TINTO-awed!

LIFE IN GOA_LOW (2)

There is no doubt that Mario De Miranda’s cartoon on this topic is way better than mine! But then he was a maestro at observation, emphasis and exaggeration!

I remember when I was a young boy, whenever we went to Utorda during vacations, my father would drag me along to the Cansaulim ‘Tinto’ (Market Square) to buy provisions for a Sunday fest at home. We would leave early in the morning so that we could catch the best ‘Potantulem’ (Pork inards – Liver, Heart, ears, cheeks …. hmmm ugh right?) before it could get swiped out! If any of you don’t know, your favourite ‘sorpotel’ is made from these spare-parts!).

Then there was loads of fish to bargain for, under the covered shed, which somehow rightly or wrongly carries the name ‘Tinto’ although the who marketplace is really a ‘tinto’! Fruits and vegetables would be brought in fresh from Belgaum via train (The Cansaulim station is right next to the marketplace!). The good thing about accompanying my father to the market was that he was extremely impatient but knew exactly what to buy and our shopping was done in a jiffy! The bad thing was that he hated to carry anything in his hands and so his ‘martial artist’ son had to exercise his muscles a bit!

What i loved (and still love) about the ‘Tinto’ (Any Tinto that is!), is the happy animation that unfolds before your eyes – Cows, dogs, cats, pigs, rats, crows, sparrows and even human beings are seen sauntering lazily around the marketplace. Sounds of, “Bai tuka mhunn ditam huh?” (I am only giving it to you at this price ok?), and sometimes even, ” Bonkam Chincharo!” ( Tamarind seed in the bum! … meaning, miser), are heard over the cacophony of voices. Little kids selling thin plastic bags press through the crowds, coaxing you to buy one for a meager sum just as you are closing a deal. Then there are the lottery sellers who raise the hopes of everyone by saying, “Aiz abertur, Bab tuka lagtolich!” (Results today! You are sure to win!). Then there are beggars who bless and others who go straight to the bar with your ‘izmol’ (Mite) for a ‘cop’ (a shot of licquor)! And of course, ladies have to watch out for the ‘compradores’ (Elbow specialists) who will take great pleasure in jabbing your softies with their elbows! The good thing about the marketplace is that almost everything needed for your survival in a village will be available there. For electronic items, hardware and building materials (other than small appliances and tools), one would have to go to the town of Margao. Even doctors’ ‘consultorios'(Clinics)  would be located close to the market place.

Once all the shopping was done, men and women alike would hire a motorcycle ‘pilot’ to take you home (I have covered the ‘Pilots’ in a separate post!). They would take my father and me ‘doubleseat’! (It was quite common to do this in those days).

I hope you have time to stand and gaze at a ‘Tinto’ the next time you go to one. I am sure you will find many ‘Taitr’ (Plays) announcements stuck onto the pillars. Do go for one and support our dear ‘Tiatrists’ (Local Actors).

 

A Alvorada (The Dawn)

ALVORADO

I wonder how many youngsters in Goa know the meaning of the word ‘ Alvorada’ (The dawn)or ‘Foznem'(The feast ‘bombs’). Back in those days, every child awakened to the sound of the ‘Foznem’, looking forward to the ‘Feira’ (fair) and the money that grandparents, parents, and relatives would hand out (usually 10 rupees were the top limit, however, from the returning ‘Tarvotti’ (Sailor) uncle, we would get even a 100!)

The village feast in Utorda (Our Lady of Lourdes) was a once a year event that my brothers, cousins and I looked forward to. The house would be packed to capacity a day before the feast. Sorpotel would be made almost a week before but the ‘Add-Mas/Sukhem’, ‘Oshe-Pulao’, ‘san’nas’ and ‘Xacuti’ would be made on the day. The mothers would be busy ironing all the clothes for the ‘Festachem Mis’ (Feast mass) which would be the longest but grandest mass of the day. Even before entering the church, I would glance at the ‘Feira’ and think of what to buy – The ‘Heat-driven’ boat always being the first on my list. This little boat operated on the heat produced by a candle flame. The other item on my list was to buy the ‘kaddeo-Boddeo’ (I loved the jaggery and ginger coated ones but despised the white sugar ones!).

