Walks

THE MARGAO WALK

This walk allows you to experience the lifestyle of Hindu households that share a predominantly catholic precinct. Life here spills out from the houses on to the street and back.

Begin this walk at Margao’s Main Square. This Municipal Council building completed 100 years in the year 2001. Today, traffic spins around the building in undignified whirl but that should not stop you from admiring its architecture. It has been built in the Neo Classical Style but parking lots to accommodate Margao’s growing number of cars have somewhat robbed the building of its charming porch. Nevertheless, the Municipal Garden and the colour of the building add their own touch of distinction to one of Goa’s busiest market areas.

Now step into the New Market and rub shoulders with other shoppers in Margao for traditional food supplies. This market has some of the best bakeries in the neighbourhood. Sample Goa’s famed bebinca, dodol, bolnias and biscuits as they arrive hot from wood-fired ovens. If you are planning on trying a hand at some Goan cooking at home, this is the right place to pick up coconut vinegar, tamarind, red chillies, dark brown palm jaggery and a vivid range of cereals and pulses.

Back on your walk, pick up fruit from the vendors that hawk local mangoes and bananas off the pavement at the Municipal Garden. Continue your walking tour in a northerly direction. Sample the fruit as you stop to admire the Margao Post Office building. It is a fine example of indigenous architecture and of the filled with period furniture and fittings. Take particular note of the Burma teakwood counter that serves you with postage stamps and plays its own part in Goa’s “Gulf remittance economy”. Here is a post office with an ambience!

Take the road to the left of you. You are about to begin an expedition through Margao’s Hindu Quarter and to the evocatively named temple-cum-home, the Damodar Sal. On your right, opposite Blaze Photo Studio, stands a fine example the Indian Art Deco architectural style. Take look at it as you walk. Then take a few steps further up the road and look to your left. The building has a sign saying GOA TRANSPORT LTD and is located right opposite the natty new Lawrence & Mayo showroom. The GOA TRANSPORT LTD building has five pointed arched entranceways that are worthy of your admiration. What really catches your eye are the timber posts and their ornamental capitals and brackets. This is clearly the work of some fine Goan master craftsman!

Settled in a little niche by the side of the Lawrence & Mayo showroom is a small building sporting a rather modest sign. Take a closer look at this Tipografia Nacional printing press and you will see the modestly ornamented keystones over the wooden doorways of the printers. Take a look at the “eye-holes” over the building and the perforated floral wooden exhausts inside them. The building is in a sad state of disrepair but that should not stop you from admiring these features.

Confidant House in the bye lane offers books, stationery, cards and phone, fax and e-mail facilities. It also gives you an opportunity to get connected with India’s latest fiction and non-fiction writing.

The bookshop has always been the first place in Goa to look for new arrivals.
Margao is one of Goa’s four major towns. Buses ply from here to the towns and village across the country and always seem to be a in a tearing hurry to get to their destinations. Watch your step as you get nearer to the main bus station. Some Bolshevik Goan bus driver is going to help you remember that! Mercifully, there are plenty of shady spots on this walk to take a few steps. Use them.
Two country liquor tavernas (open during lunch hour) and a general store on the left, as you walk up the road, add an element of charm. This low-rise row of shops with their stone columned arcade are reminiscent of the Margao that once was. Now look up at the house that belongs to Mr. L Veigas, Advocate, High Court and Notary, Government of India. Note the mother-of-pearl shell fanlights and windows. Glass came to Goa as late is 1890 and even then, was accessible only to the wealthy few.
The nacre of the mother-of-pearl shell was probably first used by carpenters to cover window in Diu (Gujarat), a former Portuguese colony from where the technique traveled to Bassein (now Vasai near Mumbai) and later to Goa. Later, as glass become accessible to most people, small squares or rectangles cut into the mother-of-pearl shell windows allowed people to look out of windows from within. To be more socially correct, one would say it was more of a novelty than a facility to look out of a closed window.