Reminiscing about Goa

In the good old days, four annas could fetch a pao bhajji and tea, hardly any passenger would complain if a bus driver stopped for a shave and even the governor walked to Old Goa for St Francis Xavier’s feast.

Inflation was not a problem then. 1 anna (= 4 paisa) could buy a whole lot of food items and articles. One could have a bread and tea at an anna each and bhajji for two annas. Sugar cost 50 paise per pound (half kg) and jaggery and potatoes, about 3 annas a piece, per pound.

Though the cost of food items and other goods was low and often remained static for years, the people’s poor economic conditions constrained their purchasing power. Most people could not even afford to buy a bicycle and had to walk home after working in the main cities like Panjim. Very few families had cars and a few buses were introduced later in the same decade (1950s). On an average, there was just one or two buses on every route. The first caminhao would leave from Panaji at 7am to Agasaim, taking about an hour to reach its destination, without any regular stops. Any passenger could stop the bus anywhere. 

The network of tarred roads existed only between towns, especially Mapusa, Panaji, Margao and Vasco. Beyond Cuncolim, the national highway was a kutcha road. The village roads were mostly kutcha roads. In Panaji, the Dayanand Bandodkar road along the river front was fully tarred up to Dona Paula, as the governor traveled on it from Raj Bhavan to the old secretariat. MG road, 18th June road, Rua de Ourem and the Altinho road from the old Secretariat were tarred, but most other internal roads were kutcha roads.

The lack of basic infrastructure determined the people’s lifestyles and their night life. The main towns of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco had government-supplied power. A pall of gloom and darkness would descend over almost all villages, and even suburban areas after sunset. Villagers used to light torches of coconut leaves and walk home in the dark. Even students were forced to study and do their homework only in daylight. 

Recreational activities were hard to come by. Football was perhaps the only sport given any importance. Cricket was played at the school-level and there were also some amateur teams. In villages, people played loggorio. For children, there were some strange pastimes. A hand-held contraption made of discarded reels of thread, fixed to a cross-shaped bamboo piece kept children busy. One of the reels at the top of the contraption served as a steering to push the wheels around.

The education scenario in the state was rather dismal as well. There were a few high schools in Panaji, Ponda, Mapusa, Margao, Vasco and among villages, Parra and Cuncolim. “The total students answering SSC exams was around 800 to 900, as against an average of 15,000 now and schools were affiliated to the Maharashtra board.

Amost all students, including some from Ribandar and St Cruz, walked to school barefoot. Students from Aldona and Britona availed the launch service. And most students used to go to Bombay for higher studies. 

Today life is very different in Goa. And this has made the Goans lazier. 

But in the old days, things were different. Given the difficulties that the Goans faced, the long distances they had to walk and the limited resources and amenities that they had to cope with; the concept of soscegado was a totally different one. 

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