Growing up, I had the best of City and village life. Every Sunday, my father would take me for the Sunday Morning Shows at Vishant, Metropole, and Cine Lata theatres, where Wild Westerns used to be screened. In those days, children who sat in the lap of parents were not charged entry. The same applied when we would travel by bus to Utorda from Margao, soon after the movie.
I loved to sit at the window and try to rip a few leaves from branches that would come close to the window. The bus conductor would scream, “Burgeanache hath bhitor ghalat!” (Keep your children’s hands inside!). Buses would be extremely crowded and standing passengers would be allowed. My father would ensure that we would travel seated or else he would take the next bus. Along the way, we would pass by green fields and ponds full of beautiful lotuses. There were white egrets too, strutting right beside the workers or perched on water buffaloes. As soon as we would alight a little ahead of ‘Molar’ (A road junction in Utorda, where my cousins and I would play carrom and eat tasty dal potato bhaji, at the REX Bar). In those days there was no road going inside ‘Ollem Bhatt’ (Big Property). We had to walk along a ‘pãi-vatt'(beaten track) that commenced from a roadside cross, cross two small streams, and a coconut grove. There was no better joy than wading through cool waters and bending down to irritate the ‘touch-me-nots’ by making them close their leaves. It was a wonder of wonders then and I still do this when in Goa (even at age 53!!!). During the mango season, we would pass by the ‘Sakrecho Ambo’ (Sugar Mango) tree and if we were lucky, a squirrel would have thrown down a ripe, part-eaten mango, which we would wash and cut away the eaten part and gleefully consume it rind et al!
A stop at João and Rosario’s house was a must in those days. Their house was the closest to ours and my father would always carry a couple of potato-vadas for their elderly mother who was bed-ridden. She had no teeth and no dentures either and loved the vadas tremendously since these were soft enough to chew on. As soon as Rosario would see me, he would get into his ritual of climbing a coconut tree and drop a few tender coconuts for our refreshment. In those days, although little, i could have the water of three coconuts plus the gelatinous insides! With stomachs distended, we would then walk towards my father’s house.
During one of those weekend trips,, i found my grandfather and Rosario inside a deep pit with water inside it! My grandfather had started digging a well with his own hands during the week, much to the chagrin of my grandmother who ranted on about he getting a cold from the wet mud. I was forbidden to watch them dig the well and so my father hooked up his two bamboo fishing rods and off we went to the ‘fondaro’ (Pond), which was in a field bordering our cute little ‘shennachem ghor’ (Cowdung coated house). Sometimes, if the tender coconut were not consumed before reaching grandmas’ house, i would be treated to a couple of eggs, fried sunny side up in pure coconut oil. The tea almost every time had black ants floating on top and granny taugt us to have the tea with the ants saying, ” Muioh dolleank boreo” (Ants are good for the eyes).
Prior to proceeding to the pond, my father would fill a couple of ‘kotteo’ (Coconut shells) with earthworm-laden wet sand from beside the clothes washing stone. I learnt very early in life how to tie the fish-hook, bait it and pull the fish out when the float got pulled under water. Sometimes, when there was additional company, my father and his friend, would step into the pond with a large bamboo basket and dip it into the water just under the lotuses and reeds and pull out hundreds of small fish, which would be crisp-fried and eaten at lunch.
There is much more to write about my village – UTORDA. I will continue in Part -2 of this article very shortly.