It was late afternoon and the place where I usually stay was fully booked. I walked around and stumbled upon ‘Vasco homestay,’ a corner house at the junction of Rose Street and Bastian Street in Fort Kochi. It was a pleasant stay and since then, I have stayed at Vasco homestay on all my trips to Fort Kochi.
I once asked the owners, Santhosh and Sheebha, about why the property is called Vasco homestay—does it have anything to do with Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer? Good I asked that question, because guess what—it really does!
Santhosh explained, “With reference to the historian of Kochi, the late K.L. Bernard, he has referred to this house as Vasco house, where Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, who found the sea route to India, lived. He first landed in 1498 in Kappad, Calicut. From there he came to Kochi and lived here in this house. After few years, he died. The reason for his death—I am not sure. But history says he died on Christmas Eve, 24th December, 1524 and his body was buried at St.Francis church in Fort Kochi.”
Dr. Oommen, a dentist, had bought the house many years ago. Years later, it was sold to Santhosh’s great grandfather. In the interim, who owned the house, for how many years, who sold the property to whom, these details are unknown. He further added, “Our family has lived in this house for the past 43 years for four generations. We have maintained the house just the way it was. This is a family property. One portion belongs to my elder sister also.”
About the homestay, he said, “We have been running the homestay for nearly 20 years, the age of my son. In the initial days, we had named the property as ‘Vasco hospitality center,’ but eventually changed it to ‘Vasco homestay’ for convenience sake.”
Talking about his guests, he added, “90% of our guests are Europeans. Also, Indian communities who are interested in history and heritage come searching for old houses, not just Vasco, but heritage buildings in general.”
Icing on the cake was what he mentioned in the end: “The younger generation knows us differently. We have done about 25 movies in this house. Now the house is known for film shooting. They say ‘this is the window beside which Mohanlal stood,’ ‘that is the door from where Mammootty entered’ and so on.”