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TONFERNS CREATIONS

TONFERNS CREATIONS
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Monday, November 01, 2010

DOWN BY THE VILLAGE WELL



DOWN BY THE VILLAGE WELL
Article and pen & ink drawing by Tony Fernandes

Like most houses in the olden days, Felicio’s house had a modest little garden. His mother planted different types of flower plants in it. She fetched water from the nearby well, watered the plants, trimmed them and planted new ones once in a while. As a young boy, Felicio had his own little patch with a set of plants that he tended to.

Every morning after young Felicio woke up, he would go to the garden to have a close look at the plants and admire at the blooms, and also check whether any new blossoms or buds had developed. During the rainy season, in one corner of the garden, there grew a perennial creeper that bore beautiful and tiny star-shaped red flowers that were one of Felicio’s favourites. The plant seemed to grow at a rapid pace each day. Felicio had a string tied to the under-side of the roof beams, from one side of the house to the other, running just under the eaves, helping the creeper to get a hold on it.

Felicio was very anxious for the creeper to grow fast and just couldn't wait for more buds to blossom into flowers. On some occasions, and time-permitting, Felicio would help his mother in transferring the water she fetched from the nearby well, into a small bucket to irrigate his plants before he left to go to school which was situated on the distant hill of Monte de Guirim.

The ‘vaddo’ (ward) of the village, where Felicio lived had about five communal wells. Fortunately, his house was located near one of the wells; the proximity of which made it easier to carry the water to his house. These wells provided the village folks with crystal clear natural water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, cooking pots, pans and utensils, bathing, watering flower plants that grew in their front and rear gardens, and also the trees around their house once in a while. A few winding narrow paths led to the wells. The wells were constructed from especially contoured curved laterite stones.  They were very deep and of varying diameters. The water table of the wells fell very low during the summer months, but in contrast they filled almost to the brim during the monsoons. At such times people did not even need a rope to haul the water up. The folks just leaned over the raised ledge of the well, filled the small pot and hauled it up.

The village boys would earnestly hope for abundant rains to fill the wells up prior to the days leading to the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th of every year, and also wished them to fill just to the right level so that they could celebrate ‘San João’ by taking their turns in jumping into the wells with flower wreaths placed on their heads and enjoying themselves eating jack-fruit and mangoes served by the folks who used the particular wells. As the group of villagers went from well to well, some distributed special sweets and fruits, as it was customary to do this when a new baby had been born in that particular household in the previous year. This serving is called 'dali'.


On the eve of this exuberant feast both the young and the old folks of the village gathered together and lit bonfires in front of every home and the fire was put out by beating it out using the flat bases of the stems of the leaves of the coconut tree while they sang a certain chorus in unison, going from one house to the next.

At times before sunrise, Felicio would be awakened by the noise of copper pots as they were placed on the ledge of the well near his house. Some people also used clay pots. The rims of the wells had hollows in them to hold the pots steady.

With a rope fastened to the neck of a smaller copper pot, folks used it to fill a larger copper pot, maintaining balance and adopting a certain posture and a firm stance on the ledge of the well in order to haul the water pot up. The women folk carried the pots home with ease by placing the larger pot on their hips with the crook of one arm, while at the same time carrying a smaller one with the other hand. Men carried water pots in both hands or in tin buckets.

When Felicio was a young lad, the well near his house did not have a pulley and it had been a little difficult, but in later years, drawing water from the well was much easier – fun, exuberance and pleasure. This had been possible after two laterite posts were constructed, with wooden beam across them and a pulley system installed over the well, through labour and money contributed by the folks who used water from the well.

In Goa, the most common and memorable greeting in Konkani : ‘Deu Boro Dis Dhium’ (May God give you a good day or Good Morning) were the first words of the morning to one’s neighbours, who also came to fetch water......down by the village well.

Some of the good old days of yore have now given way to overhead tanks, municipal water pipelines and electric water-pumps providing the village folks with tap water, in addition to the benefit and ease of sprinkling their gardens with rubber hose pipes.


And I was that boy Felicio.

Tony Felix (a.k.a. Felicio) Fernandes

4 comments:

Joel's Goa Scene said...

Superb drawing and a nostalgic potshot at the memorable past - the village well. Nearly one-tenth of our vaddo folk would come to our well beginning every April. Several fisherwomen would take fish to the Mapusa bazaar from Chapora and Badem back in those days. While returning home, at least four of the women would stop at our well, in summer, wash their clothes and take them home. Yes, the rusted pulley hanging on the cross bar reminds me of the past.
Thanks, Tony.

parwatisingari said...

Lovely Tony the pencil sketch is lovelier.

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