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A walk through Arrarim - I

[Fr Nascimento says: It is so interesting to walk through Arrarim in the company of erudite and knowledgeable Yvonne Vaz Ezdani, author of the book 'Songs of the Survivors'.  She describes this walk in her own inimitable style.]

by Yvonne Vaz Ezdani

It is a cool and pleasant evening in September 2008, a beautiful time for a walk through Arrarim in the village of Saligao, Goa. This Goa village walk through the lanes and intersecting pathways of the whole of Arrarim in Saligao will take me two evenings. Today, I choose the more picturesque route from the CHOGM Road past the Hindu crematorium and the Catholic cemetery of Saligao. The huge mango tree that fell during the last monsoons has not been totally cleared away yet; too difficult to chop up and tow away, I guess. The earth vibrated so much when this gigantic tree fell that about 15 meters away the pillars and archway at the entrance of the cemetery cracked and collapsed.  The new pillars and archway are still under construction, fenced in by the metal wicket fence.

I walk on. The tree-lined path is full of potholes but the enchantingly beautiful green village fields of Goa on either side take my breath away. The paddy plants are about two feet tall, tall enough to dance in the evening breeze. The shadows of the coconut trees vie with the sunlight to create different shades of green. ‘The green, green fields of home’ make me wish I had the poetic talent to compose an ode to them and to the beauty that the monsoons bring to Saligao and all of Goa.  But I am speechless as I stand on the small bridge over the ‘vao’ and take in the interplay of colours as the sun sets on my right. The green stretches like a river, and in the distance the buses and cars on the parallel Mapuca-Pilerne road look tiny and insignificant; but beyond, the deep and silently majestic hills covered with greenery, steal the scene. A lone windmill is turning slowly. The roof of the Saligao Seminary is barely visible amidst the foliage.

Arrarim, Saligao, Goa.I cannot linger long.  Darkness will soon descend and this is a lonely road in the village of Saligao.  The only street light is some distance away.

After a few minutes walk, a cluster of small painted houses spring up, looking cool and peaceful beneath the mango branches.  It is a typical Goan village scene; children playing, dogs sleeping, ladies cleaning rice in front of their houses. A long line of clothes hung out on the roadside tells you that a dhobi family lives here.  A road on the right branches into an area previously known as Cordeiro vaddo. A few Cordeiro families still live here, Basen Cordeiro, Albert Souza Cordeiro.

Wedding reception at Saligao Institute. Sketch by Mel D'Souza

Wedding reception at Saligao Institute. Sketch by Mel D'Souza

I walk straight on, continuing my lovely Goa village walk. Now the Saligao Institute is on my left.  I can see the backs of Blanche Saldanha’s and Annie Cordeiro’s houses, the fields reaching right up to their back walls.  Now on my right is Atila and Fenelon D’Souzas’ house (Baptist and Oslando visit their family home some times).  I am now facing Padmanab’s building, Kaki’s shop, a bar and a teashop owned and run by relatives of the Padmanabhan’s wife.  On the first floor of the building I see some people waiting for Dr. Cuncolienkar to come.

I turn left.  Fern’s bar is wearing a new red-and-white look. Dilip Kamat’s posro too is now a double-storey building and his shop on the ground floor is more spacious and neaert than it used to be.  Maurice Britto is doing up his building behind Dilip’s store.  St Cajetan’s chapel looks serene, nestled in the coconut grove.  The Saligao Institute shows no signs of activity, but the window of the Children’s Library is open so it must be one of the ladies doing her duty for the evening and maybe a few kids are at the library looking through the books.

St. Cajetan Chapel, Arrarim, Saligao, Goa. Pic by Luke Sequeira

St. Cajetan Chapel. Pic by Luke Sequeira

I hasten my steps, wave out to Uncle Seby D’Cruz. Walking briskly now, I keep to the side of the road as buses, bikes and cars whiz past. Everyone seems to be in a hurry now, unlike the earlier days. The houses on this road in the village of Saligao too have been painted and renovated but still exude a peaceful atmosphere.  The pathetic looking Fair Price (ration shop) still wears the same drab look.  On the right is the lovely old house which used to belong to Henry Figueredo but is now owned by a foreigner. It seems to be unoccupied right now. Further on Mambre (Appas) shop wears the same drab look although there have been some rooms constructed above the shop.

At ‘voltar’ a Calangute-bound bus suddenly turns in. Just then one of the Betim-Mapuca mini buses comes down and screeches to a stop in the middle of the main road.  Behind it is a huge cement-mixer truck coming down from Pilerne Industrial Estate, which also has to stop.  It’s quite chaotic; people getting off buses, others trying to get on.  I wait by the roadside till the traffic clears and then cross over to walk down the road leading to Lourdes Convent.  Some people still call this ‘Peggy’s Corner’, although she is no more.  Anthony Mascarenhas is sitting in his balcao with his two dogs for company. I walk along, past the little vegetable and fruit shop, and beyond I can’t help stopping to look up at the colourful flowers lining the steps to Nicholas Sequeira’s award-winning garden.  Next door is cyber journalist Frederick Noronha’s house, then the late Faust Demello’s house.  I stop for a moment at the foot of the steps leading up to Lourdes Convent High School and I stare across beyond the green fields at the lovely houses on ‘Bandar’.

St. Anthony's Chapel, Saligao, Goa. Pic by Frederick Noronha

St Anthony's Chapel. Pic by Frederick Noronha

I am almost at the end of Sonarbhatt and Arrarim now so I turn back to the main road, the same way I came in on my Goa village walk. Then at the junction I turn left.  As I mentioned earlier, this has become a busy road and it’s a good thing that speed bumps have been put on either side of the junction.  I walk past Green Bar and stop to look into the lane at the world renowned artist Francis Newton Souza’s maternal family home where the artist was born. The house now belongs to Philip D’Souza. Opposite to Peter Bobo’s house and a little further on is Dr Lewis’ big house and next to it, St Anthony’s chapel made famous in the history of Saligao because the statue of Mae de Deus was kept here for the night before it was installed in the church.  To the left are another lane and the home of another artist, Edwin Saldanha, perhaps more well known for his book on wine making.

Then, I stop to say ‘hello’ to Tony D’Cruz in his little store ‘Mystical Rose’, which is full of customers at this time.  The nickname ‘Pakistan’ is still used for the home of the Menezes brothers on my right. I start climbing the road leading up to the Seminary of Our Lady.  Many new houses have come up here and some old houses have changed shape and size.  There is even a small restaurant opposite the temple, which has been renovated and painted.  Higher up is the godown for gas cylinders and the big water tank that supplies water to the village and also to the Industrial Estate.  The view is magnificent from here but darkness is falling and I have to turn my steps back.

As I come down the slope and turn the corner I wonder how old the three banyan trees are. The one on my right at least looks more than a century old.  Its roots, which have come down from the branches and rooted in the ground, look like old trees themselves.  Silent and stoic, they are part of our beautiful village. I turn left to go home. As I pass their houses I remember all the old residents who have passed on, Miss Margaret, the piano teacher, Lubin Sequeira, dentist Colonel Edwin D’Souza and his wife Queenie, Geoffrey Khot D’Souza, Mr Dalgado.

Now I am in Demello vaddo and the small chapel of this ward is on my left.  On my right is Inter Trade, a business enterprise set up by David Nathan. A few houses down the road is where I stop.  The Angelus bells are ringing.  I will walk the rest of Arrarim tomorrow.

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