Picturesque Goa

Picturesque Goa
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bombay to Goa - The Little Odyssey

Panjim Jetty


Bombay (now Mumbai) has been a second home to many Goans who have lived and worked there for generations. Nevertheless, they have not lost touch or their love for Goa. During the months of April and May, entire families will flock to Goa for their annual summer holiday along with their kids, soon after school final examinations. These two months have traditionally been the most enjoyable months, full of fun and frolic for everyone. The purpose of visits are many-fold; some of them are to get away from city life, holiday for parents and the kids, while other reasons are to carry out necessary repairs to ancestral homes and visit their loved ones. In the old days, many of us looked forward for such holidays. It would be an unforgettable experience. For most people the modes of transport to travel for this holiday was by steamer and bus, and to some by rail and air. Of all these, traveling by ship was the most popular and full of excitement. It was as though one large Goan family of more than five hundred members traveled for one mega holiday to one common destination: GOA. Here is my own experience.

It was the month of February
Not losing count of any single day
In quite a hurry
I seemed to be;
Thoughts of getting away
From life in the city
Of bright lights
Bus, tramcar and train
Far away from the hustle
And bustle of Churchgate,
Fort and Flora Fountain.

Endless waiting
Thoughts of school days
And final term examinations
Seemed never ending;
Memories of mangoes
Jack fruit and cashew apples
Were in the offing
Their aroma I imagined
And was for a while lost
In far away thoughts
And awakened by the sudden screech
Of a rain speeding.

“Just one more month, son”
Mum and Dad seemed to comfort;
Dad has his suitcase
And holdall at the ready;
Mum has been shopping
For summer wear
At the local market fair.

Tickets are booked
Dad has made sure of that
“We will be going by steamer” he said.
“Aunty Pam and kids will join us too”
Said Mum in the summer
of nineteen seventy-two.

The day to leave for Goa
Has finally arrived
The Ambassador taxi
Is waiting down by the kerb-side;
Off to Ballard Pier before dawn we head
And on board our place we finally get.

The steamer’s deck is full;
There seems to be quite a din,
Each in their own place,
The great journey is about to begin,
The ship sounds its siren,
With a mighty roar
As it lift its anchor.

There’s slight rumble on deck
As tugs pulls it out to sea;
In the distance
The majestic grandeur
And awesome structure
Of this landmark
Gateway of India
Grew smaller and smaller.

Soon we head south
Along the hazy coast on our left,
On the right we see the huge expanse
Of the Arabian Sea;
While for some at the start
Of the twenty-four hour journey
Seems to be to quite dizzy,
Slight pitching of the ship
Only a short-lived agony;
Others are quite at ease and jolly
Perhaps having traveled
So many times before
That they lost count
In their memory.

It is midday out at Sea
Ship’s canteen is busy;
Gathered on the aft deck
It’s a hot summer’s day
A bunch of teenagers
Have already got started
With their guitars tuned;
Joined in shortly with some new friends
They have a go with the first round
It’s the beginning of our summer holiday
With the popular hits of the times
Of Cliff Richard and the Shadows
Bachelor Boy and Young Ones.

Its evening
With breeze from the south-west
There is a slight lull on deck;
The ocean’s waves are high
It seems the ship’s constant roll
Had its toll
For many are now relaxed
After a short snooze.

Silhouettes of seagulls at sunset
Formed flying patterns,
As the passing ship heading north
On our starboard side
Seemed to bellow
With its siren a huge hello;
Promptly acknowledged
By our ship that woke up
Many a tired fellow.

It was supper time
The silvery moon
Seemed to smile
With its reflection
On the starboard side
Leaning on the rail
We took it all in
And young men sang
Lilting melodies of moon songs
As we sailed along in the splendid night.

Astern the moon lit up
A white trail of surf in its wake;
Aft deck above the horizon
The Pole Star
Posed as a direction finder
Amidst the seven bright stars
Spanning the northern skies
In the mighty constellation
Of the Great Bear.

Fishing line cast out into the sea
A lone sailor
Joined us later
As he stared into the dark horizon
And before everyone fell asleep
Narrated mariner’s stories,
Great travel adventures and life at sea.

Dreams on the upper deck that night were plenty
If fact a huge string of them,
Happy and lengthy;
Thoughts of Calangute,
Colva and Miramar beach
Friday Mapusa Bazaar;
Visits to Goa Velha
And Dona Paula.

After a marathon journey and a long night
The sun seemed to be in no hurry to rise,
The landscape seemed familiar
Something I have seen in the years earlier
Dad pointed out to me
The distant forts of Tiracol and Chapora
And the oldest lighthouse of Asia
At Fort Aguada;
He seemed to hold court
For almost everyone on
On the ship’s portside
As we to our destination
Were getting closer .

