Book Review: Heta Pandit’s Stories from Goan Houses

Siddharth Mehrotra–

Among the most dedicated of heritage activists in Goa, and certainly the best writer, is Heta Pandit, author of Houses of Goa, Hidden Hands: Masterbuilders of Goa, A Heritage Guide to Kerala, In and Around Old Goa, and Walking with Angels, and now the author of Stories from Goan Houses.

It is an anthology of stories about old family houses, or former landlords’ seats now rebuilt and revived, as told (mostly) by the people who live there, especially wives and mothers; lavishly illustrated by full-page photographs of house and inhabitants, rich in detail, and brimming with memorable vignettes of the people there: a people steeped in tradition, yet not bound by it, to whom life is one great celebration of their heritages.

From old families long at home in storied buildings to newcomers restoring the house from ruins, from family parties to grand weddings to the life and times of a great doctor, there is a story of each and a place for all.

Splendor intersperses with whimsy. In one chapter, a family cites their ancestors as honest magistrates, while in another, the present mother of another family recalls keeping her own name after marriage, on grounds that both her own name and the name she was expected to assume were those of two incarnations of the same goddess.

Customs come and go, the book seems to say, but the family goes on, and especially in these examples, chosen specially for their love of the places and people they call Home. Altogether the book is an eye-catching, heart-warming example of that love, and the greater affection of its author for the State of which they are all part.

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