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Thursday, October 02, 2008


Major Days of the Morris Minor,
the Doctor, my Bicycle and ME.

As I grew up in Goa during the 1950’s and 1960’s it was quite common to see American and European cars on the roads then. Although no one in my family owned a car, I was very happy to receive an occasional ride in a Morris Minor that belonged to our family physician.

On a side note, I was happy with a new adult-size bicycle that my father gave me. (By the way, I think it was as though even the bicycle was bought keeping in mind the usual 'vaddtea angar'* principle that prevails until today (*literal meaning: for the growing body) to benefit a fast growing body of a teenager!). 
My bicycle played its part alongside the Morris Minor.

The Morris was quite a popular car among other 'foreign' cars in those days - fine medium-sized piece of English automotive engineering of that era. They were seen in many colours: black, dark blue, grey or white, and were mainly privately owned by landlords, doctors, lawyers and merchants.

As a young lad I ran errands for many households in the village other than my own. One of these errands, on many occasions, was to fetch a doctor to the village in an emergency. Sometimes I would be summoned by a neighbour at a short notice for a quick brief: name of the town, name of the doctor, street address and directions, not forgetting to let the doctor know that’s it is urgent and that he has to come as soon as he possibly can.

One of these doctors who often visited our village had a clinic in the town of Mapusa, Bardez - a district in North Goa - a distance of about 2 km from our village. And, of course, he happened to own one of these fine cars of yesteryear – the ‘Mighty’ Morris Minor of yesteryear.

Having made it to the doctor’s clinic on my bicycle, the first thing I would do was to make sure I locked my bike. Then briefly speaking to the nurse with a request for the doctor’s visit, I would wait outside for the doctor to conclude examinations of his remaining patients in the clinic, if there were any. Leaving my cycle there after making sure that I locked it, I would ride along with the doctor giving him the directions.

It was customary in those days for the errand runner to carry the doctor’s medical kit bag as a courtesy, walking and leading the way from the car to the patient's house, and I must say I humbly did my duty. As for me, it was a great experience doing that. For a brief 3 minutes’ walk to the house, from the winding road that ran through the village, I felt as if I was actually the doctor. I momentarily also got carried away in my thoughts: “Some day if I ever decide to be a doctor, then someone else will have to carry this bag” I thought.

After examining and having been convinced he had successfully diagnosed the illness of ‘The Goan Patient’ the following is what the doctor would usually say to the folks of the household in Konkani: “Binaka re. Tum zatlo boro. Rexeth boroun ditam. Hem vokot, hea burgeak Mapusa thaun porot hetanam, adduni. Ani koxem dista tem porot maka faleam gomon dilea puro.’ (Here a translation of what the doctor said: ‘Don’t worry. You will get alright. I’m writing a prescription. Tell this lad to buy this medicine on his way back from Mapusa. And tomorrow let me know how you feel.’)

Having said this, the doctor put the sphygmomanometer and stethoscope back into the bag, washed his hands with new soap set aside solely for his use on the window sill while I poured water on his hands. The doctor smiled and wiped his hands on the clean towel. Suddenly my thoughts wandered off, thinking as though I was in the village chapel doing the duties of an altar boy before coming back to reality.

As a courtesy the doctor then asked about the general health of the rest of the family members before heading for the door. Simultaneously, it was time for me to pick up the doctor’s bag and accompany him to the Morris car. Meanwhile he was kind in inquiring as to how I was doing in school.

After getting a 'jolly good ride' in the well-kept 'Morris Minor' to the doctor's clinic, I would unlock my bicycle and quickly pedal to the pharmacy and hand over the prescription to the pharmacist (a.k.a. 'compounder'). I would wait till the medicine was ready, and watch him cut out notches that indicated the doses on a strip of paper and paste it on the side of the bottle.

Sometimes, along with the benefit of enjoying a ride in the doctor’s Morris Minor in running this errand, there was also a major reward for me in accomplishing this task. A cold drink or a ‘falooda’, sometimes tea and patties or a 'limboo-soda' (fresh lemonade) in the interim period while the medicines got ready. Then I happily hurried back to my village on my bike, reaching home safely with the medicine bottle intact, at times just before sun-down. Wishing the patient a quick recovery, brought to an end yet one more major day for the Morris Minor, the Doctor, my bicycle and me.

Tony Fernandes


Francis said...

Beautifully put Tony....brings back all those glistening memories too.


Big Guy said...

Mapusa - how has it changed over time? Has it grown bigger (I mean its boundaries)? How did you feel like climbing all those hills on a push-bike? Today it's quite an occasion to see such an old car like this Morris driving on the road. Once, wandering in the suburbs of Panjim I saw an old Porsche 964 covered with dust and resting in the garage of some beautiful villa, but it was very unlikely that it was still alive... The other time I saw an old yellowish Mercedes Benz-cabrio, probably from the 1970-s, with left-hand steering, slowly rolling down the hill from Mapusa in Anjuna direction...
Do you have any pictures left from those times?