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Biungow the weather forecaster

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Have you ever met Biungow N Deu, the resident weather forecaster of the village of Saligao in Goa? In his younger days he was a man of many talents. He displayed his mastery as a woodcutter and a super weather forecaster using natural signs. He was an expert at husking coconuts and could also climb trees with ease to pluck mangoes or jackfruits or tamarind. Now past the age of 80, Biungow still leads a very active life and age does not seem to have slowed him down much.

In the old days, after finishing his day’s work in the fields, Biungow would stop by our house for a chat, on his way home. In the middle of the conversation, without warning, he would give his natural weather forecast. His natural weather predictions were so accurate that they often seemed far better than those provided by the meteorological department. Here’s a sampling of what he used to say:

Dou poddlo, xitoll dis meulo (If dew falls it’ll be a fine day); Aik, dhoria gazta, paus mattear paula (An echo at sea is a sign of bad weather, heavy rain); Satam adim paus, ikram adim (nitoll) akaus (Rain before seven, fine before eleven). Another of his rhyming predictions went something like this: “Swallows fly high, sun is in the sky. Swallows fly low, rain you should know;” and his index fingers would indicate a flight of sparrows or xerkam flying in the direction of Reddeachi Xim (Saligao-Sangolda border).

Biungow, with his short pants and a flowing shirt-that has remained his apparel of choice till today-when off-duty would warn us about the weather gravely. Look out for rain, he would say, when:

  • Cats sit with their tails to the fire and “wash” their faces.
  • Dogs dig holes or bury bones.
  • Flies gather in houses.
  • Fish swim near the surface.
  • The moon rises large and red.
  • Bees remain in their hives, flying around just a little.
  • Corns, wounds or sores itch or ache a little more than usual.
  • Spiders strengthen their cobwebs.
  • Cattle stretch their necks and sniff the air.
  • Distant objects such as hills are unusually clear.

Of course, Biungow would not have been able to put his predictions into a list like the one in the weather forecast above. That was left to authors like J B Lobo, who in his Home Encyclopaedia has documented the instinctive wisdom of so many village experts and specialists who implemented the traditional knowledge and folklore passed down through the ages.

So what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow, Biungow Deu?

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