But in two different centuries - all at the same time.
By Armand Rodrigues
Our family home in Goa was about half a kilometre from the ocean. We could hear the howling winds and the waves crashing ashore incessantly. WW II was at its peak but Goa was a neutral port in this “Province” of Portugal. Shipping was at a standstill and foreign goods were not coming in and, so, we had no toys to play with when we were young. We made crude toys and devised our fun and games. Four to six of us youngsters would get together to play. A favourite pastime was going to the beach and visiting the cashew trees on the way. All of us had home-made catapults and a supply of pebbles in our pockets. On our way, we passed several vegetable plots in the midst of fields. Any errant pigs or crows raiding the sweet-potatoes, water-melons, gourds or beans, made for good target practice. Off and on we were able to down a white egret or two and take them home for a nice soup or chilli-fry.
A dip in the ocean was a lot of fun. We would go in up to our necks, wait for the huge rollers (waves) well above our heads, to start bearing down on us and, at the last moment, leap as high as we could to catch a thrilling ride back to the shore. We did this over and over again until we were pooped.
Quite often there were fishermen laboriously pulling in their nets by hand. They waited for the incoming tide and with the Konkanim version of “heave-ho” had to get their timing right. Their primitive boat had already been dragged ashore on top of logs used as rollers. The upper part of their nets had circular floats made from branches of softwood trees; the lower part grazed along the sandy bottom. The inverted “U” configuration had them haul their nets ashore manually, from both sides… For us boys, it was an adventure chasing escaping fish behind the nets. We had small baskets (called “kondools”) woven from coconut palm fronds, in one hand, and grabbed the struggling and slippery escaping fish with the other, tossing them into our “kondool”. It was a smorgasbord of fish: mackerels, sardines, pomfrets, king-fish, baby sharks, lobsters, were plentiful in season. We were careful to avoid stingrays, catfish and crabs, which carried a painful sting or a pinch with sharp pincers. If we collected a lot, the fishermen expected us to give back some of ”their” fish. Fish were not the only things that slipped away. One day a friend’s “khasti” (trunks) joined the escaping fish! When we had collected enough of fish or became tired, we took our “loot” to where a younger brother was minding our clothes. He could not join us in the “catching” game as he was not tall enough to be in the water. He was tasked with the job of collecting twigs and dried palm fronds for a fire. It was a real treat roasting some of the fish over an open fire. No seasoning was required as the fish came from a salty ocean. The aroma worked up an appetite in all of us. The remaining fish was taken home for a tasty fish curry or “rechada”(fish stuffed with spicy condiments) or fish-fry.
Then there were times when we became beachcombers. There was no telling what the ocean would disgorge on to the shore. Assorted shells and debris from passing ships and dhows littered the shore for miles. With the receding tides some of the detritus was taken back by the sea, never to be seen again. Arab dhows did a lot of trade along the coast. For safety reasons, they stayed within sight of land, but away from the treacherous waves, as their craft were fragile. But, from time to time, disaster would strike. A rogue wave would cause the dhow to succumb, disintegrate and send any floating commodities to stretches of the shoreline. Heavy items hit bottom. The hapless crew that survived the disaster swam ashore with only the clothes on their backs, with all their hopes of profit “drowned”. Insurance for the dhow or its cargo was unheard of in those days. The Christian villagers would help them with food that their Muslim faith allowed, and shelter. (Incidentally, Arabs were skilled sailors and navigated by following the stars. However, the dangers lurking on the high seas defied interpretation)
If bagged goods like rice, flour, lentils, copra, washed ashore they had already been rendered unfit for human consumption by the briny waters. But canned and bottles stuff was still useable. On one occasion we, boys, came upon 5lb. cans of Dalda Vanaspati (rarified butter) on the beach. “ Finders keepers” was the order of the day. We each lugged a heavy can home and considered it a godsend. On another occasion, bicycles were flung ashore after a stormy night. Finders could not believe their luck. There were fights when two people grabbed a bike at the same time, from either end. The one nearest to the saddle was allowed to claim it. Another time some fishermen thought they had a really good catch when their nets were unusually heavy. They had “caught” sewing machines sitting on the ocean bed! After scraping off the rust, the machines were in good working order. As tailoring was outside their line of work they sold them to the villagers, for a neat profit. Ripped sails were put to good use by the fishermen, in their flimsy shacks by the sea. Lumber from the wooden sides of the dhows, and their frames, floated to shore and did not go waste.
No doubt, the coastal villagers will have many an interesting tale to tell of what may have come ashore. Not surprisingly, it is highly unlikely that they would say a word about money in tin trunks salvaged.
