Ten-Second Takeaway

Khotachiwadi is a small Portuguese-Catholic hamlet in Girgaon with the kind of colourful bungalows, guitar-playing locals and food that is reminding us of Goa.

Where The Streets Have No Name

This hamlet is from an age where landline numbers are still doled out with a serious face, vegetable-sellers know all residents by name and rentals for the oldest inhabitants have stayed steady at INR 1,000. When we went, residents allowed us to take up time in their home and sat us down and told us stories. The past to them was an idyllic time of children running around barefoot, talent contests, back-to-front parties where the meal began with ice-cream and ended with soup.

Kotachiwadi is predominantly composed of Catholics, Maharashtrians and East Indians. Colourful bungalow-cottages built in the typical Portuguese style take up residence besides the tiny lanes here.

Where there were 45 bungalows here earlier, there are now just 15, having been replaced by larger, faceless buildings. The cottages that remain each have an identity of its own. Bright and colourful, you’ll find orange walls with a blue railing or turquoise-coloured wooden doors with humbler teak outer doors, blue and white houses and a bright yellow face with awnings and railings of red.

What To See

Till a few years ago, Anant Ashram, an absolutely brilliant fish fry place was at Khotachiwadi, which people from all over the city would flock too. Unfortunately, this gem of a restaurant closed down and now remains a memory. Today, if you come here, a chapel, a designer’s house, a catholic {now open to non-Catholics too} club, an Ideal wafer house and an impromptu guitar lesson awaits you.

There is an oratory {a small chapel} where was once a huge tree and people came and prayed during the plague of the 1890s. Next to that is a beautiful wall painting of Mother Mary sitting on a lotus leaf, which shows well how the Catholics and Maharashtrians have lived together and the cultures have subsequently blended. You’ll also find interesting graffiti throughout the wadi.

You mustn’t miss visiting designer and old-time resident James Ferreira’s house who opens the teak doors to his house to people who have signed up for tours, or booked a visit via a travel agent or cruiseliners. His house is full of curios and artifacts, jazz music which resonates and lampshades and curtains made of beads. We loved spending time there, gazing at a hand-stitched and framed family tree, pouring over the titles in the book case, and crotchet photographs.

He says that Khotachiwadi is place for a lovely life that can be spent together with the people of the place – a rare authentic, Goan-Portuguese colonial village which has {mostly} been left intact. We hear that exciting plans that will allow people stay at his home are in the works.

What To Do

We also came across a wonderfully musical man, Willy Black {as he likes to call himself}, who takes guitar lessons for adults and children. He doesn’t like to teach or play by the book, but strums his guitar, often gently and sometimes in staccato, switching from Hindi to English to Marathi with ease. You can take a class with him at his house. 

You must also visit the only food store here, Ideal Wafer Shop, which sells fresh potato chips in regular {100 grams for INR 36}, and garlic, spicy, mast cheese and tomato flavours {for INR 40 each}.

The best time to visit is Christmas time, up till the New Year when the houses light up their roofs and walls, the streets are decorated and Christmas jingles are sung in Marathi.

So, We’re Saying…

Take an evening off for Khotachiwadi –  to walk here, to pray at the chapel, and gaze at the gorgeous cottages, and maybe sit down at a bench and just read, and for an hour, for a little peace and a little Goa.

#LBBTip: A Khotachiwadi festival which last happened in 2008, is in talks and might give us a chance to revisit this December. We will keep you in the loop.

20082016-Kotachiwadi-AP-11How to get there: The nearest train station is Charni Road. Walk up till St Teresa’s church, take a right on to Jagannath Shankar Seth Road and walk into the second or third left.

Call Willy Black for guitar lessons on +919967498457.

Photos: Athul Prasad/LBB