The ship glided gently
Through the delta and sandbar
At the mouth of the Mandovi River
Edging towards the quay
Some admire the beauty
Of the city of Pangim
To our left other admire
The beauty of the hills of Betim.

Dreams will shortly turn into reality
Uncle Seby will come
To fetch us hopefully
In a reserved ‘Opel Rekord’ taxi
Taking us to our ancestral home finally
With an experience of what seemed to be
A little odyssey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


VOL. 2 (2005) by Tony Fernandes

I was visiting my folks who have their abode high up in the Western Ghats bordering Goa at its southeastern quarter bordered by covetous neighbours who have had their eyes and minds absolutely set on diverting waters from our main river and artery of life towards their own selfish needs.

I have been spending almost a fortnight with my relatives at their guest house aerie during the peak tourist season combined with the grand festivities of the Exposition of the Relics of our beloved Patron, Saint Francis Xavier, the revelry of the much-hyped fancies of IFFI, banquet on the new bridge, followed by the festivities of Christmas, and the merriment and partying that went along in ushering in the New Year, all in a row. I was held spellbound and was still reeling from the sweet pressures of excitement of these events.

But at the same time, deep in my heart I feared for the lives of my people down below, while they checked out all these functions going on all over the land, traveling by buses, trains, mopeds of myriad varieties, compounded with the added chaotic situation on our deadly roads – phantom deathtraps lying in wait. I was sure it was going to be an impossible task for them to commute on these roads where at most times caution and discipline is thrown to the wind.

How absent-minded could I be? I’m an eagle – the majestic lord of the skies. Of course I can fly and keep out of the congestion on our mind-boggling traffic situation. I know the situation has even worsened by erratic driving habits of most of our mindless road-users that defy description. Any transportation device that has more than two wheels has priority here in this bustling tourist attraction where vulnerable men, women and children fear to tread. They risk their lives daily in doing simple chores, be it in traveling to visit their relatives, going to the market place or even just standing by the side of the road.

So come one cool December early morning my three cousins and I decided to go sightseeing, flying over our southern coastal area and central cities with Cousin Senior in command. Cruising leisurely due west at an average speed of 20 kph we were over Palolem Beach in no time. Briefly, while gliding through these southern skies we thought we were in Paradise. The overwhelmingly serene and magnificent vista of this coastal area below had us fooled into believing we were lost, albeit momentarily, mesmerized by the sheer breath-taking beauty of our sandy shores. After having been forced back to reality in a little bit, we banked north-westwards towards Margao city cruising in unison.

We pride ourselves in flying. And we wished the earthlings did the same too. We follow strict codes of aviation discipline. Just to make certain that we were on the right path we swallowed our pride and signaled for directions from what looked like an unruly bunch of black birds, and as bad luck would have it, these vagrants crossed us flying north. We got no response from this lot at first. Then after a while we received a coded Morse that seemed alien. My cousin Harry-Eagle was quick in de-coding and deciphering the strange signals. He was probably right in assuming that these guys must be “bhaile”. My other cousin Larry-Eagle confirmed this wayward flying pattern coupled with strange garbled signals that they are not residents of the area. No need to carry on any further conversation or investigation, he thought. “Gang of nomads, lamanis?” he wondered, “Are they surveying areas of business interests where our ‘Ganv-Bhaus’ fear to tread?” he queried.

Just as we stopped pondering over these negative aspects and effects of the trivia about this “bhaile” and “bitorle” mentality, we tried to look upon the better side of it. Just reflect and see how benevolent, tolerant and peace-loving bird-souls we have always been. We have been very tolerant – we have accepted migrants not only from neighbouring areas but also flying backpackers from Europe and Russia who are taking over and laying eggs in the very aeries built by our forefathers.

The cool sea breeze from the serene western shores gently hit our portside wings. The brilliant sun in the east lit the northwestern slopes. Meandering rivers of liquid waste reflected sunlight into our eyes, and smoke-spewing factories made us gasp. Chimney stacks certainly seemed to have made a huge irreparable and ecological damage. Unseen disaster seems to be looming, waiting to happen. Or perhaps the damage is already done. We are not aware of the consequences. Effects will be felt after some time. Protrusions of the chimney-stacks have also marred the beauty of their once glorious, verdant and pristine hilly slopes.

