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Sights and sounds of Saligao

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

As a young lad growing up in Saligao in the 1940s and 50s, I remember fondly what a joy it used to be frolicking around in the village, soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of nature—all yet unsullied by the trappings of urbanisation and modern-day encumbrances. Mother Nature provided us young folk much pleasure and entertainment and pretty much was central to my life. This despite the fact that we did have a well-kept playground at the Mater Dei Institution and other playgrounds in the village, where organised games of football, hockey, cricket and other sports were a frequent occurrence.

The hills of Arrarim and Donvaddo in the southern part of Saligao were always a favourite haunt of local villagers out for an evening stroll. From the vantage points on the hills, one could feast one’s eyes on the picturesque sunsets over the Arabian Sea while breathing in the invigorating fresh air.

Calangute Beach  

At times we would go for slightly longer excursions to the Calangute beach. I accompanied the elders, along with non-resident Goans returning to their roots for the summer holidays from Bombay, and other parts of India and the globe. The churning of the waves, tossing the fishing boats about gently, with the mellow, late-evening sun casting an orangish hue over everything, made for a very pretty sight indeed. We kids played in the sand, built sand castles, collected shells of different colours and sizes, chased each other around and gazed at the setting sun until the very last remaining sliver disappeared below the horizon.

The charm of Calangute beach for us in those days was alluring, and the source of inspiration for the famous song “Calangute” sung by our nightingale Lorna Lui Cordeiro, reminding us how the Creator kept us enthralled through the scenic beauty of nature, manifest in the frothy waves, the swaying palms, the invigorating breeze and the spectacular sunsets.

Today the picturesque sunsets and the beautiful beaches are captured in brochures and books and tourists flock to the beaches and villages to soak in the sun and click photos to show their folks back home. But in the old days, although we had no cameras, the scenery was etched indelibly in our minds, and will remain with us till the day we die.

Full Moon Nights

At the Mater Dei Institution, I remember the time our drawing master, Mr Edwin Saldanha, asked us to draw a picture of the full moon. That night the full moon shone brightly on Mother Earth. Observing all the minute details in and around the glowing orb, with the room window wide open and under the flickering light of a divó (kerosene lamp), I drew the scene, and felt very contented and at one with nature. My companions too displayed their paintings of the full moon during the drawing class the next day. They were one better than the other.

Writing about this incident reminds me of the many long walks we used to go for under the light of the full moon, returning home for a good, restful night’s sleep. Our mothers, grannies and aunts took us out on full moon nights as babes, and pointing to the moon sang “Chani mama kekem dita…”

I am sure this scenic beauty of the full moon and all the lullabies gave our famous tiatrist and lyricist C Alvares from Goletem in Saligao the inspiration to compose “Dol Mhojea Bai“, a literary gem from the Konkani film “Nirmon“, which is now considered to be a classic. At that time no one had heard of full-moon-night parties—nature itself was intoxication enough for all of us. I am told that nowadays parties on full-moon nights are a regular occurrence at the Club West End nightclub close to the Aquem spring at Mollembhat—most likely, with alcohol flowing and music blaring into the wee hours of the morning.

Of Birds and Rain

We watched the flocks of the migratory and local birds including sparrows, parrots and tailor birds in the sky and expressed admiration at their synchronised, formation flight. Do you remember and still sing “Uddon gelem parveanchem bhirem?“  It stirs great feelings of nostalgia in me every time I hear it.

Speaking of birds, I remember vividly the day when quite close to the compound of our house, an eagle swooped straight down upon a brood of chickens and snatched one away in its claws. Neither my howling nor the mother hen’s frantic “ko-kok” were to any avail. Nevertheless, I must admit that observing the swift, swooping dive of the eagle at close quarters was quite awesome-it was sheer poetry in motion.

We always waited eagerly for the onset of the monsoons. The pitter-patter of the first rains on the tiled roofs was cue enough for us kids to run under the gógó of our house for an impromptu bath-acid rain would be something that future generations would have to contend with! Friends from the neighbourhood such as Mohan, Naran and Surya joined me in singing their version of the rain song in Marathi: “Êrê êrê pausa, tula detô paisa, paisa zala khota, paus zala motta. Ega ega sari, mhajê moddkê bari, sar allê dhauvun, moddke gele vavun.” The magic of the first rains also inspired Oslando de Souza from Arrarim to compose his immortal song, “Poilo Paus“.

There are no rivers in Saligao, only streams, brooks and a few ponds. The flowing stream, a gurgle here and there, and even a splash of rain water were all sources of great entertainment to us. The puddles of rain water on the potholed roads seemed to be provided exclusively for us children on the way home from school to soak our muddied feet in and splash muddy water on friends who dared come too near.

