Picturesque Goa

Picturesque Goa
NOSTALGIA - Articles,Poems & Photos

TONFERNS CREATIONS

TONFERNS CREATIONS
TONFERNS CREATIONS - Tony's Art & Hobbies

Thursday, April 30, 2009

SOME OBSERVATIONS

SOME OBSERVATIONS (Humour)

Customers :

Man with folded arms:
1. Non-committed.
2. Has nothing better to do.
3. Surveying

Man with both hands in pocket:
1. Looking for loose change.
2. Broke

Man with one hand in pocket:
1. Not sure what he wants
(in life, or otherwise).


Man/Woman
with wallet/purse in hand:

Pretending to buy.

Man/woman
Both hands at the back:

They've got something to hide.

Man/Woman holding
Spouse’s hand:

They want nothing - except each other.

Man holding wife’s purse:
Doesn’t want her to spend.

Man/Woman with dark glasses
(in dimly-lit aisles, day or night) :

1. They probably think they can remain anonymous
2. They want to avoid absolutely all eye contact.
3. Competition is checking prices in dark shades!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BOOKS BY BEN ANTAO


1. Images of Goa ($25),
a memoir covering the years 1943-64.

2. Goa A Rediscovery ($10),
a travelogue of Goa, 2004.

3. BLOOD & Nemesis ($25),
a novel about Goa's freedom struggle from the Portuguese rule covering the period 1946-62.

4. Penance ($25),
a novel about a love quadrangle set in Toronto.

5. The Tailor's Daughter ($25),
a novel about a young Goan woman of Nairobi and her struggle to break out of the caste barrier.

6. Living on the Market ($25),
a novel about a supply teacher of Toronto who is trying to support his family by playing the stock market.

7. The lands of Sicily ($25),
a bilingual travelogue Italian and English) about the author's visit to Sicily in October 2007.

8. Images of the USA ($25),
a memoir of his journalistic experiences in the US (1966-67)

TO ORDER PLEASE EMAIL:
BEN ANTAO

Sunday, April 26, 2009

JOURNEY ACROSS THE ARABIAN SEA (Part 3)

Windtowers of Dubai
(Oil Painting by Tony Fernandes)
BEYOND THE ARABIAN SEA
aboard the m.s. SIRDHANA

Part 3 (Final)
Muscat, Oman

The early morning of Day 5, (6th September 1967), found us approaching Muscat, Oman. The s.s. 'Sirdhana' cast anchor about half a nautical mile away from the breathtaking mountains of Oman. Cargo shipments were unloaded and loaded to and from small boats that came alongside. Although Muscat had no port, it was a magnificent sight to behold from the sea with beautiful cliffs some of which had names of visiting ships painted by sailors in large letters on the sloping sides. We knew that this was our last port of call before reaching Dubai.

After leaving Muscat in Oman by the afternoon, passengers disembarking in Dubai seemed quite excited. The morning of Day 6 (7th September 1967) saw us through the Straits of Hormuz. Dubai would be the next stop in about 18 hours as I had learned from a fellow traveler. There were in fact many passengers on board who had traveled this route before. As the ship sailed towards the Hormuz Strait, the Hajjar mountain range loomed high and large in the distance on the port side.

Then everyone was reaching for their note books, writing names and addresses of their new friends, so that we could keep in touch in the future wherever we would be or wherever our destiny would take us eventually. It was almost like a family leaving their relatives behind at this point. Most of my friends that I made on board the ship seemed to be in their twenties or thirties. Some were headed for other places like Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait and the final destination Basra from where some said they would hitch-hike across Europe.

It was Thursday, 7th of September 1967, having sailed through the Straits of Hormuz, the ship turned south-west towards Dubai. On the portside was the Hajjar mountain range of Ras al Khaimah and on the starboard side was the vast expanse of the Arabian Gulf. It was a hot and humid afternoon with bright sunshine. Simmering in the heat far away I could see what seemed like silhouettes on horizon of high-rise apartments. Oh! Skyscrapers! I thought, but they in fact were beautiful wind towers in disguise.

