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The Foxes In The Sugarcane Plantation

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Saligao is a well-known village in Bardez, Goa. The people from neighbouring villages refer to Saligaokars as Uxellantle Kole or, nowadays, simply Kole (foxes). How did this nickname originate? Let me tell you the interesting story:

Many centuries back it was rather difficult for people in Saligao to travel from one ward to another, especially during the monsoons when the fields were usually submerged in water. In several places there were ponds, streams and even fountains.

No one thought of constructing canoes or other small boats to traverse these water bodies. Perhaps, being agriculturists like most other Goans were, even the knee-deep water in the fields didn’t bother them too much. Rice was the chief crop, and the produce was substantial enough to last through the year. Each family gave a part of their share of paddy to the village association known as the Ganvkari or Comunidade. The ganvkars (village elders) jointly held, administered and enjoyed the produce of the community lands. Through this Comunidade, the villagers gradually took care of building roads, aqueducts for rain water, irrigation, top-draining of marshy land, and other requisite public works.

Besides rice, they also began the plantation of sugarcane in their various fields. When the sugarcane ripened, the foxes from the surrounding hills descended into the plantations and feasted on the sweet bounty. The farmers kept driving them away, but foxes are, well, quite foxy. They seemed to appear from nowhere at night and ravaged the plantations. Exasperated, the villagers had a joint meeting. They decided that they would have to protect the crop by their physical presence at all times.

Groups were formed, with each ward nominating a few individuals for the guard duty at different times. They set up tents called khompteo at various points in and around the fields and manned them day and night, hiding among the stalks, catching by surprise the astonished foxes the minute they entered the fields, and chasing them away with sticks and stones. The shrewd Saligaokars succeeded in protecting their valuable crops by totally outfoxing the foxes. And deservedly earned the nickname Uxellantle Kole – the foxes in the sugarcane plantation!

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