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Church of Our Lady of Augustia

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

As you exit from the Fort of Moti Daman to Moti Daman, very close to the football stadium lies the grave of Agostinho Xavier de Silva Vidigal, who was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and expired in Daman. A Church has been built over his grave.
Based on its size, I mistook it for a chapel, but it is in fact a Church.
According to the caretaker of the Cathedral of Bom Jesus, this Church is closed to the public as it is under renovation.
Church of Our Lady of Augustia

The church has been whitewashed with the artwork done up in blue. The edges of the door and the Church are painted blue.
Somehow I liked this combination of white and blue. Perhaps they should have used the same combination in the Cathedral too.

Chapel of Our Lady of Rosary

Monday, May 28, 2012

Walk straight on from the Cathedral of Bom Jesus and we reach the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary.
This chapel reminds me of the chapels in Goa, called “Copel in Konkani.” In Goa, there is one chapel in every village, but this was the first one I had found in Daman.
The architecture of the chapels in Goa and Daman is remarkably similar, but that is not surprising, considering that both places have a strong Portuguese influence.

Chapel of Our Lady of Rosary
It appeared to me that a chapel feast had recently been celebrated here as there were buntings and festoons hung at the porch of the church. This church is not accessible to public. So I couldn’t see it from the inside. But I did learn that it was built in the 17th century.
Next, I headed off to see The Church of Our Lady of Augustia.

Cathedral of Bom Jesus

Friday, May 18, 2012

Looking at the window pane, you would never believe that this Cathedral, completed in 1603 AD, is around 450 years old. It seems like it was only just put in place. It is only when you take a look at the entrance that you realize that the Cathedral is really very old.
The walls have been painted beige in colour with white borders. The wooden glass windows have been painted dark brown while the door is dark brown in colour. 
Entrance to the Church

I wondered if the painters had forgotten to paint the entrance of the Church. Or maybe they had been paid just to paint a few portions. Or perhaps the painters did not know what colour combination to be used for the pillars and the art work created 450 years ago.
The main door is painted brown in the beautifully carved arch. The work on the pillar next to the arch and the other art work next to the door is amazing. This I have noticed is common at all Portuguese churches. There is a beautifully designed logo above the main door of the Church.  
View of the church from the side

Again as in all Portuguese Churches, this too had a pulpit, canopy altar and the 14 paintings of the Stations of the Cross. The pulpit of this church was beautifully carved; the minute details were clearly visible as was the image of Christ carved on it.
The main altar and the side altars were also beautifully carved and painted in blue, white, red and golden colour. All the altars were made of wood.

The Main Altar with Canopy Altars placed next to it
The roof of this church was very high and there was a mezzanine floor to accommodate additional crowds in the Cathedral.

The walls inside were also painted beige. The painters who had worked on it have done us a favour by leaving the old artistic work made by the Portuguese artisans as it was to ensure that we would be able to see the splendid work for ourselves.

The Pulpit
They made a mistake in painting the outside though. They should have kept it the way it was to represent its past glory. Or at best they should have painted everything white, in the manner of the Churches in Goa which were also built by the Portuguese.

The inside ceiling was whitewashed and supported by wooden arches. At the entrance of the Church there was another crest painted on the ceiling.
The caretaker of the Church told me that he had been posted in Daman for 25 years and looked after the historical sites here on behalf of the Daman Municipal Council. Services are held in the Church in English and Portuguese.

Inside the Church
The caretaker introduced me to Frankie, who used to stay in Mumbai a long time ago. Twenty-five years, to be precise. Once he came here to visit his in-laws. He liked this place so much that he decided to settle down here. He lives on the outskirts of Moti Daman Fort.
Frankie told me that the current generation is not interested in looking after the church but is in fact interested in making money far away from Daman. The caretaker and Frankie and a few others usually come here to kill time.
I felt nice being inside this Cathedral. The art work on the pulpit, main altar and the side altars was amazing. Even the minute details were taken care of. And the best part of it was that it has remained intact for 400 years. 

Bordi Beach

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bordi is a small fishing village near the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. This small village offers a visual treat of green trees and a beach with black sand. A narrow road running through this village sees a stream of rickshaws, buses, cycles and private vehicles off and on.

