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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As we bid adieu to each year on the last day of every year, this year is no exception. As we witness the last few hours of 2008, we reflect on the good and the bad, happiness and sorrow in our lives, strife, war, floods and earthquakes, births and deaths far and near.

One may say that the times that have gone by
are things or events of the past. True, and in a few years we will refer to those days as the good old days and ways, but those will be the days we will not forget.
Some may live till they are very old,
and then will come some youngster
who perhaps we will hear
into our ear whisper:
'now tell me about the good old days'.

We cannot forget what has happened, or change the past, but we can definitely hope for the best in 2009 and in the years ahead. Personal resolutions that we usually make and don't keep - that's fine, but one resolution we can definitely keep is to pray for the sick, the bereaved, the injured, the afflicted and the poor.
And most of all, as we usher in the New Year let us hope for love, not hatred, and pray for Peace throughout the world.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Born: 30 November 1930
Died: 28 December 2008

It is with great sadness that I learned about the death of my father-in-law, Mr. Freddy Barboza, after a long illness. He passed away in Parra, Goa, today, at 78 years of age. He has been a loving husband to his wife, Benedicta, father to 4 daughters, 1 son, grandfather of 11, and a great-grandfather of one.

My first meeting with him was in the U.A.E. in 1974, having been introduced to me by his eldest daughter, Edna. I guess he liked me because he let me marry his daughter one year later! And I instantly felt without any doubt that here was one good man.

I remember the days when my wife and I worked in Dubai and our children were in boarding school in India. Mr. Barboza tirelessly made all the travel arrangements during the 1980’s to drop and pick our kids from the airport when they came to spend their Christmas Holidays with us. He was very fond of all his grandchildren.

Actor, composer and lyricist in Konkani tiatr in Bombay, Mr. Freddy Barboza retired in Goa 18 years ago. Besides being an actor in Konkani tiatr in Bombay at an early age in the fifties and sixties, he also acted in the Konkani film 'Boglant'. He has been an inspiration to many younger singers and actors of Konkani stage of today. I once witnessed at a 'tiatr' when he personally handed a cash reward to an upcoming singer, soon after this singer had finished singing his own composition on stage. Such was his love for the Konkani theatre.

Whenever we went to Bombay or Goa on a vacation, he would invite us to see tiatr along with him, and during the interval would always take me back-stage to meet some of his fellow artists like Prem Kumar, C. Alvares, Jacinto Vaz, M. Boyer, Remmie Colaco, Shalini, Antonette and Ophelia, proudly introducing me to these actors as his ‘eldest son-in-law’, and very often giving me the undue credit of being a great photographer, artist and a hi-fi and sound expert.

He owned Fredrick Travels in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Bombay, from where he recruited people for employment in the Gulf. He also owned a Car Rental Company.
Besides having a full-time business of his own, his love for Konkani never ceased. He dedicated most of his spare time acting in Konkani dramas, composing Konkani songs, writing lyrics, producing and successfully releasing 2 music-cassette albums in the early 1990’s, titled 'Juliana' and 'Maria' which were big hits. In the late 1990's he did roles in tele-films like 'Mogachi Faxi' and 'Suttka'.
Incidentally, he had often been seen and it was also known to his family, relatives and friends that he wrote lyrics on a small note-book that he always carried with him while he travelled by bus to work at Firestone in Bombay in his early years.

I always remember him as a very busy man and a methodical worker in Bombay and in Goa. He was never idle. An early morning riser, he meticulously made notes of everything that he had to do during the day. Sometimes I would see him writing lyrics, and at other times I would hear him hum a tune or sing a verse into a portable mini tape-recorder. He was so talented and versatile that he could compose impromptu and dedicate a song at the drop of a hat to any one celebrating a big day or any occasion.
After having chosen to live a semi-retired life in Goa, he frequently staged Konkani 'tiatr' (plays) in Mapusa, and had one especially dedicated for charity towards St.Anne’s Church, Parra, in the early 1990’s.

I have seen him hiring a taxi and then attach the bill-board advertisement to the back of it, fit loudspeakers on its roof, and go around Mapusa town and the by-roads and lanes through the country-side announcing: 'Tiatr' 'Tiatr' over the portable PA system and distributing flyers. I had once the opportunity and pleasure of tossing out these bright multi-coloured leaflets to passers-by through the rear side window of the taxi, making brief stops at the various 'tinttos' (market places) in Siolim, Anjuna, Arpora, Saligao and Parra for refreshments. After all was done, he would treat me to a beer for helping him toss out the flyers and for accompanying him on his publicity rounds.

He worked very hard bringing up his family, and spared no pains to put food on the table. From humble beginnings when he used a bicycle as a means of transportation and later graduating to a motor-bike, he moved on successfully in his business through mere perseverance, and succeeded in owning a fleet of cars that included a Chevrolet Impala in Bombay.

