Our family’s “Baba” Black Sheep

by Mel D’Souza

 “Baba” was a universal term of affection used in Goa to address a little boy or an adult male who was in good standing in the community. The term would also be used, somewhat grudgingly, when addressing the odd individual who was an embarrassment to his family, but whose misdeeds were not serious enough for him to be thrown out of the house. I suppose he could be called the ‘baba’ black sheep of the family.

Black sheep were few and far between, but we had one in our family. He was my granduncle and his name was Galdinho D’Souza.

Galdinho was the brother of my paternal grandmother. He was born and raised in our village of Saligao, before moving to East Africa after World War I, as many Goans did, in search of employment in the British colonies. But although it was virtually impossible for a Goan not to find employment almost anywhere in Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda at that time, Galdinho never held a job. He spent most of his time fishing, visiting the Goan Institute clubhouse in Dar es Salaam, and freeloading off his friends and relatives.

Galdinho’s sole possessions were a few items of casual clothing, a white suit, an old bicycle, and a bamboo fishing rod. When I was a young boy during World War II (the fighting did not come to East Africa), Galdinho would visit us once a month, on dad’s payday, and then treat me to jugu (roasted peanuts) or an ice cream at Pandya’s. Naturally, I considered myself lucky to have such a generous granduncle, not knowing that he was treating me all along with my dad’s money!

In the afternoon on weekends – or weekdays, if the tides were right – Galdinho would be seen on his bicycle, his fishing rod over his left shoulder like a radio antenna, heading for Kinondoni Beach where he would fish in the surf for the silvery “lady fish”. On his way home, he’d give the fish to his friends who, I’m sure, gave him a few shillings in return.

Galdinho was present at every wedding, funeral, and dance wearing his ubiquitous white suit. And, at the Goan Institute, he’d never be seen without a beer in hand although he was never known to buy a drink at the bar. I’m sure he never said “No” to any Goan club members who would have greeted his entrance into the bar with the traditional “Hello Galdinho, have a drink?”

When I went to Goa in 1947 to continue my schooling in the village of Saligao, my grandmother told me that Galdinho was a notorious prankster in his teens, and kept getting into all kinds of trouble. The most audacious prank, she said, was when he climbed unassisted to the top of the steeple of the Mae de Deus church (the only old church in Goa with a steeple) – something that was never done before, and never accomplished since. Apparently, he placed his feet in a loop of coir rope for traction, with another rope around the steeple in a garrote-like grip, and scaled the steeple as would a coconut-tree climber.

When I returned to Dar es Salaam after graduating from high school, it never occurred to me to ask Galdinho for details of this episode. He died a few years later and I didn’t bother to pursue the story any further.

However, it was only recently that I was able to learn more about Galdinho when I met with Lena Remedios-Nunes in Toronto, Canada. Lena not only confirmed that Galdinho had indeed climbed the church steeple, but went on to tell me the story behind the episode.

Saligao Church - Mae de Deus. Saligao, Goa

It so happened that when Galdinho was a teenager in school, he fell madly in love with a schoolgirl named Rosalinda Raymond, from the village of Siolim. Rosalinda was a very pretty girl whose affluent parents had enrolled her in St. Mary’s School in Saligao. Apparently, she didn’t seem to care for Galdinho, and perhaps didn’t even know of his crush on her. On the other hand, Galdinho’s infatuation with Rosalinda was so intense that he used every opportunity to try to gain her attention, evidently without much success. To add to his frustration, his friends would taunt him about the futility of his pursuit saying that Rosalinda considered him a ‘sissy’. One day they suggested that if he really wanted to impress Rosalinda and win her heart, he should perform a spectacular feat that would prove to her that he was the bravest and worthiest of all the boys in the village. And this he did by scaling the church steeple and placing a piece of his clothing on the crucifix as proof that it was he who accomplished a feat that is now part of Saligao legend.

Lena also told me about a romantic ballad – a mando – that Galdinho had written for Rosalinda. Lena recalled all the four verses and sang them for me as I recorded the poignant lyrics on tape.

The sad ending to this story is that Galdinho never won Rosalinda’s heart. Could it be that the impact of his shattered love was so devastating that he never married?

The revelations about my granduncle, Galdinho, make me wonder how many other notable black sheep of the past harboured secrets which, if made public, would make us look upon them sympathetically as romantics instead of rakes.

2 comments on Our family’s “Baba” Black Sheep

  • Annette Vas e D'Souza

    U.Mel – Seen this anecdote just today, …a year on? Huh!….Thanks….made good reading as recall Dad talking of the same person! I am not sure whether I knew him as a youngster or know of him because of the stories & the photo we have/had at home. Was U.Galdinho around in Dar in 1960? Dad used to speak of him as Galdin & I used to remember the Caldin sweet curry which I love to this day. Heard the story about someone climbing the spire, perhaps it was granny who related it but I didnt connect it with U.Galdinho. However one thing I clearly remember is Dad saying “let us see if this relative (unlike the others) keeps his promise & visits us in our sleep to tell us of the other world that he is going to since he is so sure of being able to do that !” Needless to say we waited in vain.

    The Baabaa Black Sheep must have been an interesting guy. Ha ha! I liked the bit about him treating you to goodies (jugus) with your dad’s money….very generous eh? Smart guy too! Enterprising & a Survivor seeing that he didnt hold a job at all.

    Are you going to insert his character in a book along with the others – other relatives….bicycle with failed brakes etc. I will wait for the same.

  • Edwin & Ivy De Souza

    Just received this Saligao website 12 July 2014!

    Both of us remember Galdin – growing up in Dar. Memories are dim now but we recall him visiting our parents. Yes, we saw him at many functions and the GI – a likeable, memorable, harmless rogue!

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