HOW COLVA (GOA) WEATHERED A TIDAL WAVE
BY ARMAND RODRIGUES
Salcete in Goa has a coastline of about 20km. Colva happens to be on this coast. Towards the latter part of the 19th century, a violent monsoon storm barrelled towards the shore. The low-lying areas of Colva provided a ready-made conduit for the raging waters to move inland, relentlessly, past paddy-fields, in the direction of the church of Menino Jesus. All indicators called for the worst outcome. The villagers were overwhelmed. If the destructive waters reached the church and encircled it, the clay walls of the church would get soaked and collapse in a pathetic heap. In a panic, it was all hands to the pump. Neighbouring villagers were asked to help.
My grandfather and his five brothers, who lived on the periphery, in Betalbatim, pitched in without hesitation. These were subsistence farmers with only a very scant idea of how to tame a turbulent ocean. However, they felled Pau-de-rosa (rosewood) trees and, armed with logs and hoes, rushed to the rescue. ( As an aside, it should be mentioned that pau-de-rosa was a hardwood, and “Y” shaped branches were used to prop up leaning shallow-rooted coconut trees in danger of getting uprooted during the monsoons). At the vulnerable site, a breakwater had to be erected. A long and deep trench was dug parallel to the ocean. Logs were buried upright in the sand on the landward side and reinforced by coconut trees laid horizontally behind. The excavated sand was tossed behind the barricade. The dam held and the raging waters were diverted. The local parish priest hastened to visit the fortification and sprinkle holy water on it and all and sundry.
Before long, to express their gratitude to the Betalbatim clan, the Communidade (Commune) of Colva decreed that they be accorded the same rights as the Gaunkars (real residents) of Colva. They were dubbed Hore Hondkar (true diggers). Thenceforth, every year, for the feast of Menino Jesus a drummer and others from Colva were sent to Betalbatim to bring the helpers and their successors, back in procession, to the rat-a-tat of a kettle-drum, for the celebration. The helpers wore white gowns topped by a white cape. After High Mass, they were treated to a feast of food and drink. The foregoing narrative was passed on to my dad who was born in 1896, and then down to his progeny. Its veracity was evidenced by me and my brother Placido, on occasions when we participated in the ritual, in our teens, appropriately robed. In time, fervour for the sentimental practice dissipated.
Over the decades, wind and tides have deposited silt in the gully, sufficient to make it unrecognizable. However, after well over a century, vestiges of the historic trench still exist to the left of the restaurant at the end of the road leading to the Colva beach. Satisfy your curiosity if you are so inclined.
Another Star Next Door
HAROLD GEORGE D’SOUZA
ONE OF LIFE’S GREAT GUYS
This celebration of a great buddy has been long overdue. I have been slow getting off the mark for one unforgivable reason or another. His fans have been quite vociferous: write the story! At last, here it is.
Harold George D’Souza picking up one of the many trophies he has won in his sports career in Mombasa Kenya.
IT IS one of life’s greatest gifts when you meet someone who is a very special human being: genuinely popular with everyone he has met, naturally honest, completely unassuming and humility personified. You would think anyone with the happy baggage of all those accolades might be overloaded with a tendency to trip here or there, but not HAROLD GEORGE D’SOUZA.
He was blessed with great parents. George D’Souza was a great club man and a public speaker in demand at the club, at weddings, christenings and other social events. He was also an avid sportsman and instilled this love of sports in both his sons: Harold George and the late Peter George, who left this earth doing what he loved most in his leisure hours, fishing.
I think his greatest gift has been the God-given ability to look any challenge, any mishap, anything that life has thrown his way, including several challenges of limb and illness dead-straight in the eye and soldier on regardless of whatever might be.
Perhaps his greatest blessing has always been the four women in his life: wife Hazel and daughters Hayley, Gail, Hylette. These joys of life were increased ten-fold and more with sons-in-law David Walker, the late Sean MacKay and Greg Evans and, of course, the greatest delights of all, the grandchildren: Aaron and Shanyce Walker, Lachlan Mackay, Ethan, Blake, Noah and Willow Evans. Harold is not one to show-off or big-note himself, even when talking about his grandchildren, he does it with quiet elegance, almost understating the praise but it is always written over his beaming face.
Tony and Rebecca D’Souza, the late Tony Coutinho and Lucinda, my late wife Rufina and I have spent many summers as guests of Mal and Margaret Ferris at their mountain lodges at Eaglereach in the wine country not far from Sydney. Once when we had a whisper of wind in our hair, we used to meet on most Saturday nights for dinner, a few jokes, and happy banter and grateful that we were able to do so.
