Walking Around Poinsur - the Neighbourhood Of My Childhood

The best kind of experiences are unplanned. Today evening, as I made my way to Poinsur, I called up my friend Melvin - an original resident of this quaint east Indian village to check if he was around. Mel works in Human Resources but is an adventurer at heart. Every other weekend, you might find him wandering around the hills of Khandala quenching his thirst for adventure. He is a prolific blogger and inspite of living about 400 meters away from his gaothan (urban village) I had never met him before until Karen, our common friend introduced us. We met in the winter of 2016, a day after I wrote the TISSNET - the all Indian entrance exam for postgraduate programs at TISS where incidentally I study - human resources and labour relations. It also turned out that my guess about him being related to my teacher, the late Ms. Yvonne D'souza was correct. He was her son. It was a great evening. Ever since we try to meet now and then. 

On his blog, aptly titled Away From The Crowds, you will read about his escapades and the village life. Today as he answered my phone and invited me over, I was to experience this village life first hand. The East Indian Christian community of Bombay and Thane have retained their culture in these pockets known as gaothans that surround a church - which becomes central to the community life. On many of Breakfree walks, we have introduced participants to various gaothans including Matharpackady (Mazgaon), Ranwar(Bandra), Khotachiwadi(Girgaon) but I had not explored the very gaothan in my backyard. The church in our case is the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. A marble tablet that Melvin pointed me to right at the entrance of the church tells us that it was erected in 1555. Back then Poinsur (Poisar) which takes its name (lends it to?) from the river Poisar that emerges in the hills of Sanjay Gandhi National Park to eventually meet the Charkop creek, was one of the many parishes of Salsette island.  

I dug through the old Gazetteer of Thana (1882) written by James Campbell where he mentions the following about Poinsur: 

"Poinsar in Salsette, two miles south of Borivli station, has 130 Christians and a church dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies. It was built by the Portuguese in 1555, measures 121 feet by thirty-eight, and is in fair order. The vicar has a monthly grant of 1.10s. (Rs. 15) from the British and the same from the Goa Government, and has a small lately-built vicarage. There is no parish school, but the vicar gives lessons to some of the boys, and there is a master who plays the violin in church. Close to the church are the ruins of an old vicarage, whose hall measures twenty feet square. In Magathan, about 120 yards north of Poinsar, is a ruined church, which was built about the same time as the Poinsar church. The Buddhist caves of Magathan are on the borders of Poinsar, and Padan hill at Akurli is only a mile to the east."

The Magathane caves are now lost to encroachment and very little remains of them. They are not to be confused with the more intricate and well preserved ones at Kanheri. The Poinsar river has been central to our lives and a few monsoons her floodwaters have flown right over the banks and into our homes. A school was built in 1926, where I was fortunate enough to study for 12 years. 

I got down at the end of Lady Fatima Road and walked past my school building that looms large on the right, down the cross at the northern end of the market and turned right on St. Anthony Road. Melvin's house was a few meters away from here. On the corner of these two roads stood a house that belonged to the Murzello's. Both the daughters were to become teachers, my teachers. Ms. Corina, the younger of the two was to be my first kindergarten teacher - a very kind lady who would go onto teach my younger brother too, while the oldest Ms. Avril went onto head the school. I passed the house of my football-hockey coach, Coach Renvick who waved at me. Next door was an old printing press, which has now become defunct and next to it in the verandah of a lovely cottage complete, with a Mangalore tiled shed stood Melvin. He ushered me in and introduced me to his dad and gave me a tour of the house. 

Mel had hosted a barbecue in the porch the night before and the aroma of meat still hung in the air. We walked around the house and he graciously introduced me to his cousins. Everyone knows Melvin in Poinsur and many waved out at him as they passed. This is the kind of bonhomie and a sense of community that is utterly missing in the high-rise tower culture that we seek to inhabit in the city. He had cooked pork chops and he served me this delectable dish - perfectly spiced with two hot pavs that I devoured over hot chai and continuous guppa about life, nature and now HR! We took a short walk around this tiny hamlet and I managed to take some photos. Here's a short photo essay (some photos are clicked by Melvin as my phone died)

Junction of Lady Fatima Road and St. Anthony Road 

St. Anthony Road 

Mel waiting for me in his verandah 

Chef Mel's Survivor Cooking 101 - Spicy Pork Ribs and Pav 
Uncle Mel clicks a photo of his nephew who was heading out for Annual Day Celebrations at School
The Altar inside Mel's House
Mel was kind enough to get me entry into one of the oldest institutions of the village - the Royal Bakery. You can see how Bombay's favourite Pav gets made in the wood-coal fired oven. 

The Chimney of Royal Bakery dominates the fast changing skyline of Poinsur Village (don't miss the dog)

Chacha kneads the dough

while he prepares the tray by greasing them

pav shaped balls are then loaded and then in goes the tray in the wood fired oven

And the trays are removed after a few minutes 

And out comes this - Yummy! 
Poinsur has a mixed population of Catholics, Muslims and Tamil Protestant Catholics with some Hindus from Maharashtra. It's syncretic nature can be observed by the location of the Roman Catholic Church, Jari Mari Mandir and the Madina Masjid - all lying within a close distance of each other. The village is also like that. Everyone lives in perfect harmony. 

The Village Cross 

Syed Ali Mira Datar Dargah 

The Cross in the D'souza Compound 
A protestant church in Rambaug

A shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Vailankanni

  The Church of Our Lady of Remedy holds a special place in my heart. And it always will. 

The Marble Plaque , Padroado refers to the arrangement between the Vatican and the King of Portugal authorising the latter to administer churches across the world 

The Altar 

Minton Tiles in the Church

Alma Mater - I have longingly looked out onto Lady Fatima Road many times through these windows
I didn't realise how time had passed and soon dusk was falling and we both had places to be and things to tend to, so we parted ways with a promise to meet again. Hope the next time, it is on an adventure to DEAR falls! 

Melvin walks with an old friend 


Melvin Dsouza said…
It's a fantastic read buddy, Awesomely done!
Melvin Dsouza said…
Thanks for the mention buddy. Love the way it's written. Glad you stopped by!

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