Past Bhoma, off the road that runs on to Panjim, I remember a house set back from the road before it cuts through paddy fields and climbs over the bridge at Banastari a short distance away. It sat in a cluster of trees like many Goan houses do as you move away from urban centers and meander in the hinterland.
From the window of the bus I would see a mirror hanging by the door that led into the house. A verandah ran across the front. It seemed to be an old house. The sloping tiled roof extended over the verandah. A quiet had settled about it. The trees barely moved. They stood still, at attention.
In time, after I first noticed the mirror, I would often wonder who looked into it for, it hung prominently on the wall framing the door. Whoever it was must be particular about how they were turned out before leaving the house I thought. Maybe it was put to use to make sure those entering through the door had a chance to ensure they looked presentable to those they came to meet.
I do not know. I just made up stories in my mind to keep me company on my rides west toward Panjim.
So each time the bus would near the stretch of road soon after passing the temple at Bhoma, I would turn to the window expecting to see the lady of the house step in front of the mirror and adjust flowers in her hair tied into a bun before stepping out of the house in a colourful sari. Many Goan women from the hinterland tuck flowers into their hair knotted into neat buns.
Early in the day their fragrances suffuse morning rides in those private buses that hustling ‘conductors’ run between city and town centers, shepherding commuters with a combination of cajoling, a spot of friendly banter and good natured teasing and outright abuses.
The door by the mirror always stood open on the occasions I passed it as if those who lived there had figured it was better to keep the door open than open and shut it each time they went out or came in. But I never saw anyone look into the mirror. Actually I never saw anyone in the verandah ever though I was certain people lived in the house. Not that I took that road often.
In time the window and my own anticipation of seeing a face reflected in the mirror became a fixture on my journeys to Panjim and beyond in much the same manner that local Goan youth in half pants who hawked crabs roadside not far the house with the mirror came to be ‘permanent’ markers of my rides west through my growing years.
Over the years, each time the bus takes the curve revealing the stretch that straightens on the arrow, flanked by tidal waters that back up along narrow water channels the Madkai flats fill up, I expect to see local men, mostly youth, roadside holding out wriggling crabs to passing motorists.
They fish in the Khazan fields near the Banastarim bridge, scouring mangroves for crabs in the waters regulated by sluice gates. The Kurleo, as crabs are called in Konkani, are a favoured delicacy among Goans.
They leave crab nets with baits in the water all along narrow walking bunds before collecting their catch hours later. They sell their catch by the roadside in the evening as office-goers return home.
It’s a familiar sight. Even the faces are familiar though as years pass, some faces, of young men who’ve left the village for jobs elsewhere, change. But the crabs continue to be sold roadside in Bhoma to this day.
Of the mirror I am not so sure. I’d like to believe it’s still there, like the barges that creep up the Mandovi, a constant on my journeys along that river.
Or for that matter the fading blue signboard hanging from projecting balconies of a house past Old Goa, its distinctly projecting letters testifying to its antiquity as prominently as its spelling – Caxinata for Kashinath, and Camotim for Kamat or Kamath, reminding passers-by of its Portuguese roots from a good fifty years or more ago.
I tend to unconsciously look for the rusting board on approaching the turn nearing Ribandar, another of those signposts promising continuity with the old, with childhood, with youth, with carefree times.
Caxinata P. Camotim
Together, each of them, and there are many more, ensured continuity over time at least over that stretch of road, reassuring me that nothing has changed even though much has. Their presence meant though years had passed, time hadn’t.
They are my ‘permanent’ signposts. I used them, along with many others, to relate to a land and a people I left long ago to make my living elsewhere.
I seek them afresh each time I return to
Goa to renew my bond with it.