It was usual for churches to invite well-known ‘pregadors’ (preachers) for the 9-day ‘Salves’ (Novenas) and the ‘Festachem Mis’ (Feast mass). The 9th day was called the ‘vesperas’ (Eve) and the mass was followed by fire-crackers and ‘foznem’. The whole village would wake up to the sound of the ‘foznem’ whose loud blast could be heard reverberating miles around. Those who lived close to the church would also wake up to peeling of church bells and beautiful music (Alvorada) played by a brass band under the pergola/gazebo located in the church compound. The church and its surrounds would soon be teeming with a riot of colour painted by bright and new garments worn by the Children and adults for the grand ‘Festa’ (Feast). The Church grounds would be festooned with decorative stringers and balloons and the ‘kermes’ (stalls) doing thumping business selling ‘khajem'(Sweets),’bhoje'(fritters), ‘solie'(Dry fish),’mobil’ (furniture), ‘fell’ (toys) and even ‘cerveja’ (beer) and snacks!

Cute little girls would pin artificial but handmade flowers on the lapels in exchange for a small donation. The elders would usually buy candles to burn at the statue of our Lady inside the church. After mass, shouts of ‘boas festas’ (Happy feast)were heard all around. People would be seen greeting each other with hugs and kisses (Hmmm..Cheek to Cheek only!). My father and i would attend the ‘dhireo’ which would take place in the afternoon of the same day, in some nearby field ( Once, a bull came charging after me! But that’s a story for another post!). It was usual for most of the village to show up at the ‘teatro’ (play) that same night. The ‘pandal’ that was erected close to the church, usually had many issues with the curtains getting snagged, sound system giving loud feedback and the generator noise causing a darned racket! But then it was all part of the fun!

All in all, it used to be a day full of fun and frolic. Returning back to our city dwellings after tearful farewells to our cousins the next day was always heart-breaking. I hope these lovely Goan traditions never die. May the ‘dhar’ (gunpowder) of the ‘foznekar’ never dampen!

 

‘KUDD’ (Club)

KUDD BlackWhite

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.

The Monks

0fbac374-6122-437b-a886-4147c8721a32

So they called them the Carmelite monks of Pajifond. My grandmother’s house was just a three minute walk away from their monastry. An imposing exposed laterite structure atop Paji hill with the later addition of a modern church built after Vatican II with the altar fronting tge congregation, perhaps the first in Margao at the time.

I literally grew up with the monks. From age 6 onwards, all the way until 23, i served mass at the Carmelite Monastry. I even studied in a room given to me. They would even invite me for meals with them ( The sketch is just an exageration of the dining hall, but the ‘story’ it tells is true…simple timber tables with benches. Food served in earthen vessels. No talking whilst eating. Just listen to the Word of God being read by a lector).

The Carmelites grew vegetables and flowers in their garden. They even had cashew and mango trees. A lone cinamon tree stood guarding the entrance of their kitchen.

The cook was my friend and many times, he would allow me to taste some meat curry with a chapati. The cooker was one of a kind- a monstrous wrought iron chest with compartments for firewood beliw and holes on the top to keep the pots. Santarita, the kitchen help would always be heard quarelling with the cook!

My friends (altar boys) and i would collect cashew nuts in season and count them sitting on top of the cemetry wall. In those days there were only three graves and we were told by our parents that the dead monks were saints. Thus we were never afraid to go there. Also, i must say, the place was really quiet and peaceful too!

I will always miss Fr. Anthony Silver, a great preacher and my personal ‘guru’. Others who played an important part in my life were – Fr. Simon Stock, Fr. Anastasio, Fr. John of the Cross, Fr. Berchmans, Fr. Dolphy, Fr. Bragança, Fr Gregory and the brothers… Nicholas and Alex. Truly wonderful souls!

The ‘porteiro’ ( Sabastião) was a dear friend who played excellent Table Tennis and carrom with his left hand ( Right hand was affected with polio). Every holiday was spent playing carrom from morning till late evening, taking a break only when defeated. The losers would then play TT.

Then there were the Legion of Mary girls to eye. The older girls and boys would meet at the Catholic Youth Association. The free medical checkup and pharmacy that they started, runs even to this day!

I believe every girl and boy who was part of the monastry’s sodalities, enjoys the blessings of the old monks to this day!

