The very first time I entered Bombay (Now Mumbai) and that too via a domestic flight from Dabolim Airport in Goa, was in 1982 after I had just completed my Secondary School Certificate exams. My uncle Lazarus was on his yearly vacation in Goa and had to be in Mumbai to attend some important work.
During this trip, I had the pleasure of visiting a Goan ‘Kudd’ – A club where mostly sailors waiting for their call to board their ship on their next assignment or, returning sailors waiting for their onward transportation to Goa would stay. I don’t exactly remember which village the ‘kudd’ belonged to (I believe it was the ‘Majordekarancho Kudd’). All i remember is that it was located in a run-down building, in a busy part of town. It was accessed by a timber staircase which appeared rather rickety and creaked as we walked on it.
The door was opened by a wiry old man, wearing a soiled banian and a chequered ‘droz’ (drawers/short pants). He had in the corner of his mouth, a ‘Black Lion’ cigarette (Brand of tobacco, well-known among the Goan ‘shippees’ of that time, which came with a sheaf of thin paper with a glue line to hold it together when rolled). Even before he could ask who we were looking for, someone shouted from inside, ” Konn aila re uncle?” (Who is it uncle?)accompanied by some other grunts and moans – “Maar zok re chediechea! Tujo dhav …khell re!”(Leave it be, son of a bitch! It is your turn … so play!).
We were ushered into a fair-sized room which looked like a living room (or was it a bedroom? A playroom perhaps? or, the only room in the house!!!). Sat right in the center of the room were four drunks trying to play a game or carrom. They were rambling, and cussing and punching fists in the air, totally engrossed in the game. Two chairs were dragged from under the dining table that had some Goan ‘pao’ (Bread) and probably chapattis kept in a covered plastic vessel. A kettle probably left from the morning’s breakfast patiently awaited clearance. We sat just behind the players, peering over their shoulders at the ensuing game waiting for someone to look in our direction. Suddenly one of them asked drowsily, “Konnank mevonk sodhtat re tumim?” (Who do you want to meet?). We were shocked to hear that my uncle’s friend had already left on a voyage the day before!
It was good to know that Goan hospitality did not end once a Goan left Goa! Although we stood up to leave, we were almost pushed back down into our seats and offered a glass of ‘Feni’ (Goan local spirit) with a lemon cordial chaser. Uncle went behind a curtain and reappeared with some hot ‘bhoje’ (Fritters). Uncle probably was a ‘long stay’ there and was paid a salary to cook and look after the ‘kudd’. I don’t really know if there were more rooms other than the kitchen and the toilet. If there were, i was wondering why there was a bunk-bed and atleast three large trunks with bedding on them. There was no doubt that the ‘kudds’ of those days were only for males, given the number of nude images on the wall! The irony of it all was the altar to the Gods was right next to all the perverse calenders! (Goans and their Catholicism – simply inseparable!). And not to forget the underwear left to air on the bedposts (Typical ‘married bachelors!).
I am told that to this day many of the village ‘Kudds’ still survive in Mumbai. These offer the cheapest room rates in town for the members and as long as Goans continue to go on sea voyages, and the old buildings they are in survive, they will be fully occupied.