the village. And travellers, at home with her presence on their journeys elsewhere.

42 comments:

Anu said...

wow! that;s really beautiful!!! loved your narration

Ugich Konitari said...

Very intriguing post . Do you know how recent the lady's statue is ? For that matter , how old ? And you have described her pose so well. I would love to know where in Goa this is , if I visit there .......

bobbie said...

A very lovely post, Anil.

Lynn said...

She must have been beloved to someone. So unexpected and I love the thought of the smell of jasmine surrounding her.

The Layman said...

Beautiful narration :)

Anjuli said...

Now you have me curious- wondering who she is and how she got there!! She seems so serene and it made me feel peaceful just looking at the pictures of her.

Your talk of the possible jasmines in her hair- made me start 'smelling' jasmine!! ha ha!

Wonderful post (as usual)

The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

I am in awe of what you see when you are 'out there', how you perceive things, and translate what you see into words I relish.

It makes one wonder who she is and most specially who the creator is (for I can only surmise there is a great story behind...).

Grannymar said...

Anil I love your word pictures, they bring the photos to life. Thank you.

Steve said...

She would be a welcome site for a visitor or someone passing by.

Amber Star said...

She is very lovely and maybe when she was alive she truly loved watching to see who might be coming or going on the street outside. Hopefully she was so loved by her family they had her image cast to continue watching the travelers and neighbors.

Here is the link to A Prairie Home Companion. It is not as elegant as this lady, but we love to make fun of ourselves sometimes. The show tomorrow night I think will be a good one. There are small audio clips for listening. http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/

There has been another bout of evil close to home when the officer killed so many and injured 30+ and there was another this morning in Florida, another state.

It has been a quiet day and this if the first time I've posted anything. It was nice to see you had visited and wished us well in winning the seats to see a play made from a radio show that also has been a movie.

Peace, Anil P.

Monika,Ansh said...

Lovely. , the lady as well as the depth of your thoughts.

Anil P said...

Anu: Thank you.

Ugich Konitari: I've no idea how old the statue is. It does appear to be old.

The cement platform it rests on has acquired the colours that cement typically acquires on the West Coast, from exposure to rain. The platform will likely be constructed from laterite bricks before coating it over with cement.

Bobbie: Thank you.

Lynn: Yes, it is most likely Jasmine. Thank you.

Layman: Thank you.

Anjuli: Same here. I wonder too. From the way her sari is worn she might well be a brahmin lady. The Jasmine, well it's my guess. Thank you.

TGF Cherry Blossom Street: Thank you. It's a pleasure to hear how you feel about the posts here.

There's street-side magic out there and the pull is too great to resist.

I could try and find out why she came to be there, but sometimes leaving a mystery alone can help fuel the magic of not knowing some more.

Grannymar: Thank you.

Steve: On tight bends on Goan roads passers-by usually look out for oncoming vehicles, and are usually careful when driving, and hence might not notice sights along the roadside.

Best is to drive slow, keep to the side, and pause often to catch these.

Amber Star: Your thoughts in the first paragraph are very apt. How nice it would be if that is indeed the reason.

Thank you for the link. I'll have a look.

I read of the news. It's sad. The lack of conscience in turning upon colleagues makes it all the more rephrensible.

Hope you got the tickets.

Monika,Ansh: Thank you.

Shyamanga said...

Simply beautiful. Enjoyed reading.

Mike said...

She looks lovely :)

Nancy said...

Beautiful narration. Very tactile and evocative writing.

Butternut Squash said...

Lovely writing for a lovely lady. I enjoy the mystery. She seems so welcoming, I am sure she is a good companion to all who travel that way.

Innocent Warrior said...

Amazing Shot!!!

karen said...

Mysterious, indeed. Thanks for showing her to us, and I did enjoy the description of her sky blue sari.

I also really enjoyed your earlier post mentioning the Indian Devil tree, and the blossoms. I am so intrigued by trees, great to learn about some in other parts of the world!

Renee said...

Anil she is so beautiful and what a gorgeous country you live in. Life is everywhere.

Love Renee xoxo

Anil P said...

Shyamanga: Thank you.

Mike: She sure does.

Nancy: Thank you.

