Picturesque Goa

Picturesque Goa
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Saturday, March 29, 2008


The Magic
of the Air-Waves
(of the Nineteen-Sixties)

Part I
This is the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon’ came the announcement over the radio as Felicio sat in the front balcao (balcony) of his house early in the morning. It was the usual routine – rising early to study. Then after a cup of tea, Felicio would pick up the Philips portable transistor radio from the showcase, carry it outside, and place it on the ‘sopo’ (a mud-cement combination of blocks of seats on either side of main door of houses in Goa).The radio was quite new to Felicio’s house then. Only two other families had a radio in the entire village. Felicio’s mother had stitched and fitted a custom-made cloth cover for it to keep the dust away. It had a flap that exposed only the dial. Flip the cloth cover over the handle of the radio, pull up and adjust its aerial, and it would then be time to tune to his favourite station “Radio Ceylon”, as it was known then. Searching for the station on the dial was quite easy once one got the hang of it. Switching to Short Wave, turning the knob and aligning the needle precisely to its position on the 31 Meter Band, and with a little bit of fine tuning it came on loud and clear - the magic of Radio Ceylon. At times certain orientation would be required for a better reception. Through the clutter of other stations in that particular region of the radio dial, it was immediately recognizable by its crispiness and clarity. As Felicio shuffled and zipped through the static and clatter, various other broadcasts like Voice of America, Vividh Bharati and Radio Moscow popped out clear and sharp too. As the atmospheric conditions were more favourable for an optimum reception of these broadcasts in early mornings and late evenings, the popular programs could be received and heard crystal-clear during these times.

The instrumentals played on 'The Morning Show' by Vijay Corea from 7 am to 7.30 am were a real treat. From The Jumping Jewels with ‘Zambezi' and The Shadows with ‘The Foot Tapper’ were raging hits. Radio Ceylon also relayed BBC News from London at 7.30 am Indian Standard Time everyday. The news began at the end of the familiar six distinct 'pips' of Greenwich Time Signal. This was also the time when family members automatically turned towards their clocks and check watches to check their accuracy. It would have been precisely 0200 hrs GMT, in London. 'This is the BBC World Service’ came the announcement preceding the news. It was good news and bad news from the Western world that was often heard relayed through the years. Good news and bad news included in the news were reports about Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin orbiting earth, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the death of Marilyn Monroe, the Air India crash on Mont Blanc, the tragedy of the Vietnam War and the deaths of 3 astronauts in the launch pad fire at the start of the first manned Apollo mission. As Felicio and his brother walked to school they would pass on the news they heard on the radio to other boys that they met along the way. But what this station of Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation in Colombo, Ceylon, (now Sri Lanka) was probably most renowned for was its 'Binaca Hit Parade' on Sundays, playing the latest English vocal top tunes that played a part in greatly influencing that generation by western English music. Another popular broadcast was 'Binaca Geetmala' hosted by golden voiced celebrity Ameen Sayani. In the evenings its daily 2-hour long listeners' choice program was exciting to look forward to. The suave voices of disc jockeys Vijaya Correa and Eric Fernando reverberated through the air when the world's most popular hits ruled the waves - from Elvis Presley to the Beatles. 'Happy Birthday to Me' by Hank Locklin, 'May the Good Lord bless and keep you' by Connie Francis were frequently heard, but the solemn narration of the 'The Deck of Cards' by T. Texas Tyler as the sun went down sent a chilling tingle down Felicio’s spine. Sometimes as he walked home from a football match, or as he bicycled after having a bag of wheat ground into flour at the flour-mill in the neighbouring village, just a little after sundown, it was not unusual to hear these songs from the Radio Ceylon's listeners' choice program coming out from road-side houses. Hank Locklin’s ‘Send me the pillow that you dream on’, Jim Reeves' 'He'll Have to Go' and Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’ were popular and often-requested songs. Songs by Ricky Nelson, Nat King Cole, Peter & Gordon, Everly Brothers, Doris Day, Bobby Darin, Brian Hyland, and Bobby Vinton would definitely be remembered by kids of those days till the present day. Pat Boone's 'Speedy Gonsales' was quite a hit then with ‘the plaintive cry of the young Mexican girl’ piercing through the stillness of the evening air. Felicio always wondered if he had missed out on any of his favourite songs when the radio was temporarily switched off just before the recitation of the ‘Angelus’. Tracks by Dutch Swing College Band and Acker Bilk were often aired on special Jazz and Swing quarter-hour programs. By 9 a.m. a lot of chirp, clatter and other radio disturbances were audible as the signal got weak.