 

The ‘Stone Age’ of Goa

Dantem.jpg

Do you know what I love doing when I am in Goa? At least one of the things I love doing … apart from taking a drive through Chandor or visit Big Foot (If I have a non-Goan guest with me) and the customary visit to Old Goa … is to visit GOA CHITRA! Why?

It is one place that kindles my past memories of an ‘older’ Goa when times were slower and more lasting memories could be made, the fruit of which I am enjoying today and sharing with you through my posts. I won’t write more about Goa Chitra and the thankless work that my amigo Victor Gomes (Lovingly known as ‘Pisso Bakar’ in friendly circles but one who is far from being a ‘pisso’!) is doing, because I want my readers to experience it themselves … and when you go, ensure that Victor himself takes you around the place.

It is amazing just how many kitchen appliances were made out of stone. The ‘rogdo’ (A heavy round granite stone base with a deep pocket that had a tear-drop shaped stone grinder) and the ‘fatore’ (A flat stone base with a stone roller), were mainstays of a Goan kitchen. Then there was the ‘ann-musoll’, a hollowed out stone buried into the kitchen floor with a long wooden club-shaped beater for the de-husking of the rice. Sometimes even the sink at the kitchen window was built out of a hollowed out stone, with a steel pipe inserted into it from the outside to drain the water out into a gutter.

Other places where granite stone would be used was the pocket at doorpivots, to resist the wear and tear of cement. Also, soil tamping would be done by a circular disk of granite, with a hole in the centre where a solid core bambo would be passed through (‘knot’ at the bottom end and wooden wedges on the top end to keep the pole in place).

One will see more uses of stones in Goa Chitra where even toilets have been carved out of stone!

 

Fisheaters!

formalin.jpg

If a Goan gives up eating fish during their childhood it must be because of the pain and anguish of a fishbone getting stuck in their throats. But even that won’t be for long. As for me, it did take about three years to get back to eating fish and that too if my granny was there beside me to clean the fish for me!

The love affair between a true Goan-bred and his fish is legendary! Nothing can come in the way of that relationship (Not even ‘Formalin’!). As for me, I have fished in Goan ponds, lakes, rivers, and seas right from early years. I have already written about this in my earlier posts on Utorda-My father’s village. Growing up eating ‘fish-curry-rice’ got to be a bore when during later years, i took a liking to pork sausages, sorpotel, and xacuti. But then we were poor and could not afford these things except on special days like birthdays, weddings, ‘ladainhas’ (litanies) and ‘festas’ (Feasts).

My mom went to the Margao market every day at 11 am, making sure that by the time we four brothers got home, we had the freshest of fish on our plates. Although we never saw the bigger and better varieties of fish, only later did we know that eating sardines and mackerels was providing our bodies loads of Omega-3 that holds us in good stead to this day. If I accompanied my mother to the market during holidays to help her carry her bag, it was only because I could have a ‘falooda’ at the stalls in the market! I hated entering the fish market due to the objectionable smell of fish. Also, if the dirty water got into my slippers (‘Payals’ they were!), the discomfort of walking in those, smelling fish all the way home was a dread that I always hated! Then there were the dogs that would mingle with the crowds sniffing at your bags. I would cower behind my mother’s skirt, trying to avoid them licking my legs.

My mom had a few favourite fishmongers who she always went to. Such was their relationship that they would never cheat my mom ….ever! If they did not have good quality fish, they would tell my mom not to buy from them. I have learnt this from my mom and I follow this even in Dubai. My fishmonger in Dubai has been with me for over 25 years and this relationship has lasted because I told him the first time that if he ever cheated me, that would be the last day I would buy his fish. But he hasn’t! There are three fish contractors who share the same shop and each one of them upholds this promise. I remember, every time my boys were with us in the market, they would give each of them 2 large prawns as they knew, prawns were their favourite seafood (They do this even now, though they are past their twenties!).

As I write this article, my mouth waters at the thought of eating ‘recheado bangdas’ (Spice stuffed mackerels) prepared by my mother … (I guess I have to wait till after the formalin issue is formally closed and the rains subsided!).

 

LOST PROFESSIONS

20160828_081521.png

There is much to be said about ‘lost professions’!

I wonder if anyone has been to a darner of late (i.e. If they can find one!). Or maybe, nowadays, when there’s a tear in your clothes, you just give it away or dump it in the skip!

