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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Sorngo

The ‘Sorngo’
By Tony Fernandes

A popular sport during the Portuguese era in the 1950's was known as ’the flying of the sorngo’. It consisted of a framework made of bamboo ribs fastened together with coir rope, lined with tissue paper, and cotton rags tied to a wire at the bottom. It’s shaped resembled an elongated oil drum. It was open at the bottom with a hole at the top. The base of the ‘sorngo’ was held together at the bottom by cross wire tied to its circular framework A lump of cotton rags was tied to the bottom centre.

The art of getting this contraption aloft was based on the rustic knowhow and ingenuity of the ace innovator of our village who was none other than the great Custodio Piedade Fernandes. The ‘sorngo’ was entirely made at home. This innovation was based on the generally principle of fact that hot air inside a balloon causes it to rise aloft.

Multi-coloured craft tissue paper was applied to all sides and the circular top of the bamboo ribbing framework, leaving an open hole at the top for the hot air to escape. After the completion of this ‘flying drum’, a small fire was lit by burning a small cluster of dried leaves from the mango tree. The drum was held over the fire by 2 persons over the flames of this fire that in turn ignited the cotton rags that were soaked in kerosene. And voila in a jiffy we had lift-off to the cheers of the folks gathered around the bonfire in anticipation. To watch it finally soar into the sky since the start of the day brought great joy and satisfaction. Houston would have been proud!
The hole at the top let the smoke escape, while the cotton rag drenched in kerosene acted as a ballast or stabilizer keeping the balloon upright and steady.

As the ‘sorngo’ gradually lifted upwards, the westerly winds pushed the gadget over and towards the fields east of Guirim, towards Bastora. The senior boys ran in the direction of ‘sorngo’ keeping it in sight looking momentarily upwards toward the skies as they ran. The best fun and excitement was the task in retrieving as fell to the ground after the cotton rag had burnt itself out.
As it was considered a fire hazard this sort of sport and entertainment was eventually banned by the Portuguese, in order to prevent fires that could have been caused when these contraptions descended on thatched huts, houses and other property while the embers from the cotton rags still smouldered as they came down.

Those were the days, but now, I think it is absolutely illegal to send this sort of thing into the skies by any means. This write-up is for keeps for posterity. You can make it, but do not fly it. The reason for its ban is that it is a huge fire hazard once it lifts into the sky. Once it soars upwards it was entirely at the mercy of wind with no definite pattern of direction or control. And there is nothing one can do about it.