One of the things that I remember is that he loved to ride his motor-bike which he always kept in a pristine condition. In his younger days he was full of adventure, having ridden his bike from Bombay to Goa via Pune and Kolhapur. His driving ability and judgment always impressed me, specially negotiating and maneuvering through traffic. My first trip in his car from the airport to his house in Bombay, with his daughter - my wife, Edna, is one to remember!

 He rode his bike
 and drove his car
 until the age of 74.
 Just like a pro!
Words are not enough to express our grief in his passing away. But we will keep his fond memories forever to cherish.

Tony Fernandes


Friday, December 19, 2008


Village folks including children waving out to the soldiers on armoured tanks, trucks and jeeps passing through Guirim on the evening of 18th December 1961 - heading for the capital, Panjim.

A Childhood Memoir : 18th December 1961

Tony Fernandes


I recall that cold morning. I had risen early to study for my second tri-monthly examinations. Mother was in the kitchen, preparing tea. It was then that I heard ear-deafening noise of what seemed to be low-flying aircraft.

A little later, I put out the kerosene chimney lamp. My mother and I cautiously peeked out of the window, but saw nothing.The sun had not yet risen. The pre-dawn sky in the east cast a faint scarlet glow. I could feel mother's fear, as the preceding days had been quite tense. We were aware of the trouble that had been brewing up. A statue at Mapuca had been blown up a few days earlier, causing anxiety among the populace.

Suddenly we heard a knock on our door. We remained still and silent and only opened the door upon realizing it was our neighbours, calling out to us in low voices. They had come over to ask mother whether she had any idea what was happening around us. Mother told them that she thought that the noise came from fighter aircraft, as a result of the political tension prevailing at the time.

We all went out when the sun had risen. We could see smoke billowing out from the town in the distance. By noon the word had spread that the Indian Army had reached Mapuca and that Air Force jets had bombed the army barracks and some government buildings in town. We also learned that the barracks there were in fact empty at the time.

The Portuguese soldiers had probably left the previous night on the orders of the Governor General. He was subsequently considered to be a wise man in ordering a retreat and a surrender that followed. It was the talk in our village that he did not want the Portuguese soldiers to put up a fight, as human lives would have been lost in the crossfire - in the event of bombing and fighting between the armies.

I realized that my mother's appearance was one of sadness. I felt sad too as I could not go to school. The Indian Army had occupied my school, pitching their tents on our football field. My father had always said that we would one day be liberated, but my mother thought otherwise.

I remember running on the winding path leading to the red mudroad, that passed through our village in Guirim, along with other boys, to see the Indian army proceeding slowly, heading for the capital, Panjim. Certain sections of the main road from Mapuca to Panjim were not usable. The bridges were destroyed by the retreating Portuguese soldiers.

I saw young boys, accompanied by older folks of our village, waving out to the Indian soldiers sitting on top of their tanks in full battle gear. I waved out as well! The boys shouted "Jai Hind" and I followed doing the same.

I was fascinated with the artillery comprising of huge tanks, armoured cars, jeeps and trailers, gun carriages with canons of different shapes and sizes towed by trucks, proceeding towards Panjim. They created clouds of dust as they rumbled along. Most of the soldiers had moustaches, beards and turbans: all were smiling. The line of army vehicles continued long after dusk and trickled into the night.

The situation remained tense for many days and nights. A sudden hush seemed to hover over our lives. We returned home playing football in the fields long before sunset.

One evening, as we wound up our usual play at our improvised football ground, I overheard some of the bigger boys saying that we now 'Indian subjects'. But the only 'subjects' that I was concerned about were those of my curriculum like Geography, History and Religion, that had to be postponed into the New Year.

It seemed like everything had come to a halt. School football tournaments were cancelled as both our football fields remained occupied by the Army for some time. Our juniors volley ball finals were disrupted. There was no midnight Mass in my favourite church or at any other chapel in our village that Christmas, and no New Year's Eve Dance. Perhaps it must have been the only New Year's Eve when Johnson & His Jolly Boys - the hot favourites of the time - did not play.

That was 47 years ago today. It was long before mid-night that the lamps and candles burnt themselves out in the lanterns and Christmas stars in frontof the houses in my village during the Yuletide of that year. Everything was calm, quiet and dark with the exception of the brilliant star-lit sky. Everything was silent except for the intermittent hooting of the owl - heard but never seen, along with the dogs barking most of the night in the neighbourhood, and the occasional howl of the wolf in the wee hours of the morning.

May happiness reign in your home this Christmas and may the New Year continue to bring good health, love, joy, peace and prosperity.

At this very special time of year let's pray for peace everywhere in the world - for all families, relatives and friends. That the entire world may live in peace, love and harmony between each one and all nations.

