by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas
As my friend Salvador Mascarenhas and I continued to walk through the vaddo (ward) of Cotula in Saligao, we found ourselves at the house of the late Sebastian Pinto. He was an Africander, a social worker, and always smiling. Opposite is Amanda Lopes e Souza’s residence—she is now in Portugal. She was a good pianist and a very amiable character. She was senior to us at Mater Dei, and we were also acquainted with her brother Jerry, and Gloria.
At this point is the road that leads to Saligao church and beyond. Being tired, we took a break under the shelter of the house of our friend Dominic Andrade. I informed them that besides Lourdes Convent, Cotula had several schools teaching Latin and Portuguese in olden times. The first school to be set up in this ward was that of Padre Mesre André Soares from Salém, Salvador do Mundo. He was authorized to teach by a provision dated 26-08-1751. He was a master in Latin. There was a boys’ school, teaching Portuguese and ‘latinidade’ conducted by Fr. Lazaro de Souza. It was fondly known as Pe. Ladru’s school. It was one of the four Government Public Schools. It owed its existence to Mr. José da Gama, who generously offered free plots on which a large building was erected in Cotula. This building has since been demolished and private houses have come up on the premises. In an annexe, primary classes in Portuguese used to be conducted by Antoninho Cordeiro, around the beginning of the twentieth century. Another Latin and Portuguese school in this ward was that of Father Caetano Maria Anacleto Rodrigues.
There was also a Music School where José Luis Rodrigues conducted music classes. Another school in Cotula was the Anglo-Portuguese School founded in 1894 by Francisco Xavier de Mendonça and Diogo Miguel de Sousa, assisted by Leopoldina Pinto. Saligao had some other schools in other wards too. The present Lourdes Convent High School was started in Cotula in 1946 by the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King (FMCK). Mother Bridget Sequeira, who founded the FMCK Order in Karachi was a native of Sonarbhatt in Saligao. She sailed from Karachi with three sisters at the request of a gentleman from Saligao and arrived in Goa on 13 May 1946. They arrived at a house in Cotula which would be called the Lourdes Convent in future. It was in the residence of an elderly lady and her two daughters where they started an English school with 30 pupils. It was a large private mansion from where later on the school was shifted to other private residences in Arrarim. The nuns now have their own modern one-storied imposing structure amidst pleasant surroundings on a hillock of Donvaddo in the proximity of Sonarbhatt. This convent cum school was built in three stages and finally completed in 1968.
While resting outside Dominic Andrade’s house we glanced at the western side of the ward and noticed a school conducting classes in English by the “Believers”. Nearby, there was the house of Servulo whom we affectionately called Sevo and who is no more.
Earlier, there was a “domestic arts” school at this spot. Girls so inclined could learn needlework, embroidery, dressmaking, dancing and music. Gender roles were obviously very well-defined in those days! In these schools, elements of reading and writing were also taught, but the emphasis was on domestic arts. Eslinda de Souza, who conducted combined classes for dress-making and painting, lived in this part of Cotula.
Next we saw the house of Archibald Serrao. He was our Maths teacher at Mater Dei Institute. Later on he taught the same subjects at Lourdes Convent. He was also famous for arranging football matches in the village as well as at Mater Dei. He took utmost care of the football players, and always encouraged them.
At the far end of this part of Cotula is the house of late Damasceno Dantas, who used to conduct the daily rosary in the church, and always seemed to be cheerful and happy. His brother, Pascoal João (Paul) Dantas, was a leader at Mater Dei School. He now lives in the US, but does visit Saligao – I remember that Pascoal and his wife were once presidents of the Saligao feast.
The former house of the Gama Rose family is also in Cotula. The famous journalist of yesteryear, Leopoldo da Gama was born in that house. He received his first education in one of the Portuguese schools in Cotula. He contributed his writings in Portuguese to a number of journals and newspapers in Goa and was the editor of some of them. Here is an interesting incident in his life:
“Provocation came on a sweltering day in May. Under a blazing noonday sun, a young man was stripped to the waist and publicly flogged half to death for ‘raising his hand’ at a Portuguese official. On the following Sunday, Leopoldo da Gama’s column was titled ‘A Call to Arms’. It was an impassioned plea for violent revolution. The same night four of the most powerful men in Goa met in the imposing palace on the cliffs of Dona Paula: the Governor, the Public Prosecutor, the Chief of Constabulary and the Commander of the Panjim garrison. The Governor sought the legal view. ‘Treason’ said the Public Prosecutor succinctly. Leopoldo da Gama is to be arrested tomorrow. A mundkar brought the news early in the morning to Dona Carlota da Gama that her son Leopoldo would be arrested that morning. Leopoldo da Gama saved himself from a fate worse than death by hiding beneath his mother’s skirt. The Captain arrived at Dona Carlota’s house and gave her the message ‘I have a warrant for the arrest of Leopoldo da Gama, on a charge of high treason with written permission from the Chief of Constables to search your house. ‘My son’ Dona Carlota said, lying with great conviction, ‘left yesterday morning for Margao,’ and remained unfazed in the porch without moving. The Captain and the rest of his men began to hunt for Leopoldo. They peered into cupboards, looked under beds and tables, went up to the loft, in frustration attacked the haystack with unnecessary violence. They searched even the chapel and also the well and the wash-room. But they did not find Leopoldo anywhere. They left the house, the mundkars rushed to announce that the troops had already reached the Porvorim hill. ‘You can come out now…’ Leopoldo emerged. His expression made it clear that he had begun to appreciate the hazards of crusading journalism. They made Leopoldo strip, smeared him from top to toe with coconut oil, over which they rubbed in black kitchen soot. Unrecognizable, he was given trousers and shirts, a blanket, a staff and a packet of food and some money. There were tearful farewells. He could never return to Goa. Then, living off the land he walked all the way to Bombay, four hundred miles to the north, there to become the popular General Manager of the very British Royal Yacht Club.”
After many years he did return to Goa at Penha de França where he died on 28 April, 1929 and his mortal remains lay buried in the parish cemetery. He was the son of Luis António da Gama from Saligao, a top judge, and of Carlota Joaquina Gonsalves (Penha de França). Their house in Saligao has since been bought by some rich gentleman.