The roads offer a pleasant sight. As I walked along, I could see chikoo trees on my right and casuarina trees on my left on the beach front. There are a few old Parsi bungalows, all surrounded by trees, on this road. These old and beautiful bungalows rest peacefully near the black sand beach of Bordi.

For a moment, I felt a tinge of envy. What a fabulous way to spend the evening, every day, watching the sun go down right from the porch of your house. And if you were sitting on a rocking chair with a mug of beer or a cup of black tea, why, what could be better?

Small houses crowd both sides of the narrow roads. I wonder how the buses ply on these roads without damaging life or property. Some of the houses are in a very old and dilapidated state. You never know when they will come crashing down.

I landed on the beach of Bordi late in the afternoon. The heat was killing. It was low tide when I got there, and I had to walk almost a km to reach the water. I noticed that the water was rather dirty and completely unfit for swimming in.

The narrow lanes at Bordi

The crabs on the shore had created beautiful patterns there. Also, there were tiny dunes formed on the shore. This was the work of the winds on the sand. The casuarina trees were gently and delicately swaying in the wind. Altogether it offered me a very pleasing sensation. By this time, I had almost forgotten about the heat, thanks to the swaying winds.
As I walked along the stretch of the beach, I also found a couple of shells in a pattern I had not seen before on any of the beaches I had visited. I picked up some of these shells for my personal collection.

Pattern formed by crabs on the sand

I found a dead snake and many dead crabs on the beach shores. Looks like the waters here are not safe for crabs. I have never seen so much death and desolation on the beach.
I met a couple of fishermen who had just come back from the sea. So I asked them, “Masa bhetla ka?” (Did you catch any fish?) In my broken Marathi. One of them replied, “Nahi” (No) in a sad tone.

Dirty Water accumulated on the sand dunes

The fishermen were folding their nets rather dejectedly as they had not managed to catch any fish. I prayed that they might have better luck tomorrow.
I then moved on to explore the beach further. In the distance I saw a few mangroves in the middle of nowhere. As I approached nearer, I noted that the tide was rising. So I decided to head back to my starting point.

Fishermen pulling their nets
Returning to the shore, I sat on the sand and watched the sun drown in the water. I wished I had a hammock. I would have tied it between two of these casuarina trees, lain there quietly with a pint of beer in hand and watched the sun go down. Already I seemed to have drifted far away from the stresses of everyday life. I didn’t want to get out of this state of mind. But I had to as it was growing dark and I had to head back to my cottage.
My day in Bordi was a mix of both the silent beach and the small fishing town. It kept me away from my daily chores and let me be with myself.

Bridge over the River Damanganga

Friday, May 11, 2012

The river flowed gently into the sea. I could see small fishing kayaks parked in the middle of the water on one side. On the other side, I could see coloured fishing trawlers parked on either side of the banks of Damanganga. One side was Moti Daman; the other was Nani Daman. No prizes for guessing that I was standing on a bridge.

Bridge over the River Damanganga

There are two bridges that connect Moti (Gujarati for big) Daman to Nani (Gujarati for small) Daman. One is meant for heavy traffic and the other for pedestrians and cyclists. I was on the one meant for pedestrians. It takes around 15 minutes to cross the bridge.
As I walked on the bridge, there was a heavy rush of the wind, which hit me even at 1:00 in the afternoon when the sun was directly overhead and beating down upon me with full force. Thanks to this breeze, I could barely feel the heat.

Fort of Moti Daman

The bridge, which was designed like the Howrah Bridge, offered a sight of the green waters of the Damanganga. Standing on the bridge, I could see the fortification of both Moti Daman and Nani Daman. The construction of the fort was the same. Both were built around 400 years ago.
From here I could see the entrance of Nani Daman Fort and the Church of Our Lady of the Sea in Nani Daman and both the lighthouses in Moti Daman.

Fort of Nani Daman
After spending some time here, enjoying the view of the sea, I headed off to see Moti Daman.

