Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Braganza's Story

It's 10 a.m. in Goa - Vasco - to be precise. I have just strolled down Mangor Hill to cross the railway tracks to pick up mint copies of O Herald - the local newspaper in Goa. My article 'Coping with Festivals' in my earlier blog made it to their supplement on the 'Life and Living' page today. The editor, Dolcy D'Cruz, has done a fine job with the choice of photograph of a lone man dressed in a black jacket, back to the camera, intent on painting a pink wall. I found it quite eloquent. Even poetic. In the centre of the article lay an intricately done pink flower in crochet - a traditional occupation of Goan women. Kudus to Lionel Messias - who oversees the page - for substituting the title with his brilliant - 'Life Waits for You' - a coup de grace which quite swept me off my feet.

In-laws from Pune are expected today in an hours time at home, so I was deputed by dad to pick up beef samosas and prawn pattices for snacks from Dom Pedro - the shop just across the Vasco railway station. Mrs Virginia Pereira, at 8.30 a.m. had just brought in freshly-made items which would soon be swept of the shelves before you could say 'Felice Novidade.' She greeted me kindly using the affectionate baba which mothers use for their children. I mentioned that dad and me were at an evening of Konkani songs by singers of the recent past, held at St Andrew's church yesterday. 'What parents want is for you to spend time with them baba. They don't need anything else - but to ask them how they are doing, when you are free.' I mumbled I would remember, as she wiped a tear. Out of the blue, she instructed her helper girl to give me a tumbler of hot coffee. A plate of snacks followed. I settled only for a delicious rissoes - a halfmoon pastry from Portuguese times - with prawn filling, which compelled me to order half a dozen!

Down the road towards Tourist Hostel, Vasco, as I made my way towards an internet cafe to do a blog, I saw a wizened old man in shorts leaning against a swank Scorpio. His scruffy white beard and unshaved visage looked hopefully at the road. I saw him and paused. I knew this man, I thought. I spoke in Hindi for I thought he was one of the floating daily wage labourers who flood this port town every morning. Then I switched to Konkani. Here is a translation of how the conversation went - sometimes haltingly - for he stuttered and spoke with difficulty:

I know you. You washed my dad's car once.
(Recognition dawning. Smiling broadly)
Yes. I wait here to wash cars.
(I call him behind the Scorpio and give him some money.)
How much money do you get for a car.
20. Sometimes 30 rupees.
What's your name?
Wow, that's a big name in Goa!
(Smiling sadly.)
What's your first name?
(I forgot this one.)

How was Christmas?
What Christmas. (Looking with vacant eyes.)
Where do you live?
Bogda (Near the Mormugao port.)
Oh, on the way to the port.
Yes, I used to work there.
Doing what?
Lifting goods. Now I am old.
Who's at home?
No one.
Don't you have any son to take care of you?
You didn't marry?
No. (Pause)
I used to live in Merces (A village in Goa). No one recognizes me now.
How was Christmas?
(No answer.)
Where did you eat?
At home. Someone brought me something to eat.
(The person who opens the Internet cafe has just arrived.)
You remember my dad?
(Glimmer of recognition)
We are two sons. I am the younger.
But you are not here.
Yes, I work in Delhi.
I have not reached so far. I have only been to Kolkata. From Mumbai.
Ok, I have to go now. (Gesturing to the internet cafe)
You work here?
No. Take care of yourself.
(Mutters something, but is evidently smiling.)

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