Radio Ceylon has had a profound impact on my childhood and teenage years, and has greatly influenced my musical background. This radio station was very much a part of our household during that golden era of short-wave radio and helped in maintaining a very happy atmosphere in the house and in the village. In those days very few houses had radios - mine fortunately being one of them - and our neighbours came over to listen to the evening's live request programme, thereby maintaining a friendly atmosphere and a tight social fabric.

Part II
Another broadcasting station that developed and shaped Felicio’s love for Konkani, English and Portuguese music is ‘Emissora de Goa’ from the late fifties up to the morning of 18th December 1961. Portuguese songs 'Encosta tua cabecinha', 'Sonho' and 'Vem, vem minha flor' were often heard on the air-waves. The studios were located at Altinho, Panjim, and the transmitters at Bambolim, Goa. It was silenced temporarily by the bombs dropped by Indian air force jets at the time of Goa’s take-over by the Indian Government. Happy days were there again when after a respite of about two months broadcasting resumed with transmission ID as All India Radio, Panjim, three times a day, on Medium Wave. During the Portuguese era transmission began at 7 am with the Portuguese national anthem. After the take-over it was replaced by ‘Vande Mataram’ preceded by the unique signature tune of All India Radio, followed by Christian and Hindu devotional hymns, news in Konkani, Konkani songs and Marathi programs. Incidentally, the signature tune which helped in fine-tuning the awaited program was composed by a Jewish refugee in India, Walter Kaufmann, in 1936. The second segment of radio transmission began at noon again with English vocal and instrumental music, news in English at 1.30 pm relayed from All India Radio, Delhi, followed by English classical music up to 2.30 pm. It was on the air again at 6 pm with a line-up of Konkani songs, Marathi songs, bhajans and plays. Weekly late night Konkani plays were regular features. Sunday morning children's programme 'Honi Baili Vasri' rings a bell. The station, after it became a part of the net-work known as All India Radio, Panjim, also relayed from A.I.R. Bombay, songs by Alfred Rose, songs from Konkani films ‘Amchem Noxib’ and ‘Nirmon’, songs by Anthony Mendes and Miguel Rod in a 30 minute program starting at 8.20 pm, immediately after the news in Marathi (Bathmi). A.I.R. News relays began with the word: 'Akashwani'. The most popular broadcast listened to in many Goan homes was probably the listeners' request program of Konkani songs broadcast at 6 pm on Sunday evenings. Alfred Rose’s Konkani songs ‘Deu Nidonk Nam’ and ‘Sui, Sut, Cator’ were major hits. The melodic voice of Georgina Jaques emitted from the Philips radio, placed on the 'sopo' (mud-bench). A very popular former Radio Announcer "Aleixinho Da Costa alias Allen Da Costa" who besides being a longest serving popular Radio Announcer on Emissora de Goa /All India Radio Goa, was also composer himself and sang Konkani songs on AIR by public demand. Neighbours listened eagerly to hear their names on the request program at dusk. Young Menezes’ lightning-speed singing was a sensation, moral woes were well-depicted by Alexinho de Candolim and Souza Gião yodelled his way into the hearts of listeners of all ages. Those were the melodious days of Felicio’s childhood – the days when a group of village boys sat down and wrote words of the songs as they were played on the radio. English and Konkani songbooks were compiled by the village boys that initially contained some misheard lyrics which were later corrected!

Among the English fare of songs that were given air-time those days were hits by Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard and the Shadows and Elvis Presley. Big Band Sound of instrumental music by Billy Vaughn, Latin rhythms by Edmundo Ros and a wide range of dance music played by Victor Sylvester were often heard too. Johnny Tillotson’s song ‘True True Happiness’ in particular was a big hit.

Announcer par excellence of that era was the prominent announcer and newsreader, Imelda Dias, with her pleasant and clear voice gracing the radio airwaves. She was a disc jockey on an afternoon program called: ‘Your favourites and mine’, besides presenting the ever-popular Sunday listeners’ choice of western music and songs. Billy Vaughn’s ‘Sail along silvery moon’ and ‘Summer Place’ were soothing preferences, while the hilarious vocal ‘Que la la, que la la’ (and the giggle) must have enthused many.

It was believed that the Short Wave transmission of Emissora de Goa was so powerful that it could be received and heard in places as far away as the Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Part III
During the time of Felicio’s college days in Bombay in mid-sixties, Radio Goa was of course out of range there, and he missed it terribly, but Radio Ceylon would still make its presence with its ‘most powerful transmitter and first broadcasting station in Asia’ at the time. But Saturday would be one day that Felicio would long for. Many eagerly looked forward to listen to the English program broadcast by All India Radio, Bombay, called ‘Saturday Date’ airing the latest hits of the time. ‘White on white, lace on satin’ by Danny Williams, ‘He’ll have to go’ by Jim Reeves, ‘Edelweiss’ and other hits from ‘Sound of Music’, and ‘Lara’s Theme’(Somewhere my Love) from ‘Dr. Zhivago’ and 'Baby Elephant walk' by Lawrence Welk & his orchestra were popular tunes heard then, not forgetting Nat King Cole’s ‘Cat Ballou’.