As the 'Sirdhana' steadily edged towards Dubai, she dropped anchor about a nautical mile off the entrance to Dubai Creek. After a while Immigration officials from the Trucial States arrived in a in a police boat and boarded the ship to check on the visas that were issued by the British Consulate in Dubai. The ship’s officers’ main dining area was immediately converted into an immigration office for the purpose.

Dubai did not have a sea port for the m.s. Sirdhana to berth then. We disembarked using the ship’s ladder onto small boats that took us ashore, through the winding creek. The small shuttle motor boats were berthed at the jetty near the market place in Bur Dubai.
I jumped on to the quayside with the famous BOAC blue bag slung over my shoulder with quite a relief. It wasn’t difficult to spot my brother in his trademark crew-cut who had been waiting at the Customs House. We both chatted while waiting for my luggage that would be arriving on another boat. We then headed home in his Volkswagen.

My sea voyage had ended. A new life and a new venture in a different place and culture was about to begin.

The seven sheikhdoms namely, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujeirah, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah, were then known as the TRUCIAL STATES OF OMAN, a British Protectorate. Four years later a federation was formed aimed at attaining subsequent independence. The British left and the United Arab Emirates was born in August 1971.

Today Dubai is a great, modern and magnificent city which boasts of a man-made sea port so large that it can be seen from space. There are many other man-made architectural and engineering wonders of the modern world that we have heard about. The creek is still beautiful albeit bedecked with skyscrapers on both sides, but the cluster of the original wind-towers that I had spotted nearly 42 years ago today still exists on the heritage site at the mouth of the creek still basking in warm sunshine - a reminder of the day when I first set foot in this country.

Friday, April 24, 2009

JOURNEY ACROSS THE ARABIAN SEA (Part 2)

Dubai - Trucial States of Oman - 1967
BEYOND THE ARABIAN SEA
(aboard the m.s. SIRDHANA)


Part 2

High Seas

Rising early morning the next day we went to the dining hall for breakfast and met the entire group of guys involved in the tete-a-tete that we had the previous night. It was the beginning of Day 2 (3rd September 1967). We were on high seas, heading for the port of Karachi in Pakistan. It was another long day of chit-chat. Some passengers were playing chess, draughts and cards. The lunch fare consisted of rice, curry, and vegetables. Soon the afternoon turned into evening, when most of us went to the prow of the ship to watch the beautiful sunset once again. The cool breeze fanned across our faces while silhouettes of sea-gulls glided effortlessly in the distance.

My compass indicated we were heading north-west. After dinner my friends and I sat on the aft upper deck till midnight. Each one of our group of friends told where they were heading.
The moon was low in the eastern sky, its faint glow simmering faintly on the eastern horizon. The white surf that the ship left in its wake glimmered in its trail, along with a wide V-shaped wash in its wake. A dark foreboding sea towards the north, the faint lights of another vessel in the south kept us company for a while. The faint and hazy white band of the Milky Way stretched almost overhead across the clear sky, brilliantly lit by myriad twinkling stars. I was surrounded by some of my favourite constellations in a breath-taking stellar sight. To the north I could see the Great Bear in the constellation of Ursa Major with two of its stars pointing to the Pole Star in the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. To the south I could see the rising Southern Cross. We then retired to our berths.

Rising at dawn on Day 3 (4th September) it was time to go up to the main deck for breakfast. To my astonishment as I was standing on starboard side I could see far in the distance a landmass over the horizon. Just like one of the pursers had mentioned the previous night I surmised that we must be in fact nearing the port of Karachi. As we glided through the calm seas for about another two hours we saw many ships around us. Soon after that tugboats approached the Sirdhana. She was then soon docked and tethered to the bollards by the quay-side. Later I went to the fore-deck and watched as the ship used its winches to load cargo right up till the afternoon. I was amazed by the adept operators of the winches and impressed by the precision of how they raised and lowered the cargo. We then left port after having lunch. It was almost evening when we were again out into the open seas. We were now heading towards Muscat in Oman, full steam ahead. Once again after a long conversation on various topics that evening, we decided to take count of how much ‘foreign exchange’ was left from the pittance of an allowance of $5 US Dollars (Indian Rupees 75/- in those days) that each one of us had for the entire journey. It wasn't enough at all. Most of this meagre amount had already been spent on beer! Any extra meal or snacks would have to be paid in US Dollars. Another moonlit night – quite peaceful, silent and calm. As for me I was slightly tired. Perhaps a little ruffled but looked forward to arriving at Muscat.

