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Bernardo Da Cunha and the live log

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

My friend Bernardo da Cunha and I made elaborate preparations to go fishing in Goa in the Xiroda River in Salvador do Mundo, a village not far from Saligao in Goa. It was a Sunday in early August of the year 1954. So, well equipped with my bait of a few prawns and mud worms called gaindoe; a bag containing a big loaf of bread stuffed with an egg omelette; and a bottle of water, I waited for him at the Readdeachi Xim bordering the Goan villages of Saligao and Sangolda. At that time the road between Saligao and Salvador do Mundo was a mud path, but Bernado’s Humber cycle easily bore the double load. After traversing the lengthy forest area of Jambukar hills at Alto Porvorim, we landed safely at chear manos in Saloi.

It was early afternoon and there was no chance of anything scary showing up. Still, you can never say! So we remained alert, pausing almost every step to peer front, left, right and even behind us as we gingerly walked towards the river. I settled down at the chear manos, an open space where people would come for a stroll, while Bernardo chose a good spot two hundred metres away and rested his back firmly against the trunk of a tree for protection and assurance against the unseen denizens of the forest. We unrolled our fishing lines, baited our hooks and cast the lines as far as we could. Our eyes swept over the moving waters. Fishing in Goa was always an exciting experience for us young lads. Little whirlpools here, bubbles there, a fish leaping out of the water. I had caught nothing so far. So to amuse myself I randomly threw a pebble in the river now and then, piercing the water and sending tiny ripples of waves moving outward in beautiful concentric circles. The monotony was intermittently broken by my singing of a little rhyme, “Xirvoddchim cheddvam, Mottinch pamprelam? Ratchim ugttim ghaltai zonnelam, Oi zonnelam… Sallgonvchechedde Uxellantle kolle…

No pebbles or rhymes for my friend Bernado, though, as he was concentrating on the fishing. He kept his eyes essentially fixed on his motionless float, but his glance intermittently wandered to a log on the opposite bank. He wondered who had placed it there, for there were no trees around anywhere near it. Darn it all! Fish were prancing about everywhere and still no bite for more than an hour.

Sketch by Mel D'Souza

Bernado drew in his line and changed the bait. As he cast the line again he abruptly hooked a whopper. He was so taken aback that he almost lost hold of his rod. He steadied himself, toyed with the catch for a bit and then triumphantly landed the struggling fish.

Suddenly, his eyes caught sight of movement on the opposite bank fifty metres away. With increasing alarm, he glared wide-eyed at what he had thought was a dried-up log all the time. A crocodile with jaws wide part slipped into the water and came towards him. Fish, rod and bait were all forgotten!

Maimge,” he yelled, as he frantically scuttled towards me. I too was taken aback by his panic, but managed to enquire, “Kitem re… khuim re…” He was dumbstruck, pointing in the direction of the “log”. But he quickly regained his composure and both of us quickly headed back homeward. It was on the way back that Bernado told me everything about the log that turned out to be a croc. Looks like the crocodile wanted all the fish for itself! When we returned home to the village of Saligao and started telling the tale, as you can well imagine, a crowd gathered and animatedly jabbered about our bizarre adventure. Bernado had his fifteen minutes of fame, verily!

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