The Writing on the Walls
Some thoughts from a café in India
I generally avoid organised tourist excursions.
But one day I joined two middle-aged Norwegian ladies on a day trip to Panjim in Goa. I endured the fabric shop, then bought a Kashmir scarf, which I still wear. We wandered through ancient churches and temples. I had no idea that the Portuguese once established a stronghold in India. Their legacy lives on, with devout Catholic communities still existing today.
We saw rivers and islands. I uncharacteristically bought a miniature chess set from a street hawker. Got carried away with consumerism, perhaps influenced by the ladies. Later I discovered there weren’t enough squares on the chess board.
Around 2pm we arrived at Hotel Venite.
Scrawled upon the walls I discovered exuberance, love, freedom and rebellion. Hope and fear. Honesty and sentimentality. Decades of messages from travellers, wanderers and people far from home.
I felt happy to have found this place.
Love all, serve all
God is dead, love and good sense rules only
Don’t think of religion — only style matters
One runs the risk of weeping a little if one lets oneself be tamed.
Don’t let fear rule your life
For a moment I felt sad that the fire with which these messages are written so often turns to ash. How we forget the essence of ourselves and our adventures when we return to everyday life. That these universal truths remain tucked away in a café in Goa.
Hotel Venite is a treasure and we need treasures. But we also need more of these walls. We need to be reminded that we are all the same. That we share the same heartbeat, one that has throbbed since the beginning. That we can stand up and puff out our chests or wink our eyes and flap our arms as we run.
Walls like this instigate curiosity. They engender respect and provide space for expression, thought and understanding. They capture moments and evolve, much like life, from simplicity to complexity. Order to chaos. Then the chaos becomes beautiful and in it again we find order. Charm. Simplicity, in the metadata, the symbols, the meanings.
It was a good day.
Photos of the walls taken in 2011. You’re welcome to share them in any way you can conceive