At this Yuletide let us remember the innocent who lost their lives in the terror by mankind towards mankind in Mumbai.

Please take care and caution wherever you are and in whatever you do

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To Secret Santa

Father Christmas

Tony Fernandes

Dear Father Christmas,

Today I sit back and ponder of days when I was very young. Children referred to you then as the all-giving Father Christmas. And if I were lucky I’d get just two gifts:

– 1 new trouser and 1 new shirt for the midnight Mass.

As a child I was fascinated with undiminished enthusiasm at the sheer joy that prevailed at Yuletide. I made a new miniature crib every year, fabricated a "star" out of a frame-work of bamboo, lined it with translucent craft-paper and lit a candle in it, and had it hung high up on a 20 ft. bamboo pole in the front of our house.

Very often during Yuletide I dream about Santa Claus. I am also intrigued by the number of names people called you: St. Nicholas, St. Nick, Father Christmas,Pai Noel, Papa Noel, Papa Natal, Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Papai Noel, Sinterklaas, Baba Noel, etc.

Then, Santa, I don’t know why all these good folks have now started calling you ‘Secret Santa”. Is it because you've been secretly hiding or stashing away some gifts? Are they meant for me? Anyway, as for me, you will always remain just the same jolly good merry old soul, no matter what - whether you are secret or whether the gifts are.

Santa, by the time when I was just about touching my teens, the number of gifts received had grown to three – a pair of new shoes got added to the list! Those days all apparel, stitched or ready-made, had to be what we Goans popularly call as 'vaddtea angar'. Literally, this means 'for the growing body', and economically, rightly so.

As a teenager, many months prior to the onset of Advent, I used to drop loose change in a piggy bank (made of red clay). This self-subsidy was put aside as a little pocket money, part of which I used to buy something for my mother at Christmas time. This continued for many years until I finished my studies and started to work, and forgot about the piggy bank. That's when my wish list started getting shorter and giving list grew bigger. The child-wonder was slowly beginning to lose its hold.

In turn I wondered whether Santa was turning away and getting less fond of me as I grew older. I felt ignored. What did I do, where did I go wrong?

Of course, dear Santa, there's no doubt, that over the years you have worked tirelessly and your generosity has kept on growing tremendously, snow or no snow. Today's young men have got to be ashamed of them selves.

But Santa, what I would like to bring to your notice is that this year is the first year ever that I have been asked to participate into a Kris Kringle procedure adopted at the convention held at my place recently, also known as 'Secret Santa'. If I’ve got it right, names of the family members to whom the gifts are to be presented, were drawn out of a hat. As I was new to this modus operandi, forgive me Santa, for I may have bungled at this game from the very start. (I'm not good at games. I don't get them quick enough. Very slow learner. Am getting old too, you know). Also making my 'want list' public surely wasn’t intended. Please don’t take it seriously as you must be already aware that those items on my list are very expensive indeed. Jokes aside, but Santa I still love this new idea. Don't get me wrong.

But on the other hand, I have every thing that I've wished for that includes a wonderful wife and three charming children and a modest roof over my head (with a chimney of course - you know why). At this point in time I would like to mention that the dryer is not working too well and the cooking range looks battered. Would you be passing by Sears or Future Shop by any chance? But would that be beyond the admissible range, would it Santa? Specially now that that whole world is on the brink of a huge recession? But on second thought... what about the new super-slim wide, no, no, don't worry. I need a new lens for my camera! Also all my colleagues in my age group are now using iPads!

But Santa, I do understand. The word ‘recession’ is on everyone’s lips. Most of us are hearing it for the first time.

So, Santa, in view of the hard times being forecast, anything inexpensive (or even nothing at all) will do, as I believe the primary purpose of Secret Santa is to restrict all the unnecessary gift-giving. Moreover, this year older people are not supposed to receive gifts any way, more so because of the recession, even though it amazes me that you are still so rich after all the gift-giving for so many years. One good thing you still use your sleigh to deliver gifts- so there, you save such a lot of cash as you don't use any gas. Fortune List or Forbes List? No way, you are beyond that.

Have a Merry Christmas.

In Santa, I still believe!

Tony Fernandes (a.k.a. TonFerns)

Friday, December 12, 2008

THE CRIB - The Joy of Christmas

Christmas season has always been a wonderful time in Goa. No decorated malls or anything on a scale like those in the West, but it has its own unique charm. Happiness in the households and vibrant atmosphere prevails in the cities and towns during this time. The story below depicts the joy and wonder of Yuletide in Goa from the perspective of a child back in the late fifties. There may not have been many string lights those days. But a ‘star’ made from bamboo and coloured craft paper was a must and it had its own aura that said it all. As soon as the sun set, these hollow body 'stars' would be lit up by incandescent bulbs in the cities while in the villages they would be lit up by candles or oil-lamps, accompanied by bright lanterns all along the balconies. The highlight was attending the midnight mass on Christmas Eve and visiting neighbours after that. It was truly the happiest night of the year in many a home for the rich and the poor alike. It has perhaps not changed much since then.

