Author: Bernadette Correia Afonso D'Souza Genre:
ISBN: 978-93-80739-670 Price (PB) : Rs. 200 Mail Enquiry
Buy Now (Foreign Buyers)
Buy Now (Indian Buyers)Add to Cart

Globe-trotting Grandma returns to the quiet of Joe’s sit-out. “The view is worth the climb!,” her Joe said when they chose the topmost apartment. This is where they talked and shared silences, where their children came to relax, where on annual visits their grandchildren marked off their heights on the wall — “How small we were then!” This is where she invites you to taste famous Goan delicacies and to meet some of the wonderful people she has known, among them, postman Pandu, the prayerful Shantadevi, Dona Armida of ‘dona eis requeim’ fame, dear Domingos the versatile cook, the renowned Art Sir, the resourceful Tia Caru, and Victoria Rani’s loyal subject Dukhi Devi.

[BOOK EXCERPT] Nosh Caz! By Bernadette Correia Afonso D’Souza

“We’ve reached, we’ve reached!” we shouted, Tony and I. “Not there yet,” said Mama.

We were nearing the end of our twenty-four-hour train journey from Dadar to Margao.  The two of us were travelling with Mama.  Our three elder siblings would follow with Papa, when their college holidays began.  We had had changes of trains at Pune and then Londa, with long stops at Castlerock and Collem stations, for customs inspection at the British India and Portuguese Goa frontiers.

Heralding Goa were the clusters of coconut palms swaying gently in the breeze, emerald green paddy fields, with women — their saris hitched up — bent over to plant paddy.  Amidst these were mango groves full of luscious mangoes.  Goa beckoned!

Having just left Chandor station, the next stop would be Margao!  Tony and I sat with our eager faces pressed against the iron bars of the windows of our Inter Class compartment with cushioned seats.

“There’s Tio Pedro! I saw him first!”

“No! I saw him walking to the platform.”

“Don’t you jump out before the train stops!” cautioned Mama.

Tony and I squeezed our way out through the grouped passengers with their baggage, crowding at the door.  We sprang into the outstretched arms of our uncle Pedro.  On the platform teaming with travellers, coolies made a beeline for luggage.  “Four annas per load!” Sixteen annas equalled a rupee.

The porters wore red turbans and red shirts, with badges.  Our man did a balancing act, our two suitcases on his turbaned head and bags in both hands.  He followed behind us straight out to Tio Pedro’s Ford Model T.

Tio Pedro drove us to Benaulim.  As we neared the house, our younger cousins Mimi, Vic and Joc who had kept a lookout on the balcão, yelled, “Já vieram!” (They’ve come).  Aunts, uncles and cousins hurried down the steps to greet us.  It was hugs and kisses all the way up the steps and into the sala, at the end of which was the chapel where we stopped for a prayer of thanksgiving for our safe arrival.  What a welcome that was!

This was the home of our grandfather and of his ancestors before him.  In my childhood, this was the home of our dear single aunts Mariana, Amelia and Carolina, of our father, Francisco, and his elder brother Pedro, of their wives Luzia (our Mama) and Olivia, and us their children.  My father lived and worked in Bombay, and then in other places, but he and my mother, and of course we children considered this Benaulim home to be our home, nossa casa or nosh caz as we children affectionately called it!

We returned to Benaulim regularly in the May and October vacations, and sometimes even for Christmas.  Here we met up with aunts, uncles and cousins — not just the Benaulim ones, but often the families of my father’s five married sisters.  There were days of great joy, the celebration of christenings and weddings, balanced on the other side by sorrows, illnesses, deaths and funerals of the old and sometimes even the young.  All these were shared by our family, under the sheltering roof of nosh caz!

We, the young children, had plenty of fun together, as well as fights.  Tony, the eldest among us, organised us into a Gang of Five.  After him, in order of age, came Mimi, Bunu (moi), Vic (younger to me by a couple of months) and Joc, then aged five but still the bébé of the family, albeit called Bébé Matemático because he could count up to 100 and backwards, and add and subtract like a wiz.  We played games of various sorts and climbed the litchi tree in the front garden, on the sturdy branches of which we reserved our own perch.  We sometimes took our tea snacks there.  One day, these attracted a line of huge red ants: they bit us and with ‘ants in the pants’ we had to beat a hasty retreat!  The tree is still there!

One holiday, we decided to start a handwritten family newspaper of our own.  My father and his siblings had in their youth written O Jornal das Férias (The Vacation Daily), so I suppose we did have journalism in our genes.  Our paper was called À Toda a Hora (roughly, 24/7).  It was published weekly.

