CUNCOLIM: Heta Pandit’s book, Hidden Hands-Masterbuilders of Goa gives an insight into the lives of the artisans-carpenters, masons, stonecutters, roofers, basketweavers, potters, painters and gardeners.
The contribution of each of these artisans, their relationship with the house owners, the tools they used, the methods of construction they employed, their remuneration and their lifestyle have all been described vividly and sympathetically.
A dream home is reflective of the owners' attachment to his or her own unique piece of architecture.
But, what we see today with sadness is that many old houses are crumbling under its weight on account of neglect. Houses in and around my locality of Sanvorcotto in Cuncolim village are on the verge of being forever lost if not remedial steps are taken to protect them.
The house of Portuguese language teacher Babu Fernandes is one such structure which needs immediate attention. The place not only holds a strong architectural value but a part of the history of the village will be lost and forever buried in its debris, if the remaining part of the crumbling house is not salvaged in time.
The house was a centre of teaching during the Portuguese rule. And many a student’s remember the place for the corporal punishment that the late Professor gave them. Not many from that generation are alive to recollect their favouritie stories of school time, revolving around the house, including my late father. But, a few who are around are saddened by the current state of affairs.
The place was of special significance during the Portuguese rule and its importance faded with liberation. It was primary school where students got their elementary Portuguese language lessons.
Portion of the house which once served as a kitchen and store room has collapsed in the last two rainy season and the only structure which stands now is the front side of the house which includes two big rooms. But, that is threatened if the monsoon fury continues to extend itself.
As for me, i grew up every morning watching the impressive structure from the backyard of our house, but the same structure with the passage of time is crumbling. If it caves in then the aesthetic beauty that the structure gave to the entire locality will be lost forever.
If the house goes down, then another piece of local history goes down with it.
The house suffered neglect not from the heirs of professor Babu Fernandes but people who were gifted to look and maintain the property. Babu’s niece Filu must be regretting the day she made the decision to gift the property to catholic priests.
The gift deed was executed in favour of the religious body with a pre-condition they maintain the house and provide a room for Filu to stay in the house till her death.
But, sadly the priests plans of renovating and giving the property a new look were some were caught in at the state’s highest hierarchy of the Roman Catholic faith. Plans were drawn and submitted to the Cuncolim Municipal council informed neighbors, but the permission from the highest authority at the Bishop house were not forthcoming. Thus, the neighbors informed the place has been every year passing into ruins.
It is high time the people of the locality organize themselves and protect what is left of the crumbling legacy of professor Babu’s house.
Leaving legal issues of ownership apart, the local municipal council needs to exercise their powers and protect the crumbling façade of the house. The art and culture department should be romped to make funds available to rebuild and protect the house. It is time Cuncolim MLA Joaquim Alemao is made aware of the historic and architectural value of protecting the house for further generations.
And as a community, concerned as we are about keep our culture and heritage alive from a thousand miles away, we need to have a corpus fund to maintain falling structures which the individual, local self-governing bodies and government fail to protect.