Were you born during a time when your village had no electricity?
During my childhood days, I spent a few holidays in my father’s village – UTORDA. In those days, the village did not have electricity and I would like to pen a view of my recollections of that time, so that our children may know what it was like without electricity!
When my grandfather ran away with my well-to-do grandmother and got married, they decided to settle down in Utorda. They found a ‘bhattkar’ ( Landlord ) who was kind enough to allow them to look after his 4000 sq.m of land on which he had planted scores of coconut trees with a few mango and cashew trees on the border. In other words, they became ‘munddkars’ (caretakers) on the land. With the help of a few good neighbours, and some savings, my grandfather managed to build a small two bedroom house on the land. My early recollection of that house is of a palm-thatched house, with walls and floors plastered with ‘xenn’ (cowdung).
For lights, my grandfather had converted a few empty medicine bottles into kerosene lamps by drawing through the cap, a ‘suthli’ (coir rope), left long enough to coil down into the bottom of the kerosene, enough to pull out more as the wick got burnt out. In those days, kerosene was supplied by a man who would drag a small tank on small motorcycle wheels, which he would drag across the sandy paths via two handles and a wide strap that would circle his temple. “Gaslet, gaslet, gaslet” was a welcome cry when he would pass by each house in the village, once a week, supplying kerosene to the villagers. Sometimes, the man would be kind enough to even fill every lamp himself! We had a ‘petromax’ hanging from a hook in the middle of our living room which would be lit up every evening. It was quite a ritual to get it fired up! A lot of pumping had to be done until the flame on the fabric bulb disappeared only to leave an evenly lit center.
Since there was no evening entertainment in the village except for the ‘tiatre’ (Play) during the ‘festa’ (Feast), our elders had to be very creative in keeping us entertained. Our grandmother was an interesting storyteller and would never run out of ghost stories. These would be told to us only after the family ‘rosary’ (A Catholic prayer prayed with the aid of beads). Just to get to the stories quickly, the speed of the ‘Hail Mary/Holy Mary’ would be a 100 km/hr! To add to the eeriness of the ghost stories, my grandfather would blow his conch two to three times to scare off the foxes! (There was a time when we found our pillows dragged far into the bushes and our grandmom swore the foxes were responsible! …. now I think it was the dogs!!!).
One other great form of entertainment was the shadow play by my father, using his fingers to create birds, dogs, fish etc. via cast shadows on the walls. These were usually accompanied with lovely ‘cock-and-bull- stories’ created on the fly! Sometimes, he would fold paper and cut beautiful patterns in it, which he would hold, in front of the kerosene lamps and, project the patterns on the walls.
They were beautiful days then but, the one thing i am yet to figure out to this day is whether the crying baby sounds from the ‘ghaddko’ (Valley) next to our house were made by cats or by some ‘paranormal’ activity in the area! (Anyone out there who wants to go on a ghost hunt next time I am down in Goa?)