Hey people! I’m back!
This Sunday (27/11/16) I went to Khotachi Wadi with my friend Meghna, as part-2 of the Weekend Challenge.
It was a roughly planned visit, we just decided we’d take a cab and land up there, but had no idea what we’d do next.
We reached by 5 in the evening, and stood on the main road, our cabbie pointed us in the direction of the lane. It was a narrow alley which opened up to show a different world within. When you enter Khotachi Wadi, you find a small church, and on the adjacent wall, is a beautiful but faded mural of Mother Mary and Jesus, sitting on a lotus.
Looking around, we found a shiny and well maintained place, which later turned out to be a guest house (not yet open) of sorts owned by a famous designer who kept a low profile. It had a lovely garden accompanying it, with well kept plants and decorated with many ornaments. A single tree and under it a bench. A terrarium hanging above. A gateway of creepers adorned the entrance. We admired it, and tried to see if someone came out for us to talk to. But nothing stirred, so we went through the lane next to the house.
As we went early in the evening, not many people were on the streets. I looked at Meghna, clueless about what to do next. Then I remembered having read about the “Ideal Wafers Shop”, a local eatery. We mapped it and made our way through the lanes, and saw more fine-looking houses. Brightly painted, but deserted. Only a few people crossed us as we went on our way. But we had no luck! The shop was closed. We asked a man coming out of the compound, who told us that the shop remained closed on Sundays. A little disappointed now, we decided to explore the place, maybe we’d find something.
After walking further for a bit, we found a group of uncles playing carom, and a small open library on the side. A bench surrounded by some posters above it stood on the side of the small lane.
At this point, I was quite sure nothing interesting was going to show itself soon, so I started walking towards the direction I thought would take us out of the lane. To my surprise, I was back where I’d started from! I called out to Meghna, telling her about my discovery, but she nonchalantly said, ‘yeah, so?’ Rolling my eyes at her, I walked towards the community hall, clicking photographs of an old house in front of it, which also had a lovely backyard; but since no one was there to ask for permission, I just photographed the outer parts.
Meanwhile, a few boys went up to the old house, and rung the bell. I went there, chatted a bit with them to see if anyone was willing to talk; sadly, they weren’t. But they did tell me why the place was so deserted. They said a man’s memorial was being held at the local church and all of them had gone there. They’d be back in half an hour if I could wait. By that time, I was half unwilling, but half hoping to see if we could get anything by staying there longer. The person whose house it was, Willy, came in another 10 minutes, and by that time I was talking to his relative Savio. A 25-year-old resident of the Wadi, he told me, “I think Uncle Willy is the person who can explain you everything there is about the Wadi.”
Wilfred Felizardo, aka Willy, was born in Khotachi Wadi. He has seen the place change so much, the fatigue is visible in his eyes, and in the way he speaks. He looked utterly exhausted to have any interaction on the subject of the Wadi. Initially he clearly told me he wouldn’t talk, but would give a small write up on the place, which he kept with himself for people who came with questions. Tucked tidily in a folder, with newspaper clippings he brought it out and asked me to take a photocopy. I took a photograph instead, and politely thanked him for it. He asked my name, I told him, after which he started talking to me in Marathi. Excellent! I thought, as conversing in my mother tongue always helps me connect better.
In no time, the gentleman was full of things to say. He told me that the Wadi was made of East Indians, who they called “doodh walas”, and people from the Portuguese lineage, who were called “pav walas”. At that time the locality had a majority of Catholics, but now only a handful of them were left. Many had gone to the States or Australia, and rarely visited. Gujaratis and Marvadis made the greater percentage of the inhabitants now. He spoke about the annual Christmas party that he organises, where now Santa’s song is sung in Hindi. An ace guitarist and singer, he has composed the Hindi version of Jingle bells for the local children who are majorly Hindus.
Switching between Marathi, Hindi and English, he recounted his life as a bartender in five-star hotels across the world. He did the mosaic of his garden, and on his house, and when some Spaniards came sight-seeing, they exclaimed “That’s like Gaudi!” Willy thought they were calling him illiterate (gawdi), however they were apparently referring to a famous architect Antoni Gaudí. They praised his mosaic art, as do many people.
A colourful man, he now keeps himself busy by teaching guitar to students at his house and also delivers Sing-a-grams across the city. He also expressed his disdain for people who just came for information, and help but didn’t hold up their side of the deal.
He talked till the sun went down completely, and left the sky in a dark orange hue. We thanked him, and bid him goodbye. He waved at us in return.
Finally content with the events of the evening, Meghna and I went out the same way we’d come in, got a cab and went home.
Going into the Wadi is like walking though an old history book, so if you want a peek into the times before, do visit! I don’t have any tips as such, but I would say just look around. Observe. Maybe you’ll find something interesting.
That’s all for now!
See you next week!