Day 4. (5th September) A quick check on my only favourite possession – my magnetic compass. We were westbound by south west. Brilliant sunshine, blue skies and scattered cumulus clouds high above. A long white jet trail pierced the sky. Perhaps a VC-10 or Boeing 707 on its way to Bombay, Hong Kong, Singapore or Australia - some lucky guys - but some day I'll fly too, I thought.

Sitting by the side of a vent cowling, I was facing the bridge, with my back toward the bow of the ship reading a book. High up above on the bridge ship officers seemed to be on the afternoon watch. They appeared to look out far ahead, out into the sea. During the afternoon my new friends and I stood near the prow of the ship. As we cautiously looked over the rails down below us we saw the hull of the ship slice through the waters as several pairs of dolphins raced alongside keeping at an amazing and steady pace. Looking back over my shoulder I noticed naval officers high up through the window of the captain’s navigation deck, taking a reading through a sextant, flanked by 2 or 3 others. Trainees or juniors perhaps, it appeared so, presuming from their actions.

(to be continued)

Monday, April 20, 2009

JOURNEY ACROSS THE ARABIAN SEA (Part 1)



m.s. SIRDHANA
Photographs Courtesy: John Coulthard & Dave Alexander

Journey Across the Arabian Sea

(ON BOARD THE m.s. SIRDHANA)

Part I

Bombay, India
The days preceding 2nd of September 1967 were pretty hectic, with thoughts dwelling on my forthcoming travel to a foreign land. It was a busy time - making arrangements in getting a passport for the first time in my life. It would be my first venture abroad to a place called Dubai. Many on the Indian sub-continent knew where it was, but perhaps in those days very few people knew that it ever existed at all in other parts of the world.

Having been excited since the day I received my visa, the thought of finding employment abroad brought sadness and happiness at the same time. Sad because I would be leaving my parents and friends behind. On the other hand happy because I was going to try something new – an adventure. It opportunity not to be missed, an opportunity knocking at my door to venture abroad. So finally after much debate I took the brave step of leaving in search of greener pastures overseas.
No doubt it was already an age of jet travel then, but I had only one option at my disposal, and that was to rough it out on a sea voyage of 5 days and 5 nights across the Arabian Sea on board the B.I. steamship, the m.s. SIRDHANA.
The day of my departure was getting closer and there was so much to do. Some of my friends wanted to take me out to lunch and dinner, while others wanted me to join them at the movies. Some college friends from as far away as Malad, Bandra and Andheri came over to the place where I lived at Colaba to say good-bye on the eve of my departure.

It was surely a sad moment for me and for my friends too. Late one evening I sat in the balcony on the fourth floor of the apartment in Colaba where I lived. I looked down below at the main street - the bright lights of Colaba Causeway - a shopper's delight - it still seemed busy. As I looked towards the south east, I could see the glimmering lights of Sassoon Dock and the neon signs of Empire Shoe Mart towards the north. Cafe Alexandria across the street was open, and people still lined up for Kulfi at Chandu's even at such a late hour. I'm certainly going to miss this neighbourhood a lot, I thought. How much I would miss seemed too much to count - the movies at the Strand, the Metro, the Empire, the Rex, the Regal and Eros Cinemas, lunch and dinners at Martin's Corner just around the corner, cold coffee at Gables, and matinee shows at the Excelsior, the evening strolls along Cuffe Parade and Gateway of India, the occasional visit to Venice and Volga's, the hop on the double decker buses at Electric House, the early morning Mass at the Wodehouse Church, Paranjoti's Choir, music shows and contests among beat groups like The Mystiks, The Savages, Beat Four, Reaction and Lone Trojan (Biddu), and sipping coffee while listening to the hits by the Ventures, The Shadows, The Seekers, Ricky Nelson, Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard, Elvis, Everly Brothers and others on the juke-box at Cafe Mondegar. I had a lump in my throat just as it does now.