Tony was of course the undisputed editor. He took the pen-name of Anton Kraf, Kraf being his phonetic abbreviation of Correia Afonso.  The first edition was a huge success, to the pride and amusement of our elders!  At age seven, I could write in print but not in running hand as could Tony and Mimi.  I envied Tony.  After a few issues of the paper, I tried my luck: “Now I want to be Editor!” I was promptly told, “But you do not have a proper signature, which an editor must have.” At this snub, I was ready to throw a tantrum.  Tony thought and thought, and he came up with a brilliant idea, “Bunu,” said he, “you can be our Guest Editor for the next week and sign with your thumb print!” Determined to be the editor at any cost, I agreed and became Guest Editor with my thumb impression at the end of my first and last editorial!

During the World War years, Tio Pedro had in his study one of the few radios in Benaulim.  It worked on cells, as the house had no power connection until many years later.  He listened daily to the English news transmitted by the BBC.  By the light of a gas lamp, he wrote a simultaneous translation in Portuguese.  Every night, a young neighbour would collect the drafts and cycle with them to Margao, to the offices of A Vida, a Goa newspaper.

The family, and sometimes we children, would listen to those news broadcasts.  I remember hearing Hitler’s rants ending in a scream, “Deutschland über alles!” That really frightened us — and half of the world! There was also news of the Indian Independence movement, under the leadership of Gandhi, Nehru and other greats.  We overheard Tio Pedro, an ardent supporter of democracy, decry Salazar, at that time dictator of Portugal and consequently of Goa.  Said Tony to the Gang, “We must do something about Hitler and Salazar.”

So, at our next meeting, held in the garage, we took an oath of secrecy and then stood in line shouting, “Down with Hitler!  Down with Salazar!  Viva Goa!” From old newspapers, we had collected photo prints of the two dictators.  Mimi had shredded the prints; she greatly enjoyed this task which she remembers to this day.

Then, in the heat of the May afternoon, while most of the elders napped, we marched in procession to the rear end of the house, to the piggy latrine, and flung the pieces down the shaft!  At this juncture, Joc burst into tears and ran to Tia Caru.  Aware of his oath of secrecy and burdened by it, he sobbed, “Não posso dizer!” (I cannot tell).  He does not remember this now.

Tia Caru, suspecting that the older four were the culprits, said, “What wicked thing have you done?  No merenda for you four!” Joc got his!  We missed a delicious merenda of pão melado — fried bread dipped in syrup!  Later, we turned on Tony, complaining, “We are hungry!” He replied, with a noble air, “Think of Gandhiji, fasting unto death for freedom!” I wondered if Tony had helped himself to a snack from the larder.  Said I, astutely, “I bet you this evening Gandhiji will have orange juice.  Just you wait and see!” On that occasion I proved to be right.

Our gang had tea parties under the large chikku tree near the garage.  We spread mats and fetched a few chairs for the elders.  Tia Caru supplied bolinhos and limonada which we served in Mimi’s and my tea sets.

I had at that time a big cuddly toy rabbit, which never left my sight.  I called him Bunny.  Some of our relatives called me Bunny, though most called me Bunu.  Once, I was swinging Bunny by the ears at the window, and he slipped from my hands.  Mimi shouted, “Bunny has fallen out of the window!”

Hearing this, Mama ran to my rescue and was both relieved and annoyed at the false alarm.  “Bunu,” she said, “please change his name.” I chose to call him Anapipi!  Mama sewed him a pair of trousers and a coat.  Every vacation, Anapipi, the perennial bridegroom, would marry (one at a time) the newest and prettiest of Mimi’s dolls!  Tony would be Padre Vigar and perform the nuptials.  Our big sister Evelina would be toastmistress.  On one such occasion she wished the bridal pair, not the usual futuro de rosa (a rosy future) but um futuro sempre verde!  (an evergreen future).  Our Go Green pioneer!

Our gang would also organise récitas (concerts) with Tony as Producer Director.  There would be songs, dances and plays.  Vic, already a writer, created the scripts.  We had to play dual and sometimes triple roles with quick changes of costume.  This caused some confusion, with occasional stage whispers of “Who am I supposed to be now?” The venue would invariably be the varanda nova — an extension of the house, provided by our Tia Mariana.

The years sped by. Some of the youngsters of the family went out of Goa and even abroad for higher studies, after which they pursued their chosen careers.  Many got married.  Some of the young women, like Mimi’s older sister Graça, became nuns; several young men, among them my brothers Roque and John, became priests.  Our Gang of Five eventually became grandparents!  My dear brother Tony has been the first of our gang to go to the Lord.  I recall with love and nostalgia those precious times we had together.

This is an excerpt from the book *Stories From Joe’s Sit-Out: Savouring family life in Goa and way beyond* by Bernadette Correia Afonso D’Souza ( 2014, ).  See cover Launch: