Sunday, March 23, 2008

Captan Kirk observes a Goan picnic

Tongue in Cheek
- By Cecil Pinto

Captan Kirk observes a Goan picnic

Captain's Log Stardate 05-05-2005.
Observation of Social Customs: Large Goan Group Picnics.
Location: Baga Beach, Bardez, Goa
Local terms only initially in parenthesis ( ).

I observe an open commercial van (tempo) approaching. Tempo normally
used for carrying coconuts, sand, beat group equipment etc. Currently filled
with approximately 30 odd human specimens of both genders and varied ages.
In all probability members of the St. Sebastian Chapel of Grande
Naikavaddo in Siolim or similar. Nature of group can be identified by picnic
songs sung. This group is singing traditional folksongs (mandos), old Konkani
radio songs and upbeat hymns. The Maddel Friends Eleven Cricket Club
would be singing Hindi pop songs and playing the friendly Indian mindless
singing game of I'm-out-of-lyrics-you-take-over (antakshiri). The Ribandar
Parish Youth Association would be singing English pop songs and would have an
electronic synthesizer and amplified accompanying music.

The picnickers disembark from the tempo and proceed to carry towards
the coconut shaded area the following objects: 2 large steel food
containers (hundis), 60 loaves of bread (unde), 5 kilos of assorted fresh
vegetables, 2 plastic 20 litre gallons containing drinking water, 1 pumping-type
kerosene stove (prim-e-stov), 7 mats (shendris), 8 bedsheets (bedxeetan), 1
football, 18 plastic disposable cups, 6 steel tumblers, 9 plastic bottles
containing 2 litres each of flavoured aerated water, and 1 hard rubber
throwing ring (tenniquoit). In addition to this individuals carry their own
change of clothing, towels and alcoholic refreshments - the exact
quantities are impossible to quantify. The 30 picnickers had now
mysteriously swelled to about 45 with a few having come on their own
two-wheelers and the honourable group leader (sponsor) and his family
having emerged from the tempo driver's cabin.

The youngsters immediately start a game of 'Twos and Threes'. This
consists of pairs forming a circle and one pair (chaser and chasee) touch
tagging each other till the chasee is exhausted and rockets into the front of a
standing pair expelling the back partner who now becomes the chasee.
Twos and Threes is the standard opening game at all Goan picnics and is a
good icebreaker as well as providing an outlet for teeming teen libido. This
is usually followed by a game of 'Dog and The Bone' which provides similar
sensory satisfaction but because of the permanent nature of the
coupling sometimes causes lots of teasing on the return journey (eg. singing
Joklo nachta, Patsy nachta, kai borem dista).

Some of the more hormonal young males have now decided to play football
on the beach and they are joined in this endeavor by the more adventurous
(freak-out) of the young females. If a non-aggressive male (baizuan)
joins the football team he is immediately made the goalkeeper (goalie) and in
probability will display gay tendencies in later life. The freak-out
females will later venture into the water to be taught swimming by the same
hormonal males. These swimming lessons have no educational value as
neither the teachers nor the students have the study of swimming on their mind.
The gender imbalance in this activity in fact makes the female student
appear like an octopus when viewed from underwater as she is surrounded by
roving tentacles. The non-freak-out young females toss around the tenniquoit
and pretend to be enjoying themselves while actually watching the swimming
lessons enviously. These harmless coming-of-age activities are watched in
good humour by the adults on the beach, none of whom learnt how to swim

These adults are strictly divided on a gender basis. The males sit an
inward facing circle on the spread out (pattoyed) shendris and drink a
light alcoholic distillate made from the juice of the caju fruit (urrack)
mixed with an aerated flavoured drink (limca) from steel tumblers. They
play a card game involving thirteen cards (mandicort) and not much
thinking. Cursing local politicians in particular, and government servants
in general, is the staple fare of the conversation. The females proceed to
pump up and fire the prime-e-stov and start heating the huge hundis that
contain a chicken stew (xacuti) with a lot of coconut stock and a yellow
coloured rice (pulao). The younger among the adult females start cutting
the vegetables to make a fresh salad (saalaad) under the constant
supervision and criticism of the older adult females.

Please note at this point that changing into, and from, bathing
costumes is done differently by males and females. The males wrap a towel around
their waist and with deft movements from underneath manage to make the
changeover. For the females it is a group activity with a small circle of
females holding up bedxeetan to make a temporary changing room.
Sometimes the side of a sand-docked shipping boat is used as a visual barrier but
not always effectively.

Bathing costumes for males consist of the current underwear. Baizuans wear
shorts over their underwear. Young females wear shorts and a t-shirt over
their undergarments. Older females wear either a cotton dress (veestid) or
a cotton sari (kapod). None of the latter are effective for swimming, but
then at Goan picnics just dipping one's feet in the water, or wading till
waist high waves, is referred to as swimming. In fact for the elders the
main purpose of 'swimming' is to urinate covertly under cover of water
while keeping up a strict countenance. The urine to seawater ratio at Baga
beach is the highest in the world according to the National Institute of
Oceanography. Non-swimming males urinate at bottom of nearest tree,
bush or wall. Non-swimming females go in groups to the toilet of the nearest
restaurant. The last sighting of a Goan female going alone to a public
toilet was in 1971.

By now the fresh vegetable salaad is ready and the xacuti and pulao are
heated enough and all are called to eat. A short prayer is said in
thanksgiving as well as for a safe return journey. The prayer is led by the
sponsor in Konkani. His wife, who probably is originally from Saligao,
starts of the accompanying hymn in English. Lunch is served in disposable
paper plates. Everyone eats with their bare hands except for the sponsor's
wife who insist on a spoon. Food, plastic and paper waste is dumped on the
nearest rubbish heap despite there being clearly labeled segregated garbage
cans present.

After lunch everyone reverts to their pre-lunch activities except for
alcohol consumption. One middle aged male insists on continuing drinking
and does so despite frowns and threats from all the elders and the females.
He eventually ends up throwing up on the return journey of the tempo and
this will be a much talked about event for many weeks to come, much to the
embarrassment of his young wife. Some of the older young males go behind
some bushes and return back half an hour later coughing and with red faces.
Their amateurish attempts at the manly art of cigarette smoking have been
entirely successful though most of them didn't really inhale. The females
who were earlier involved in preparing the food now converge in a separate
group on pattoyed shendris and gossip about those who could not make it
for the picnic, and the inconvenience caused by the change in the Sunday
Mass timings.

It is now past sunset and the entire group of picnickers are waiting with
their paraphernalia at the side of the road. Everyone is cursing the
alcoholic tempo driver who has not stuck to his timing. The tempo arrives
with an obviously inebriated driver who has managed to pick up a friend
along the way, which fact is protested by the sponsor's wife because it
means two of her children will now have to ride in the back of the open
tempo with the ordinary people. The tempo now takes off with a screeching
of rubber. One can hear the youngsters protesting against some Philu Aunty
about the appropriateness of starting a rosary recitation when a mando
medley would be more in keeping with the mood of the moment. The
exhausted youngsters loose the argument against the adamant Philu Aunty.

Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, recording.

The column above appeared in the May 2005 issue of Goa Today magazine.

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