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  ISSUE OF JULY 2002
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Tucked away in one Goan village is the beautiful Siolim House that is over 250 years old. It has all the trappings of a village house, simple designs and forms, lots of space, genial people and stories that would put a sea dog to shame. Alan DíMello has this story to tell...

Courtyard

Lady time has that beautiful quality, admired by so many, of undoing what has been done before. Until five years ago, a beautiful 16th century Indo-Portuguese ‘casa de sobrado’ style mansion belonging to a prestigious line of Portuguese governors had all but given up the fight against the ravages of time and nature. That was until Delhite Varun Sood came along. He chanced upon the palatial ‘Mosmimcar’ just off the main road in Siolim village. Today, after a three-year Herculean effort by the Sood family to undo the damage of neglect, the stately pleasures of a 275-year old colonial Goan ‘manor home’ can once again be enjoyed.

From the moment Siolim House comes into view as the car negotiates the narrow village, you realise that this experience is something hauntingly special. Honestly, it is a bit unsettling (how wonderful!) to not have a front desk to which you say, “I have a reservation” or any of those standard procedures we have been conditioned to. Here, you have Wag (the dog) to greet you at the always open front door. Technicalities are taken care of once you settle into your room.

The Siolim House is really a home. With just seven rooms, each named after prominent trading ports of the Portuguese era, it might not seem such a ‘palatial’ place when compared to many old, princely homes of India. But consider this, it once used to be 24 rooms, and in some the ceilings are as high as 20 feet. Cypriano Fernandes, the house’s soft-spoken manager, tells me that other than the change in the number of rooms and a courtyard wall being taken down to allow for light, everything else has been the same for more than two-and-a-half centuries.

It is beautiful. This sentiment comes from the knowledge that the wonderful blend of smooth lines and walls, the simple yet heavy furniture and wrought iron chairs, bountiful sunlight and space - lots of it - is something that was almost lost forever. Care has been taken that the house should be revived as close to its glory days as possible.

Which is why you might still see that the original porcelain China grills, the flooring and the extensive use of wood and old world materials are part of everyday use here. Even the stepped ‘pig’ toilets of yore (where pigs did the job of the flush), are in function with only one minor change; a modern day water closet is the replacement. But you still have to climb the four-odd steps to get to your throne!

The house takes a bit of getting used to, for by design ‘Mosmimcar’ has just one telephone, one television and one music system (and, of course, the light and fans). It also has an element so unique which no other ‘hotel’ can offer. Its kitchen, whose door is never closed, is centrally located among the rooms, opening right into the quadrangle. Because of its placement and function, the kitchen is extremely vital to the experience. Its enchanting echoes which sift through the house never fail to remind one that because of its simplicity and thoughtfulness, Siolim House is actually the destination and not just the means.

And therein lies the key to this Goan secret. Because you have to take part in the daily functions, you often feel that the house is wrapped around you. Meals are on table d’hote, but you can choose any dish under the Goan sun and you would get it (French food will soon be available too). If you like, you may even choose your ingredients when you accompany them on their daily grocery trip to the wharf and the market. And if you really, really want to, you are most welcome to help them cook your food. Believe me, this is considered entertainment as the ‘chore’ soon transforms into a party as the whole house, staff and guest, tend to pitch in.

Alternatively, if you find the exhaustion of laughing while you cook too troublesome, by all means feel free to enjoy the beautiful Olympic size overflow pool set alongside the chickoo tree, or anchor yourself in either an armchair or hammock in any part of the shady, expansive tree-lined garden for the whole day sans remorse. Other means of entertainment include massages, cycling, walks, excursions, boat rides and playing with Wag.

At around Rs 3,500 per couple per night (far cheaper than the discounted rates of the local five-stars), and with the food so economically priced you have to look twice to reassure yourself, you might wonder why you did not come ‘home’ earlier.

The only problem with Siolim House is leaving the place, for you know of the unforgiving world that awaits you. But do not forget to sometimes simply smile to yourself when you lie in pensive thought, when upon that inward eye, flashes the bliss of Siolim House.

Swimming Pool

Siolim House
Opposite Waddi Chapel, Waddi
Siolim, Bardez 403517 Goa
Tel: (0832) 272138, 272941
www.siolimhouse.com

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