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Of Fisherfolk and Farmers

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Our forefathers in the villages of Goa lived for the day, occupying themselves mainly with fishing and farming. Not having any water bodies of significance during the last couple of centuries, the village of Saligao was not witness to much fishing activity. However, fishing was a significant occupation for the neighbouring villages of Calangute and Sirula, and it was from these villages that Saligao obtained its fish. We had salt-water fish from Calangute and fresh-water fish from Salvador do Mundo and Britona. At times we went to Pilerne during the rainy season to fish with makeshift fishing rods and bait; it was an exhilirating experience for us youngsters.

Like other Goans, Saligaokars too were agriculturists in the past. They tilled the fields and filled the barns with rice, and later on with sugarcane too. Some possessed private fields of their own, but at the end of the paddy season were required to give some portion of the yield to the Comunidade. The money obtained from the sale of this rice was distributed in cash as zon (dividend) to those ganvkars and zonnkars who were registered that year to receive zon. Nowadays very few register their names with the Comunidade to collect the yearly dividend. It would be interesting to know the latest list of zonnkars from Saligao who collect zon.

Xitt Koddi Dav

In Saligao, besides paddy and sugarcane, the villagers grew sweet potatoes, maize, vegetables, onions, chillies and ginger. Some nurtured mango and coconut sapplings. Others grew tamarind and moxing as well as ananas, toronja and rozanvle trees along with curry pat’ta. So the villagers had ample paddy for rice and coconut and other ingredients for the curry. In some households there was also dhal or dav. Hence the song “Ami Goenkar bhav, xitt, koddi, dav…”!

As my friend Domnic Peter Francis Fernandes from Anjuna and one-time student of the famous Monte de Guirim school, says, “In those simple, waste-free and need-based days, the only shortage was that of fish; and that the farmer got that from the fisherman. Thus the farmer and fisherman bartered grains and fish and helped each other to survive. Their exchange was not business-oriented. This is how ‘fish curry rice’ came to be Goa’s staple food. Since Goans were primarily farmers, they also owned cattle, goats and fowl. This is how our ancestors lived off the land in the past and brought up their children through hard work and toil.”

Education and Culture

Formal education arrived in Saligao in the 18th century, if not before. A good number of boys from Saligao studied at the Chorao and Rachol seminaries and several of them later opened schools in the village. It was a great blessing. They realised the value of education and consequently saw that it was key to their future. Thus the desire to study only increased by the day. Incidentally this year, 2010, Rachol Seminary is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation, on November 1st.

Even if our ancestors focused mainly on farming and fishing, they also took a special interest in cooking and food. Due to their expertise, several were employed in palaces and this increased their status. Similarly, Saligaokars were good at music. In those days, the kings and rulers in India invited dancers to perform at their palaces, and they needed musicians too. Here again our villagers obliged and filled up the vacancies. Gradually these hobbies turned into their professions, and became means of sustenance for their families. Thus, our ancestors established themselves as expert cooks, butlers and musicians.

The hard-earned money was put to good use in the education of the children, who, over time, became high-ranking officers, priests and bishops, doctors and other professionals, and occupied top positions in society. We should never forget that all this was made possible by the farmer, the fisherman, cook, butler and musician.

Our ancestors went out of their way, sacrificed everything for us, and provided us with a good education. This made us what we are today. We must recognise the hardships our forefathers went through and salute them. When they realised that they couldn’t do much for their families with the meager salaries they earned in Saligao, they left for foreign shores. There, they excelled in their professions and were able to provide a better life for their families in their native village.

Progress

During the same period, the world itself underwent rapid changes. People saw airplanes in the skies. Man created history by setting foot on the moon in 1969. Back in our village, news of this historic event was met with disbelief and then followed with awe. Even C Alvares’ immortal verses like Chani Mama kekem dita… began to lose meaning. The march of science was inexorable, bringing about improvements that eventually reached Saligao too.

Until the late sixties, there were neither tarred roads nor electricity in Saligao. The exception was the road that went from Peggie’s Corner to the Calangute seashore. Suddenly, in the early seventies, mud paths in the village were replaced by tarred roads. We noticed all kinds of vehicles running smoothly on them. Homes received electricity. With that the Petromax and kerosene lamps, which had been our night vision, were gradually confined to a corner or thrown away. Water began to gush through pipes into our kitchens. All of this happened so quickly that we hardly realised the magnitude and seriousness of the changes. The world kept moving ahead at a very fast pace and our tiny society too fell in line behind.

Of course things have changed much today and the world order now is vastly different. The present era belongs to technology, and the whole world depends on it now. Soft-spoken Herman Carneiro, son of Jules Carneiro (Navelim) and Hilda Pinto Carneiro (Cotula, Saligao), set up Goanet in 1994 when he was just 17, providing a way for Goans in Goa and around the world to interact with each other and share their views and experiences through the Internet. And Frederick Noronha, from Sonarbhatt in Saligao, an independent journalist and publisher, and very active in cyberspace, supported Herman Carneiro and Goanet, and also started SaligaoNet, building community and social capital for more than a decade. Tanch Fudde Mar.

2 comments on Of Fisherfolk and Farmers

  • strongly object location word “peggie’s corner,kindly replace same with “sokoilem voltar” voilem voltar being near martin cordeiro’s place. Fr.Nascimento, peggy is no more,she had worked ceaselessly for the poor n downtrodden, u shud know about it m sure she had touched yr life in some way too. Thanks.

  • Dear Janice,
    I have taken note of your strong objection and I am sorry. Glad that you do read the essays on Saligaoserenade. My prayers are with you and your family. Joyful Christmas and Peaceful New Year 2012. fr. nascimento mascarenhas

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