Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Hindu : Arts / Magazine : An orderly chaos

Pre event review of my upcoming photo exhibition at NCPA Piramal Art Gallery.
Sublime Chaos of Cities, featuring established photographers, Mala Mukerjee and Smita Barooah Sanyal, opens on the 6th of January thru 15th.
Be there guys!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank You!!!!

This  one is for Vineeta Nair, of the immensely popular, Artnlight - blogger, multi-tasker, foodie, conversationalist, passionate and witty personality and artist extraordinaire.. (There is plenty more facets to her I might be omitting here for sure !)

Have known and admired her work for quite some time now.  I am honoured, privileged and absolutely delighted to find a place on her fabulous blog..!

A humble house, and even the ordinary details have come alive at her hand and keen eye for detail. The few hours we spent together chatting over mugs of tea, and watching her work were delightful and priceless learning. I cannot thank V enough for considering the feature and filling my home with her sunny personality and intelligent wit, for one whole afternoon...
Watch her work magic for yourself ...



Both the Photograhs are by Vineeta Nair .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Interior stories from Goa

Posting today, a  feature about the Goan residential architecture and interiors appeared in the Nov 28, 2011 issue of India Today Homes.  For the original article go to:

A typical Goan single-storeyed home in Margao

For the smallest state of India-merely a tiny strip of land on its western coast, Goa has inherited history incommensurate to size. Shaped by long years of Portuguese colonialism and the Konkan coastal experience, the old homes of the state are keepers of its chequered past.

A quest for the quintessential Goan home brings me to the sleepy old village of Chandor. The erstwhile capital of the state reached the heights of its glory in the 11th and 13th centuries under the Kadamba rulers of Karnataka. The torpid monsoon afternoon is uncomfortably hot. I am looking forward to my appointment with 80-year-old Sara Fernandez, resident and owner of Casa Grande or Vodelem Ghor in Konkani.

I have been told much about the old homes of the village, however nothing has prepared me for what I encounter. 

Casa Grande is a two-storeyed structure seemingly Portuguese in style; a long facade divided by interminable file of windows laid with mother of pearl. Only once inside does the existence of a courtyard, in resonance with Hindu-style homes, become apparent. 

Casa Grande
It is an old house, predating the Portuguese, built in the Kadamba era.  Time drips from every wall and shell-lined window of the house. Mrs. Fernandez mutters, ``disorder, disorder’’ as she walks me through fading corridors which have seen much in years.
Only for one who has just been offered a glimpse into the innards of a 400-year-old house, living and breathing with supreme grace- I am too transfixed, to notice. The decay, crumble and chaos spills silent stories, and history seems to have settled in coils and layers around the house. Walking around dimly lit hallways attics and sooty secret passages, I keep looking for a portal, a way into the fabric of one of the oldest homes of Chandor. 

Goa has a rich tapestry of old homes and mansions with long eventful lives.  These are spaces where the traditions of the east and west coalesce resulting in delightfully syncretic architecture and aesthetics.

Casa Grande houses a veritable museum of sorts at the ground level. Artifacts-some dating back centuries, connected with the house- Shiva lingams and old agricultural implements are displayed aside precious vestments worn to church by the priests from the house including one particular garment with fine Chinese embroidery dated 1664. 

A planters chair resting in the hindu-style quadrangle of the  Fernandez home

The house has an armoury of swords and sheathed daggers, trap doors that lead to secret hideouts and escape routes, their walls perforated with gun holes to shoot at unsuspecting invaders.The past intertwines with the present as the later Christian, Portuguese elements become apparent sitting aside contemporary paraphernalia with grace and indifference; plastic toys are strewn on a 200-year-old love seat, a black and white television set sits propped against a powder blue lime wall. 
Of particular note is an old cabinet made of gleaming rosewood. Choked with vintage China from Macau and plastic tableware, its glass panels are interestingly laid with old fading prints of art. "We keep changing the pictures inside as they fade'' explains Fernandez. The result is a quirky pastiche of renaissance art, old advertisements and bazaar prints. An apt testimony to the years of evolution the house itself has seen.

