This website is about the GOAN Christian Community of Pakistan. Every Goan has ancestral roots in Goa, India, formerly a Portuguese colony. All Goans of Pakistan are predominantly Catholic. Although the 'Christian Community of Pakistan' has contributed immensely to nation-building; this endeavor is solely dedicated to researching, highlighting and archiving the GOAN community's historical background, cultural heritage, significant achievements and contribution to Pakistan, before and after independence.

 
My interactions with people of Goan origin in Karachi- 1
 


I had to visit a physician on the fourth day after I arrived in Karachi. I went to Dr. Dolphy D'Souza's clinic. Like other Pakistanis he stumbled over my name. This was news to me that someone called D'Souza should find my name strange. And also, that I did not have a Christian name even when I claimed to have a goan connection.

The next was a visit to Roland D'Souza's house. Roland is a social activist, part of a group called Shehri, an organization that fights against illegal constructions in the city. His wife Vicky grew up in the US and two of their sons are studying in the US. The third one is preparing to go there. All of Vicky's family is in the US.

They live in the Garden area where many upper middle class Goans live, next to St. Lawrence's church. At their place I met Roland's Aunt and Uncle. Roland has visited Goa several times. His aunt was a bit nervous and embarrassed when Roland said, 'Aunty, here is someone who is looking for some one to talk in Konkani..' She fumbled and said that she has almost forgotten her Konkani, what with having to speak urdu etc. The uncle only smiled.

All of them said that there were hardly any Goans left here and there was hardly anything 'Goan' left in Karachi, starting from bakeries to cultural programs. Aunty said it bothered her that people stared at women wearing western dresses these days. Karachi was not like this before. She asked me to visit her sometime. Then we went to St. Laurence's Church next door to participate in the fete.

The atmosphere inside the church compound was strikingly different from anything familiar in Karachi. There was music and women dressed in western clothes. There were several stalls selling food and other things. There were typical fete games and lucky draw stalls. Among the food stalls there was one selling south Indian Dosas and some selling Goan pickles and sweetmeats and sorpotel.

There were quite a few non Christians, even a few women in burqa and the atmosphere was very vibrant despite it being a hot April afternoon. I was dressed in a skirt and blouse. Ajmal and me both felt very relaxed in that walled and protected free zone where everybody seemed to have relaxed and let go of themselves.

That evening we went to the beach at Clifton. That's the first time I went to the beach in Karachi. I was the only person in a skirt and was being stared at much more than usual, on streets and in buses. It felt like a 'foreigner'. Like how white skinned people are stared at on Indian beaches when they are seen wearing bilikis. And despite the sea breeze and water and all that goes with 'beach', the air didn't feel free and I felt that everyone was tense as one always is in Karachi about being 'proper'. (this was just an aside)


After that I regularly met some women wearing very short hair, sometimes dressed in frocks or skirts or in salwar kamez with a dupatta thrown on one shoulder carelessly, at the bhajiwalla's in Saddar. Seeing me in western clothes or without a dupatta, and ofcourse my short hair... they always smiled a smile of common sisterhood and then we exchanged a few words. They always consoled me after hearing that I had only just arrived from India. Most of them had no connection with Goa. Some said that the Goan association was indeed an active organization; others said that nothing much happened there. Almost all were a bit confused to hear my name and that I wasn't a Christian but a Hindu.

In Indian cities no more do short hair, define ones identity as a westernized person.

Agnes- One of the things I really miss here is walking on the streets by myself without feeling self conscious. I have realized now that if I wear really ordinary salwar kameez I can do it with minimum damage.

One day as I was walking on Abdullah Haroon road, one of the main roads in Saddar,(where a majority of Goans live and I have found myself living here too) as usual dominated with men in salwar kameez, I spotted a lone figure of an old woman in a frock and short hair standing at a street corner where I turned to go to a beauty salon. I walked to her, as if mesmeraised ( I am unable to describe the emotion that is usually generated while walking on streets full of almost only men and you see someone you don't hope to find there) and introduced myself. She was waiting for a particular shop to open. She said she was disgusted with people here, who stared at her because of her clothes. But she was not afraid, 'this is our national dress, she said, why should I wear Salwar kameez. She was perplexed after I told her that I was a Hindu. Musharraf , she said was trying to
change things but people wouldn't let him do it. She invited me home.