Butternut Squash: Thank you. A welcome sight on journeys.

Innocent Warrior: Thank you.

Karen: Thank you. The Devil Tree is to be foundelsewhere as well, over 40-odd species abound.

Pietro said...

I like your narration and the nice images.
What a pleasant countryside!

kenju said...

She's really lovely, Anil, and I would think, very unexpected in that location.

Uma Gowrishankar said...

Beautiful post, very interesting, Anil. A woman of leisure who does not have to worry of household chores, and what a graceful pose she strikes! There is something very comely about the way she rests one hand down for support - this takes her weight, while the other hand is over the folded leg. She has not tucked her flowers in her bun in haste, she has taken her time to dress for the day.

Granny J said...

Anil -- I wonder if it is common to see sculptures of individuals (as opposed to gods, goddesses and heroes) in your country...a way of asking just how remarkable is it to see such a statue.

kestrel said...

The colours of her sari and red blouse contrasts with the browns of the surroundings. I wonder if she is smiling or just looking after her home.

Anil P said...

Pietro: Thank you.

Kenju: Thank you. Unexpected, yes.

Uma Gowrishankar: Maybe not a woman of leisure, maybe a woman of some bearing. Graceful pose, yes.

Granny J: It's not common to see sculptures of individuals usually that is. But as part of temple panels, ordinary / nameless folks have been depicted in the larger scheme of gods and goddesses.

But it is only occasionally that one comes upon a sight such as this.

However in the Warli tradition, the lives of tribals are depicted by the tribals themselves in their line paintings per se.

Kestrel: There's a hint of a smile. Yes, the colours contrast well.

Turquoise Diaries said...

She is so lovely.. I love the post..

neha said...

Beautiful writing Anil.

I love how bright and fresh she looks in comparison to the wear, tear and decay around her. Unlike the others, time hasn't failed her.

Lily Hydrangea said...

nice story you have written to go along with this nice post!
I like this sculpted lady.

Anil P said...

Turquoise Diaries: Thank you.

Neha: Thank you. The colours stand out against the wear the cement coating of the well and the platform have been subjected to in the Goan heat and monsoons alternatively.

Typically monsoons are conducive to the growin of moss, and as the heat beats down on the moss they turn grey/black.

Lily Hydrangea: Thank you. Hopefully I'll get to know the actual story behind this sculpture sometime. I wonder if she can be labeled as street sculpture though since there's no precedent I've seen though the government of Goa has put up sculptures in small traffic islands in a few places around the state.

Lori ann said...

It is lovely to pay respect to something that someone obviously took great care to create. I enjoyed this very much Anil.
lori

Susan Abston Wiley said...

Beautiful words, beautiful images, a wonderful travelogue for those of us far away!

Sid said...

What a wonderful post. To take something that other would notice and not think twice of and weaving a wonderful description around it. A very nice job.

Nisha said...

I wonder how many shots you have taken of her and what a wonderful story you've woven around her.

Anil P said...

Lori Ann: Thank you.

Susan Abston Wiley: Thank you.

Sid: Thanks.

Nisha: Not very many, basically tried to get the key angles that'll provide a perspective of the space around her as well. Thank you.

Deboshree said...

Why hello anil!

I stumbled upon your blog through Nancy's.

Nice blog you've got here and I like your writing style.

The woman has been beautifully described by you. One point which I thought to be very true was that her posture is like that of a dancer. The grace, elegance and poise which she possesses is truly that of a dancer. Beautiful!

Keep up the great writing.

Take care
Deboshree

Sarah Laurence said...

Now this would make a fun children’s picture book! She looks natural yet incongruent at the same time. There is something so lively in her feet. You expect her to sing; I expect her to dance.

Anil P said...

Deboshree: Thank you. Welcome to my sense of India.

Yes, it's very much a dancer's pose.

Sarah Laurence: Very much so.

Maybe she is a singer-dancer, and sings while she dances :-)

Ida Nielsen said...

Lovely lovely post!! And beautiful pictures -love the light in the first one.

Anil P said...

Ida Nielsen: Thank you.

Harsha said...

Hey Anil.... Such a beautiful article on the mysterious lady... Really well written...Cheers!

Anil P said...

Thank you, Harsha :-)