Friday 5 April 2013

Looking for Mario

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‘Dwell your soul in the realm of light’ – from the GTDC brochure of Old Goa

Apart for the Sun, sand and sea the two other things I really looked forward to during my recent maiden visit to Goa was the stay in Old Goa and coming across the works of my favourite Goan artist – Mario De Miranda. The beaches did not disappoint and I really enjoyed the languorous meandering from one beach to the other in North Goa (We were putting up in Calangute) and the idle lying amongst the innumerable shacks dotting the beaches .It would have certainly helped had we put on sun screen lotion more regularly but then maybe a trip to Goa is not complete if you don’t get a little sun burnt! It was also quite an experience to ride a scooter (available on hire and the best way to move around) after a gap of nearly 10 years! What did disappoint me was that amongst the many flea markets along the beaches there was no trace of any work of Mario (For some strange reason Bob Marley and Che Guvera dominated the T-shirt motifs though I came across very few people actually wearing these designs).Even on enquiring, people expressed their inability to guide me to any place where I could find Mario’s work. Some reacted as if they were hearing his name for the first time! Even when I found a ‘Goa’ ceramic mug at a momento shop, it had work by an artist which closely resembled Marios’ but still there was no trace of Mario. I reconciled myself that maybe because Mario spent most of his working life in Bombay, he was not so well known in his home town (where he shifted from Bombay after retirement and passed away in December 2011).
After three days in north Goa we shifted to Old Goa and the GTDC hotel is beautifully located close to all the heritage sites in this old capital of Goa (before the capital was shifted to Panjim in 1843). After all the noisy frolic in North Goa, it certainly felt nice to in this serene and less crowded part which lies along the Mandovi river. The quiet drive from Panjim to Old Goa along the Mandovi river itself is a treat. Most of the heritage churches and the cathedrals are at a walking distance from each other and the prominent ones include the church of Bom Jesus which houses the body of St Francis Xavier, Se Cathedral and St. Cajetan’s Church. These were built in the fifteenth century when Goa was under Portuguese occupation, are well maintained and worth a visit. Close to these lies the Viceroy’s arch (very close to Mandovi river) which was a symbol of Portuguese triumph. Close to the arch is a regular ferry service to the nearby island of Divar and in better weather it would be fun to explore this island and all the heritage houses on it.
On the last day of our stay it had got quite hot and we were wondering if you should go and have a closer look at the two remaining heritage sites which are located atop a mound—Tower of St. Augustine and convent of Saint Monica , before we left for the airport. Eventually I decided to have a look and I am glad I did. The colossal 46 meters high tower of St. Augustine lies amongst the ruins of one of the largest complexes built by the religious order of the Augustinians and the convent of Saint Monica which could once accommodate 250 devotees has an impressive architecture characterised by three solid buttresses. The same building houses Asia’s first museum of Christian Art which has many sacred artefacts on display. Most of them were made by local artisans as it was not possible at that time (Portuguese occupation) to dispatch these from Portugal to meet the rising demand.
As I was coming out from the Museum I noticed some Goa memorabilia on display in one corner. On closer inspection much to my surprise and delight, it turned out to be a cosy museum shop which also had lot of merchandise by guess who? Yes none other than Mario de Miranda. Suddenly my Goa visit was complete!

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