Tag Archives: Goa

Post 97. Nana Betty


Betty and Tony

Tony couldn’t believe his mum was coming to India.  His memories of her vacuuming carpets twice a day and keeping her house meticulously clean made him wonder how she would cope.

We drove to Delhi to pick Betty up.  The last time she had seen Asha was when she was 9 months old and it was her first time meeting Zoë.  They loved each other instantly.  It was so moving to see them with their Nana.  They had no idea what they were missing until that moment.  They were all over her and she enjoyed every minute of it.

Christmas was spent in Mussoorie.  James and Willi put on an incredible lunch for us at their house.  Betty fell in love with everyone.  They also fell in love with her.   She became everyone’s Nana.   She loved hearing their stories and would sit for ages just listening.  Hiram loved chatting to her.  He talked very fast and in an accent she wasn’t used to.  After a particularly long chat, she came to me and said, “Lin, I didn’t understand a word he said.”  We had a good giggle.

After Christmas we made our way to Delhi and onto a train headed for Goa.  We left our jeep at the YMCA and got a taxi to the station.  We were running late so Tony told the driver to get there “jaldi se.”  He took off like a rocket, winding in and out of the traffic.  Betty thought she was going to have a heart attack.  Her heart was pounding by the time we got to the station.  We ran for it and managed to get on just before it started moving.

The eighteen-hour train ride was interesting for Betty.  The Indian style, hole-in-the-floor-toilets were a challenge when the train was rocking from side to side.  She took it all in her stride and didn’t complain once.  In fact we didn’t hear her complain once about anything.  She was amazing.

We spent the night with our friends Arun and JoyAnn Philip and their children Yohaan and Priyanka.  It was fun catching up.  We laughed ourselves silly at the most ridiculous things.  Yohaan teased and irritated the girls until they cried, but they all woke up good friends the next day.

We flew to Goa and went straight to the Watkinson’s flat.  They were away and said we could stay there for a few days.  We then settled into “C” Roque, which was where we stayed for three weeks.  It was amazing.  The rooms were simple, right on the sand and there was a shack restaurant right on the beach.  That was where we had all our meals and watched the sun set on the ocean every evening.   The girls made lots of new friends and we enjoyed seeing our Goan friends again.  James and Willi were also on holiday and were staying in a room next to ours.   It was during one of our many conversations that James mentioned that he had not been baptised as an adult.  There was no time wasted.  We drove to a beach up the coast and both James and Betty were baptised in the ocean.  What a day that was.

After an amazing beach holiday, we made the long trip home.  Mussoorie was a white wonderland. Within twenty-four hours we went from building sandcastles to making snowmen.  In two months, Betty had almost seen it all.

Post 79. Three headed chicken

Goan friends

Goan friends

Goa was such a beautiful place; coconut palms everywhere, green paddy fields, lush vegetation and the people were so laid back. We weren’t far from the beach but we had to catch an auto-rickshaw to get there.  When we were on the beach, it was difficult for the girls to do anything.  People were fascinated with the two little blond girls and wanted to pick them up and take photos with them.  They got so upset at one point when they were trying to build a sandcastle.  We had all had enough of the attention.  Tony started telling people we charged Rs 1,000 per photo.  They soon disappeared.

We started to collect household goods and kitchen utensils. We stocked up on our food supplies and I learnt to cook all over again.  I had never used a pressure cooker and I was terrified. All the Goan ladies told me that I had to have one for lentils and tough meat, so I got one.   Mabel sent her house-helper to show me how to use it.

One day, Tony came home with a small black plastic bag and handed it to me saying, “Here babe, it’s still pumping!”   I was used to frozen chicken, not warm, pumping chicken straight from the butcher.   I tipped it into the bowl and tried not to touch it.  It tumbled out with its pale, boiled head still attached; eyes, beak and all.    I closed my eyes and chopped it off.  I felt so brave.  Then I saw that many innards were hanging out of its other end.  I wasn’t sure which end was worse.  I put my hand inside and pulled out two more heads and lots of other extra bits.  A three headed, two livered, three hearted chicken; surely not.   I went across to ask Melba.  She said it was to make it weigh more.  It took some time for me to gather the courage to keep going.  When I finished cleaning it, I propped it up on the chopping board.  Asha, had watched the whole process with big eyes.  She made me laugh when she said, “Look mom, it’s sitting like an old lady!”

“There are a few things to get used to here-

Boiling water to drink.

Boiling milk to drink.

Bathing from a bucket with a jug. 

Squatting over the Indian toilet.

Constant power failures and the heat that come with them. 

No transport (packed buses and walking to get autorickshaws) 

Our brightly coloured house.

Wet toilet seats from the bum spray. 

Stale chocolates.

Washing dishes under running water in a sink without a plug. 

Blocked drains.

Sorting through rice with weevils and sticks and stones.

No telephone.

Our neighbours were very friendly and very nosey, especially about foreigners.  If you were white you were a hippy, drug user and had lots of money.   They wanted to know everything about us.  The girls and I would go for little walks in the afternoons.  The ladies on their verandas were ready for me.  “Have you prepared your dinner?”   If I said, “No, not yet”, they would ask in a tsk-tsk tone, “Why not?  You are taking a walk when your food isn’t ready? You aren’t looking after your children and your husband?”  When the subject of their husbands came up the response was always the same.  “Let them stay in the Middle East.  When they come here they just drink and make our lives miserable.  We can’t wait for them to go back again.”

Siestas were so good!  Everything and everyone shut down after lunch so we were forced to rest after lunch.  There was only movement after 4pm and then life built up to a frenzy and stayed that way until about 11pm.  Children would be up and about all night and get up early in the morning for school.  I could never figure out how it worked for them.  I also wondered how parents got adult time together.  They didn’t seem to be too bothered about that.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

Ash and Zo with their little friends.

A lady from our community offered to teach us Hindi.   It was relaxed so we didn’t get very far.  The girls picked up a few words here and there and we made up a number rhyme for them:

“Ek, do, tiin, chaar, panch

Once I caught a fish for lunch

Chay, saat, aath, nau, das

Then I ate it on the grass”

Well, at least we could all count to ten.