Finally the morning of 2nd September 1967 dawned. It was time for me to leave for the docks - off to the Ballard Pier in Bombay (now Mumbai). There, tethered to the bollards was the awesome and gleaming white steamer, the SIRDHANA, one of the last B.I. ships of its kind to sail the seas. My friend, Leslie, may God bless his soul, accompanied me in the taxi to the pier. I was surprised that so many of my friends had already arrived there to see me off.

After all the routine checking in, it was time for the passengers to board. I hastened along the gangway to find my berth. Placing my luggage there I hurried back to the deck to have a last glimpse at my friends who kept on waving out to me. I waved back intermittently and I was convinced that they were adamant in waiting by the quayside till the ship's departure. With sustained smiles on their faces and mine, it was a sad moment.

It was almost noon when I heard a rumble beneath my feet, as the ship raised anchor. As it was gently towed away out of the harbour by two tug boats into the open sea, I could see people still waving goodbye in the distance, becoming smaller and smaller till I could see them no more. Soon the tug boats had left the Sirdhana to steam on its own power. We were heading North-West for sure, I thought. To confirm this I took out my old pocket compass, one of my treasured possessions from my school days, to check and confirm that I was right in my assumption.

Having made it back to the berth on the lower deck after a while, I decided to settle down take it easy and try to come to terms and brace for a long journey ahead.

Later that evening, I reached into the side pocket of my favourite blue carry bag of those days (that ironically had the letters "BOAC"- British Overseas Aircraft Corporation). From it, I anxiously took out a world map that I had purchased from the agent. Not wanting to make a laughing stock of myself, I then quickly put it away before somebody could see me, as we had barely been out of Indian waters, and had hardly started our journey! There was silence among the passengers nearby except at the far end of the sleeping quarters. A group of guys seemed to go on chatting endlessly. These guys must be regulars, I assumed. After taking a short nap I decided to go to the lounge on the upper deck. Some passengers were watching a glorious sunset on the horizon of the Arabian Sea. Soon twilight turned into darkness with a grand canopy of a star-lit sky above us. As I remember, one of the famous hit songs of those days was 'World of our Own' by The Seekers, lyrics of which seemed to aptly come to mind. We were surely far away from the bustle and the bright city lights, albeit headed to a new place that I had yet to know and experience, in a new world that hopefully I would strive to make and build on my own.

It was dinner time. Not having had a single known person on a steamer that carried nearly a 1000 passengers I thought it was time to make friends. So I put down one of the books that I had carried to read on board the ship.

Later I realized that in fact everybody wanted to make friends with everyone else. The saying “we are all in the same boat” literally held true in this case. All that had to be done was to break the ice initially. As I now recall, conversations carried on till past mid-night.

When I rose up the next morning I already had a lot of friends on board - in fact more than I had expected.

This is just the beginning, four more days and nights to go, I thought.

It was much unlike the banner head-line in BOAC advertisements of the VC-10 aircraft of that era that proclaimed: 'Swift, Silent, Serene'.

We were going to get there for sure, but differently: Definitely slow but steady. Surely ruffled but determined.

(to be continued)

Monday, April 13, 2009

DAYS OF NARAYAN THE POSTMAN


DAYS OF NARAYAN THE POSTMAN

Those were the good old days of April sunshine and humidity in Guirim, Cumbiem Morod, Bardez, Goa. The schools were closed for the summer and I was looking forward to enjoying my holidays. Sitting on a small stool in our balcão, I was using the bench as a table. I was doing what I liked to do best right after lunch - drawing before the evening coolness arrived. After that I would join other boys from the village playing football in the vast parched fields of summer stretching far north towards the hills of Mapuςa.

At times the sudden intermittent gusts of gentle breeze brought us some relief from the afternoon heat. The coconut trees gently swayed, and often dislodged the ripe mango from its stem on the nearby tree. The discernible thud from the fall of the mango on the sandy ground provided a short-lived sport for us as we raced towards the mango tree to grab and retrieve the mango.

