Walks

THE VELIM WALK

This walk takes you through some of the prettiest country roads and heritage homes in Goa. The walk also helps you see that there is more to Goa than just the sand and the sea.

You should begin this walk at the St. Francis Xavier Church in the village of Velim. Welcome to the prettiest village this side of the river Sal, but if you want to be a little adventurous and skip the walking for just a few more minutes, take a drive past the church on your left and head for the mouth of the river. The resort hotels of The Leela and Holiday Inn are not too far from here and the drive will help you understand why this most picturesque of spots is the location for some of Goa’s finest hotels.

If you are hungry or thirsty then head for the Hotel River Sal for fresh fish and copious quantities of beer as you watch fishing trawlers head out to sea. Watch out for dolphins that swim up close to the mouth of a river that was once the lifeline of the ancient Kadamba kingdom.

Back on your walk, keep the church to your right and stop en route at Rose STD Booth and Tailoring Shop if only for a glimpse into the rural scene. You are now heading straight into the village of Velim. Look at the yellow house on the left and notice the sequence of the perforated compound wall with its spade pattern. Whether this is the result of an over zealous card player’s mind or just a pattern randomly picked up by the village mason is hard to tell. It is also possible that it is really an inverted version of the stylized betel leaf, a traditional hospitality motif. An imaginative mind might also lead you to believe that the spade is actually the lance that is always seen in the hands of St. Thomas, the patron saint of builders in India. Either way, it is an interesting pattern that provokes comment and a cynic would perhaps say that all the pattern does is allow the cool breezes from the river to come into a house set on a high plinth!

You will now go past the seven Stations of the Cross on your left. Stop at Brothers Bakery for a bottle of water or packaged snacks. There is a branch of the Bank of India here where you can change foreign currency if you have to but that sort of thing is best left for a main branch in Margao. You would have noticed by now that every village in Goa has a family-run bakery. Christian missionaries introduced the techniques of baking bread in India and as the host is a mandatory part of the Christian ritual of worship, bakeries are often located in close proximity of the village chapel or church. Before the arrival of the first Europeans, Indians ate unleavened bread made from wheat or millet- It is also possible that one family of newly converted Christians was picked to bake the bread for the church and the village. While both Hindus and Christians in Goa enjoy their daily bread, it is something of curiosity that there are only two Hindu families in this profession in the whole of Goa. Hindus converted to Christianity for reasons of caste exaltation among many other reasons. And yet even after conversion to Christianity, the Portuguese-run state ensured that caste barriers remained in place. Perhaps this intervention created a special sub-caste of bakers amongst the newly converted Christians. One can only surmise, but the results of such a research would not surprise most Goans.

As you can see, there is more to Goa than meets the eye Admire House No. 103 on you walk and in particular the grapevine design on the slim columns that SUPPORT THE roof. Take a look at the Reinforced Cement (RCC, as it is popularly referred to) railing. It bears the results of a colonial hangover.

The next visible signage might put a chill down your spine but is certainly worth the time. Don’t just stand and stare, read the sign! It says LONCA UNDERTAKERS. FOR COFFINS, TOMBSTONES, ENGRAVINGS EXTERMATION, EMBALMING, BODY REMAINS DEPATCHED TO ANY PART OF THE WORLD. WOODEN CROSSES. DAY & NIGHT SERVICE.

Now go past the soothing stands of pandamus on your right and look across the pen paddy fields. Flocks of small, medium and large egrets dot the landscape as they dart in and out of the pathways of buffaloes wallowing in the wet mud of the fallow fields, Picture the fish vendor returning home after a hard morning peddling his catch on his bicycle. This walk will allow you to imagine that you are doing more than just a walk through a village. You arc embarking on an exercise in watching the Goan world go by.

If it is a Sunday and the celebrations at the church are over, do not be surprised to see the chaplain in a cassock tucked high above his knees and a crash helmet whiz past you on his Royal Enfield.