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The carriage that never ran out of fuel

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

In the 1940s and 50s one means of transportation that all were familiar with in the picturesque Goan village of Saligao was the boilanchi gaddi (ox-driven carriage). Only a few people could be accommodated in it. The man driving the oxcart carriage was known as the gaddiekar, and the ticket cost just four annas.

My friend Dominic Peter Francis Fernandes from Anjuna gives a nice description of the boilanchi gaddi as a vehicle of transport in Goa: “The gaddi was made of wood. At its rear end, it had a half-door entrance with a metal step below, and two small windows, one on each side. It had a bench on either side with a sitting capacity of two persons each; but three would usually squeeze in.

“In addition, a small stool or two would be placed in the middle of the carriage to accommodate children, or a lighter person or two. The carriage was usually painted in a mustard shade with fine brown bordering the edges. The wooden spokes on the wheels were painted black.

Boilanchi gaddi - The ox-driven carriage in Saligao, Goa. [Sketch by Mel D'Souza ©]

“The gaddiekar always tied a bucket to the main beam of the oxcart carriage and a small zablli (net made of coir) filled with fresh grass or dry hay. As soon as he reached the destination, he would untie the oxen and tie them to a nearby tree. He would then take out some grass or hay from the zablli and place it before them. He would then fetch water from a well with a bucket and quench their thirst. In the summer, he would collect extra water and splash it on the oxen’s backs to cool them down.

“After dark he lit a lamp that was fixed to the right side of the oxcart carriage. When the nights grew colder, he wore thick clothing and covered his head and ears with a muffler. He smoked a cigarette (usually the locally rolled viddi) to keep warm.

“The beauty of the gaddi was that the wooden wheels could never get punctured, nor did it break down or run out of petrol like a car. Neither was the gaddiekar required to change gears every now and then; a gaddi always ran at one speed—slow and steady like a tortoise!”

In Saligao we had quite a number of gaddio for transport in Goa. Some people called them matchboxes Along with Salvador Mascarenhas from Mollembhatt, I made an attempt to identify some of the drivers of these boilanchio gaddio. We remembered Atmaram from Maroddant in Mollebmhatt; Rajaram, in front of St. Anne’s chapel; Dhakttu, at the back of St. Anne’s chapel; Rama  in Mudd’davaddi; Koroi at Mudd’davaddi near Coutinho’s house; Bogvont in Mudd’davaddi near Mannichem-bhatt (bamboo grove); and, Fokro near the mill in Mudd’davaddi.

Fokro’s gaddi was painted all white. It had a larger capacity, and took passengers all the way to Calangute or Mapusa. As the upkeep of his carriage was expensive, the tickets were priced higher for transport in Goa.

In Arrarim and Salmona there were Xenkor, Nonni Sawant, and another gaddiekar whose nickname was Sounso. Mahadev Moroskar from Cotula was also a proud owner of a gaddi.

There were also cart owners – called gaddekar in Konkani – whose cart was known as a gaddo. It was another mode of transport in Goa, mainly for merchandise being sent to Mapusa and Siolim. They transported chillies, onions, lentils and vegetables (especially sweet potatoes), grown in the fields of Saligao, to these major marketplaces. At the time when sugarcane was grown in plenty in Saligao, the gadde were also used to transport Saligao’s speciality sugar-candy known as belios to the Three Kings feast at Reis Magos, celebrated on the 6th of January. The gaddekar brought back salt to Saligao from Pilerne, Baga-Arpora and other places, and sold it to families in Saligao. This cart too was made of wood, and driven by oxen, but minus the cage of the boilanchi gaddi. Also, instead of a metal handle at the rear, it had a wooden seat.

The gaddekar who served the village community of Saligao for transport in Goa were well-known. We had Gopal from Mollebhatt; Tatulo, Batulo and Bhogvont from Mudd’davaddi; Shankar near the pond in Donvaddo; Atmaram (Goro Babol) in Donvaddo; Nouso Umbraskar, Ramakant, Panddulo, Xenkor and others from Salmona and Arrarim.

These transporters were an integral part of the Saligao community, and always provided their services with dignity and a smile. Although public transport in Goa has not progressed all that much, today we nevertheless rarely see a gaddi or gaddo in our village – how time changes everything!

[With additional inputs from Patsy Barneto, Dominic Andrade and Salvador Mascarenhas]

5 comments on The carriage that never ran out of fuel

  • Well compiled article with names of the ‘drivers’ of a bygone era of transportation.

  • Henry Assumption

    Great reading..brings tears to your eyes.We lived in Salsete my sisters were in the Bastora Convent.We went to visit them by bus to Mapusa and then on to Bastora by DAMNI (Gaddi) it was up a hill so we had to get off and walk till we were on level ground..On the way back there was a braking system to control the speed downhill.. they were memorable trips..my brother Aleixo insisted there were 5000 stones on the road..when chalenged by my mother, he said every time the wheel hit a stone my bottom hurt! and I counted!..No amont of stereo music in todays taxis could touch those moments. Thank you all for taking the time to put all this down.

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Henry Assumption,
    Thank you also for your contribution for describing the damni drive from Mapuça to Bastora with gusto and bringing nostalgic memories of those by-gone days. God bless you. Fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Hubert William D Souza

    Dear Father
    I use to travel to Calangute daily in the month of May in these Garries. The name of the driver was Mahadev.

  • Joe Soares

    I am from Pilerne and we had gaddis in Moicavaddo and I remember (I was about 7 or 8 years old) we called the gaddi to bring the Doctor from Verem when needed.Otherwise the local shrubs and roots did the cure. And I also remember every summer my granny called the gaddi and put the three of us in it with our domestic and off we went to Carrascovaddo in Mapusa to my mother’s house. There was a steep climb but our gaddi managed it and we had a pleasant ride to and fro every summer.

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