A tribute to the people of a
Go, Goa, Goan!
By Menin Rodrigues
I truly had
this feeling of 'home away from home' (which of the two was real?)
during my recent 10 memorable days in Goa - the heavenly abode, an
inexplicable remnant of our forefathers' legacy. Volumes have been
written about Goa, what it used to be, what it is now and what it should
be...but for me it was simply, Goa, the beautiful!
Although the ten days flew away mainly on the dreamy white sands of
Colva beach, the wonderful time I spent with my family meant much more
than the breezy 24-hour stopover I had in 1982 when I went there as a
sports journalist with the Pakistan Hockey Team for the World Cup in
Bombay, now Mumbai.
The green shirts weaved their magic sticks like poetry on the lush green
turf of Wankaede Stadium and scored four times in the kangaroo pouch to
lift the glittering trophy. India cheered Pakistan like never before -
two nations, one people, and a common goal - an incredible feeling!
Fast forward twenty-seven years and I am in Goa again. Firstly, I must
pen down my impressions of Goa and her people as I experienced it
nonchalantly for the first time in my life. Coming from a place like
Pakistan where Goans once thrived but today are a forgotten community,
it was a sentimental sojourn.
Even in their purest traditions, the heart-warming hospitality of
relatives from an assortment of family homes - stretching from Colva &
Benaulim in Salcete to Candolim & Vagator in Bardez, and from Caranzalem
in Tiswadi to Palolem in Canacona - was so welcoming that we did
everything from gate-crashing weddings (with invitations) to driving
around the cascading village streets without a license. Goa rocks!
One of my foremost dreams was to trace and resurrect the family tree for
the sake of our present-day generations. My dad being the only one in
the family on the Pakistani side of undivided India, we stayed on like
so many others, and almost lost track of the who's who of his clan -
large by any yardstick - three brothers and seven sisters. I was
determined to visit each of their homes, make notes and build on the
elusive tree. And lo and behold, six generations is what I got...with
Mom's side still in abeyance.
People from Pakistan have been going on pilgrimages to Goa for the feast
of St. Francis Xavier for the past many years, the occasion a solemn
opportunity to venerate the great saint, in as much, to trace family and
enjoy the cheerful times Goa and Goans have to offer. Vellankani also
generates a lot of interest and people go there in large numbers.
I was lucky to have met a cross section of Goans on this trip, from the
ordinary to the extra-ordinary, and must say that our people there are
very friendly, warm and hospitable deep down to the core of their
hearts. Fun loving - song, dance, feni and pork - is to be a Goan. Most
are talented and wonderful to spend some time with, having all the time
in the world at their disposal. It just seems so, though they go about
doing their daily chores without restraint. Susega'ad, they say is what
Among the extra-ordinary lot of Goans I met at a gathering of Goanetters
and former Karachiites in Panjim, were eminent people who care about Goa,
its heritage and future. The Internet enabled so many of us to connect
names to faces at the Miramar hotel and each one of us had a story to
tell. Mine was from the war zone. Different but in a way, it clarified
on some misconceptions. On the other hand, people who lived in Karachi
before and now settled in Goa were nostalgic about their former schools,
teachers, old neighborhoods and friends. I was able to refresh their
Historically, people from Pakistan have been traveling to India (Goa)
without any problems, hundreds have made the journey so far; but
unfortunately this has not been the case with Indian Goans coming to
Pakistan (Karachi). Why? Is it because the Pakistan High Commission is
averse to issuing visas, which I doubt very much, or simply put, Indian
Goans are afraid of the unknown? If all documentation is complete, just
the way we do in acquiring our visas, I don't think coming to Karachi is
difficult. Come, you are welcome to Pakistan! Karachi is only 75 minutes
away from Mumbai. We don't have too many saints here of your liking for
organized pilgrimages but your relatives would love to extend/
reciprocate their hospitality here.
Christmas is definitely the best time of the year to visit Goa. I have
never seen so many road-side cribs and stars in my life. Everywhere I
went, there were stars, and more stars, gaily decorated homes in the
villages and on the main roads. It was magical for someone who came from
a place which has changed so dramatically over the years.
When I was a kid, Christmas in Karachi too, with all the stars and cribs
was a beautiful experience. The entire Depot Lines area, the Church
Street in Saddar and all its adjoining streets and lanes, which housed
hundreds of Goan homes, were bedecked with Christmas stars and
'chilli-bulbs' as they called it then...'ferry-lights' today! So for me,
these few days of Christmas in Goa, was like reliving the past. I
suddenly felt being in a time capsule, being brought back to my roots to
enjoy the bountiful blessings of Goa!
The affinity between Goan youth and Konkani was a great eye-opener. From
the moment we entered our family, friends' and neighborhood homes, it
was Konkani all the way, as a way of life! The English language, an
alien adoption, was a distant 'second' option, as we cherished memorable
moments at our first full Konkani Mass, the local-language Choir, family
lunches & dinners (with huge chunks of pork and fresh bangras with
masala) barbecue nights, late-night beach rendezvous', the Christmas
dance at Betalbatim after midnight Mass and shopping in Margaon for
'kajus, sola'an and feni' - all punctuated with Konkani, period.
My thoughts went back to Karachi and Goan homes where this beautiful
language was swept under the carpet, relegated to the kitchen and
reserved for ageing grandparents and servants. What cause did it serve
in raising children without teaching them the language of their
forefathers, nobody knows but there's one thing for sure. Our people
have no clue of the wondrous virtues of the language and how close it
makes one feel to being a Goan. Non-speaking Goans of Karachi today seem
like enthusiastic stage actors without a part to play!
Another interesting characteristic of Goa is the 'goenkar' in each
individual's life as a citizen of this State. Interestingly, all the
people in Goa are not necessarily Goan-Catholics but are Konkani
speaking. Goa, now being accepted as a tourists' destination is swarmed
with thousands of shops lining up streets that lead to the popular
beaches. While some are managed by Goans themselves, most are 'owned' by
people from everywhere but Goa. How safe is Goa for a gora tourist is
An interesting episode to witness was the Calvert affair in the Colva
village and I must say that the people deserve to have the last laugh
because of their trust and confidence in their pastors, and the
protection of the sanctity of the Church, an institution which binds
Goans together. Banners in Konkani (what else?) at the village
crossroads were creatively worded. What a sight to behold that even
Konkani overtures can make a statement and provoke emotions. Colva was
closed for a full day. But for me it was 'déjà vu' - closures are a way
of life in my city, you call for it and you can have one...!
Before we embarked on this journey the kids thought the Goa trip would
be a waste of time, they were skeptical because of some old tales; but
when they had experienced Goa's breathtaking scenery, the warm
unpretentious and true friendships of their cousins and friends, the
easy-going nature of life in general and 'Christmas in Goa' - they had
changed their minds. Goa is where they would like to go again, as early
as the coming summer! "So what if it rains" they said.
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