Where are Goans headed?
Directionless at the mukhar crossroads
By Cecil Pinto
Sossegado is a word that non-Goans will never truly comprehend or
appreciate. Simlarly there is a Konkani word 'mukhar', used largely in
South Goa, the nuances of which North Goans have difficulty in fully
Let me explain. My wife Beatrice runs a Goa-only flower delivery
service and I help out in confirming e-mail orders, and occasionally
even delivering flowers myself on busy days. Our clients are mostly
overseas Goans who are an eclectic lot as far as giving directions are
Some of them are totally advanced and send a Google Map image which
makes locating an address so very easy. Some give a postal address
which isn't always a great help because other than the postman nobody
really knows House Numbers. Many people in Goa don't know their own
But the classic Goan direction is Ask Anyone. "Ask anyone for Filsu's
house". Let's pause and analyse the situation. Here I am in my
delivery van in Almeida Vaddo, Parra, looking out for the elusive
'anyone'. I pass a bus-stop where a few people are standing. All
migrant labourers. No point even pausing. I spot a young man walking
at the side of the road. He's not from the area, and yes, doesn't
speak Konkani or English. I stop at a bar where the barman directs me
to the local provision store which seems the right place to ask. I
learn there are three Filsu's in the vaddo of which two have sons in
Dubai. Ok, at least that narrows things down a bit. The point I am
trying to make is not everybody has heard of you or your family
members. Learn to accept that!
And by chance if Filsu's family is not on talking terms with the next
door neighbors then we've had it. The neighbours will steadfastly
refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Filsu, although every
instinct tells me that it is the house next door.
Of course us Goans being the way we are, after my departure there will
be a discussion at the bar whether or not it is true that Filsu's
eldest son migrated to Canada after selling off communidade property
illegally, and also whether or not it is true that the other Filsu's
youngest son has a Fillipino girlfriend.
"Martha Teacher's son-in-law told me".
Then there's the problem of vaddos within vaddos (and not waddas as
the non-Goans pronounce it). There's a Grande Coimavaddo and a Pequin
Coimavaddo in Aldona which are also called Sokoilo and Voilo
Coimavaddo respectively. With loaded words like this - loosely
transalated as big, small, upper and lower - there's bound to be
inter-vaddo rivalry and hence lack of proper directions.
Both these vaddos incidentally are saturated with Lobos and common
enough names like Anthony, Francis, Thomas and Mary. Try finding
Thomas Lobo, Coimavaddo, Aldona. "Ask anyone for Martha Teacher's
Near the … is another common address. Near the School, Near the
Church, Near the Market. I am standing here 'near' Holy Cross School
There are three clumps of six to seven houses each and one apartment
building, all equidistant from the school. Where do I begin? And a
kilometer back I had passed a large Government balwadi school. Was
that the one? Whatever happened to opposite, behind, in front of,
south of etc.
Of course some courteous clients do give phone numbers so that we can
call and ask for directions. This is a nominal advantage though.
"Hello ma'am, I'm calling on behalf of EXPRESSIONS. We have a flower
delivery for you. Can you give me directions to your house in Arpora?"
"Hanv Konkani uloum?"
"Naka! I am understanding English! You come straight…"
"Ma'am, don't you want to know where I am? Currently I am at the
Calangute Market T-junction."
"You come straight."
"Ma'am. I am facing a signboard saying Anand Restaurant, Meals is
Ready. If I come straight I will bang the board. I presume you mean I
should turn left."
"Yes. You come straight to Arpora Church and then ask anyone for…"
Of course we eventually find the place but a lot of petrol and phone
calls would have been saved with specific directions. And if you think
this is a Goan/Indian thing, think again. Foreigners particularly
can't differentiate between a Church and a Chapel. "Turn right at the
Sangloda Church", "But ma'am Sangolda does not have a church.", "Of
course it does!" And for sure they can't distinguish between a banyan
tree and a peepul tree. So much for landmarks.
The situation gets compounded when asking for directions in South Goa
where we have to deal with the omni-present, omni-directional 'mukhar'.
Basically speaking 'mukhar' means in front of, facing, or forward. But
depending on the context, and accompanying facial expression and
gestures, it could be construed as well - almost anywhere.
A prime example is in a public bus. A Salcete 'cleander' will tell the
standing passengers "Mukhar ye" and "Mukhar voch" (depending on the
hand indication only, will you understand which way to move in the
passage) while in North Goa the 'cleander' will say "Fudddem ye" or
In North Goa we have specific words in Konkani for in front of,
before, under, over, after, behind, opposite, this side, that side etc
etc. Fuddlean, fatlean, samkara, ikdem, tikdem, ponnack, voilean.
Ask a South Goan for directions, "Hello! Where is St. Thomas Church?"
He will wave in the general direction of Constantinople and say
'Mukhar asa". Ask him, "And where is Baretto Garage?" He will reply
"Churchi mukhar" which when translated could variously mean - near the
Church, or behind the Church, or in the Church, or in the general
vicinity of the Church, or in the same Parish or in the same Taluka!
To add to all this we now have a large influx of non-Goans and
foreigners residing here. Imagine the consequences for direction
seekers. "Near the Kekdevelim Chapel ask anyone for the tall white
woman with the short Kashmiri husband and then go straight past the
peepul tree to the Keralite's STD booth from where you can phone
We Goans truly need some direction.
The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 25th September 2008.