Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daryaacho Gaaaz

Daryacho gaaz

There is no clear-cut reason why I should have started reminiscing about folk culture in Goa of my childhood! The inspiration might have come from the sea at Calangute where on a recent evening I had been taking a stroll. When the mind is at sea, go to the sea, they say; if one sits on the seashore for some time till the tides turn back, most depressions would lift off the mind along with them. The steps you take while walking back home are not heavy anymore, the soft sand starts caressing your feet. Seas generally all look alike though no two waves coming to the shore sketch the same pattern. The seas, especially in your backyard, have a poignant kind of music accompanying its waves. They bring to you tides of memories by some unaccountable cross-links. My nostalgia came through this very same sound of the sea at Baga, that misty, orange-red evening. I remember, up till 1964/65, at nights in monsoons, one could hear even in Mapusa sound of the waves pounding on shores about 5 Km away and almost trace their progress from Vagathor to Anjuna. It was like a celestial music, the distant rumble locally called ‘daryacho gaaz’. It was like a lullaby, which would put a late sleeper, me to sleep. But, then, as a friend said to me another day, ‘Atam darya gazona, atam gaztat shimitachim mischinam’! How true, Goa has changed a lot in the last 40 years, you cannot get to hear this humming of the sea anymore, nor can you hear any lullabies like those of your grandmother; along with daryacho gaaz even the simple old village kanio, told especially on a rainy evening with trees swaying with the lashing of the wind, coconuts and leftover mangoes falling down with a thud, seem to have vanished inside the concretised culture; the same culture, which has also taken away wide variety of berries on the Mapusa hillock that sustained me in my hungry childhood evenings. In place of bushes and trees of churna, kanta, boram, jambolam and of course the cashews, you see houses balancing precariously on the slopes of that hill. My memories seem incongruent in such an urban squalor.

I have always wondered what a variety of old lullabies, dances and folklores could have meant to traditional Goans, how a seemingly stupid folkdance form could hold its ground over large periods of time through all its historical ups and downs? Take fugdi for example, which continued alongside foxtrot, though at different social levels, even in Portuguese era. It did not seem probable that a lyric could last over decades or centuries being just a number of words simply collected for maintaining rhythm or tempo to put babies to sleep or older people to dance to the beat in tribal fashion. And, what about proverbs and idioms? How have they stuck around in our language even when other languages tried to shove Konkani under the carpet! There has to be something more practical and meaningful to such an ethereal culture.

One day, out of such curiosity I had asked my grandmother why she always sung a particular lullaby, ‘Jaye jaye mhon re Baba, jaye jaye mhon’, (Say, ‘I want, Baby, say I want’) while comforting a child. It just did not make sense, a continuous repetition of one word ‘jaye’, she could have sung anything else, and she knew a lot of songs. Grandmother answered, “That (the lullaby) is to bring up the child with a positive attitude, so that it does not turn negative and pessimistic when grown up”. How true, looking around one finds so many negative people, who always say no even when it is for their own good. They would not change their mindsets whatever be the exigency. There was another child song, one of the kind, ‘Yetem yetem, yetem yetem bus re mora, charo kha pani pi, Dev ghali vara!’ (Be seated here, peacock dear, be seated, have lots of grass and drink water. Do not worry; God would give the good air). This, too, intended to make the child grow with positive approach in life, encouraging generosity and good relations with guests and society, so that almighty will give aplenty.

On the other hand my mother had a favourite horror story to tell. In short, a woman who used to go to forest to collect firewood kept hearing over many days, ‘hanv yev’ (shall I come!) repeatedly without anybody in sight. One day getting irritated, she replied, yes come, and a giant snake appeared suddenly in front to harass her for many days. Moral of the story, ‘be careful of strangers’. These two stories do not contradict each other, but tell you to pick and choose your friends and guests. They define a general Goan approach to life. Goans are pragmatic people, along with their easygoing ways they also have a no nonsense approach to life, taking life without its superficialities. When one does not realize this they are quick to comment, ‘janen dekhlem na kalu tenen dekhle dharkal ani mhonu laglo, kalu re kalu’. Translation: Ignorant people do not understand the difference between an oyster and the phlegm.

It does happen that some people do not appreciate refinement in culture, manners or approach to life of other communities. Mostly these qualities are formed with and last according to social development. [‘Weltanschauung’ in German language comes closest to it] The celebrated epithet for Goans, ‘susegado’ in fact defines such quality. The idiom, ‘Dhanv dhanv dhanvlo ani tarikoday vochuun ravlo’, describes this unhurried nature of Goan lifestyle. It means there is no point in rushing when you have to wait at the river to cross it with ferryboat. The idiom was constructed when there were no bridges over rivers nor speed bikes and cruising cars on the streets, but walking and canoeing were common modes of transport. Just 70 years back but doesn’t it seem strange today?

Unfortunately, societal development is a one-way street. It is not possible for Goans to go back to the days of bullock carts or horses. I still remember my bullock cart ride from Mapusa to Calangute where we had rented a cosy house to spend the summer. I was thrilled with excitement, in a bullock cart it lasted for over an hour. In car the distance gets over in 10 minutes, the excitement, too, lasts that much shorter. But was there ballooning available in Calangute during the times of bullock carts? And speed boating? There are always two sides for any present situation. Past memories and future prospects! It is sad we do not hear the distant rumble of the sea any more. I cannot hear it even at Miramar, but then, there is always the digital sound. I suppose susegado Goans know how to harmonize themselves with opposing forces and remain serene, just like the sea in their backyards.

Kalidas Sawkar: Panaji Goa-9420975758
(Pub: The Navhind times, 1 July 2007)

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