Sunday, 10 July 2016

Ó Mar Salgado

-Brian Mendonça

We were at Babazin’s restaurant at Nerul for lunch, just 200 metres beyond Reis Magos fort. We had passed the imposing Reis Magos church on our right and an almost hairpin bend took us almost into the mouth of the sea. It was a Sunday and our hearts were filled with joy.

The setting on the road as we came by it was quite ordinary. But when I looked around I noted the welcoming parking space on the other side of the road.  Nothing could prepare us for what waited for us inside. The beautifully designed interiors, almost stark in their simplicity, with the trademark Goan red cemented sitting area of a balcao gave us the heady feeling of being at home. There were two levels, ‘decks’ I would like to call them. One on the rim of the river and the other further inward with a well-stacked bar behind it. The beautiful cartoons of Goan life on the wall gave us a feel of the timeless quality of Mario Miranda.

We don’t come to these parts often. But when time was on our side after we finished our work at Taleigao, I thought it would be a good idea to explore a bit of Goa.* Not for us were the frenetic pace of Calangute and Candolim where the road headed to. Verem was just right and the sleepy village road could barely keep awake as we drove through.
Verem is on the leeward side of the hill as it were. The windward side, and the more happening side is Porvorim to the North and Calangute to the West.  To your left is Betim and Terry’s restaurant. You also need to cross the imposing Gurudwara on your right after you come down from Panjim and descend after crossing the Mandovi bridge. 

Babito was telling me the restaurant is named after his brother (31) who passed on in 2005. ‘We are both foodies,’ he said, using the present tense. He likened the restaurant to a pousada. The word has many meanings in Portuguese like, a place to rent out, an inn, a hostel. People call me up to book the space and remain there from 11 till midnight, he said. Another favourite is the conxem (‘corner’ in Konkani) at the far end of the open vista which people ask to reserve for them. This is a cemented bench where couples can cozy up. In the distance one can fish.

Both Goa and Portugal are united by the sea. No wonder that the sea continues to fascinate us. Transfixed by the fury of the sea in the throes of the monsoon in July, I recalled the poet Pessoa’s lines from his poem ‘Mar Português’ (1934):

Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal
São lágrimas de Portugal!
[O salty sea, how much of your saltiness
Is tears of Portugal!]

The cadence of the Portuguese rang in my ears and I was glad to have heard those lines. Somehow at that instant the sea seemed to be speaking Portuguese!
*See Love Goa: A Handbook for the Luxury Vagabond by Fiona Caulfield (Bengaluru: Hardys Bay, 2011) pg. 41. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 10 July 2016. Pix courtesy 

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