Sunday, 28 August 2016

‘Te Naute’

-Brian Mendonça

 It was the footwear that got us.  Huge pools of footwear piled up outside their front door. Since we were neighbours and lived opposite, it was unseemly to be opening the door to be greeted by these relics of the road.

But now the space outside their door is totally devoid of any footwear. There is no sign of life in the apartment opposite. Since Sunday morning the place boasts a lock on the door. The mango leaves adorning the doorway are withered and gaunt. The toran with Shree Ganesh Namahah in Sanskrit inscribed on it and the Swastikas in chalk on either side of the doorstep all keep their mute vigil. Early mornings when I awake, it is I who has to put the landing light off now. Earlier my neighbour used to do it.

It was on Saturday towards dusk when we got the news. A chilling wailing emanated from the apartment opposite. Minutes earlier Dinesh (60) had been knocked down fatally by a speeding motorcyclist at Alto Dabolim. Between sobs Sandhya, his wife was telling us that Dinesh had left the house at 7 in the morning, and was returning home after doing yoga exercises at Alto Dabolim. He had just retired a few days back from his job at the Pilar post office.

Still reeling from the news Queenie maintained that our front door be kept wide open as a mark of respect. In a common auditory universe we too were subsumed by the cries of grief as the relatives trickled in from Ponda. Though we told our son (5) to ‘Go inside’ he sat there staring curiously. Later when I gently asked him what he saw, he imitated the motions of weeping loudly and repeated the wife’s helpless lament in Marathi, ‘Malapan hath kahi nahi, tyalapan hath kahi nahi.’ [Nothing is in my hands, nothing is in his hand.]

Queenie went across with tea. When the lights went out we took candles and a match box. There was nothing much we could do. But our door remained wide open. The men folk who had arrived whispered urgently.

What hurt us most was that we would not be able to see Dinesh for the last time. The body was to be taken from Cottage Hospital, Chicalim to Goa Medical College, Bambolim for postmortem. From there it would proceed to the family seat at Valpoi, in Sattari for the final rituals.

The Navhind Times reported the accident in the Sunday papers the next day, giving his name as Dinish Naute.* When Queenie read the report she immediately pointed out that ‘Naute’ means ‘not there’ in Marathi. If one goes to visit a person and the person is not there we would say ‘Te Naute.’  As I gather his last electricity bill from the mail box I notice the name as Dinesh Navathe. Ironically the misspelling serves as a painful reminder that Dinesh is no longer with us.
*Navhind Times, Goa, Sunday, 7 August, 2016, page 3. Published in Gomntak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 28 August 2016. Pix courtesy

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