BY ABIGAIL CRASTO
What marvels me every time I set foot in a new place, is all the ways I've never lived. As travellers, we are attracted to never-before-felt experiences, but to the inhabitants of a place, these are routine activities and lifestyles that are passed from generation to generation. As such, while the island of Divar is a mystery waiting to be unravelled to the outsider, I call it home.
Divar is located a few kilometres from the capital city of Goa, Panjim. It's among the 6 islands that lie along the Mandovi.
It consists of four villages; Piedade, Malar, Naroa and Vanxim island. With the river, fields and hills, the island exhibits a typical Goan village scene.
Two very unique festivals are celebrated on the island ie Bonderam (celebrated in August) and Potekar (celebrated in February).
Here are a few day-to-day things we Diwadkars enjoy doing:
Ferry rides are mandatory. You will be able to reach the island only from one of the four ferry routes, which are Sao Pedro (Ribandar), Old Goa, Vanxim or Naroa. As an islander, commuting via the ferry has been a daily affair.
What makes it different from other transportation modes, is that there is a sense of calmness. Although it takes about 10 minutes to cross the river, it is a welcome respite from an otherwise fast-paced life.
Ferry rides are also special as they serve as a good meet-up point. You can eavesdrop on conversations and get yourself updated regarding politics, recent football matches or some island gossip.
In the village of Piedade, the top of the hill is believed to be the highest peak on the island. It houses a church that's dedicated to Our Lady of Piety. The architecture of the church is said to be the finest among Goan churches.
A Ganesh Temple also lies close to the church. This hilltop is popular for its panoramic view. You can see Panjim city, especially the recently built Atal Setu lit up at night, and sunsets are truly spectacular to view from here.
Fishing is not just a leisure activity but also a means of livelihood on the island. Growing up, summer holidays usually meant going to water bodies with fishing rods, caps and small prawns (as bait).
Fishing requires skill and knowledge, but usually, it was patience that got us our catch. Different techniques of fishing are seen across the island.
Some set out their boats late evening and get down in river waters to fix their nets. Others throw open their nets on the river surface like a blanket. Crabs are caught using dip nets. Some are seen with bamboo rods and a fishing line.
Manos is another age-old technique of catching small prawns and fish. Nets are set out along a small wooden bridge with planks that open with the water pressure. Depending on the tide, the water flows and great catch is available for locals and the market.
Due to less traffic in the area, many cycle enthusiasts find themselves exploring the village. Cycling lets you witness a typical village setting.
You can find yourself surrounded by lush green fields during the monsoons, watch children play football on muddy grounds, old aunties talk across balconies of their Portuguese houses and street dogs chase you. You can also try hot pakodas and mirchi pavs available in local stalls.
If cycle rides help you explore the island, canoeing helps you explore the natural beauty around it. The migratory birds, the mangroves, the river – just being around nature is enough to escape reality.
Sitting still in a canoe allows you to listen to nature, sometimes even yourself. The experience is always new and rejuvenating no matter how many times you try it.
While on the island, some other things you can explore are the Konkan Railway bridge that passes the island, the ruins of the Saptakoteshwar Temple, the homestays and Airbnb homes available, the local bakeries and the restaurants that serve traditional Goan delicacies.
Living on an island has its own difficulties, especially the lack of access to essential services like healthcare. But the islanders are very determined and always reach out to those in need.
Moreover, the laid-back attitude of a village is quite addictive. Travelling to a place like Divar allows you to discover yourself and appreciate the little things that are often neglected. You learn to respect every aspect of a lifestyle that is different to your own.