Goa has been seen in many avatars that those who’ve never lived there identify it by. Its locals though, see a side to things (and don’t locals always?) that visitors miss. We’ve found four to share their views on how to make the Goan experience truly unforgettable
WORDS : FERNANDO MONTE DA SILVA
PHOTOGRAPHS : JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO
VINCE COSTA, WRITER, INDEPENDENT ARTIST & MUSIC PRODUCER
The Day Job
Vince Costa is a storyteller based in Goa, one who uses every medium from text and pictures to song to tell the tale he is trying to convey. You will find him walking through his native village of Curtorim, camera in hand, inviting himself into people’s homes unannounced, usually around lunch time. At other times, he’s either sitting in a rice field, or by the river writing his next song (or using it as an excuse to take a break). After releasing his last music album, he’s on the verge of making his debut as a filmmaker with a documentary on Curtorim. He has a weakness for meat patties and there’s nothing he can do about it.
The Day Off
The beach can often be overrated, and, as such, one needs to head away from there and closer to one’s roots for the true Goan experience. For every Goan, there is a sense of homecoming and belonging, which suggests that Goa lives in (and through) its villages. Curtorim is a prime example of this belief. It is a village that is deeply rooted in agrarian tradition. Through the monsoon, the village recovers from the scorching summer heat, turning into a green carpet. There is a deep sense of connection to the place while doing something as seemingly insignificant as watching farmers tend their land, exchanging local gossip or getting drenched in the rain in the process. Sometimes, you can be fortunate enough to share a meal at midday with these kindred spirits, stopping only to chase it with a small feni, Goa’s trademark equivalent of tequila.
“I love Curtorim, the village of my birth, not just for being my home, but also for keeping alive the profile of the quintessential Goan village with its laid-back vibe, breath taking landscape, delicious food and typically hospitable village folk,” says Vince, as he puts down his guitar to exchange a few words with a passing friendly face from the village. “As the birthplace of the mando – a genre of music that evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries among the Goan Catholic community – which was considered an amalgamation of east and west, Curtorim is blessed with some of Goa’s best musicians and talent and that, in turn, fuels my creativity. In fact, a late-evening walk to the River Zuari that skirts the village inspires me as a storyteller, especially when I’m in need of a bit of rejuvenation to clear my head.”
Curtorim is devoid of fancy eateries, and, in fact, better off for it. The local bars dish out food you would never find in the finest restaurants across the world. Vince delves into more detail as he dives into his meal at one such village haunt. “I’m torn between two very local bars, Cassiana, which was established in the 1940s, located right in the heart of the village, known for a very typical Goan-style steak; and Cheryl Bar, just a stone’s throw away, which does more than the steak. Whichever way the vote goes, both these venues embody the heartfelt authentic Goan food experience in a village, which is always about more than just the food. Cheryl may have an edge because of its signature, hand-crafted potato chips.”
Curtorim is peppered with a choice of very local watering holes. Here, it’s advisable to sit with the locals, drink with them, and eat as they do. The popular dishes can easily be found in almost any bar and restaurant, but some of the standout places in the village include Cheryl Bar and Restaurant, Cassiana Bar and Lenny Bar. A visit to Snows Bakers & Confectioners and Crumbs, which sit cheek by jowl at Church Square, is an absolute must for a taste of authentic Goan snacks and pastries.
Homestays are a growing trend in Goa, and Curtorim is not devoid of them. Vince believes that, as a visitor, one of these is ideally placed to offer a great, hands-on Curtorim experience. “Arco Iris has breathed new life into a beautifully restored Goan home. It overlooks a lake, and the owners are really warm, lovely people,” he shares. “The best way to explore Curtorim is by foot or on a bicycle. This is so that you can engage with the village, be it as a wallflower on Sunday mornings, just to take in the market vibe, or to sit by the lake and relax.”