I had many questions to ask. I haven't been able to visit her as yet. On Ramzan 1st Dear Alito, Even at the Indus valley school of Art, which is an elite school ( where I am teaching) there is such strong air of religiosity that it has started depressing me. Anyhow... One of the brighter side is that the moment roza ends for the day, the streets become empty and its nice to step out then. Its cool and quite and nice to walk on the streets. On the first roza, Ajmal and I went to the beach...as we were walking feeling upbeat, on an empty beach, I saw and heard at the same time, Goans, a group of them returning to their car from the beach. There was one old woman in a knee length dress ( this is the usual sign of recognition) and they were speaking in Konkani. Its difficult to describe how I felt hearing Konkani at the most unexpected place (even at a site of a skirt I miss my heartbeat, this time I missed two) So far I had never heard anyone speak it.

The Goan women I met at Lucky star corner were mostly by themselves and we had always spoken in English. The use of Hindi/Urdu by the educated class in Pakistan is much more than one would find in Indian cities. Probably because one would rarely find a cosmopolitan group here; they are mostly all Urdu speaking, unlike in Indian cities where you will here many more languages and English too is commonly spoken in regional accents by a large section of people. I get tired of hearing Urdu all the time, or English spoken only in Anglo-American accent. This place seems very far away from India at times I become conscious of this longing.

All this is only to explain to you how startled I was to hear Konkani...in a surrounding I associate with North Indian (meaning Pakistani), Muslim Urdu culture. Time became still for a moment. I may have felt the same hearing Bengali, Tamil or Marathi. Just a familiar, non Urdu language. Of course
I don't deny that Konkani being Konkani has a special place.

(In a way its funny that western dress should strike a chord in my heart, should remind me of home. It also strikes me that its always because of women that I
recognize people as Goans, so far it has never been the men. Although sometimes I do wonder looking at some old men, could he be a Goan, but there is no way to find out unless you ask them. Certain men who wear white shirts tucked in black pants, I don't know how to describe them better, Alito, look like your uncle from Santacruz.)

I told Ajmal that they were speaking in Konkani. I was feeling shy to approach them, but Ajmal pushed me and I introduced myself. The lady spoke only Konkani. She tried to speak in English with me as she was a bit confused, the youngsters told her that I could speak Konkani. We had a small chat. They live near our place( our office cum shop cum residence is in Saddar, which is where traditionally Goans lived, it was a bit like Colaba, it's a very degraded area now, like Bhendi Bazar or something, we live on the edge, which is still quite nice. They were two families and one of them live in the next building. They were returning from the beach after buying some fresh fish. It was already twilight and streetlights were still off. Yesterday I went to visit the family that lives in the
next building which is called rex centre after a cinema hall that stood there called Rex Cinema. I met the young couple, Edward and Anita and their Mother, the father was sleeping. She is from Pilar, she came here after marriage. They speak in Konkani with each other, even the daughter in law...... who grew up in PECHS colony dominated by upper middleclass UP Muslims, which I found quite amazing. The father worked in Dubai, the son worked for Standard Chartered Bank and now works for a Pakistani bank. His wife teaches in a kindergarten school. They have three kids. They seem really well off. I'd like to meet the father too some day, also the aunt who I spoke to briefly at the beach.

The mother showed me their flat very proudly. It's a HUGE flat. Something like two thousand square feet. I stayed there for more than an hour returning only after Ajmal called me up. When I told them that I am going to India in December, the mother thought that I am going with one 'Father D'Silva' on the pilgrimage! Then she said I should go with them, for it would be cheaper than traveling on my own...I would like to do it, to travel with the pilgrims, to talk to them. I told her that I am not a Christian and she exclaimed that she had noticed that my Konkani was Hindu but she thought that as I am from Ponda and there they speak like that..Antruzi They had been to Goa two months back to see a cousin who was seriously ill. The police visited them often to check on them they said.