My thoughts seemed to wander. I was lost in deep thought, flying blindly, so to say. Suddenly, I was interrupted by my cousin, an experienced and senior navigator. He brought to my attention that we were already soaring over the city of Margao. So we circled around trying to locate the once beautiful and mythical Margao Municipal Garden that he wanted me to see. After a frantic search among the chaos of unruly parking, the pollution in the main city square amidst the din created by cars, buses, trucks and scooters plying in all directions, we finally found the once mystical garden. One calling it a garden nowadays would be a grave error, a misnomer and very unjustified title indeed! My cousin said it that this is not how he remembers it. The city had lost its former charm, dignity and glory and old world charm. I wished hopes were not lost not forever. The city mayor had tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to hang on to a well-laid out pattern of a former picturesque town, with medieval grace, with broad sidewalks and cafes with awnings. Sadly the sidewalks were now used a free shelves for hawkers peddling trinkets. The old city dwellers dared to stand up unsuccessfully to the ravages of time, with the once beautiful garden now teeming with jobless day-lodgers, free sleepers on the municipal benches and idle waywards whiling their time away sprawled on what we could now hardly call lawns. A couple of lungi-clad idlers were using the once famous Trellis-gate as a shade for a nap.

As we glanced west we were saddened to observe the crushed coaches of KRC Elevated Mass Transportation System. It was supposed to be the most modern and revolutionary innovation on this side of the globe. Sadly, there went their dream! And ours too!

Generally, to surmise, we were not at all impressed with what we saw of the city. The squalor of side lanes, the unbearable stench in the market place that could be sniffed at an altitude of over 5500 feet, nearly sent my younger cousin into a downward spin!

Long ago the people of this great metropolis spoke three languages, mainly Konkani and also Portuguese and English. With our ultra-sound sensing devices we could now hear a rattle of over two dozen alien tongues and dialects, excluding foreign tourists conversing in strange lingo, babbling in mixed jargon of a variety of speech and idiom, defying the times of the Tower of Babel. They now seemed to be a confused lot, lost in a rat-race heading nowhere.

We had another problem yet again just before heading out of town. We seemed to have got lost in this city, given our fabled vision, flawless sense of direction and unmatched navigational skills. I know I am brag, but we felt challenged in this disturbed metropolis. We tried to locate a once well-known street. So we inadvertently signaled another bunch of unruly fliers, that we yet again unluckily ran into, for directions. After a slight delay, came a reply that we quickly deciphered and christened it as “Konkanarese”. My youngest cousin, linguistically adept as ever, was quick to decode the message. Strangely, it read: “Street ka Naam changed hai, saar, also now streeta goinga all DIE-WRECKTIONS, saar, but afternoona time each and everyone buddy goinga one-way, saar”. “Another bunch of ‘bhaile’obviously” blurted my no-nonsense flying partner, adding: “Very shoddy message drafted with obvious help from a “bitorlo” in preparing the original draft, I guess”. “Don’t be so rude” said I “You should not say things like that. After all some even genuine NRI’s are sometimes wrongly referred to as aliens in their own homeland!”

Following the glistening train tracks from Margao towards the north, we were soon cruising over Majorda and Cansaulim in succession, and before we realized it we were over Vasco in no time. We circled over the city for a while, keeping out of the path of the nosy and noisy flying machines landing and taking off from the nearby airport that we believe is still under the management of a naval command. It was almost noon – the peak hours of a peak season of incoming and outgoing tourists either landing or taking flight!

As good guests we had promised our uncle and aunt that we would report back in time for lunch. We wouldn’t like to have them worried about us. So we decided to speed up a little bit to their settlement situated high up in the mountains, along a row of aeries southeast of the border, down Canacona way, where a sumptuous meal and eager folks would be waiting anxiously for us.

Tracing our path back to the mountains was very easy. We simply followed our beaks, so to say. The train tracks led us due southeast at first. We then headed towards Colem before turning south. Our radio-operator gem of a cousin, Harry-Eagle, radioed our aerie-base about our whereabouts and ETA. Headquarters responded how anxious they were to hear about our escapade. We would definitely have an interesting tale to tell over another scrumptious afternoon home-meal that we have been so eagerly looking forward to. Just like hungry birds.

Tony Fernandes
Goa: Memories of my Homeland
Poems and Stories

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


My 'Documento de Viagem' photo
taken by Monteiro Sr. 1960

By Tony Fernandes
Guirim, Cumbiem Morod, Bardez, Goa.

As I teenager in the mid-sixties I had a great fascination for and interest in the camera. My best friend and neighbour, Gabriel Monteiro, had a collection of cameras. He was a natural born photographer and had picked up all the knowledge (and some of the tricks of the trade, so to say) from his father, the famous Paulo Monteiro, who was a professional photographer himself in Bombay during the 1940’s and 1950’s. During his later years Monteiro Senior had come down to Goa for good. He was working with Kamat Photo Studios in Mapusa (a small town in the north of Goa, in the district of Bardez) as a photographer and laboratory technician, up the hill at Altinho, just a few yards down from the residence of the renowned touch and prayer healer of yesteryear, the legendary ‘Dixtticar’.