Part IV

During my working days in the late 1960's in the Trucial States of Oman, it was the R.A.F. Radio Station that was broadcasting the latest songs of the time on Medium Wave. Among the frequently heard popular songs in the afternoon were The Scaffold's 'Lily the Pink', Mary Hopkins' 'Those were the days' and 'Sound of Silence' by Simon & Garfunkel.

The oil company ARAMCO had three stations broadcasting on FM - Light Music & Songs on 100 Mhz, Classical on 96Mhz and Pop on 88Mhz - but the problem was the signal received from these stations was very weak. Clear reception was only in the summer months, especially on humid days and nights, very early in the morning or on foggy days and nights. Dedicated FM tuners with external antennae gave better reception. Some radios were better than others. 

The Nordmende and Philips radios were excellent, giving a very clear and undistorted reception. My 'Crown' FM Tuner was good too! Reception clarity mainly depended on the weather during the early and later summer months, due to the atmospheric phenomenon called 'thermal inversion' that effects transmission signal. Basically, cool, humid air aids signal transmission to further distances than normal, as it gets trapped below a blanket of warm air. The signal then 'zig-zags' along the top side of the warm air blanket reflecting it into space, and then gets penetrated to your radio via the cold air, thus effecting a better signal gain.

I purchased my first Philips FM Radio in November 1967, and then a Crown FM tuner in November 1968, but had tried in vain to receive any FM signal from the ARAMCO station. until the night of Christmas Eve when I heard a string of beautiful and spine-chilling Christmas Carols in the still of night of December 1968 until the wee hours of the morning. May be Santa Claus had something to do with this sensational phenomenon.


The furthest place that I have picked up the SW signal from Radio Ceylon was in Abu Dhabi (then a sheikdom of the Trucial States of Oman, and a British Protectorate) in 1969 on a Philips portable transistor radio.

Radio Ceylon has probably influenced and contributed the most in broadcasting a huge variety of western music to countries in South East Asia.

One popular artist, and everyone's favourite, was Jim Reeves with a huge range of romantic songs during my teens. He was well-known to many listeners in Goa, Bombay and in the Indian sub-continent in general. Many singers tried to emulate his vocal style. Gentleman Jim as he was known, was my Mom and Dad's favourite singer, and perhaps a favourite of many other parents of that era.

There was one particular guy from Byculla in Bombay who sang at various Goan functions and sounded exactly like Jim Reeves in the mid-1960's. He was known as ‘Bombay Jim Reeves’. In fact I think Jim Reeves was more popular in India and Ceylon for his sentimental songs than any other western singer besides Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Ricky Nelson or Everly Brothers.

The radio literally played a significant and very influential role in our lives in Goa those days when we were young. It gave us substantial enjoyment and formed part of our growing up. Singing was a part of our social upbringing, be it at ‘Laudainhas’ (sung litanies in the village chapels, at the house of a family member or a neighbour before his departure for Bombay or Africa for employment, or at the jam-session on the evening of ‘San João’  in the balc
ão (Port. balcony) of the house near the well. ('San João' is a Christian festival of the Baptism of St. John the Baptist, when the young and old folks traditionally celebrate in an unique fashion).

The very clear reception received by a Grundig valve radio that used a long external wire antennae, near the village chapel in the adjacent village, was admirable. We held the radio in awesome wonder and considered it as part of our life-style. I still remember commuting to Mapusa to purchase batteries for the radio from ‘Auto Popular’. Those were the days - the glorious days of Medium and Short Wave radio.

All the folks in Goa, especially in my village of Guirim Cumbiem Morod may have not been able to afford a radio easily, but they made sure they listened to certain radio programmes at their neighbours house who had a radio. People who had radios in the villages always welcomed their neighbours to listen to interesting programs. There may not have been many radios, but there were certainly lot of listeners.

The youngsters of that era were also held spellbound when the first pocket transistor radio made its debut. Music, besides being a listening pastime in the comfort of the ‘balcão’ in the evenings during the long monsoon season, was also pursued by many Goans as part or full-time careers in Bombay and Goa. They studied music notation, composing, sang in bands and played a wide range of musical instruments, from the violin and cello to the saxophone and piccolo. It was no wonder then and it is no wonder now, that there must be some truth after all in the saying that ‘music is in the Goan blood’. Many Goans have composed and played various musical instruments on the soundtracks of Indian cinema. Music was taught to children at a very young age in the Parochial Churches.