THE CRIB – The Joy of Christmas
It was October with December, Christmas and New Year still far away. It was the time for the little boy to visualize the setting of the crib. Every year he would try to make it different than the previous year.

The boy wondered what Bethlehem must have really looked like so many years ago when Jesus Christ was born. So he shuffled through some old Christmas cards of the previous years which he kept for references in the old wooden chest, and came across a card depicting a Nativity Scene with the hills in the background and manger which was in the foreground. The Star of Bethlehem was high above in the picture. He had one long look at it and put it back where it was. So he set about with the immediate task which was to paint a back drop of a star-lit night with faint hills as silhouettes in the background. So he put his thinking cap on. He walked to the nearby town to buy a cardboard for the backdrop. He would use the existing colours in his collection and hoped they would last to paint the entire scene. He would make a small star using translucent foil with a light in it and NOT a painted one, and attached it to the backdrop itself. He would bring the soil from the fields and would grow grass in it about a week in advance on a large flat piece of wood on which he would place the crib itself. He would then 'construct' a "bridge" with water underneath and a winding path that let to the entrance of the crib. He would transplant little yellow flowered plants, which he would scoop with a trowel along with the soil that held on to the roots, from the fields nearby, trying to make it as realistic as he could, embellishing the area around the crib with some tiny shoots of flowers that grew in the garden adjoining his house.

December drew near and soon it would be Christmas time. By that time he thought he would have saved enough pocket money to buy a new Nativity Set that he would go and see every time he went to the near-by market town. He hoped nobody would buy it before he got there.

Two weeks before Christmas the boy told his mother that he would like to open his piggy bank and count the amount the small coins he had saved, so that he could go and buy the Nativity piece set. So one day he collected whatever he had and headed to the market town along with his mother to buy the set from the shop where he had seen the crib set.

"That's the shop", he told his mother, pointing to the shop as soon as he reached the shopping street. "I’ve seen it in their showcase that last time I was here", said the boy. "It’s a lovely piece, come on mother, hurry", he said, leading the way and tugging at his mother's hand.

He looked into the shop window and to his great grief the set was not there. The boy’s heart sank. They went in and enquired. It had already been sold. So they requested the man in the shop behind the cash counter to show them another set if he had. “See over there," the man said looking over his bifocals, pointing his finger to a shelf on far side of his shop. The boy turned and saw in the direction the man pointed. There it was, a set better than the one had seen before. Happily, he asked the price. Sadly, it was expensive. It was not something he could afford. "We will go to another shop and see" the boy's mother said. The boy was silent. The second shop did not have any either that suited to his little collected savings. "We will see another set in another place", his mother said.

After shopping around in the market place for groceries they returned home, but without the Nativity set.

Soon it was Christmas Eve. The whole crib was ready and lots of people from the village would come to see it after the mid-night mass. But he did not have any nativity pieces to place inside and around the crib.

Then a brilliant idea flashed past the boy's mind. Why not make a figure in the form of Baby Jesus in a cradle with outstretched hands like the one he had seen in the various Christmas cards he received the previous year. Good idea! he said to himself. But where's the clay? Too late for clay.

The boy's mother was busy in the kitchen making some last minute sweets from kneaded flour. Why not use flour instead of clay, he thought. So he asked his mother for some kneaded dough and started to make a rough form, and then slowly handcrafted a form of Baby Jesus which he himself could not believe that it turned out so well. He then let it dry and painted it and placed it inside the crib. He switched on the crib lights and there it was.

The boy joined the village folks who walked to the church to attend the midnight Mass with lanterns in their hands. Walking home after the service they sang many songs and carols. People from the village came to see his crib as usual after the midnight Mass. No one else knew his little secret about Baby Jesus in the crib except his mother. After another singing session along with the other boys and girls from the neighbourhood, the lad finally went to sleep.

As soon as he woke up the next morning the first thing he did was to see the Crib and found that 'Baby Jesus' was missing from there. He was puzzled. Did somebody steal it? Was there somebody else like himself who needed it so badly?

The puzzle was finally solved when he found out that the real culprit was the pet cat in the house. The boy decided to make another one and placed inside the crib.

A few hours later the cat was caught "red-pawed" trying to take it away the second time. So finally the third time he decided to craft one out of real clay. And uses it every year to this day.

And I know this story is true. I was that boy.
Excerpted from my book: Goa - Memories of My Homeland

Tony Fernandes