Friday, 30 December 2016

Our Goan Christmas and a Family Party

After a pretty hectic first 3 weeks in Goa we managed to arrange a meet-up with friends Dev and Rajaa who are always a wonderful help to us during our times in Candolim.


So, we took a Tuk-tuk up to Calangute (next to Candolim) to meet up with them both. The road looks uncharacteristically quiet but it just happened to be a rare smooth bit where we could be steady enough to take a clear pic!


We met up with Dev and Rajaa in a bar in the Calangute Fish Market where we’ve previously enjoyed some happy evenings with them. It’s a very dimly lit place and generally only frequented by the local workers.


Rajaa, Doug, James and Dev enjoying the tremendously good food, drink and company of everyone around.


Christmas came to us (5 1/2 hours before our family and friends in the UK). We had a lovely cake given to us by our friend (and Doug’s masseur) Manog.


Our Christmas Tree and gifts were very minimal this year. A palm leaf in a plastic water bottle and 4 gifts to James from Doug (because Doug did the “dirty” on James and snuck off with Manog to buy them after we’d agreed we wouldn’t!)


On Christmas Day morning we celebrated the love of our family and friends in all corners of the world. It was so hot that we had to wear our slippers as the veranda floor was burning our feet!

After a wonderful couple of days enjoying our “beach Christmas” we took up the very kind invitation to join a friend and his family on a special occasion.

P1010650 The journey, by bus, took us through Old Goa (the original capital city of Goa) and we spent a couple of hours visiting two very popular religious sites before continuing our journey.


The ‘old’ Basilica of Bom Jesus is a gorgeous building constructed between 1594 and 1605. The frontage is a riot of Corinthian, Tuscan and Ionic styles.


Inside the first impression is of great simplicity but further study shows a much more elaborate celebration of function (James isn’t copying this from a pamphlet by the way!).


The barrel ceiling of the high alter is stunning in it’s detail but we couldn’t get close enough for a close up pic (even though we had a gentleman guiding us around!). There’s 145 kg of gold leaf adorning the alter reredos alone! To the side is the chapel housing the marble tomb of St Francis Xavier. 


On top of the tomb, which was sculpted by Giovanni Batista Foggini in 1698, is the coffin containing the relics of St Francis Xavier. The solid silver casket between the two black caskets contains a finger from St Francis (which probably fell off at some time!) and is accessible during church services.


The beautifully preserved body of St Francis can be clearly seen through the crystal ports in the coffin. The poor old boy doesn’t seem to get a lot of peace these days as the Basilica is a major attraction (and free to enter – take note Anglican Cathedrals in the UK!)


The saint’s original coffin was a simpler affair secured by three locks with differing keys which were held by three separate individuals (a bit like the button for nuclear warhead activation!) The lid could be completely removed to allow the relic to be seen during ritual Expositions.


Every ten years the lovely ‘old boy’ gets taken down from his normal prominent position and is carted across in this open coffin to the “new” Basilica across the road. Last November was one of those ten year “expositions” and Doug went with some Indian friends to Old Goa during the event. The place was besieged by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and there was a four hour wait to see St Francis!


The cloisters of the Basilica are peaceful and relatively cool and, incorporating at this time of year, a really smart Nativity scene.


This is Doug at the approach to the ‘new’ Basilica (built not that long after the ‘old’ one) and next to a gorgeous row of his second favourite flowers -Canna lilies.


In distinct contrast to the ‘old’ church the new one is painted brilliant white both outside …….


……… and inside.


Again, the initial plain appearance hides some remarkably beautiful detail.


After our visit to Old Goa we resumed our real goal for the day which was to reach the delightful little village of St Estevam where our friend Hemant and his family live. The bus journey there was fascinating – dropping us off at it’s final stop and then disappeared into the distance (the conductor had got off several stops back and left us the only passengers!). All alone, we looked vacantly around and then heard a voice call out from a house: “Are you looking for Hemant’s house?”  Well, that’s India for you! – the conductor had phoned ahead to the village to let them know that two Englishmen were about to arrive!


Hemant’s lovely house, and the narrow street outside, had been turned into a party venue ready for 200 guests to celebrate the first Holy Communion of his eight year old son Elsten.


Every wonderful Indian family celebration we’ve had the pleasure to be invited to has had all the stops pulled out on the hospitality front!


As family and friends gathered we had a little ceremony for Elsten to cut his cake, after which he gave a lovely speech thanking his mum and dad and all of us for coming. He’d taken Holy Communion at 8 o’ clock that morning.


Hemant’s house is quite large but not large enough to get all the guests inside at once!


The party in full swing. As we’ve experienced before the gardens are transformed into another ‘room’ with sun shading and printed back clothes.


The party takes up the road outside as well as the garden and the house!


The “Man of the Moment” – eight year old Elsten Afonso.


Hemant is a Bar Manager for P&O Cruises and he very quickly became a friend after our first meeting. Dolriech (left) is a Bar Waiter for P&O and also became a firm friend soon after our first meeting. They live close to each other in the lovely rural area of Cupa and, luckily for us, both are enjoying a few months off duty with their families.


Here’s us with Hemant’s wife’s sister’s husband Aquino. He’s a police officer in Dubai, again home on a month’s leave and, despite the rather complicated connection he treated us as ‘family’. We felt so privileged.


Hemant, James and Doug (trying to oust James from the group!)


Many of the men of the family wanted a group photo with us!


Truly privileged we were asked to pose for a photo with Hemant, his lovely wife Elida and Elsten. There very pretty daughter Lindsey, who’s a minx, was nowhere to be found!


The last photo of a most wonderful day goes to “Children’s Corner”!

Yet again we’ve been humbled to take part in one of our Indian friend’s special family celebrations and, as always, the welcome and hospitality has been overwhelming. Thank you Hemant, Elida, Elsten and Lindsey for your kind invitation and making it an unforgettable day for us.

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