Harold has an infectious smile, a sharp defence of his beliefs and his considered points of view, a hearty laugh and consideration for others above all. He is also a fish curry and rice addict, prawn curry most welcome or any traditional Goan dishes. He is just a jolly good bloke.
Of course, Harold and Hazel were also big supporters of the Goan Overseas Association since its inception in Sydney during the early 1970s. They still are, to a large degree.
But that is not the reason for this humble celebration of a man we all admire. More than anything else, Harold has always been a dedicated sportsman. He grew up in Kisumu and Mombasa and most of the capital cities, the provincial headquarters and where a few Goan got together their lives would be dominated by the Goan Institute whose members had an almost religious dedication to sports, social events, concerts, and this and that. But it was sports that dominated club life both in individual events and team sports. This love of sport was nurtured by success at district and province-wide competition. Perhaps the greatest rivalries were reserved for inter-club sports visits. Club sport was more than just playing the game, there was always all social aspects of growing up, boy meets girl and vice versa.
Goans mainly from Mombasa and Nairobi produced half players at each of the Olympics since 1956.
There was plenty to play for and if you did not make it at representative level there were plenty of rewards at club level.
Harold and some of his siblings were born in Kisumu, the charming pioneering town on the shores of the mighty and legendary Lake Victoria. Like everywhere elsewhere there was a sizeable Goan community, there was the Goan Institute mainly sport, social and cultural events. When he was eight years old, his parent decided to send him to St Paul’s High School in Belgaum, a few hours drive from villages in Goa. He spent a year in Parra, Goa after he fell ill.
Soon after he arrived in Mombasa, he was playing those games little boys play including seven tiles (I wonder how many of you remember this, hop, hop, hop etc game) and of course cricket and hockey. He was soon captain of the Mombasa Goan School cricket and hockey teams. He played centre-forward in hockey and was an opening bat in cricket. He says, he was a shy a little boy. Hard to believe, with those large laughing eyes!
At school he also excelled in 100m, 200m, long jump, high jump, shot putt, triple jump, javelin, discuss. Harold won the junior Victor Ludorum and Albert Castanha won the senior Victor Ludorum.
It was long before he had smoothly slipped into the senior club sides in both sports. He picked up the cricket captaincy fairly early in club career and visited the neighbouring coastal towns in Tanzania and, of course, Zanzibar.
He also visited Nairobi many times to play in the M R De Souza Gold Cup which was the pre-eminent knock-out hockey tournament in East Africa. His Mombasa teammates included some of the legends of the Mombasa game: Alban Fernandes (who played cricket and hockey for Tanganyika), Peter George D’Souza, Patrick Martins, Albert Castanha, Walter Castanha, Reynolds Pereira, Franklin Pereira, Michael Pereira, Edwin Fernandes, Silvano and Leslie Pinto, Procop Fernandes and his son Michael. The legend, Sana (Agnelo De Souza) coached many a team Harold played in.
This was especially true of Baobao team which was founded by Sana.
Most hockey players also played cricket. Eventually, Harold was poached for the Coast Gymkhana team, where he enjoyed a lot of success.
Even more success came when he swapped his bat for the cricket umpire’s hat. A rare honour came his way when he was asked to umpire the MCC v Coast XI. The English team was led by a young former South African, Tony Greig, who went to lead England and late spent most of his life as a top cricket commentator.
Naturally, Harold was also a gifted athlete, specialising in the 100m and 200m dash and trained and ran against the like of Seraphino Antao, Albert Castanha (one of his greatest friends), Joe Faria and Alcino Fernandes.
As I said Harold was a sports nut and good at all of them: hockey, cricket, soccer, tennis, badminton, table tennis, and snooker.
Harold was the father of sport in the Goan Overseas Association in Sydney, NSW. He began with organizing sports at the various picnic days the association hosted and eventually raised two teams to play indoor and outdoor cricket, a hockey team and indoor soccer team to take on Melbourne in two reciprocal visits. He also introduced and nurtured a healthy men’s and women’s darts teams as meeting the needs for table tennis fans at the annual-club sports days.
MALCOLM MONTEIRO: When I first arrived to go to University in Sydney in the early 1980s, my parents put me in touch with a few Goan icons from Kenya. One of those was Harold George, who would have known my parents through the various Goan clubs and sports connections from the old days.
Harold had been living in Sydney for some time and was the
Sports Secretary and Hockey Captain of the GOA NSW. Harold invited me to play
and train with the club on Sundays. He gave me the opportunity to play at centre-half
position for several years under his captaincy.