Music to my Ears

We woke up early in the morning with the sounds of the cock’s crow or the chirping of other birds at dawn. The calls of our namesake kole (foxes) and various other animals including the cows, buffaloes, pigs and dogs were music to our ears. When the wind blew and the coconut trees swayed, we revelled in the wonders of nature. Even walking on dry leaves produced a fascinating and unique crackling sound. I measured my steps over these leaves as I listened to the whistling of the winds filtering through the trees all around. The myriad sounds of Mother Nature combined together to produce a majestic symphony that I would never tire of hearing.

The sounds of the insects, the songs of the birds, the rustling of the wind through the chanto trees, the burning of the bushes and korod (grass) produced wonderful sounds. The singing, humming, whistling, clapping, cracking of knuckles, wild yawning, coughing and snoring added to the pleasant din. And if all that was not enough, kot’teô (coconut shells), small bamboo sticks, fatull’leô (fine stones), tins and vattleô (brass plates) were struck together to create rhythmic music.  Quite a number of people had gumots and kansallims, while others had bells and chimbals. The cartmen tied bells to the necks of the bullocks carrying belios and other commodities like beans, sweet potatoes, onions and so on to Mapuca on Fridays, Siolim on Wednesdays and Calangute on Saturdays for the weekly markets. The ringing of the bells were described in Saligao as “kini kini boila”.

For Mother Nature’s bounty we are thankful. For me, writing this piece has been a nostalgic romp back to the days of my carefree youth, in a bygone era. Nature, of course, is still all around us, but it’s questionable how much it is respected in this modern age. Oh the times! Oh the customs!

4 comments on Sights and sounds of Saligao

  • Dear Fr. Mascarenhas.

    What a superb article you have written it brings back lovely memories of my childhood days when I used to walk from Nagoa to Saligao to Lourdes Convent School in the 1950’s. It was such beautiful feeling and wonderful early morning refreshing walks. Whilst back home trying to drop a raw mango by throwing stones then running with the raw mangoes before we were caught by the owners of the mango tree. We enjoy eating these by making hole into the mango, adding salt, tamarind and chilly powder and enjoyed the taste of sour and pungent chilly powder. We tried to collect conge from the fields to take home to our parents after school. It was so much fun and wish it was still there for our future generations.

    Once again thank you Father for bringing back my childhood days memories. I really relish in these moments of my days in Goa. On feast of the days in May month we would go the hills to collect Kanta, Churnam, Kajus, binnam all the other fruits our Mother Earth provided us.

    I feel sad that there is hardly anything left of that kind of villages in Goa after the destruction and evil that occurs now to Goa. The beautiful Goa is no longer having much charm left of that era. In olden days we could sleep in the nights outside without fear of any kind. It is sad to see now that we are facing rapes, drug lords, robberies, murderers, illegal mining, illegal constructions so many other evil doers. We are losing Goan identity and losing our lovely, serene Goa to outside invaders and migrants.

  • Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

    Thank your for your comments, Victoria. Yes it is sad that Goa has changed. I guess it is up to all of us to do what we can to preserve the traditions and heritage that we all love so much.

    God bless you.

    - Fr Nascimento

  • By reading about Calangute beach, I refreshed my childhood memories of my own village, Calangute, where we used to go every day to the seashore together with our parents, brothers and sister, and often with other relatives and firnes. We used to meet there people coming from Saligao. I met my own seminary classmate, Nascimento, together with his people. He was of quite socializing nature. He would be singing with his group. Once I took our group of seminarians, from Saligao, Calangute and other villages, to sing at the beach stadium. We needed permission from the Bardez Municipality. I did all the arrangements. Unfortunately, there was no electricity on that evening. The Regedor of Calangute told us: “If you cannot sing, you can pray there”. We agreed to sing and to pray. We sang a lot in darkness and also prayed together with the people from every nook and corner, coming to Calangute beach. It was a good experience.
    I still remember how we used to go for bath to the spring (motth), how we used to eat “beddsam”, kanddam and churnam on the route to the spring. But we were afraid to eat cashew, because of bad experience of our childhood… In one family, there was a father and a son who would be excited and cruel, if anyone would eat cashew, even children. They would not have the finesse of offering cashew to children. But God has his own plans: the family disapeared. The son became insane and died, the father died together with the whole family… No trace is left…
    I reminded one of his nephews, who was quite sad while recounting his uncle’s misdeeds…
    May Calangute people prosper in the shadow of Saligao brethren, “uxelantle kole”…

  • snehal salgaonkar

    hello father,

    my late grand father was from Saligaon. He shifted long back in Mumbai. How do I find out my roots in there ? Please suggest. His name was Mahadeo Salgaonkar.

    Snehal Salgaon

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