Friday, 12 February 2016

My Life in Colvale, Goa - Guest Post by Fashion Designer Wendell Rodricks

Our home Casa Dona Maria. I can create in peace in this 450 yr old home
I live in a big home in a small village. Surrounded by nature, I am always reminded of the divine and the beauty that has been bestowed on us. 

The villagers proudly point to my home and say ''Fashion Designer, Padmashree!'' I can hear them over the high walls and smile at their simplicity and sincerity. And I also feel their sense of pride at this oddball in the village. 
Wendell's signature colour - white - collection called 'Yoga Calm'
They have little or no idea that I use the village and the villagers to creatively weave the warp and weft that keeps me afloat in fashion. It is their passion for life that drives me to a similar passion in clothes. It is their harmonious voices at morning mass that keep me singing all day. It is their fervent devotion to Lord Ganesha that makes me pray to Him and overcome daily obstacles in this journey called life.

Thanks to 200 yr old mango trees, the light in our garden is mystical and delightful 

Ray of Light entering the garden - January 2016
It is my village which weaves a kind of magic around me and has created what the world calls Wendell Rodricks. After two decades, there are many things I have learnt from observation. Like the fact that our pool should have been built a foot away from where it is now. Each monsoon, I watch hapless baby crabs and blind field mice floundering in its blue waters.

Crab tracks on beach dune - testimony that life is hidden all around us
There was once an old pig door near the pool. In those days, the pigs would trot in and out that door to roam the village and visit homes. I sealed the pig door when I bought the house as I did not want stray serpents, scorpions and mongoose sliding and swishing into the property. Not that they still don't manage to enter the property from other areas. We left a small hole between the laterite bricks to allow the rain water to drain into our garden as two similar spaces existed at the other end to drain the water into the fields yonder.
Pets are a source of joy. Zeus and Athena suntan by the pool
Gifted by neighbour - surreal double hibiscus within a hibiscus - this one is most exotic of the 8 varieties in garden
Plant gifted by my catering college professor - the purple is source of much joy.
Green Peacock Fern in his garden, glows with these hues in various corners of his garden.
I once asked my sister-in-law how the crabs and blind field mice born near the river traverse a path they have never travelled before to get to the fields. She told me that it is in their migratory DNA, similar to how the salmon swim upstream to give birth. No one guides them like we humans often are; they just know instinctively that they need to get to the fields. For three weeks every monsoon, we watch and wait. And guide the crabs and mice to the other end of the property so that they can continue on their way to their homes in the fields.
Beach in South Goa, renowned for its beauty, where I head off to, when I need a break
Every Sunday, when I do my gardening, I watch as caterpillars spin cocoons around themselves. A patient wait the pupa turns into a Giant Red Eye Butterfly. What a joy to watch what most people dismiss as insects and bugs. Have you seen ants collecting for the rains? They take away every morsel of food including nail clippings to re-enforce their ant hill.
Nature colours my work - Banana leaf thrives in my garden, for a good creation should be multiplied

No idea what this insect is, I named him the sausage leg insect
My verandah shelf has a book on birds. Each morning I watch and count the bird species that visit the garden to feast on the flowering plants and fruit trees planted solely for their ‘Royal Majesties'
The Yellow Chest Mynah is Goa's 'State' bird

 They love the mulberry trees. Every bird from a tiny bulbul to a giant hornbill feasts on the mulberries. On a spectacular day, I counted thirty bird varieties over breakfast. Incredible!
I took this pic off the net - reminder that we can all live in harmony
 And what do we do about the baby cobra that has ventured into the garden? Just let it be. It is nearing Naag Panchami and it has come to bless us. After a few days, the pheromones from the three pet cats will drive it away. One year I saw three cobras slide a foot away from me on Naag Panchami. Imagine! Everyone was at the temple and I was the blessed one whom the naag visited. The neighbours told me "You are truly blessed". And I can tell you that I do indeed feel incredibly blessed.
Our Colvale church sits on a river bank - a 425 yr old source of divine calm, where I attend mass every morning

I enjoy meeting the people in my village, Colvale, and especially my interactions with them. Dinesh, the fisherman, I love to chat with. I have his cell phone number so I am in constant touch and will rush out the front door to see his catch of the day. He points it out with pride, advising me on what to eat or not.  "These are bony fish. Don't eat them. But when you put them in the curry, you will see the dramatic flavour they impart," he will say. From Dinesh I have learnt the names of local fish - Chonak, Modso, Sheotai.
Best catch of the day from Dinesh our local fisherman
The vegetable vendor is an elegant lady with a beautiful blossom behind her ear. Her shringar is impeccable. She tends the fields and brings the choicest, crispest vegetables to our threshold. The colours of the vegetables are so vibrant that even the saturation slider on Instagram pales by comparison.
I love my home

From our ‘Balcao’ I see the world pass by. In a small village such as Covale everyone knows each other by name. And everyone knows what job or work they each do. Every village in Goa has  coconut pluckers, the Mango tree parasite removers, the painters who paint our walls with shell paint, the blacksmith who can fashion grills and gates to your design, the cobbler, the tailor, the carpenter, the 'ranpinkars' (who cook for feasts,  weddings, births and funerals) and lesser known occult practitioners such as the 'drishtikaar'. Our local drishtikaar is a voluptuous, always smiling lady. She arrives with three coconut shells and assorted materials of her trade. ''Why three coconut shells?'' I ask. "Nine eyes," she replies, pointing at the three markings at the top of each coconut. Then she swirls the fire into them with salt and red chillies, muttering what sounds like a prayer, with African lingo thrown in. I have learned that African slaves introduced us Goans to some occult practices, which continue to this day.  The drishtikaar leaves, with the hot, burning vessel, to throw the evil ashes into the river.
My favourite beach - nostalgia of youth and lack of crowds makes it serene

Having travelled from Mumbai, Muscat, Los Angeles and Paris, I have made my home in Colvale. I often wonder what I am doing here, among this colourful assortment of people, the Padre and the villagers. But, surrounded by nature and these people, this is now my home.

Wendell Rodricks spent his childhood in Bombay and started his working life in Muscat. He then moved to Los Angeles and Paris to study fashion design and couture. He returned to India in 1988 and quickly gained repute as a designer, working with renowned brands such as Garden Vareli, Lakme and De Beers. He established his own label in 1990 and moved base in 1993 to Colvale, Goa. A pioneer in the world of Indian fashion, Wendell is considered one of the most influential designers in the country and has received international acclaim for his work. Wendell also writes about fashion and lectures on world costume history. His book on the history of Goan costume, Moda Goa, was published in 2012. He is passionate about art, music, literature, food, travel and Goa's environment.