Today when I mention the names of 1950's and 1960' singers, or just happen to sing or hum those old tunes impromptu in the western world, people seem to be often surprised and turn their heads almost in disbelief. I have often been asked how I know or remember those old tunes and words so well, and in key. That gives me an excellent opportunity and pleasure to introduce myself and give them a long lecture about Goan heritage, and time permitting, a history lesson about Goa and India at the same time and also about the famous radio stations of those halcyon days of yore - Radio Ceylon  and Emisora de Goa. That includes enlightening those who know not in which part of the world Goa or Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is located.

 Tony Felix (Felicio) Fernandes
Guirim, Bardez, Goa.

*****     *********     *****
As brought to my attention, by Mr. Mariano Pereira, Frankfurt, Germany, I apologise for my inadvertent omission, not neglect, in mentioning a very popular former Radio Announcer "Aleixinho Da Costa alias Allen Da Costa" who besides being a longest serving popular Radio Announcer on Emissora de Goa /All India Radio Goa, was also composer himself and sang Konkani songs on AIR by public demand.

Ever wondered who that young lad Felicio in this article was? That was yours sincerely - Felix - my middle name (Felicio in Portuguese). Incidentally Felicio from the word Feliz or happy. Happy listening to the great music of the good old days!)

Tony (Felix - Felicio) Fernandes

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cemeteries of Goa


Cemetery of St. Thomas Church, Aldona, Bardez, GOA. India

Photograph by Tony Fernandes

(click on picture for a larger view)

Cemeteries of Goa

Every church in Goa has its own cemetery. It consists of a chapel attached to a high walled graveyard. My earliest memory of a visit to the cemetery was as a 9 year old at my grandmother's funeral. In the olden days a hand-drawn hearse was used to carry the coffin to church for the funeral rites. Pall-bearers then carried the coffin to the cemetery for the burial rites and internment, while the twin-tone chimes of the church bell tolled. As we entered the cemetery we saw the memorable and timeless words inscribed in Konkani on the arched doorway of the funeral chapel “AIZ MAKA, FALEAM TUKA”. Literal English translation of this common phrase is: ‘Today for me, tomorrow for you’. These proverbial words are made to appear as though apparently said by the person who has died before us, reminding us that death eventually awaits everyone. In fact the caption significantly makes a reference that death today is for him or her as he or she leaves us, but in the future death in turn it awaits those who have come to bury him or her. But in the broader sense, this rather reminds us that we, human beings, are mortals after all.

****** ****** ******
By Tony Fernandes

When the final summons
Beckons at my door
To leave for another shore
I know it’s God call I can’t ignore.

It will be my life’s journey’s end,
Sudden and abrupt
Unannounced and undecided
I will have to leave in haste.

This departure I cannot
Adjourn, defer or halt
No luggage to cart
No time to prepare
Or say good-bye
Before I acknowledge
My final roll call.

Today I lament for loved ones
That I have lost long ago
But in turn will have to obey God’s command
When I have served my tenure and
And my time on earth is done.

Let me therefore do good,
Pardon my friend or foe
For it may be too late to do so
When God knocks on my door
And I am unable to look back
I have got to go.

When I am gone
My friends and family
May in turn
Grieve in pain and sorrow
And remorse so deep
So help me God to be good to others today
In what ever I do or say
So that I may be remembered
when the chapel bells toll tomorrow.

From up above I will only silently see
Unable to communicate or respond
Direct , guide or tell
But perhaps I could only wish
And hope there is at least one good thing
That I will be remembered by
If at all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

'FAREWELL' - A Tribute to the UAE

'Waltzing with the Cars'
Dubai - U.A.E.
Time Lapse Exposure
Photographed by Tony Fernandes 1996

Far in the distance: the majestic Dubai World Trade Centre.
Left: the Indian High School & India Club.
Right: Al Nasr Club.
Foreground: Vacant lot used as parking space & old go-kart race track.

Far in the distance: the majestic Dubai World Trade Centre.
Left: the Indian High School & India Club.
Right: Al Nasr Club.
Foreground: Vacant lot used as parking space & old go-kart race track.


A long time ago
Did I set sail,
While I prayed
My venture never to fail,
Boarded a steamer
For a distant shore,
Unaware what destiny
Had for me in store.

On my voyage
When I woke up at sunrise,
Saw silhouettes
On the horizon
Of many a highrise,
Was finally let in
For a great surprise,
Oh! Skyscrapers! I thought
But they in fact were beautiful
Wind towers in disguise.