The rosewood picture cabinet at the Fernandez home
Old houses like Casa Grande are expensive to maintain. Homeowners complain about a growing shortage of craftsmen who retain quality skills to help maintain the structures. Many among the younger generation find it challenging to carry forward the demanding legacy of the past.  `` I am tired,’’ says Mrs. Fernandez bracing her body against a white washed pillar, her laboured, asthmatic breathing filling up  the silence of the house. ``I have tried to keep this place the best I could, I don’t know if my children will be interested’’,  she says heavily. The  fact makes the efforts of those committed to their histories and personal stories remarkable.

Living room of the Pereira Braganza's 
Not very far from Casa Grande, is a painstakingly renovated home. The stately Braganza house owned by two sides of the same family: Pereira Braganza and Menezes Braganza. In the interest of preserving the space, the homeowners have segregated the living areas from those rarely in use.It is impossible to miss the elaborate 28-window tripartite facade of this Portuguese style mansion sprawled over 10,000 sq m of space. 

The dance hall ( Perieira Braganza)
More sumptuous interiors, one will not see. The homes are divided into massive rooms with soaring ceilings laid out in intersecting sections. At the far end of the Pereira Braganza house sits the family's private chapel, an ornately carved and vaulted affair.The centrepiece of the mansion is a large ballroom. Its flooring made of Italian marble, Belgian crystal and Venetian glass chandeliers and mirrors encased in gold and silver, lends a priceless sparkle and patina to the room. 

Chinoiserie love at the Menezes Braganza home
In the adjoining wing of the Menezes Braganza, it takes a retinue of six full time caretakers to ensure day-to-day upkeep. Gleaming silver, oriental vases and hand crocheted lace mix with the Portuguese love for Chinoiserie.

A sun filled bay at the Menezes Braganza home

Gleaming silverware at the Menezes Braganza home

In Margao, Ninette Pinto and Charles Rodrigues have just moved into a new, smaller home. They are still unpacking as I knock at their door. The interiors here are scaled down versions of what I have seen in Chandor, yet typically Goan. Intricately carved chairs in dark woods are arranged in circular arrangements on brightly patterned tiles and there is still more china and silver lovingly displayed.

Ninette and Charles Rodrigues home in Margao

Ninette's China
The Figueiredo home, also in Margao, has striking Chinoiserie inspired exteriors. Jade coloured window shutters contrast strikingly with bright yellow exteriors. 

Red blue and buff at the Figueiredo home in Margao

"We keep changing the colours of the structure both inside and outside," says Figueiredo. "It helps us maintain the façade from the elements, besides changing things around a bit routinely,'' he adds. The tropical nature of Goan weather accelerates weathering of structures.  

Yet another family in Cansaulim, the Carvalhos have set aside a few well-preserved rooms. A newly painted bedroom with richly carved four poster bed covered in hand crocheted lace and a rosewood wash stand displaying an old Chinese basin and jug serves as a serene link to the family's faded past.

The restored bedroom at the Carvahlo residence, Cansaulim
The efforts to preserve and conserve are driven mostly by individual homeowners, efforts that are not only heartfelt and challenging, but will decide what the Goan legacy is going to mean in times to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The festival of lights just went past. Hope you guys had a good one!

Happy  Diwali and a Happy New Year folks !

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Colour and lots of hand made fun this diwali

Quick post about Diwali prep at home. This year, we have tried to reuse things we have at home,  add more colour and have loads of fun  in anticipation of the day!

The kids having a go at painting the diyas, which are soaked, washed and primed with offwhite paint first.

For many years now, I have refused to throw my used earthen diyas away. Just so long as they  are not chipped and cracked, we wash dry and repaint them using bio-safe acrylics giving them a new lease of life.

This year, we are making story- stools to prop the Diyas on too. All manner of old chowkis and peedhas,  have been sanded down and painted in vibrant colours. Some featuring motifs and scenes from my kids favourite traditional Indian stories.

Painted and finished..together with a bunch of yellow and orange foot stools  to house them on.
The stools make bright little spots- ideal to brighten up the house for Diwali. These will get used in the house easily later, as tiny study desks,  table top accents, to store books and ofcourse just normal stools to sit on. 
Since they  can be painted over easily, the activity allows for maximum fun..something my kids too have had a liberal hand in. Unabashedly playing with paint, leaving the finer details from me to tweak later  ;).

