The Balcao and the Portuguese architectural influence on Goan culture

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The “Balcao” is a symbol of the neo-Christians outward looking approach and shows the Portuguese architectural influence on Goan culture. The earlier Goans had an inward looking approach to their house architecture and so built a central courtyard called “Rajangan” bordered by a veranda called the “Chowk”. The Portuguese however believed in a more open approach and hence their buildings had an outward approach as seen in the creation and use of the balcao.

Celebrating Portugueses Day on June 10th, the Consul had an exhibition of art works celebrating the socio cultural and religio-political  aspects of the Portuguese culture. Without looking into the debatable aspect of “ïnward” and “outward” looking cultures,the artists explored different themes like the famous Portuguese spice trade, their female emancipation and the regality and aura of their Viceroys.

We have followed this Portuguese outward concept in my Mitaroy Goa Hotel (a 400 year old heritage Portuguese building) where the welcoming balcao makes one relax surrounded by other sights and sounds of the neighbourhood of Fontainhas, with its unique Latin flair.

10 joyous Things To Do this Christmas season in Goa

These are a few of my favourite things (to do this Christmas in Goa) … says LB Nayak, with a nod to Fraeulein Maria:

1) Indulge in the unforgettable plum-cake from 31st January Bakery, the oldest one in the heritage zone of Fontainhas, which makes the best traditional Goan sweets like bebinca / dodhol and remains an integral part of every Goan’s Christmas itinerary while shopping for goodies.

2) Take in the imposing architecture at Old Goa. There’s the St Francias Xavier’s Church, which is holding (possibly the last) exposition of this famous Catholic saint. Don’t Miss!

3) Take the ferry across the Mandovi River. This is quaint because apart from ferrying people across for free, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find scooter & cars climbing aboard. As the ferry sluggishly chugs across to the other bank, the capital city of Goa, Panjim, unfolds slowly and you enjoy glimpses in an unrushed manner. Late afternoons is nice, watch the sun set.Don’t miss a photo-op at the fish-market when you alight from the ferry at Tonca. The fatty-‘bai’s in their traditionally-tied sarees, paan-stained teeth and ample bosoms, screaming out their ‘catch-of-the-day’ at the regulars. Observe the incredible array of fresh-fish on display and the whole process of working women selecting, bargaining and picking up their selection of sea-food and dash off home to prepare the night meal… all in a day’s work !

4) Catch a performance of drama or dance at Charles Correa’s superbly architectured Kala Academy…some food for the soul too. On the banks of the Mandovi River.

5) Drive down the broad boulevard right till Dona Paula and stop to reminisce about the lovelorn Portuguese girl who, unable to bear the thought of seperation from her desi-Goan lover of humble origins, met a watery grave. Great water-sports here under the aegis of Goa Tourism, hence safety is ensured.

6) Discover the marvellous architecture of the 400-year-old vilas in Fontainhas, the site where the Portuguese landed 400 years ago. Narow by-lanes, red-tiled-roof vilas in charming yellow-orchre or bay-blue, grand old dames in their frocks doing crochet in their bakcaos, pretty sights indeed for the tired soul. Check out the artifacts shops and the little sit-out eateries that offer you the tastiest authentic Goan cuisine in the whole of Goa.

7) Give in to your secular side and enjoy a Sunday mass at the Panjim Church, a familiar sight in numerous Bollywood movies (Amar, Akbar,  … Amitabh’s delightful Antony Gonsalves !) with its stunning organ-music and full-throated choir.

8) Drive down to the strip at Candolim where the King of Good Times has his flashy Spanish Kingfisher Villa; a nice part of Goa’s beachfront with lots of action, very many beach-shacks and most importantly, a good and eclectic mix of tourists who do not “stand-and-stare” at the woman on your arm. Relatively clean and peaceful.
Spend a lazy day, drinking beer, listen to Santana and the like, watch the aimless waves, the setting sun dip into the watery, enjoy the seafood, doze off undisturbed in your chair .. wake up refreshed and press the back-button !! Pack-up time is 11pm under the new dispensation. Sossegaad at its very best.

9) Ask your local guide to score a bottle of village-brewed cashew-feni, the best spirits money can buy ! Drink it with Limca (repeat Limca) or on-the-rocks for a sublimely tasteless high that doesn’t leave you with the usual headbangers’ ball next morning.

10) Stay at the Mitaroy Goa Hotel, run by Mihir Ignatius, a Tourism Professor in Bavaria Uniy, Germany. Renowned for its bespoke service, its uncluttered antique interiors, Spanish restoration of an old-Goan-tiled vila, shattering silences which allows you to find yourself once more. The place has been tastefully restored and gives you an insight into the lifestyle of early Goa.

What does the name Mitaroy mean ?

Legend has it that there was a rich Indian businessman during the time of the British Colonial Raj.

Thanks to his dealings first with the East India Company and then with the British Government, he had amassed a great amount of wealth. But more precious to him was his only daughter Madhumita (or “Mita” for short). He loved Mita more than anything else in this world and he wanted to get her married off to a boy from a well to do family who was of their same social stature and class.