Time here I spent
For more than a generation,
Saw the rise
Of this great nation,
But if I have ever the chance
To live again,
Never would refrain
To submit another application.

This land
I shall always remember,
And wish good times
To prevail forever,
For it taught me
Never to surrender,
To work hard
And still think
Of others who hunger.

Have seen days
Without the "air-con",
And nights
Without any 'hotel intercon',
In the twilight
Trodding home,
Would wait in earnest
For another day to come,
At the break of dawn.

Now that the time
Has come to depart,
From this wonderful land
Where I made a start.
Home away from home,
From my first
I've so long been apart,
From my second
I will cherish fond memories in my heart.

Fond memories
I will forever cherish,
My host brethren
Never will I forget,
Their pride and hospitality
I will always admire,
And having sighed a modest praise
I shall retire.

First published in Gulf News Magazine, 25th October 1996

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Picnics on the East Coast, U.A.E.

Sunset over the Hajjar Mountains

The Hajjar Mountains
The Fujeirah Castle
'The Fujeirah Tree'
The Picnics on the East Coast, U.A.E.
Part I

Those were the days when a group of friends would go on a weekend picnic to the scenic east coast of the United Arab Emirates. Sometimes the picnics were planned well in advance, sometimes from just a week ahead to a few days, while at other times they would be held impromptu and at a very short notice.

In most cases at least 3 or 4 families and their own family friends would chalk out the initial preparation plans of what we would do, the route we would take and what we should cook and the things each family would need to take with them for our day-long excursion.

During my early days in this region, this entire area consisted of seven sheikhdoms. It was then known as the Trucial States of Oman – a British protectorate. My very first picnic to the east coast was in a Land-Rover over dirt tracks and rough terrain through narrow gorges through the mountains.

It was sometime in 1970 during which the period the first 90 km asphalt-bitumen paved dual-carriageway from Sharjah to Dhaid was still in its construction stage. It was a fascinating trip, the scenery simply breathtaking – the serene wadis, the local Arab folks greeting us and waving out to us as we drove along.

Then by mid-seventies the entire section of the coastal was connected from Dhaid to Fujeirah via Masafi. And by the late seventies the a single-carriageway road from Fujeirah to Dibba via Khor Fakkan was completed. It was then an ideal situation to travel to the east coast for a day of sheer fun.

We would get ready on a Thursday. A meeting point was established for the next day, usually a Friday - an official holiday for all. At the crack of dawn we would set off for the east coast. Making sure our cars were all filled up with 'petrol' (yes, that's what it was called, not 'gas') ('gas' was cooking gas or someone who talked too much was called!).

Heading south-east, passing mostly through desert areas, we would arrive at the beautiful oasis town of Dhaid where we made the first stop for breakfast. We then proceeded onward to Masafi for a brief stop again for refreshments and a visit to the roadside grocery store and the carpet shops along the way. As we travelled on the stretch of the road from Dhaid to Masafi we passed through sprawling vegetable and date farms, and scenic wadis that we could see down below from the hills along the way.

The local Arab men waved out to us as they went about they usual chores, tending to their camels and goats. The silhouettes of mountains against the rising sun were a photographer’s delight.

As we descended upon the city of Fujeirah as we headed east we could see the Arabian Sea. It seemed calm with oil tankers on the horizon. Looking north, in the distance was the southern part of the Hajjar Mountains – a spectacular landscape. These mountain often appeared to have a purplish hue to them. To the south lay the mangroves of Kalba, and the coastal region of Liwa, Oman.

Heading north, we cruised along the beach road trying to find a reasonably good secluded spot to settle ourselves down. To our left were the Fujeirah Mountains and to our right was the beach. We were unable to have the best of both, so we eventually decided to settle down on flat ground under a large shady tree on the lee-side of the mountain range. We could see the beach and the sea in the distance with the road in sight in between. We would have to leave the idea of going to the beach sometime after lunch during the afternoon.

Part II

Okay then, we thought, time to settle down now, park your own cars right and proper, clean the area of debris and stones, and roll out the straw mattresses on the ground, take out all the snacks and food and lay it all out. Try out a variety of eating fare, from sandwiches to patties, and grab your favourite drink.

Our kids were small then – they seem to be happy, they have already started running about in the sun. They have brought along some favourite toys too.

Well then folks, let’s get going, we say to ourselves, we haven’t got much time you know, we have to make the best of the day. So its time now for some improvised sports: volley ball, football, badminton or playing cards. Soon all this should be followed by our usual and famous sing-song session without which no picnic is complete, not missing out of course on the traditional Goan folk songs. To sum it up, let’s put it this way: No song - no Goan, No Goan – no song, No song - no picnic.

