Me – can I get another cup of tea?
The young boy considered my request, goes inside the house, and doesn’t come back.
I return to writing on my desk. 15 minutes later, he places a tumbler full of tea before me.
With compliments from aai – he laughs, I join his laughter.
Ramakant’s homestay is a small house nestled in natures lap with the sea singing lullabies not far away. The homestay part is really a room attached to the house. The room is simple, clean and hot. And it’s cheap.
Only after my stay I realised, it’s worth far more than I paid for.
Ramakant is the husband, but Aai* (even Ramakant call her) who really runs the place.
Aai emerges from her house early morning as I write at the plastic table-chair she placed for me in the common veranda that overlooked palm trees & gossipy neighbours – the perfect fodder for writing. She would wordlessly to the yard to inspect her flowers-trees & birds-bees, just stand silent & watch, while I watched her gaze. The morning murmurs, its rhythm, light and shadows made it surreal – till someone or something broke the peace, the magic died & the day began. Aai began work, I went back to writing.
Aai had two work lists – permanent & day-2-day. Permanent list included food & upkeep. Each day, Aai served us simple yet deliciously different meals on our writing table that also served as a dining table. Then upkeep – her two younger sons (one in high school, the other a shippie grounded due to covid) would take turns cleaning the house-surroundings. The eldest was exempt as he was prepping for cop exams and busy gyming to look the part, though he did the odd job from time to time.
In the day-2-day list Aai gave instructions, Ramakant followed. Be it from selling the house coconuts to banking in between his day job as a bike pilot. Aai took care of the homestay – that’s us be it negotiating rent, upkeep (putting fans, driving away giant spiders & other creepy-crawlies) & taking time out to make that extra cup of tea. There was also other duties like dividing the work responsibility for the village feast, arranging for temporary fire-wood to charting her nieces education plans.
On the rare occasion that she chatted with us, she shared stories of how the village used to be really an island. How there was no concept of a homestay. Outsiders were allowed to stay, till then left. The village took care of them. Till Goa discovered tourism. Then it changed. But not much for them. The people staying were guests and treated as such. I experienced it firsthand. Till it was time to move on – with a smile. *Aai – means mother.