Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trip to Silvassa

Silvassa, the capital of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli is spread over 491 square kilometers, at an elevation of 32 meters on the western side of the foothills of the Western Ghats, close to Gujarat and Maharashtra.

It was the place that I was destined to go from the past 5 years I guess. Ever since that day when my uncle who is a priest got transferred there to be the principle of a school there. He is from the Pilar line of priests.
Every year whenever he used to visit, I was always invited to be guest there. Yet after all those promises I gave to him,  not even once was I able to fullfill it. The closest being cancelling the trip just by a days notice to him.
Finally I decided,  that I should probably not disappoint him any further, so on 15 th December 2012, I finally decided to go. Also I needed a break from my daily life.
I caught the 11.40am Virar - Valsad passenger.  More than 2 hours and 14 stations later,  I finally reached Vapi where I supposed to meet him. Unfortunately for me, he couldn't make it as another priest in his parish had taken the vehicle for an emergency.
So on his directions I had to now find my way from Vapi to Silvassa.
When you come to Vapi station,  there is a huge board there,  'Take west to go to Daman, Take east to go to Silvassa'. Made my way through a pretty confusing station towards the east exit and got into a Share a Ric. The cost from Vapi to Silvassa per head is 30Rs. The distance around 30km. I was made to change a total of 3 rickshaws due to lack of customers. Vapi to Silvassa itself is a 1 hour journey.
Finally I was dropped at Silvassa bus station, where my uncle was waiting. The residence where the priest stay is just a minute from there. I was to reside at the guest house of the Church, also known as ' The Church of Silvassa' or ' Our Lady of Piety'. An alternate route to Silvassa is also there from Bhilad station. However it's difficult to get rickshaws from there.
The Church where I was residing was more than a 115 years old and most probably the only church in Silvassa. Lucky for me, the guest house where I resided was well equipped with all facilities,  more like a 3star AC room.
In the evening after a nap my uncle took me to his school. It was apparently considered the best school in whole of Silvassa. 'Fr. Angelo English School and Junior College'. It wasnt as big as I had expected but very well managed. From CCTV cameras to every class having their own digital learning system, no doubt that was the most sought after school in Silvassa. In 2 days time, the school was to celebrate their 24th annual day, so my uncle was very busy with the preparations. That evening was spent in the school computer lab. Just surfing the net while my uncle completed his work.
The dining hall of the church quarters was quite big and along with my uncle two other priests resided there. We all used to have food together. They have their own chef who stays with them and cooks/orders. They favorite dish there is fish curry and rice. Since my uncle was quite aware of how much I hate that, he used to specially order Butter Chicken or Paneer for me from outside. Lucky me.
On the second day, I woke up around 8 , had breakfast with the other priests, and I set out on lone mission to discover Silvassa.
My first stop was the very huge 'Stadium Ground'. The ground was huge and it's own lights. Well maintained but lacked a supporter stand. I spent a lot time there, taking a whole round as well as watching a tennis match there. Just a few blocks from there was a museum. The museum was on the different types of tribal clans living in the union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Silvassa being the capital of it. The museum, despite being a small one,gave a brief understanding of the local culture of these tribes, their way of living, the tools and ornaments they use etc. It also spoke of the history of the union territory of D&H.
After lunch I decided to take the long walk towards the west,  to Van Dharan garden. It was a long walk, really long walk. The garden is situated near the Daman Ganga river towards the west. It's a very famous garden in Silvassa, had even read that a few movie songs were shot there. However more than the garden, I spent the rest of the everning walking across the bridge connecting Bhilad and Silvassa. With the Daman Ganga river flowing below and the height of the bridge, it was a beautiful view below. By the time I returned from the long long walk, it was already dark. Head straight for my room. I was done for that day. Had no energy left.
The next day was the big day. The Annual day celebration of the school. The morning was spent helping the students and staff in the arrangements. I was treated as a VIP,  probably for the fact that my uncle was the principal. Lol. In the afternoon, my uncle took me to the back side of the college. Thats where the college owned animals were there. From dogs, to Rabbits, ducks and turtles, it was spent watching, interacting and playing with them. The annual day started at 6pm, political leaders, other priests from the Pilar legion were the chief guests. The program was good the theme was "Being Human" and all the dances,plays etc were emphasized on the main topic and presented to the audience in a very interesting and catchy manner. My personal favorite was a Dance and Skit based on Human trafficking. It was based on Matt Redmans famous song '27million'. The program ended around 9.30pm. That was done for that day.
On the third and final day, my uncle being finally relieved of his duties took me to the old school of which he was a principal. The place was Khanvel. It is 30km south of Silvassa. It was a tribal region, the condition of people living there was very poor. We passed through these tribal houses as I watched from the car window. Finally at the end of the long 30km winding road we reached 'Gyanmata Marathi high school'.  The school looked like a typical Municipal school, the uniforms, the students. Watched the students play and visited a few classrooms. Seen kg kids act in a fancy dress competition. As my uncle went to meet his old friends there, I took a walk round the campus and the adjoining houses. Was thankful to God for giving me a really good house and the luxury of never having to live in poverty. On the return journey my uncle told me of all the trouble he has to face as being the principal of Silvassa's most elite college. The political and media pressure, to allocate seats for their preferred students. The mental and physical threats they give and the way of how my uncle has to play and beat them in their own game. That evening he even took me shopping to the main Silvassa market. Picked up a few sweets. And later he took me to school and gave me their school jersey. It was my last night at Silvassa, so packed up my clothes and belongings that night. Every year for Christmas the school distributes, sweets and toys to all the students of their institute. The shopping of these goods is done at Mumbai's Crawford market. I was to leave in school car next morning.
Silvassa,in general is not the best spot for a tourist attractions. It main tourism is based on 3 gardens (seen one), a water park( I've been to Mumbai's water kingdom, nuff said), a deer park (passed by it on the way to Khanvel), a lion safari (uncle told me that there are only 2 lions there. Well we have our Sanjay Gandhi National Park here) and finally the main attraction, The 115 year old Silvassa Church (Well thats the place I resided). These are also a few places towards the eastern side, maybe the next time I visit Silvassa, I will be exploring the east.
I reached MumbaI by 10 am the next morning, had left from Silvassa by car at 630am. This was probably the cheapest trip I've ever made, in 3 days at Silvassa my total spending cost was only 100Rs. All thanks to my uncle and the hospitality.

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