However, as fate would have it, Mita (who used to accompany her father for his meetings with the British Government) fell in love with a lowly and penniless clerk in the administration called Roy. She began to meet him in secret without her father’s knowledge and soon realised that she could marry no other.

When she told her father about Roy, he was furious and prohibited her from meeting Roy. Distraught and love sick yet obedient, she obeyed her father’s wishes.

However, the once happy and cheerful girl lost her appetite along with her zest for life. Slowly as days turned into months, she became thinner and thinner until one day she was so weak that she caught a flu and passed away in the night, still pining for her lover.

The “Mitaroy” Goa Hotel – India’s only Couples Hotel – is dedicated to the tragic love story of Mita and Roy and their unrequited love…

Break your fast the Mitaroy Way

We have all heard it said-breakfast like a king,lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper but in practice it is impossible to do so.We barely have time to gulp down that scalding cuppa-coffee/tea as we rush to catch our transport to school/college/work.Nowadays with Coffee Day, Starbucks and others opening outlets at entrances of metro and other stations it is not only more convenient but fashionable to have coffee on the go-sipping it while you hang on with one hand in the bus /train.

No matter how many times my parents told me to get up a little earlier and keep the extra 5 minutes to have a sandwich/dosa/paratha all I could and still can manage is the bowl of cornflakes which thankfully comes in so many varieties these days.I have seen students and medical interns who are so stressed out that they make do with a bar or two of cadbury’s (one even offered to share it with me as we walked along).Although my granddad never left the house without his bowl of oats/wheat /semolina porridge,now we see even mothers dropping the kids to school while carrying their coffee flasks and munching on chocobiks early morning to get them through the stressful morning.

Even though most hotels now offer 2 or 3 or 4 courses for breakfast,I always hated it when we went for our annual holiday to the Taj Village or any other hotel,that the breakfast closed by 10/10.30am.So no matter, that I was on holiday or that I had sat up late watching TV or reading, I had to jump up latest by 9.30am groggily change clothes and rush for breakfast. There I hurriedly drank up my juice ,served myself the cereal and ordered the Indian/continental dishes before the counter closed and then ate a cold breakfast,never appreciating all that was on offer so tastefully displayed.

When I started my Mitaroy Goa hotel, I always promised myself , I would see that breakfast would offer all the courses piping hot at whatever time the guest wanted from 7am to 7pm. This has been really appreciated by all my guests.

Even though we are a small exclusive 4 suite property,my manager Jack seesthat the breakfast is different everyday,even asking the guest his preferences the night before, as is done in big 5 star hotels.Personalized service being the mantra, my man Shekhar stands discreetly around after laying out the breakfast so one can have all the privacy and yet ask for something like another glass of juice or a hot cup of coffee or a special herbal tea if one so chooses.

Now I have a gone a step further.Since the Mitaroy Goa is mainly a couples only hotel catering often to couples on their honeymoon or first or second anniversaries, I have started making the holiday really memorable serving an exclusive CHAMPAGNE breakfast.

The table is tastefully decorated with fresh red roses and a bucket of perfectly chilled champagne is placed thereon.The couple can start with it or maybe after they are fully awake and relaxed after their morning juice. Sipping your champagne,munching on the breakfast while soft jazz or Goan music /folk songs plays in the background,relax with your choice of newspaper,listen to the hustle of the early morning school and office crowd in the distance.-since my Mitaroy Goa hotel while being in the heart of Panjim,is so discreetly and quietly tucked away that one can appreciate one’s surroundings.

I am determined that at my Mitaroy Goa hotel, the guests can really break their fasts with healthy, tasty food in a relaxed atmosphere and all the privacy one desires.I am sure that all those who stay here will continue to appreciate this special service which will leave good lasting memories and hopefully be followed once they are back home…

A panoramic view of Goa through Murals

The festive colorful state of Goa is filled with people of different cultures and religions.These cultures are vividly depicted in the various murals seen on the walls of hotels,guest houses and public spaces like railway stations.They have managed to bring forth the Catholic and Hindu spirit of the state while effectively depicting its varied peoples.These murals while representing the people- their clothing, mannerisms and daily life events- blend so well into the background that they can be observed and appreciated by a patient observer as he relaxes sipping his daily chai or feni.The murals display not only the buildings but the beach life,market place, pav wallahs, fisherwomen with the lazy cat nearby and other stories of Goan history.

Goa’s famous cartoonist and illustrator Mario Miranda has his works displayed as murals in public places like markets, Madgaon railway station ,hotels,cafes clubs and even college campuses.They have a story to tell bringing alive the plain walls,merging foreign influence which starts with the arrival of the Portuguese in Goa, with narrations from Indian culture and heritage thus revealing contemporary and modern lifestyles.

Works of other artists like Trinidade can also be found.These artworks while amusing the viewer with their humor beautifully reflect the very heart of Goa.They are carefully maintained by the places where they are housed.so they can be appreciated by travellers to Goa.

I have been so influenced by these murals that I have put up cartoons depicting similar themes showing the various facets of Goan life, in my own Mitaroy Goa hotel. Viewing them my guests too, can appreciate the rich culture and heritage of Goa.