Why am I writing this article? Well, my son Leroy has this pair of black stretch jeans which he loves so much that he just can’t let go of them although it is badly ripped at the crotch. He was flying out to the UK this morning and he came to me last night with a sad face asking if I could do anything about the tear. My eyelids felt like lead and every part of me screamed ‘sleeeeeeep!’ but then I had seen my seamstress mom darn my clothes several times for me when I was little and I thought I could manage to do it too.

I found the black thread with a rather large needle stuck into it. I struggled to pull the thread through the eye of the needle and doubled the thread and knotted it just like my mom. Soon I was stitching the tear just like her and within 15 minutes, I was pretty pleased with my handiwork! I was also happy to see the look of appreciation in Leroy’s face as he examined it like my mom’s client would!

Back in those days, Lakaki laundry in Margao used to have a ‘darner’ seated on the pavement, just outside the door. He was an elderly man with many-colored strips of fabric piled next to where he sat. He also had a box of different sized needles and reels of thread of different colors. He was always busy darning and was always reasonable in his fee. His work was very fine indeed and I’ve never heard any customer say anything negative about him. After I first returned to Goa for a holiday, I was at Lakaki to hand over some suits for dry cleaning, but the darner was nowhere to be found. When I asked the boys at the counter, I learnt he was no more. The trade also appears to be no more!

Next time you see one, do stand and watch with amazement. Encourage the person with kind words. If you can afford to give the person a tip, let it be a good one! After all, these professions are almost extinct now and we should save them with our patronage.

ALTAR BOY CONFESSIONS

IMG-20160908-WA0000.jpg

I was an altar boy from the early age of 6 and I served mass until the day I left Goa for Dubai (When I was in my 24th year!).

Almost all of those years, I was associated with the Carmelite Monastery in Pajifond/Malbhatt, Margao. Some masses were served in the Grace Church where I was a member of the Grace Youth Association.

The Carmelites were monks who built a huge monastery half way up the Pajifond hill that joined the Monte hill further up. My service as an altar boy started when one day, the boy who was nominated for the way of the cross, fell ill and there was no one to replace him. I was only six years of age then and brother Nicholas, who was in charge of the altar boys, hurriedly dressed me up in the brown woollen vestments and made me one of the candle bearers in the procession.

Thereafter, since I was seen with my grandmother at the 5.45 am mass every day, I was made a standby altar boy in case there was a no-show. Initially, I was assistant to an older altar boy (The late Felix, lovingly called ‘Feché’) but soon, I had learnt the ritual and I was promoted to a full-fledged altar boy. My talent as an artist was recognized very early and I assisted Inacio and Anthony, two senior altar boys who were good electricians, to be in charge of decorating the church (and statue of the saint whose feast it was). Two statues dominated the church apart from the central crucifix – Mother Mary holding little Jesus and, Santa Theresinha (of Child Jesus).

Fr. Antonio Silva was a well-known preacher during those days and he was very close to our family. During those days, a military truck from 3MTR Training Camp would be sent to the monastery to pick him up, to say mass at the military chapel. I would sit at the back of the truck while he sat with the driver in front. The reason why we altarboys would quarrel to serve mass at the camp was because, after every mass, the priest and altar boy would be invited to a hearty breakfast prepared by the wives of the military men!

The storage room inside the sacristy was full of brass accessories. Once every year, certain altar boys would be selected to ‘brasso’ the blackened candelabra and thuribles and make them shine until one could see their faces reflected on the metal. The prize for doing all this work was the ‘reste’ (Remainder) of the host bread, which was a thin wafer that tasted great with tea! … and there would be bagfuls of those to take home! It also was the prize given to those who assisted in the making of the hosts on heat presses.

Once a year, we would join the girls from the Legion of Mary and go on a fully sponsored picnic with the younger priests. Many of us had our first taste of love and heartbreak during those outings (Strangely, none of those relationships lasted through our college years!)

Some of us altar boys were very naughty and would take a swig of the sacramental wine when the priest was not looking! (God forgive us for that!). Sometimes, we would enter the kitchen from the back door and take off with biscuits when the old cook was not looking.

All in all, it was a great childhood. There were times when I would spend hours at the blessed sacrament, bargaining with God for the life of my grandmothers. My prayers kept them alive first through SSC, then the 12th standard and lastly, even through my graduation! Looking back, I can say that every prayer of mine was answered. My service to God was paid for handsomely and I reap the blessings of it to this day!