The Goan doppelgänger, Daman rests at the edge of Gujarat. A former Portuguese colony, its historical and cultural remnants today are dying a slow death, ignored at the curb.
Instead, a shiny new Union territory is being developed. Its modern promenades, and black ribbon roads try to lend an aesthetic look to the sea. Hotels and swanky restaurants offer delectable cuisines, competing with its sister colony Goa – although I would beg to differ.
Alcohol is the biggest attraction to Daman as neighboring Gujarat is a dry state.
Groups of tourists congregate on weekends with flashy phones and even flashier smiles for that perfect Instagram post and selfies.
But Daman is more than the selfies and hashtags. Look beyond the phone camera and you will observe the daily life of the locals who live in quaint homes and quiet lanes.
Petite aunts in floral dresses getting the latest gossip from the local markets. Homemade Bebincas and marzipans, xacuti and cake. Afternoon siestas coupled with sundowners.
Bebincas – a layered cake made with coconut milk and clarified butter of Portuguese origin. Xacuti – A coconut based curry prepared with lamb, beef or chicken of Portuguese origin
Rosaries at the chapels and churches followed by a quiet dinner. Old graves of Portuguese sailors and soldiers perhaps holding untold stories. Uncles catching up on Sunday afternoons, with beer and fish on the table.
Old ladies sitting on their verandahs watching the world go by. Locked doors of the locals who have migrated to Portugal or Europe and have left their historical homes to the elements.
Bakeries wafting with the smell of freshly baked pav. Boats bobbing on the waves as the fresh catch comes in. Dilapidated forts and white washed churches which have been conveniently forgotten.
Pav – locally made bread
If I were to look at Daman through a looking glass, I would see children preparing to take a siesta on the chatai after an afternoon lunch of fish curry and rice.
Chatai – Indian sleeping mat made from reeds
As they drift into food coma, the whirring of the table fan puts them into a relaxed sleep, with the sun streaming from the pretty lace curtains.
Waking up to the sounds of tea being made in the kitchen they laugh at each other’s marks, on their hands and faces, due to sleeping on the mat.
Running towards the garden they sit in the verandah watching people go by, waiting for Aunty Norma to bring them tea and khari.
Khari – flaky puff pastry dipped in tea
Oh what a wonderful world!!
The next morning, Rustom uncle comes driving in his powder blue vintage car. The children cannot take their eyes off the well maintained car, dazzling in the sunlight. He invites them for bun maska to his wada.
maska – butter, wada – a property of orchards, farm land, a well and a huge bungalow
While Aunty Norma contemplates getting something from the bakery for uncle Rustom, the children run around the garden spinning their tops.
Finally a packet of homemade bebinca wrapped in newspaper is stuffed in the hands of the oldest and they are on their way to a day of exploration and food fest.
At the wada they are wide eyed and finger pointing in several directions at the same time. The mango trees burgeoning with the weight of the emerald jewels waiting to get golden in the summer sun. Love apples and guavas are calling their names. The tamarind trees hang with mouthwatering, sour and sweet treats.
The boys have the katy, ready, and the girls only have to point at what to shoot. A mango here and a guava there. An adventurous climber cannot wait to shake the branches of the tamarind trees as the others run around picking up the fruits of their undertaking.
katy – sling shot
As noon hits, they run towards the well and draw the cool refreshing water to wash up.
Aunty Delnaz offers them ginger and raspberry soda. Oh those colors would be so popping. A lunch of Sali Boti and Patrani Machi fills them to the gills.
Sali Boti – mutton curry topped with crispy fried potato sticks, Patrani Machi – steamed fish, mostly pomfret, covered in green chutney and wrapped in a banana leaf
A nap in the charpai , under the shady branches lulls them to sleep.
charpai – a traditional woven bead made of rope and wood
As the sunrays slant towards the west, they rush back home. Aunty Norma has instructed them to be back by 4pm for a surprise.
Uncle Albert has returned early from his shift at the legendary Hotel Marina. He whisks them away to Jampore beach. Happy screams and laughter compete with the sound of the waves as they swim and run wild and free.
Cotton candy and sancha icecream are delightful bribes given to them by Uncle Albert so he could sneak a smoke (ha)
sancha icecream – hand churned ice-cream in a traditional mold of wood or metal
Their Cinderella hour is 7pm. It is time to head to Our Lady of the Sea chapel for the daily Rosary.
Armed with jasmine flowers plucked from the garden bush they walk in a chaotic and noisy group led by Aunty Norma hushing them all the way.
The candles are lit, and the flowers offered to Mother Mary, the children pray as angels would in heaven.
With the rosary done, they head home in a single file, silent and exhausted from the day’s adventures.
Uncle Albert, is lounging in the verandah with his copache, as they help Aunty Norma prepare dinner.
copache – glass of homemade wine
A mid summers night dream awaited them all and a new day of siestas, adventures and yummy food. The best version of Groundhog day.
This susegad way of life is now lost to the hustle and speed of the modern times. This charmed life now can only be seen through the looking glass – just as Alice did 🙂
susegad – slow way of life