I remember catching the public transport from the University
to the northern suburb of Hornsby, where Harold would pick me up and drive me
to training. We always enjoyed a beer after training, which was the highlight of
The GOA Sydney/Melbourne matches were incredibly competitive and the blue-ribbon event of the sports visit long weekend. It pit Goan family against Goan family and all the boys played seriously as if it was for ‘sheep stations’.
Harold was a great captain who was humble, calm and exemplified sportsmanship. The team played well together under him. I will always remember Harold, as a great sportsman who put a lot of effort into developing and mentoring young players. He is also a committed family man and I enjoyed spending time with his family during our sports visits.
With the assistance of Tony Fernandes, he organized several full-programmed athletics meetings.
As much as he achieved in encouraging adults to play sports, he was more delighted to see so many youngsters taking up the games of their choice.
In Sydney, Harold was the eternal cricket wicketkeeper and captain and Alban Rattos the two formed a formidable bond. Alban was one of my favourite batsmen and I got to see him just a few times, but he was all class and polish.
He was GOA Sportsman of the Year one season and his daughter Hylette was Sportswoman of the Year the same year.
He scored his first century playing for the Grace Brothers team.
These days he is happy to enjoy his sport from the armchair and the TV screen. Njoy, you more than most have earned the right to relax after having given so much of your life to sport … and encouraging so many youngsters to take up the sport of their choice. As they read this, I am sure they will be raising a glass or two in celebration of their friend: Harold George.
Harold George at the opening ceremony with Ruth D’Costa at one of the Melbourne/Sydney sports visit.
Harold George standing second from right in the Baobab hockey team.
THE Mombasa GI cricket team: Harold George standing front extreme right, the late Albert Castanha wicket-keeping on this occasion
One of the Sydney-Melbourne sports visits
Mombasa inter-schools hockey team: Harold George seating middle row extreme right, note the Elvis Presley hairdo attempt. The late Joe Fernandes, standing extreme right, was the sports master.
HELTER SKELTER BEFORE THE MONSOONS IN GOA
BY ARMAND RODRIGUES
In Goa, monsoons provide a welcome respite from the opulent heat and stifling dust of summer. From June to September, torrential rain, ferocious winds, thunder and lightning are a constant. The dust settles, the air is cleansed, the parched land becomes a huge sponge, the drying wells, river-beds and ponds are replenished, the life-giving waters are garnered in rice paddy fields. The thunder and lightning chase away evil spirits lurking in the shadows and are the stuff for spooky grandmothers’ tales for kids. Other than inescapable work in the paddy fields, a sense of semi-hibernation envelops the populace, as outdoor pursuits become subject to the vagaries of the weather, or as occupations linked to tourism come to a seasonal ebb.
Take a walk back in time to appreciate what people had to go through before the advent of the drenching downpours. Remember that it rains in the same measure on the lands of the poor as the rich. So, all stripes of Goans had to girth their loins and scramble. Imagine life without electricity: No refrigerator to store food, no stoves, no electrical appliances. Paraffin lamps and open cooking fires were the order of the day.
One of the first things that had to be attended to was waterproofing the house. Broken Mangalore or Sanvordem tiles that had succumbed to errant coconuts, had to be replaced. Roman tiles had to be re-arranged after leaves and other debris had been cleared from the “gutters” between the tiles. The roofs of out-houses, chicken coops and the pig’s sty had to be re-thatched with palm fronds. Since most homes were built of clay, the exposed walls had to be protected on the outside, with upright or plaited palm leaves fastened to a bamboo frame leaning against the walls. Drains had to be made to divert water away from the house. Coconut leaves, -shells, -husks and any firewood had to be piled up in a dry place. It was not uncommon for people to hang coconut leaves, in pairs, astride a horizontal tree branch. With one layer upon another, the outer layers kept the ones below dry, for use in the kitchen.
Provisions had to receive critical attention. Coconut kernels had to be dried in the scorching sun, to make copra which was expressed for oil. Large batches of paddy had to be boiled in huge copper pots, then dried on a bamboo mat, before being taken to a mill, in a basket on a person’s head, for de-husking. The copra residue and the rice husks were saved for adding to the pig’s daily ration of swill. Kerosene (paraffin) for lighting, in six-litre tin cans, was a must Rice was stored in large clay urns or copper pots and rat-proofed. Plenty of sea-salt was always on hand. Sugar was kept in an earthenware vessel placed in a small moat to keep ants at bay. A good supply of home-made sausages was suspended from the rafters in the kitchen, alongside onions and chillies.
Pickled mangoes, berries and fish, plus an assortment of dried fish, were necessary staples. Coconuts and a slew of spices, including dried sour-mango slivers, were must-have items. Salted pork was stored in thick clay pails, with a weighted wooden cover as a precaution against rats. Stored blankets were examined for moth holes. A supply of cashew nuts in the shell, or jackfruit seeds, was useful for roasting and exuding warmth on cold and dreary nights.