It is almost afternoon, and it's time now to get the fire going.

“Hey Joe”, I hear Joan’s voice say, “Can you organize some fire to warm up the biryani?”
“Oh, sure” says Joe.
“ Hey Tony, can you help me get three huge stones to put the coal under, and also get the biryani ‘chatty’ to place on it?” says Joe.
“Oh, certainly”, replies Tony, while muttering to himself ‘will Joe ever do anything on his own without delegating the job to someone else? Don't you know Tony has got his camera on a tripod trying to photograph the acacia tree against the backdrop of the mountains?'
So Tony asks Vicky to help Joe. Vicky is a good chap - always very helpful, so he obliges. He's guy who does not know to say 'no'.

Dom is setting up the volley-ball net – he has already tied one end of it to a tree, the other to the open trunk of his car. How innovative! Jolly Uncle Dom has always kids around him, and today has been no exception - he is digging a hole in the ground to set up a beach umbrella that he has carried along for the kids.

Then suddenly all men leave their games, and converge to confer how best to light up the fire. Our young kids lend a helping hand gathering fallen twigs from the desert trees. Very soon we see the fire going and smoke signals are being sent up into the sky. Paper plates, forks and spoons are all out from the car trunks. Huge cans of water have been propped up on a folding stool to wash hands. There is no shortage of any drinking water either. There is laughter in the air. Every one is in a jolly good mood. Tony is playing his favourite country songs on his radio and he has made sure that the harmonica is there in the glove compartment of his station wagon for later.

Biryani flavour starts sifting through the air. Some men are seated on the fallen bark of a tree nearby, while the lone singer is strumming on his guitar to the strains of John Denver's 'Take me home, country roads', getting 'tuned up and ready' for a sing-song. Seated next to him is Johnny, holding on to something that looks like a Pepsi can. Leena is busy talking to Jenny, telling her what all things she has put in the ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ that makes it so tasty, while her visiting friend from Abu Dhabi is reluctant to part away with her secret mutton vindaloo recipe, come what may. It appears like she is adamant to keep it a total secret for a long time to come. Tony secretly thinks it won’t be a secret anyway, after he has eaten it.

The food is warmed up – and so are all men. Invariably, somehow they are all holding Pepsi cans in their hands now. Again, there could be anything in those cans. They are clutching them tight. Are they afraid to leave them anywhere around? Perhaps. They are possibly very hungry too, waiting to pounce on the biryani at the slightest hint. But then the final whistle or grand final call for the food from the women is quite far away. Peter is trying to balance the skewers of mutton kebab over the coal. The salad is still being tossed! The potluck collection of food is quite an appetizing array. It looks like each family has contributed quite a bit for all to share. That’s the spirit that always was.

Then someone hollers ‘Grace’. 'Grace time'. ‘Let’s say Grace’. ‘Come on, aunty, you start’. ‘No man, you start’ comes the reply. 'Grace' is recited after a short deliberation. Apparently there is not much of a rush after all to the folding bench where all the food is laid. The kids are being served by Moms. Dads are still chatting. Others are are trying to set a date for the next Gala Dance they are organizing the following month in Ajman.

Finally every one has helped himself. Some discussion is going on about what we should do for the next picnic. Someone suggests we should perhaps come during the next Eid holidays and spend at least 3 days here. One chap recommends transportation by bus. Most agree as it is very tiring to drive back with the sun in your eyes, or after the darkness falls.

After some rest some of the men walk with their kids to the seashore to play in the sand. Some are seen taking forty winks under the shade of the tree. Joe has managed to tie a bed sheet between a tree and the open trunk of his car while Sam snoozes below. Some men are in their favourite swimming trunks on the beach. Others are already in the water.

The afternoon is now slowly turning into evening. The sun will shortly go down over the mountain range. Heading north by north-west, it will be a long drive ahead and our mini-convoy of cars will shortly disappear into the sunset over Sharjah, as we hope to safely make it home, before eight o’clock. Lest we forget, it is still Friday. We simply cannot afford to miss one of the greatest and longest series of the time that delighted us all, and that’s none other ‘Dallas’ and the conniving ways of JR.

During the eighties, the entire coastal region was connected by a modern highway along the eastern part of the United Arab Emirates, spanning from Fujeirah to Dibba against the backdrop of the magnificent Hajjar Mountains.
Some of the other scenic spots along the east coast we pinicked at were at Dibba, Rul Dadna, Badiyah and Khor Fakkan. In the following years we did have some upgrades. We carried kebab pits and warmed food on portable LPG gas stoves. And at times we stayed at the local hotels and occasionally dined in a fancy restaurant. But there is nothing to beat the enjoyable picnics of the great outdoors - specially the ones on the east coast of the UAE of the olden days and ways.