Train trip: Andheri to Vapi

Monday, May 7, 2012

Train travel has always excited me, ever since my childhood days. There is something about the experiences that a train journey brings to you that makes it fun and worth all the effort and inconvenience, especially when the trains are crowded.
On my visit to Vapi, Gujarat, I decided to travel on a Tuesday. I hoped that the unreserved compartment would be empty as the weekend had just gone by.
As I had not made reservations for the train to Vapi, I decided to travel in the unreserved compartment of the Mumbai Surat Express aka Intercity Express. The train arrived at 7:06 am on platform no 8 at Andheri and was expected to reach Vapi at 9:29 am.
With a ticket for the Intercity Express, I was standing on platform no 8. The fact that there were only 10 other passengers on the platform pleased me. I thought it would increase my chances of getting a place to sit in the unreserved compartment of the train.  My watch indicated the time as 6:40 am.  As the clock struck 7:00, the platform began to suddenly get very crowded. ‘Oh God,’ I moaned. ‘Now I will never get a place to sit in the train. Forget sitting. I’d be lucky if I got a place to stand.’
No sooner did the train arrive than everyone rushed to board the compartment. Generally, I prefer to avoid crowded trains, but in this case I had no plan B in place, so I had to board the train, come what may.
The train was packed with people; luckily I got a place to stand. Guess where. Near the latrine of the compartment. It was moaning time again. ‘Oh no, this place stinks. Do I have to travel like this all the way to Vapi?’ As always there was no immediate reply to my question and I decided to manage to the best of my abilities.
Until the train reached Boisar, a pit stop on the way to Vapi, all that I could see were the people standing in front of me in the cranked up position and the people who had come to empty their tanks in the train latrine.
As people from the train exited from Boisar, I found myself a place to sit. ‘Thank You, God, for answering my prayers.’ This time I had progressed to the entrance of the compartment. It was a good place to sit plus it was blowing as though I were sitting in front of an AC. ‘I am loving it.’
Having found a good place to sit in the train, I began to do what I do best – Observe.
The chilly breeze running through my hair and the chills that I was increasingly beginning to feel did not in any way deter me from sitting near the doorway and enjoying the view outside.
I saw a few houses near the tracks. The children who were playing near the houses stopped to see us pass by and waved out to me. I waved back enthusiastically. The smiles on their faces bought a smile on my face. For all I know, they might be waving out to all the trains that pass by on this track. I didn’t care. I felt good.
Later I saw a cluster of houses in the distance. They sat there, untouched by the excitement and upheaval that the train brought into their lives. They seemed to take each day as it comes, leading a worriless and stress free life.
The train crossed over a few water bodies on the manmade bridges built over them. Most of the water had dried up as we were nearing the summer season. In the water I saw a few women washing their clothes in the water.
When I wash my clothes, I put them in a washing machine, press a few buttons on it and, hey presto, the machine washes them for me.
I have never had the experience of washing my clothes in a setting like this. In the villages, washing clothes is a chore performed by the womenfolk. They wash clothes near the water bodies and then dry them on the rocks nearby. So after a wash in the water they get dried on the rocks under the gaze of the hot sun, making the clothes crisp.
The day I upgrade to becoming an offbeat traveler, I’ll be doing all this. I smiled at the thought.
A few cattle were having a nice bath in the water. I didn't let myself dwell too long on what that implied, but shifted my gaze to some other cattle that were grazing in the fields.
I saw fields full of dried grass all around the tracks. Minutes later the view changed to coconut trees and palm trees, only to be replaced later by chikoo trees.
I love chikoos and chikoo milkshake too. And here I saw whole farms of chikoos. This is the largest plantation in Maharashtra. It felt nice to know that all the chikoos that I had ever eaten had sprung from this soil.
I saw a few people walking with bags in their hands in the middle of nowhere. I guess they were walking to the nearest railway station in order to board a train to go to work. In the villages most people are not very well off. So if they stay far away from the closest railway line, they have to walk. They have no other option.
Finally the train reached Vapi railway station at 9:35 am.
I have always found train travel exciting, and this time was no exception. This time I saw houses with tiled roofs, children playing nearby, farms everywhere, coconut, palm and chickoo trees, and water bodies. When I travel by train in Mumbai, all I can see are buildings built dangerously close to the railway tracks, and creeks.
I wish I could see a view like this every day in the city. I guess that is practically impossible. Fortunately, travelling outside the city is possible. That is why I head out of the city every time I get an opportunity to do so. You too should make a trip and enjoy the scenic views outside the city.

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