They said they wouldn't like to move to Canada like many people are doing. Many of Mothers friends have followed their children there. But all three said that they don't like the idea. The mother had a Portuguese passport earlier but when some kind officer who routinely extended her visa left the country and there was some confusion, she was in trouble but managed to acquire a Pakistani passport.

They moved into this flat, six years ago. Before that they lived in different houses in Saddar. My conversation with the daughter in law was also quite interesting. She was trying to show me the brighter sides, like how Goans despite or along with their western clothes and manners are respected at workplaces. Which she said in few words, conveyed it more though nods and looks, she told me how one of her relatives 'never' ever wore Salwar Kameez. Always wore dresses.

It was only yesterday evening that I went there but I have a feeling that I am forgetting some details of the conversation. Must keep a diary. I will visit the church with this family perhaps on next Sunday and also visit the goa association the Brahmin one. The other one is still functional, they told me, only a few old men gather there, that's close to our place and a more humble building. I wonder if through the church I can involve and engage college students in some filming.

At the Church on a Sunday morning I went to St. Patrick's Church the following Sunday a little before 8'o clock mass ended. It's an old church, situated near Empress Market, again an old market, elegant and impressive in its architecture. This is heart of Saddar (which itself in Arabic means heart) the priest barked at the congregation like they were erring children. After the mass I met Edward and family. The father hadn't come. They greeted a few friends; the conversation was mostly in Konkani. There cousins whom I had met at Clifton beach, two women, joined us in Edwards car.

We drove in Edward's smart new car, to 'Lucky Star' corner, an area called after a restaurant there. There are a couple of vegetable, meat and fish vendors at a corner of a lane. Around that place many goans live and that's where I had always spotted women who I identified as Goans. This was a Sunday ritual, Edward and family always came here after the mass.

As the car pulled out of the church compound, Anita pointed to the street dotted with Goan ladies dressed in skirts and frocks and said, look, they are not wearing Salwar Kameez, or a dupatta...you have to ignore stares and wear what you like. But this was a neighbourhood recognized as dominated by goans, so here it should be easier to be as you like... At lucky star, there were many such people doing their vegetable and meat shopping and catching up with each other. Some of them lived in cantonment which is not very far.

One lady from cantonment updated information about 'who has left already for Canada, and who is leaving soon. I was introduced to her. She has two kids, college going, her brother had just left for Canada and she told me that she has no intentions of leaving Karachi. The children may decide to leave but she and her husband wouldn't want to.

Edward's mother went to buy fish and chicken. While waiting for her in the car Anita commented that her mother in law liked eating fish curry rice for every meal. That was not so in her 'maiden' home. She commented that when she went for the pilgrimage in India, while traveling to Velankani, she noticed that people ate large quantities of rice.

After the shopping was done the two cousins left to go home, this is in the next lane. We dropped Anita and kids home and after changing Edward, Mom and I went to buy Atta from a mill they know. Anita said she hates to move around in Saddar for shopping because of the pollution and the grime, generally. I agreed with her. She said that her parent lived here once and moved out a few years ago to PECHS colony. She said Muslims should not have been allowed to
occupy Saddar.

Edward and his mom seemed to enjoy introducing me to the old part of town. I asked Edward if he studied at St. Patrick's. He said yes, all my education was at that place. The mother said in a slightly bitter tone that he hasn't chosen that institute for his children. Edward said that it was not the same any more. The mother asked me about Ajmal's family. Then she said in Konkani, my situation is like hers, that none of her relatives are here etc....

So far they haven't figured out much about me. They haven't probed much and have chosen to neglect that I am a Hindu who converted to marry a Muslim man. I have given tentative answers about the kind of marriage we had. They don't know that I am almost forty and was happily unmarried till now. Anita was cooking Biryani at home and I had an invitation but I did not go with them as I had to do some work.