These and other things we did were our simple pleasures of living, working and enjoying ourselves with whatever we had those days. But the picnics to the east coast of the United Arab Emirates will forever remain etched in my mind.

Article and all photographs by: Tony Fernandes

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Caminhao - A classic of yesteryear

 Replica of 'Caminhão' of the 1950's, Goa, India.
1/8" plywood, 10" long.
 Handcrafted by Tony Fernandes.

This was the popular mode of transportation from city to city and town to town, making several scheduled or unscheduled stops, winding its way through picturesque villages, stopping to whistles or a loud high-pitched "rau re" (Konkani: 'rau' means stop, 're' is a form of address to a male) from a lone passenger or small groups of people waiting along the way.

The coaches were built in Goa on imported Bedford, Ford or Dodge chassis. They were quite unique in their appearance. The coachwork consisted of wooden framework, wooden panelling on the inside and brass sheeting on the outside. Some passenger seats were made of leather while others were made of wood. Fitted on the roof were a "carrier" consisting of a metal rail that would hold and transport a gamut of goods - from paddy sacks and metal trunks to bamboo baskets of vegetable produce to firewood, and also the spare wheel and a tarpaulin cover. The rear of the bus was fitted with a iron ladder for access to the top. Driver and passenger sides had doors. Vertically hinged passenger door was at the rear of the bus. The windows had sliding glass doors. Somes of these buses had longitudinal and parallel seating arrangement. Some of the engines needed to be cranked up to start. Most of these 'Caminhões' (Portuguese: plural) were fitted with a brass blow-horn that was quaint, and had its own charm and tone that was easily discernible.

These type of buses were known as the 'caminhao' generally, and called as the 'carreira' on regular routes with apparent fixed timings. They were seen plying all over Goa and came in small, medium or large sizes. The larger ones plied on longer routes like Panjim to Margao via Ponda, Margao to Vasco da Gama, or Mapusa to Betim, Mapusa to Siolim, and Mapusa to Aldona, Tivim, Colvale and Bicholim. Small buses seated 15 passengers, medium ones 22 and the larger ones up to 36 passengers. On rural routes most of the smaller buses exceeded far beyond their capacity - a trend that hasn't changed even up to this day - a span of more than 50 years since the good old 'caminhao' made its final retreat and exit.

The larger models were often hired by schools as transportation of students on picnics, to football tournaments and for occasions like weddings. The medium and smaller buses plied from Mapusa to Calangute and Mapusa to Candolim as regular private services.

In the late fifties the first modern bus appeared on the scene plying between Mapusa and Betim, and by the early sixties modern buses replaced most of the old 'caminhoes'. The first bus looked very fascinating and exciting for us, who were very young kids then, especially in the night when it plied with its interior lights switched on. It was red in colour, unique speed-stripes, with shatter-proof glass windows, flat front driver's cabin and parallel seating for all passengers and could seat, front entry and rear exit .

The caminhao is fondly remembered today as a true classic by the last of veterans of that era. As for me the 'Caminhão' is still retained as a nostalgic memory, as I recall travelling on these buses to various places in Goa from childhood to early teens - visiting relatives, attending weddings and going on my annual vacation to my grandmother's house in Siolim in the month of May.

Other than the driver it was manned by a conductor, who we loving still for some reason call as a 'kilinder' (perhaps a corruption of the English word 'cleaner' in the local dialect, who was in charge of the passenger fare collection and cleaning the bus. The driver and the 'kilinder' or conductor had, and still do, their own brand of a communication and signalling system with each other, a certain rhythmic tap on the side of the bus to reverse, a whistle here and shout there to stop and leave, or completely ignore waiting passengers when it is full to the brim. Loud conversations among passengers trying to make themselves heard over the noise of the coach engines were the norm and seeing someone hurrying along the path leading to the road to catch the bus was a common sight.

As the 'caminhao' took off, the conductor would be the last to board. Requests in colloquial Konkani by him like 'Bai matxem mukar voch' ('lady please move forward) or 'Baba matso pattim sor' (gentleman please move back) to a passenger would be often heard. On leaving the bus stand they were expected to stop wherever they found passengers waiting, and if there was available space for them. There were no specified stops on shorter routes. The passengers waited mainly at land-mark points like for example 'Undracho Posro', 'Parra Tinto', 'Nakear', 'Tiktear', etc.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Picturesque Aldona and Corjuem

Aldona is a picturesque hilly region and one of the villages nestled among sprawling rice fields and vegetable patches in Bardez district, North Goa, India. This famous church is dedicated to Sao Tome (St. Thomas). It was built in 1596 and is located near the market town high on the Aldona plateau overlooking scenic Corjuem. The parish chapels include the chapel at Carona (Sta. Rita de Cascia), Corjuem Island (Mae de Deus) and one at Quitula. It consists of many 'vadde', including Quitula, Udoim, Coimavaddo, Carona, Santerxette, Naikavaddo, Panarim and Ranoi. Aldona is now connected to Corjuem by a state of the art cable-stayed bridge held by six cables from either direction.

