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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Aarddamo - The Sentry of the Night.

The 'Aarddamo'
The Sentry of the Night

Most of the old houses of the middle class folks in the villages in Goa were installed with the time-proven giant wooden latch - a locking system for doors and windows, known colloquially in the Konkani language as the 'aarddamo'.

This rather unique and strong system provided a great sense of security and reliability when people retired for the night. This device was the sentry - the sentinel of the night - like a tenacious, silent and immovable guard holding the fort.

Basically, the 'aarddamo' consists of a square wooden beam provided with a knob for pulling as it is drawn across a pair of folding (double-hinged) or two single leaf wooden doors or windows by sliding it from a boxed frame pre-installed and concealed into the wall in its own dedicated casing at the time of construction of a house.

It has long been generally accepted and much spoken about as a strong means of locking or securing doors in a shut position. These have posed a real challenge - dilemma for thieves in the past to be opened from the outside.

Its appearance from the inside somehow reminded me of almost like the gates of river locks (Konk: mannos), including the wooden blocks across the doors that resembled the horizontal retaining slats holding the vertical pieces of the 'mannos'.

The installation of this type of locking system has to be thought and planned about much in advance and built in-situ at the time of construction at a height of one-third of the height of the door or window from the floor.

This system can be built only into the walls of mud-cast homes.The box for the main sliding square wooden slat is approx. 6in x 6in. x 5 ft. long. The block itself is approx 3.5 x 3.5 inches. The box enclosure for the beam is incorporated into either the left or the right side of the door or window. A square receptacle of a depth of about 6 inches for the sliders at the opposite end is also considered at the time of raising the walls.

In addition to this, metal latches are also fitted on almost all other doors and windows of houses providing light security during the day when it may be necessary to shut the doors or windows for a short period of time. With the doors and windows in the open position this old invention is completely invisible - as it remains totally recessed and concealed after it has been pushed in its own long cubicle - out of sight.

Before going to bed, it is not uncommon to hear one family member asking another whether the 'aarddamo' of the front or back door has been drawn.

"Bai, pattlo aarddamo voddlai mungo?" (Konk.) Have you drawn the block across the back-door?

I remember the time when as a young lad I stood as high as the 'aarddamo'.
Our doors and windows remained open way past the 8 o'clock church bell - call for the faithful to prayer for the souls in Purgatory, or a reminder for the tipsy one at the local taverna to return home.

Then it was time for the recitation of the family daily Rosary after which the doors and windows would be shut.  I tried to help my Mum and Dad in trying to pull out the 'aarddamo' from its casing after shutting the doors, but I could hardly pull it because it was heavy. Sometimes seasonal changes affected the sliding factor of the 'aarddamo' because of expansion and contraction. Over the years, as I grew up I found it less difficult. The ease with which I could draw out the 'aarddamo' seemed to have been directly proportional to my strength as I grew into a teenager and finally into an adult.

With the advent of modern homes built with reinforced concrete beams, columns and laterite stone walls, windows secured with iron grills and metal latches, the ancient 'aarddamo' has gradually disappeared from the scene.

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