I went to Lucky star around 9.30 Am the next Sunday hoping to find Alfonso family there but I didn't see them. I didn't recognize any faces, but there were some Goan people shopping veggies and meat. I did not introduce myself but I was all ears and staring at them as much as I could. A couple stood there for quite some time buying meat but they didn't talk at all. Then two fat women appeared wearing salwar kameez and spoke in goan English to the couple. They seemed extremely relaxed with the meat vendor and one could make out that this was 'their area'. In appearance they were like typical lower middle class catholic women in Goa. This was the first time I was seeing Goan women standing and talking so freely in a public space. It could be a neighborhood in Bombay or Goa and not an alien, orthodox Muslim area. This time I chose not to introduce myself though I was staring at them all the time while Ajmal bought meat and veggies.

Three days ago, Ciprian Philip, from the admin. Section at the Indus Valley School stopped me to ask if I had any connection with Goa. I had spoken to him once before and had suspected that he was a Goan from his accent but hadn't asked. His father was an Anglo Indian and mother is a Goan. He lives next to Empress Market. He is married to a Punjabi Christian woman. His mother was a teacher and still does 'tuitions' at home. He showed me tattoos on his arms which he had got done in Goa twenty four years ago. He had gone to Canada he told me but returned as he found life too tough there. He wants to move out of Saddar because of pollution and general degradation but real estate prices in localities he prefers are unaffordable. He said Christians, specially Goans, Anglos had good job opportunities because of their command on English. He gave me names and addresses of two Goans who were principals at two renowned schools in Karachi.

I asked him if he knew of one Rose D'Mello who was the principal of St. Joseph. I had met her at the airport when I was traveling to Bombay in June. She came to me and introduced herself taking me to be a Christian because of my short hair and clothes and 'something' about me as she put it. We had spent about an hour together before boarding the flight. She sounded very sad about being in Karachi. "just bad luck, she said, ..I was born here, my siblings were not". She was traveling to Bombay to visit her sister. Ciprian knew her well and promised to put me in touch with her.

Yesterday, Nov. 3, 2005, last day of Ramazan, Ajmal and I decided to go for a walk on the only quite street in Saddar. It has an apartment complex, a club house, one side of the street has part of Avari Towers a five star hotel and the rest belongs to the army. Further on the street there are army bungalows. Hearing two middle-old men speak in English I told Ajmal that I suspected they were Goans. Ajmal was amused. He said, Karachi seems full of Goans ,all of a sudden. My suspicion was correct. Two more men joined us while we were still introducing each other. They too were goans. They lived in Cantonment.

They asked me if I liked it here. When I replied in negative, one of them laughed and said of course if you have lived in Bombay you will not like it here. Then they asked me about my visa status. I told them how difficult it has been to extend my visa and how the authorities have been advising me to apply for nationality from the very first time I requested for a visa extension. The tall man from cantonment said that it should be so as I was married here. I said I didn't agree. There was some confused talk. Someone said he knew two couple who were going through similar problems.

Then I told them that I was a film maker and wished to make a film on the Goan community in Karachi. We discussed Canada and also Goa as a possible destination of immigrants. The tall man said he wouldn't like to go live in Goa as he was a city man and life in Goa was very slow. Then I said that we who don't like living in each others territories don't seem to mind living in a western country. To which he replied clearly that if he had to choose between the two, he would choose Goa. He said it was the young generation that was going away, not the old ones. I said I would like to meet them again. They said that I would always find them here.

On our way back Ajmal said, this is amazing that four and a half out of the only five people on this street at this moment are goans... Later we went to lucky star to buy water and groceries. The shop was 'full' pf goans.... One heard only goan English and only the shop staff, were speaking in Urdu. I stood there, waiting for the water cans I had ordered, looking, listening and absorbing, comforted by familiar expressions, gestures, clothes, accents and language, aware of a certain sense of feeling relaxed, different from how I feel usually in the shops and any outdoor space in Karachi, very self conscious, tense and alert and lonely, a bit hostile maybe (not very different from how I feel in Delhi). People were shopping for the long Eid week end and there was a great hustle bustle.

I want to contact the priest who is organizing the pilgrimage. Must ask Anita her experiences of the pilgrimage she took.
 

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