As a child I remember accompanying my grandmother to the village feast and fair on the Aldona side. During my school days we cycled there from Guirim to play football matches. In my working years I visited friends and relatives in Aldona and Corjuem, crossing the creek by ferry many times and occasionally in a canoe. One need not fear of these calm waters, especially with the influence of this imposing church facing the east across the creek, and also with the blessings of its numerous altars dedicated to popular Saints I never doubted about any danger while crossing this beautiful creek, subconsciously sensing the protection and the benevolent gaze of my favourite St. Thomas.

The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, India, Filipe Neri António Sebastião do Rosário Ferrão is from Santerxette, Aldona, Goa, India.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Prayer for a Day

Prayer for a Day

Sometimes when small things
Trouble us more than large ones
We sometimes tend to take it out
on someone in our immediate vicinity -
in the work place or at home at the receiving end.

Not a good day to start I think
When I realize how a perfect day
Ahead of us is ruined in its infancy.

So now and then when this happens to me
I try to forget the trivia
And try hard to throw small troubles away
So that I may fully have a happy day.

Some simply call it anger,
other cite it as short temper,
But sometimes when temper is lost
You may also lose a friend forever.

So I try to strive to live a happy day,
The best I make of the rest that's left,
For a better tomorrow I hope,
And forget all bad that's happened today

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Cross opposite the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi

The imposing old school building,
constructed full in laterite stone.

My poem.

A dedication to my Alma Mater
that I am always so proud of
and always will be.


(A tribute to my Alma Mater, St. Anthony's High School,
Monte-de-Guirim, Bardez, Goa)

High up in the misty hills of Monte-de-Guirim
There is an Alma Mater so dear to many
The lads admire its glory still from lands far away
Their love for it they swear would never let decay.

All these years I have been so far away
And at times suddenly in my tracks I stop to pray
When I think of those golden years of nearness
That held us in togetherness.

When I am alone I do ponder
The years seem to have drifted yonder
Although those times have long gone by
Yet they seem to have been
Just around the corner
sometimes making me feel like a loner.

Someday when I am home at last
Surely will remember my school friends
Of days long gone past,
When come rain or shine we held on fast;
Played in the fields till dusk
And ran home before the bell
Tolled for the 'Angelus'. *

When someday I am there again

Will I get a chance to play
With my buddies in the rain
Will they run with me once more
As an encore
Or will I hear
Behind my ear
Someone whisper
That they are no more?

When through the cashew fruit trees
Up the hill we trudged winding
The journey seemed never ending;
When we at last made to the hill-top
Far down below in the fields
We could see the farmers
Tilling and toiling
To make a living.

In the misty hills of Monte-de-Guirim
Stands high the mighty school of St. Anthony
And while on these memories I always dwell
I should always have lot of stories for my children
About my Alma Mater to tell.


Here I am at last in my land so free
Through the fields once more I walk
In the cool shade I pause
Beneath the old nunerca tree
On its trunk our names I still see
That we long ago had carved
As children so carefree.

The school was well-known for its academic excellence as well for its prowess in sports like football, field hockey, volley ball and basketball. Run competently by the Capuchin Friars of the Order of Franciscan Minor, it had its own bakery and power generator and a Friar well-known all over Goa for his cure from snake bites. This school had excellent teaching staff and produced high ranking results in the final examinations at the higher secondary level.

At one time it had over 800 boarders. Other students who attended this school were called day-scholars, who walked up the hill to the school from the nearby villages of Guirim, Sangolda, Parra, Saligao, Porvorim, Succorro, Perxet and Bastora. Some boys commuted on cycles from as far away as Anjuna and Siolim (8 to 9 km.) Day-scholars usually walked to school carrying their books and packed lunches with them, known as ‘buthi’ and kept them in a special lunch room.

(*Angelus: The Angelus is a practice of reciting a short devotional prayer in most Catholic homes in Goa, specially in the evenings. In the old days, boys and girls had to be home before the bell rang at sundown in churches and chapels calling for this prayer. The bell for Angelus is normally rung three times each day - morning, noon, and evening. Not coming home for this family prayer on time in the evening would mean receiving a scolding from parents who imposed strict rules in their homes).