Villa Loto Bianco- Villa of the White Lotus
Meandering our way through the narrow streets of North Goa with its ubiquitous crosses and exotically named bungalows like Caravelho’s Nest and Casa Coutinho, we continued to reject properties for constructing a dream Portuguese villa. Finally, our exasperated broker suggested that we look at Isprava homes. We smile cynically but trudge along to examine a couple of villas built by some young boys from Bombay. Cosy porticos, Spanish courtyards, sunlight filtering through creeper covered trellis, period furniture restored daintily, hushed lighting, colourful flooring. Not in the face, nothing garish, understated. We were impressed but not fully convinced. Back in Mumbai, we do some due diligence and discover that the lineage of these boys is impeccable. Their sales talk is crisp and to the point. We vet the title ( in Goa, land titles are like crossword puzzles in the London Times; NRIs who have not heard of Exchange Control laws and obtuse Portuguese legalese) after rejecting a hundred plots; we are paranoid about compliance; we create homes for the client to walk in with his suitcase and start staying. All in 18 months after you sign the contract say the lads. Ahem, we say. We agree to see some potential spots.
A quick day trip to Goa and they suggest a plot which fits our budget. Sandwiched between two orchard like properties, is this narrow looking rectangular land covered with mud, prickly bushes and nasty fireflies. We will transform it, they promise. The house will look like a train compartment, we say. What attracts us, however, are the fields ahead, stretched out to infinity, dotted with egrets picking worms from buffalo backs in a symbiotic existence. And then, we see the lotuses. Hundreds of them, mostly white. Highly auspicious spiritual symbols. As compared to the other plots they have shown, this one appeared like a bargain. We haggle a little, they stand their ground. We shake hands. We have named this Villa Serena, they say. No, we reply, call it Villa Loto Bianco. Munching on the delectable sandwiches they have packed for us in the car to the airport, we are a trifle apprehensive as to what kind of home we will get. But, egrets have no regrets, and we signed the contract in the last week of August, 2017.
Although the title certificate appears robust, we examine the chain of title ourselves. Notwithstanding some tongue twisting Goan names like Prosecute Alphonso Lucretia and Sirikit Maryla Vespertina Noronha, the title is flawless. Within weeks, the construction approvals are obtained and work starts. No inspection in between, be ready to spend New Year in Villa Loto Bianco, they promise. In 16 months, we ask incredulously. Yes, they say, confidently.
The plinth is done. The superstructure is ready. Internals are complete. We are breathless trying to make the milestone payments. There is a lull after September. Aha, we think, no welcoming 2019 in Goa. The boys have gone quiet. In the second week of December, we receive the draft conveyance deed. Please come to Goa on 27th for registration of the sale deed and we will hand you over your VLB.
In the District of Bardez, lies the village of Siolim and the nearby hamlet of Sodiem, where our narrow muddy plot lies, we recollect. The car stops. With trepidation, we step out. Between newly whitewashed walls is a cobbled pathway leading to a gate. Gone are the muddy waters, prickly bushes and the fireflies. Vasco de Gama be blessed! There stands our Villa Loto Bianco. White and resplendent. The security guard steps out of his security office fitted with CCTV, and salutes. We walk past the water filtration plant into the open courtyard, pass the well with high water levels and a huge sit out amidst a fully complete garden with coconut trees zooming over the infinity swimming pool. The egrets are busy with the buffalos in the winter sun. The Cinderella moment arrives. We step into the Villa. Moorish lamps light the passage leading to the living room with 30 feet ceiling. Looks like somebody has been staying here for months. And the bedrooms, all very different. Vibrant coloured cushions, a gigantic dining table, speechless air cons and some authentic Portuguese artefacts including a yellow pony. Like Mary Poppins, Isprava has conjured up a home from nowhere. From ovens to pillows to linen to hair conditioners to coffee mugs to pepper shakers, a magic world has been created in 78 weeks flat.
The concept of a turnkey home, if efficiently executed, is worth paying more for. Isprava does this aesthetically and within a mind-boggling time frame. The workmanship is near perfect and the subtle touches evident. Next morning, as we watch the hornbills from the terrace, the bearer unobtrusively serves black coffee. They will maintain the home for you, with personnel, for a year, free of cost. Thereafter, if you don’t mind others sleeping in your bed (with separate linen, crockery and cutlery) they will rent it out for you, for a fee, of course; which can make your maintenance cost zero. A builder friend says he can do all this for a much lesser price. Maybe. Mary Poppins does not come cheap.
- BERJIS DESAI,
Former Senior Partner, JSA Law & Writer