Mangoes to Maharanis…

Posted by Helen 
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Today is Friday and this means market day in Mapusa. Mapusa is the largest of the towns in North Goa and all the farmers from around and about come to sell their crops alongside all the usual tourist clobber.

We have been offered enough bedspreads to cover all the beds in all the hotels in Goa. However today was about food and we spent most of the morning in the vegetable, fruit and spice parts of the market. Although the cashew nuts have had a bad crop this year, other fruit is in abundance. Pawpaw, watermelon, breadfruit and, of course, coconuts are piled high in front of a colourful assortment of farmers, dealers and smallholders. All the fruits are for sale alongside the vegetables that we have at home – onions, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower – plus all the more Indian things like okra and cilantro. Lentils, chickpeas and rice are all sold by the sack and I don’t mean small sacks – goods are measured out on over-sized sets of balance scales.

So now that we are armed with a good collection of photographs we have enlisted Elsie from Elsewhere’s aid with the collating of some of the home cooked recipes. Everybody is now helping us to pass on to you some of the ways in which Goans prepare some of the fantastic home cooked fare that we have eaten!

Well, that was Friday and it is now onto Saturday. As many of you who read this blog know, one of our upcoming projects is to assemble an art exhibition. Well, our plans are underway and the children will soon be painting pictures of their life – but more of that later.

As part of the project we have been searching out some special exhibits. We were lucky enough to have an introduction extended to us to visit the palace in Sawarwadi, just north of us in Maharastra state, The Rajmata (Queen Mother) oversees a project to keep the old arts and skills alive (most of the ‘local’ crafts you find in Goa actually come from Rajasthan).

I had the classic ‘Bridget Jones’ moment of “Note to self: remember to wear clean knickers, shine shoes and clean teeth twice – just to be sure”. Also how does one address a Maharani – your highness; mam; hello, how do you do? Arrgh, I have never had his problem before!

So we arrive after an hours drive up the new highway (the last time we attempted this it was a long detour, a memorable ferry crossing and the ability to dine out on the story for years after!), After a few false starts we found the Palace and drove through the front gates to be met by a member of her staff who introduced us to Mrs Bhonsle (yes, big sigh of relief, just Mrs and she shook hands, no curtseying, bobbing or bowing required!).

We were shown around the fascinating Palace and then through to the artisans who were painting away in the old throne room. One of the near-lost skills is the handpainting of traditional playing cards. It takes a team about a week to paint a set of Indian playing cards and there are many more to a pack, and a different number for different games. You can also have round ones as well as the usual rectangular ones. So we now have a set to exhibit in London at our exhibition – a set of 96 Mughal kings, in fact, for the game of Changkanchan, or ‘Harp and Gold’ – in a beautiful handmade laquered box that is amother rescued art of Sawantwadi.

The Rajmata is also an artist in her own right and we saw her depictions of horses and butterflies next to the paintings of Carl d’Silva the renowned bird artist (and, stop-press, he has now offered to help us by donating a couple of paintings!!!). We now have a set of signed coasters with her beautiful hand-painted butterflies to exhibit alongside the cards.

Satwasheeladevi Bhonsle, Rajmata, Sawantwadi Sansthan

Then after taking a refreshing cold drink with the Rajmata, (talking about her family, the future of education in India and generally putting the world to rights) we took our leave and made our way back to ‘normality’ at Elsewhere.

As usual India throws up lots of extremes – where else can you buy mangoes one minute and find yourself taking tea with a Maharani the next? That is wonderful India!


2 Responses to “Mangoes to Maharanis…”

  1. Sara says, March 18th, 2009 at 08:47

    What a delightful recount of your day! Wow! Keep ’em coming!


  2. Elaine Bush says, October 7th, 2010 at 09:31

    How wonderfully delightful!

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