Paulo Monteiro had a collection of plate cameras. People from our village were lucky at times when they needed an urgent passport size for travel. They did not have to travel all the way to Mapusa for that purpose. He would oblige by taking passport pictures just outside his house in the morning, under the shade of the mango tree, and would have them ready by evening. I remember I had my picture taken by Monteiro Sr. to have my 'Documento para Viagem' issued in order to travel to Bombay.
Besides being a professional photographer, Monteiro Sr. was a well-respected senior in our village, and we often looked up to him for guidance and advice. As a young lad I would visit Gabriel's house at least thrice in a day. In the morning and evening it would be to listen to the radio programmes and evening to play carom, snakes and ladders, draughts, badminton or cards. In the evenings after school, all the young boys were at Gabriels’ place – either inside, out-side or in the court-yard. I was sure that in the likely event if my parents wanted me to do some chores or run an errand or something of that nature they would definitely know where to go looking for me.

On many occasions, when Mr. Monteiro Sr. came home from work for lunch in the afternoon, or on Sundays after returning from the chapel, I would see him with photographic work, like touching up negatives on his folding wooden frame or mounting and framing pictures. I admired the stunning framed black and white photographs that hung on the walls of the 'sala' in their house. One of these was a double exposure on one single frame. I remember at that time how in such total awe I was in, wondering as to how it might have been done. He was a master with portraits, and an expert in all aspects concerning the art of photography.
Gabriel and I grew up together and went to the same school. His father had built a darkroom adjoining their house, and Gabriel made sure to have it up and functional as his father grew older and stopped work. Gabru, as we affectionately called him, had often allowed me in the small darkroom even though there was comfortable standing room in there just for one. I was greatly excited the first time he ever let me stand in there. I was fascinated by the ease in which he manipulated the negatives, the printing papers and the chemicals. He often let me help him with the rinsing of the prints and subsequently let me assist him in glazing of the black and white prints. (Sorry, I'm letting out a secret here). This process involved sandwiching the freshly exposed prints between two glass surfaces and drying them up momentarily in the hot midday sun with the rapid motion of a hand roller. Most photos made as contact prints were in medium format (6 cm x 7cm) and although the size was small compared to today's standard 6"x4" prints it suited our purpose and convenience then. Otherwise, we would have to get them enlarged at photo studios in Mapusa which would be beyond our means. The photo film and printing papers were Ilford and Agfa-Gavaert 120, 220 and plate films, and the contact prints that were made from from these films were much bigger than the later 35mm film that became popular in the late 1960’s.

The darkroom during the summer months was quite hot and humid. Most of this work was done on weekends preferably at noon time. There was no electricity those days. So how could you process prints? One would wonder. Slowly, I’d say. The trick or an invention of some sort was this: On the darkroom wall open to the outside, Gabriel and his father had created a tiny square window that was roughly 6 in. x 6 in. in opening size through the mud-brick wall. There was a wooden grooved rail on the top and bottom on the inside of this window into which a glass of a size of about 7”ht x 15” length would smoothly slide into. Half of the glass was translucent white and the other half had a gelatine filter glued to it. This half served as a working safe-light.

When the red portion of the glass was stopped at the opening, the faint red light permitted Gabriel to see where all the negatives, printing papers and the chemicals were placed. Sliding over the translucent white portion of the glass to make an exposure he would quickly turn and hold the negative film along with the printing paper in the printing frame towards the opening, while counting the number of seconds required in his mind, rapidly pull away from the window and voila! But not yet, the final result would be possibly known after the printing process was completed with the developer, stopper and fixer (hypo) baths.

Incidentally, what one has to admire and appreciate here is that the exposures were made almost in total darkness of this tiny room, while it was bright sunny afternoon outside. Mind you, there was no electricity. Just plain daylight (and not direct sunlight) provided as a light source. Isn’t this amazing?

That was not all. Having Gabru around was a great boon to everybody around him. He would organize village football and hockey tournaments. He was always keen in uniting all the youngsters in the village. There was nothing that he wasn't good at. He would always be there to take pictures of the football and hockey teams and the results of the great pictures he took would be there for the all the team players to see in an instant. Besides being a gifted and self-taught photographer at weddings, anniversaries and other occasions, he was a great sportsman and a lively person. He was a very able goalkeeper and a consistent reigning pole vault champion for many years in our school at Monte de Guirim. We made a good team in running errands on foot or on bicycles not only for our families, but also for most of our neighbours in the village, lending a helping hand in whatever ways we could, that included voluntary house repair work. We cycled great distances to watch or play football matches. At other times we also used bicycles to travel long distances to convey sad news of a death in our village to relatives, deliver messages and invitations.

