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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Carnival in Panjim, Goa.

In Goa, Carnival, or Carnaval in Portuguese, is a pre-Lent celebration held for three days beginning on Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It is full of fun and frolic for young and old. Clad in costumes and garbs of every style and colour, children, young boys and girls roam the villages from house to house showing off their fancy dresses. Sometimes they might be your next door neighbours in a costume you will probably not believe or recognize. But guessing who the reveler might be was part of the fun. 

Intruz (Carnival)

It was the premiere day of the Carnival,
The first day of the exuberant festival,
Morning as bright as could be,
Long shadows in the early dawn
Cast across the village earth so forlorn.

As grandma swept rhythmically
With besom in one hand
The other in a peculiar style of her own
Perched gently on her hip
The entire front courtyard
She swept tirelessly.

The crow perched on the branch
Of a nearby mango tree 
And cawed repeatedly;
She looked towards the crow and said:
“Is there a letter from my grandson for me?”

As she shifted her gaze from the arched pattern
Made from the constant movement 
On the cool morning earth
By the bristles of her broom;
She motioned to the hens and chicks in the backyard
To quieten down their very own grand symphony.

As noon almost drew near,
And the midday sun blazed over,
In the distance we saw the first moenkar,
Approaching dressed in a clown’s attire,
No sooner did he reach the front of the balcony
Than he started with a funny song in Konkani;
Grandma’s reward for which was a single penny.

For three consecutive days the typical moenkar
Roamed the village, from house to house singing songs;
Some went about in groups singing 
In Konkani, English and  Portuguese,
Proving their versatility
While others improvised with their one-act comedy.
On the last day of the carnival
As the evening slowly turned to dusk
And the bell rang for Angelus,
With a reminder from mother
That the next day was Ash Wednesday
When we would be yet again be reminded
That we as mortals will  finally turn to dust.

Then suddenly from far away
We could hear the jingles
From the bells tied to the waists
Of a gang of  moenkar
Hooded and clad fully in black

And called locally as devchar
Approaching near
They did strike some fear
In the kids who searched
For a place around the house to hide,
In the shed or in the storeroom at the rear.

But Grandma was brave,
She had handled many a devchar
And innumerable moenkar 
And witnessed many a Intruz
In her time before;
So daringly she held her ground
As she stood in the doorway.

She guessed right who the lads were,
But was polite enough she was
Not to mention their names
Of the faces
That hid behind the masquerade;
The lads did not a single word utter
Out of their own fear
Afraid as that would blow 
Their own cover.

But grandma said instead:
“Up there from the hillside
Of the village on the other side,
I am pretty sure who you are,”
“So take these four annas young lads,
And on your way you better be” she said sternly,

“I hope you know that Lent starts tomorrow,
So in church I will see you
On time and in the first row for sure.”
When we would yet again be reminded
That we as mortals will finally turn to dust.