Woe betide those who forgot to stock up on any of these essentials. They had to depend on the generosity of their neighbours and their limited supplies.
Finally, umbrellas were checked for broken ribs, followed by a triumphant shout of : “Bring on the rain”!
And, let us not forget a monsoon ritual of bygone days. June 24 happens to be the feast of St. John The Baptist. Men and boys, drenched in the torrential rains, with their crown jewels draped in their best “khastis”, indulged in the religious tradition of “Sao Joao” and jumped into narrow neighbourhood wells. A”ghumot” egged them on. Their reward was a treat and a big swig of fluid fortification (“feni”) provided by the homeowner. Then on to the next house and the next and on and on………. The effects of the alcohol seemed to dissipate with each jump. Thereafter, any chapel or crucifix was a pit-stop for a thanksgiving prayer to “Sao Joao” for deliverance in one piece, from their risky dives.
LOOKING BACK AT AN OLD-TIME FUNERAL IN GOA
By Armand Rodrigues
Morbid as the subject may be, not many of us can claim to remember what a typical funeral was like, in Goa, years back. Some may have been too young to remember, and others may have missed an opportunity as they were abroad.
Money was always the first concern when anybody passed away. Neutral as Goa may have been, the war meant that money and the necessities of life were in short supply. Also, very few people kept money in a bank and, in any case, the solitary bank anywhere around was in town, which was several kilometres away. So, if you did not have enough funds hidden in your almirah or mattress, you had to borrow from the neighbours, and deposit some items of jewellery with the lenders, as surety.
Funeral homes were unheard of, and so related survivors had to attend to every facet of the funeral themselves. A trusty elder would be hastily despatched to the village church to make arrangements with the parish priest, the grave-digger, the sacristan, the choirmaster, the candlemaker, the confraternity leader and the village crier. Simultaneous arrangements were made to ring church and chapel bells in the village, to signal the death. One ding and two dongs, in repetition, sounded the knell. Another messenger would be sent to the nearest town to fetch a pine-wood type of coffin draped with black cloth and maybe some frilly lace. One size fitted all. A band to play mournful funeral dirges, and marches to accompany the funeral procession, also had to be hired.
A quick inventory had to be made of friends and relatives in other villages. Runners were then sent off in all directions -- mainly on bicycles -- to notify them. Word of mouth was the only way. And woe betide a family that may have unwittingly omitted to inform a relative. Close relatives abroad were notified by telegram, sent through the nearest Post Office.
Families usually had enough rice, but fish, meat, spices and liquor had to be purchased in bulk and immediately. Large metal pans and clay curry-pots had to be borrowed. If the domestic pig was not fattened enough and ready for the table, one had to be bought. Likewise chickens. (Those were the days when a "Papal Bull" permitted families that had paid for it, to eat meat on forbidden days) There was no telling how many people would stay for any given meal or drop in after the interment. Of course, nobody in the village had a fridge.
More often than not, suitable clothing for the deceased had to be made right away. There were no ready-made clothes. To save on expenses, it was not unusual for a man's jacket and shirt to be backless.
People of the same gender would help wash and dress up the corpse. The coffin would be placed in the hall or else in the largest room in the house, and be straddled by benches for the mourners. This arrangement and candlelight vigil could last for a couple of days without the advantage of proper embalming. Flowers would come from neighbours' gardens or be picked in the wild. The activity and wailing in the front of the house would only take second place to the incessant din and clatter in the kitchen in the rear. And, the aromas wafting through the house compensated for any offensive odours that lingered on.
For the funeral itself, the band would play melancholy pieces outside the house, and then accompany the foot cavalcade, with sombre march music, to the church. The coffin would be carried by members of the confraternity to which the deceased belonged. From the church, there would be a procession to the cemetery. The actual interment called for everybody to cast some soil on the lowered coffin.
Back at the house, the kitchen would be a frantic hive of activity. From the cemetery, all would wend their way back to where it all began, to drown their sorrow in copious potions of the potent local brews, and to commiserate with the kith and kin of the dearly departed. Dinner would follow and take on the semblance of a feast, considering that times were lean otherwise, The proceedings would go on well into the night.
All sorrow dissipated, and thirst and hunger satiated, people would gradually start making for home. Batteries for flashlights were simply not available. A burning torch, made of palm fronds, lighted the dark path ahead and also helped keep at bay the demons and evil spirits lurking in the shadows.
Until next time, normalcy then returned to mundane life in a pastoral setting.