But more than anything Gabriel was one of the best friends of my childhood. Today, Gabriel’s son, Roque Monteiro, who is himself also a young, keen, talented and professional photographer walks in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps carrying on the same gift of the art of photography, thus continuing with a third generation of family photographers.

Besides doing wedding and portrait photography, he also does conference photography and video shooting for all occasions.

Tony Fernandes
Guirim – Bardez - Goa
Mississauga – Ontario - Canada

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It’s been since in the mid-1960’s when I got my first camera till the late 1980’s that I was simply fascinated with Kodachrome transparency film. Though I had to wait for nearly 2 weeks to receive the film made into slides, it definitely was worth the wait.

The enjoyment was two-fold. First, the fulfillment was in joy of viewing the transparencies on a battery-operated slide-viewer, and later, after sorting them out and arranging them in sequence, was the added benefit of viewing them with family and friends on weekends, using a projector. Still, later, if preferred, you had yet another choice of making prints from the slides of your choice.

Before acquiring a back-lit slide-viewer, I must have spent quite a number of hours holding up slides to the light through the window with a magnifying glass.
Although the days of shooting slides may have long gone past, the brilliant colours and details still remain if stored with care. After alternating between slide film and print film in the beginning, I did carry two cameras at times, one with each type of film.

Eventually, even though I gradually decided to phase out shooting slides by mid-1990’s, my interest in viewing old ones did not ebb. Since then, once in a while, I would retrieve them, sort out the good exposures from the bad, and make prints from the ones I liked the most.

Today I hold dear and reminisce about the sheer joy of transparencies of another era.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Majestic Mandovi Hotel

(For an enlarged view please click on picture)

Getting back to nostalgia, Hotel Mandovi - one of the landmarks of yesteryear, was probably the only decent and prominent hotel in the city of Panjim in Goa, India. During the 1960's it was one of the only few modern buildings of the time.

I took this picture from the ferry crossing the River Mandovi at Betim. For me this diapositive makes quite an interesting and memorable scene. The camera was a 35mm Minolta with a fixed standard 50 mm, f2.7 lens. In analysing and judging from the shadows in the picture, I notice that they are falling at an angle across the balconies of the hotel. So it seems that the picture must have been taken on one very sunny April day, the time probably being 10 o'clock or so.

The photo was shot using Kodachrome 35mm transparency, 64 ASA film. It was sent to Kodak Film Laboratories at Hemel Hempstead, England, for processing from the Trucial States of Oman (now the U.A.E.) where I worked. It would have taken about 3 weeks to receive the slides in its trademark yellow box and transparent lid. Cost of processing was included in the price of the film itself, as was stated on the film carton.

Now, the date stamped by Kodak on the slide mount reads as 'MAY 69' which is the processing date of the film, in addition to 'Slide No.19' and 'View from this side' type-stamped on the transparency mount. So I assume I must have taken this picture sometime in April 1969 during my usual summer vacation times to Goa.

The reason and the opportunity to take a frontal shot of the Hotel from River Mandovi must have been due to the fact that the good old ferry (gajelin) was the sole mode of transportation to get across to Panjim from Mapusa via Betim - and it had to be a nautical kind. The first Mandovi bridge must not have been quite ready then - I think it must have opened to traffic the following year. Sadly it collapsed in 1986, just like the several elected Goa State Governments that collapsed in the following years!

On viewing the slide using a macro transparency viewer, next to the hotel I can seen two signboards on the first floor an old building, presenting itself in sharp contrast and appearance with reinforced concrete columns, laterite stones and unfinished plastering, probably awaiting the services of professional 'bhaillo' plasterer! Or it could have been a reconstruction of a much older building entrusted to a local who must have been taking his own time.

Again, o
n closer inspection of the diapositive with the aid of a magnifier the signboard on the left reads: 'The Syndicate Bank Ltd. Panaji'. The lettering on the other sign alongside, and to the right, is barely discernible. My guess is that it would be the signboard of head offices of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, but I could be wrong.

The slide will complete a cool 44 years in May 2013. The above picture of the very same slide was re-taken using my 30-year old 'Hansa' Bellows Slide Copier and Close-up lenses combination coupled with a Nikon D40X Digital Camera.

Tony Fernandes