At this time my mother usually sat in the front balcão of our house, doing one of her daily smaller chores. Some days, it meant darning my old trousers; other days it was altering the hem line of my cousin’s dress. I can still remember the flower pattern she sewed on a pillowcase, and the words “God Bless our Home” on the altar cloth. No matter what the chore, she never failed to repeatedly move her glance from her needle to the winding path that led to our house.

I remember the look in her eyes as she tried to conceal her feelings, but I knew why my mother appeared anxious. It was that time of day when Narayan the postman would bring the mail. We were waiting anxiously to hear about the news when my father would arrive from Bombaim (Bombay) where he worked. My mother was also worried because we had not heard from my uncle in Belgaum in quite a while. I could sense her concern as I continued with my drawing.

Several similar days passed until we finally saw Narayan far away in the distance, dressed in his khaki uniform – short-sleeved shirt, long trousers and sandals with a satchel slung over his shoulder as he trudged along with an envelope in his hand. How true, we thought. The crow, the harbinger of yore, of ‘Kaunvllea Kiteak Roddtai Dharan’* fame, perched on the fence of our backyard that very morning, had already predicted the postman’s arrival!

I still remember the smile on my mother’s face as she read the letter. My father was coming home!
A  few days later, we also heard from my uncle from Belgaum that he too would be arriving for his holidays. It was so true that Narayan brought us joy in the form of letters. The amount of good news that he brought surpassed the bad. The happiest time of my childhood was Yuletide when everyone in the village received Christmas cards from relatives and friends. And Narayan would be making his rounds almost every day of the season happily delivering them to us. In retrospect, I tend to think that he could have been our very own unique Santa Claus! Conversely, he wore a solemn face when he was about to hand over a letter with a black border which meant bad news about the demise of a relative or a friend.

Some postmen delivered mail on bicycles. However, Narayan preferred to deliver mail on foot as it was difficult to ride a bicycle through the sandy paths of the villages. Tired and perspiring, he would sometimes sit on our front porch for a minute or two, taking rest from the summer heat. Wiping the sweat from his face with his handkerchief, he would always ask us how we were doing. ‘Koxim assat tumim?’ (How are you all?) he inquired. Sometimes we would offer his water to quench his thirst. He would then leave to deliver a few more letters before heading back to the main post office in town, where he would then board a bus to his home in Colvale.

Sometimes Narayan would ask me to hand over a letter whenever someone was not at home in the village. The old lady who lived behind our house often asked me to read letters to her that her son wrote from Bombay. She trusted me and expected to keep to myself whatever I read. In return, to read the letters and perhaps to remain silent she rewarded me with guavas or ‘chikoos’ that grew on the trees at the back of her house.

All postmen were generally known by the village folks as ‘postacar’. But our postman was known as ‘Naran Postakar’. He was always polite and humble. Whenever I went to the post office to purchase postage stamps in the morning I could see him inside the old postal office. He would be busy sorting out mail and getting his bag ready for the afternoon delivery. He never failed to wave instantly when he saw me.

Narayan served as a postman for many years, having seen the days of the transition from Portuguese colonial rule to Indian rule. His knowledge and fluency in Portuguese, Marathi, English and Concanim amazed me. He retired from service in the mid nineteen sixties. The world is so different now since the days of Narayan the postman. In these times of electronic mail, blogs and text messaging, I cannot help but reminisce about a a postman from a different generation - an experience of my youth.

* * *

*'Kaunvllea Kiteak Roddtai Dharan’ : {literal meaning: Crow! Why are you crying (crowing) in front of the house}. A traditional Goan folk song in which a wife asks the crow if it has brought news from her husband in a telegram and she beckons it to better fly away if it has done so, lest it should get itself killed by a rifle shot.

This essay is dedicated to the Goan postmen of a bygone era, and especially to Naik Chikhalikar, a.k.a. Baba Postakar. Narana Forjento, Colvale, Pernem District, Goa. India.