Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saibinn custom fading in villages?

Saibinn custom fading in villages?

- Cecil Pinto
Mar 26, 2004

Curiously enough I feel the custom of circulating the statue of Our Lady (Saibinn) from house to house is stronger in Goan cities than in the villages. In the last three years that I have resided in Panjim, in two different apartments, we have twice had the opportunity to bring Saibinn into our house.

Of course it was not the same as before.

In my school days in Aldona when the statue of our Lady was brought home boiled grams would be served, and the entire day the Saibinn was in the house was a day of prayer and reverence. Besides the actual time of transfer of the statue, neighbours dropped in throughout the day to join the family in prayer.

It was an experience that I guess will never return. Nearly half the 'waddo' walking down the street with the houseowner leading the way and handing over the statue to the next door neighbour. Prayers, hymns and the Rosary were said loudly and enthusiastically. Normally the menfolk would stand on one side of the room and the females on the other. Therefore the 'Santa Morye' and the 'Noman Morye' were always of opposite pitches. The males response was low. The females response was high. But the next decade (I hope I spelt that right!) the pitches would be reversed.

And we children always made sure we carried the biggest possible gents kerchief to accommodate the maximum number of boiled grams. We spread the kerchief on our laps and the lady of the house would generously dump as many cupfuls of grams as we could hold.

Even at that time things were beginning to change. Some people who did not have the time to boil grams, mostly the richer people, starting serving biscuits instead. And not even the sweet Glucose ones, but the boring round Marie biscuits. And tea. And syrupy cold drinks for the youngsters. Some prayers and hymns were even said in
English, which is in no way as harmonic as Konkani.

Then started the neighbour's fights. One person would refuse to accept the Saibinn from his next door neighbour because of some other bickering, which is part of our Goan ethos. So a convoluted compromise would be worked out where a distant neighbour would be the buffer. As more and more neighbours started bickering routes got maddeningly long and complicated. Like moving your hand from behind your head to scratch your ear. And finally in many villages they just stopped the beautiful custom of Saibinn.

In my village of Aldona it has been recently restarted by some enthusiastic and devout youngsters.

But I seem to have got carried away, or rather back in time, from my earlier assertion. The custom of Saibinn seems to be vibrantly active in the cities, which are normally perceived as being 'less religious', than the villages. Could this be my unique experience or is it true of the whole of Goa?


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