I have always been a sucker for old houses, and when the homes that your parents grew up in are still standing, it is an extra special joy and a privilege to know that a part of your heritage still exists.
The inspiration for this calendar on the ‘Old Houses of Giriz Parish’ and the subsequent research that accompanied it (and which is still in progress) was the result of being a long-time observer and distant admirer of the many homes – Hindu as well as Christian – that pepper Vasai. One home in particular, has always captured my imagination – the majestic Marshall Villa – a stately mansion built in a style very different to its neighbours. But this house doesn’t feature in this calendar – it’s story is for another time.
Giriz is a small hamlet in Vasai and the Roman Catholic parish of Giriz is full of East Indian Valkars and Vadvals – two of the main East Indian groups that call Vasai home.
There are less than 20 old houses in Giriz Parish today, and I’m certain there will be at least one less from this list by the time 2018 ends, but the fact that most of these dwellings are still occupied by the descendants of the original owners is in itself quite remarkable and commendable.
Features like the potmala (a kind of attic/produce storage space), vata (verandah), Mangalorean tiles, elaborately carved wooden doors and outdoor storage houses and jhoolas (wooden swings) are found in nearly all of the houses that grace the pages of this calendar.
Whilst photographing these homes, I was fortunate to be able to speak with some of the oldest people in the parish and listen to their stories and reminiscences. They let me browse through old photographs, record their voices and in some cases their faces, and they also allowed me to enter their living spaces. What a privilege it has been to be able to do all of this and present to you a small sampling of what they told me and showed me.
I have been asked by many people why I’ve limited my work to only Giriz Parish, and what can I say except that Giriz is where my home is and where my roots lie.
Giriz Parish also completed 100 years of existence very recently and I wanted to commemorate this event with a body of work that not only celebrates its history but also allows us to look ahead to the future with stronger certainty about our roots.
Lastly, Vasai’s place in the history of the East Indian community is important, and Giriz is merely one of the many parishes in the diocese whose people still preserve and follow many old customs and traditions – despite living in markedly modern houses today.
If you haven’t been gifted one or got yourself this calendar yet, head to the product page for the 2018 Calendar to find out purchase details. I do hope you find it as fascinating and valuable as the many others who have brought it already.
I shall be exploring the houses mentioned in the calendar in some more detail as 2018 progresses and the proceeds from the calendar sales will go into funding a book on the same.