The Bull from heaven.

The stool pictured above is based on a lively  Buddhist story chosen by my son.
 A word about the illustration: I  have based the drawing in good part on a drawing by illustrator Linda Edwards, from a children's book called ~Stories from India~ published by Usborne. 

Hope to comeback with yet another Diwali post, provided I can make the time to tend to the blog while so much is going on around.
Have a good one folks !

Sunday, October 9, 2011

DIY: Recycled Bookbox

 Idle Sunday afternoon.
four pair of hands, 
One discarded wooden crate
paints- brushes
Recycled book case.

This one here based on Mumbai  is inspired by truck graphics and wall art.

Before and underway

The finished book box

Hope you  guys enjoy this..
We did !!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Elements of the Goan home

Startling colours of an exterior wall and window from a Margao house. 
Dream like, yet elemental, Goan homes preside over a lush green paradise. The warm and humid climate blurs the distinction between indoors and the outdoors.  Shaping in response to the fecund tropical conditions and long years of colonial rule,   Goan domestic architecture is enriched by the European experience, yet rooted deeply in the local culture.
Ranging from simple mud houses, to grand mansions displaying an agglomeration of Mannerist, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical and Neo-Gothic influences, Goan homes are a palimpsest of architectural styles and influences.
In home after home, one will encounter delightfully syncretic architecture and elaborate interiors that blend pre-existing Hindu and Maratha motifs with European styles introduced by the colonizing Portuguese in the 16th Century.

The broad elements of Goan houses result form a mixture of Indian and Portuguese styles. Homes that are Portuguese in origin are usually two-storeyed and façade oriented. Whereas those of Indian origin are single-storeyed with a traditional courtyard based orientation.
Between the two also, there is wonderful mixing and marrying of ideas, resulting in nuanced, hybrid architecture that is both impressive and inspiring- for example the two-storeyed house in which the top story is functional while the ground floor is merely ornamental. It was Portuguese custom to segregate the lower storey of the house for the household staff and retainers.  Since in the Hindu home the servant quarters were typically located at the back of the house, this bottom storey became shorter, until it reduced to an ornamental high-platform in time,  adorned with decorative arches, pilasters and colonettes.
For a better understanding of the Goan eclectic idiom of house building one may firstly, look at ways in which the local population adopted styles and precedents set by the Portuguese. And secondly, the ways in which the local identity asserted itself in shaping and adapting the influences passed on by the colonial masters.
As they grew in power and rank within the Portuguese administration, the upper class Goan aristocrats sought to emulate and even surpass the grandeur of the residences of their Portuguese counterparts: The examples of this trend are many- The practice of building grand staircases in the entrance halls, many windowed facades- like at the Braganza home in Chandor- busts of classical Renaissance figures in the pediments of façade windows, grand dance halls as a focal point of the home.
In an assertion of the local Goan identity, the erection of a columned porch with seats built into its two sides, called bollcaum, also became commonplace in the 19th century. In time the bollcaum was extended to include the façade of the entire house effectively screening it from rain and the hottest midday sun.  Where on the one hand the covered porch with built in seating confirmed to the Indian ideas of decorum, it did so by extending the house into the public space- adapting to ` open-minded’ western mores. It is an interesting vantage point to observe life go by the house, a feature used frequently by the lady of the house.
Other interesting and unique aspects of the houses one will encounter in the state are the use of locally available building material such as laterite stone in place of brick and lime plaster, which make for sturdy and durable structures.  Additionally, in many homes, readily available mother-of-pearl is used to line window shutters.
The window shutters are particularly enchanting. The shiny iridescent patina of the shell lends luminosity to the spaces that glass shutters – used to replace shell increasingly- are not able to replicate.
Something has to be said about the bright colouring and unabashed love for pigment here.  In the early days of Portuguese rule, only churches and other religious structures were permitted to use white to color their exteriors. The domestic residential structures automatically adopted bold and sensational colors subsequently achieved with the use of vegetable and natural dyes in the past.

A corridor linking two different parts of the house at the Braganza home in Chandor, which seamlessly introduces the outdoors into the house.

