GOA Romancing the Rustic Rainbow - The New Indian Express

GOA Romancing the Rustic Rainbow

Published: 09th March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 08th March 2014 06:26 PM

It was serenity in the midst of decay that drew Bennita and Ganesh Subramaniam to the derelict Portuguese villa, asleep deep in the heart of Curtorim, a quiet South Goan village. It invited them to embark on a labour of love, to create a house filled with light and colour, steeped in history and heritage, which they then decided to share with absolute strangers. The perfectly restored 200-plus-year-old house standing on 1.5 acres now bears the name Arco Iris—‘rainbow’ in Portuguese and Spanish. It is now a Neemrana Heritage Homestay. “It overlooks Corjim, a seasonal lake, which in summer becomes a football field, and during the monsoons, returns to being a lake,” smiles Bennita. The Zuari river flows about a km away.

“Beni and I have always kept an open house wherever we lived, be it Chennai or Bangalore. It felt natural to do the same here in Goa,” explains Ganesh. The restoration took Beni and Gani (as their numerous friends call them), three years of handling construction crews, cost overruns and unannounced building delays. They have been running it as a homestay since 2009. Arco Iris comprises an ‘entrada’ (foyer), ‘sala’ (living room), dining room and five bedrooms with en suite bathrooms (four on the ground floor and one on the first floor). Three of the bedrooms open onto private balconies. Each bedroom is in a different colour: violet, indigo, orange and yellow in keeping with the rainbow theme. There is a ‘balcao’ (balcony) and gallery in the front of the house and a courtyard at the rear. A 100-year-old well stands guard on the periphery of the rear courtyard. The couple grow coconuts, chikoos, papayas, pineapples, cashews, pomegranates and mangoes. They also have a small kitchen garden.

Everything at Arco Iris, from the lovingly polished antique furniture, to the grand four-poster beds, has been chosen with care; from Goa, Puducherry, Karaikudi and Kochi to tea estates in Eastern India. The colourful floor tiles have a history. “They are from Bharat Tiles, a swadeshi company founded by Lokmanya Tilak. These are handmade tiles that go through seven rounds of polishing,” points out Gani.

According to him, theirs is a home built in the Goan Portuguese style. “It reflects the social position of the erstwhile owners who were one of the biggest landlords in the taluk. The only significant change we made was the open courtyard at the back which was closed before the restoration. Cross-ventilation, large doors and high ceilings are all part of the traditional design,” he adds.

Staying at Arco Iris is more about wandering past the seasonal lakes and paddy fields than partying the night away at a beer-sodden beach shack. The beaches of Colva, Benaulim and Varca are close, but not too much so. Besides, these are not as crowded or as commercial as those in the more popular North. Curtorim is a haunt for naturalists and birdwatchers because of it’s proximity to wildlife sanctuaries. Here and in the adjoining villages of Rachol and Chandor, there are several places of historic and archaeological interest. For instance, the Church of St. Alex, one of the oldest churches in Goa, is about  two km from Arco Iris.

For Beni and Gani, moving to Goa was a gamble. “It started as a lab experiment,” is how they put it. Now Arco Iris is a way of life.

Getting there: About 30 minutes’ drive from Dabolim airport Address: 1384, Sinai Bagh, Curtorim 403709. www.arcoiris.in

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