Baroque style staircase at the Braganza and Menezes family home in Chandor.

Hindu style Jaali motifs beautifying the exteriors of newer  bunglow style homes in Candolim.

House with a high-seat, Abade Faria Road, Margao

The  Bollocum.

Window shutters lined with pearlescent  capiz shells.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Girl about town

Started writing a brand  new blog today at :
This one to mostly feature travel writing and photography and some randomness. Do check it out ..

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Festive table decor.. and I am thinking warm fall colours, orange, amber, gold and rust... pair it with jewel turquoise and gold, sparkling wine glasses and silver, glowing tealights, flowers.. all things that encapsulate the richness of a festival.

The post is a digression, since I meant to post a story from Goan homes as promised ... but then the paper wallah delivered this:

And I Had to take a minute to say Thank You India Today for featuring Girlabouthome in their design supplement!!
A very first for me.. and such a privilege to be spoken of in the same breath as women I admire so much!! Super thrilled !!!
Here's to Bhavna Bhatnagar of An Indian Summer, Sandeep Sandhu of Designwali and Priya Iyer of Once Upon A Tea Time.
A quick peek inside the mag... For a more readable version, do check out Priya's blog at here.


Friday, September 2, 2011

About homes: Stories from Goa.

Houses carry the imprint of their dwellers on them. People say a lot by the choices they make about their immediate surroundings, the way they live. History is threaded together with the shards of pottery and digs of crumbling structures dating back millennia. Located in their particular place and time, homes are a repository of people’s priorities, world views, histories and personalities. In a sense becoming a mirror of society itself.

An abiding interest in spaces, and how people live’ was what initially got me blogging about home in the first place.
I intended to say through pictures, stories, what the spaces I have personally experienced or even just merely passed through mean to me. At least from time to time, if not always.
All is well with intention; only one needs to actually get down to doing it too! Disappointingly I have not really started saying what I intended to say with this blog- barring a few posts which I link here and here (only cuz they were blogged so long ago).
I remained satisfied with what was easy, around me and full of me at the same time- my own home.
Now a tad tired with all the self obsession and self love (I have to say it, the blog in its current state does not leave me completely happy) I want to slowly get back to the original inspiration.

Was a trip to Goa recently that triggered the desire to revisit the germ of the blog. The houses that dot this lush piece of heaven on the west coast of India, bright, colorful, old and new alike, villages and Vaddos full of them, rich or poor -lend an instant personality to the territory.

Where only the churches were allowed to be white, the homes embraced colours in all shades, whole-heartedly and without any reservations. These structures dating back to each time and epoch in Goa’s chequered history, speak of stories and a complete way of life quintessentially Goan. Informing and inspiring the work of master artists like FN Souza, cartoonist Mario Miranda, photographer Dayanita Singh - just a few talents Goa's fecund soil has nurtured.

Monsoons are a beautiful time to be in Goa. It is enchantingly lush, verdant and quite. A season of soft, sun interspersed showers. Drawn by the welcoming homes dotting the landscape and a also following a chance encounter, seeking shelter from sudden rain one afternoon, I found myself seeking more and more homes and the people behind them. Over the few days I spent there, I had seen as much Goa from inside these homes as from the outside.
Posting a series of stories from Goan homes then… Saying as much is needed to be said and letting the houses do much of their talking.
Stylistically, Goan residential architecture, has resulted form extensive inter-mixing of pre-existing Hindu styles of home building with heavy Italianate, Baroque and Rococo influences introduced by the Portuguese upon their arrival on the Malabar coast, As opposed to the rest of the country, the Portuguese tastes entrenched themselves fast and quick on the Goan landscape, allowing very limited say to other influences, read english influences on house building styles in subsequent years also. A fact that sets Goa and its many homes apart from the rest of the country.

Have posted a few pictures of facades that caught my fancy. Will talk at some length over subsequent posts.
Mine has come to be called a `décor / design blog. As such some of you esteemed readers might find me digressing. I might as well shun that tag, because it is infinitely more interesting to observe people and how they add meaning to their surroundings.
Do talk about it guys... And come back here for more, because the journey was delectably long and leisured and my explorations many!


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