My class is an eclectic mix of students from Karnataka as well as from all over the country – Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Sometimes, when either the students or I get bored of the subject, we drift towards other topics. One of my favorites is asking them to share something about the place from where they hail, especially focusing on how that place is different from Bangalore. I have a hidden agenda in this – I hope it will help them stay fond of their roots, without getting carried away by the glitz, glamour and technology they find in this cosmopolitan city.
Sometimes, these students get around to asking me where I am from. They see me speaking Kannada fluently so probably I’m from Karnataka. But then, there is this impression that South Indians don’t speak good Hindi – which I do – and so, they’re a little confused. When I say I was born and brought up in Goa, there is almost always a collective, long-drawn, awestruck “WOOOW” and no matter which state they hail from, they all wear a certain dreamy look on their faces, almost as if they were mentally transported to paradise by my uttering the word GOA.
Different people attach different connotations to this place and the people who come from there.
When I joined my first job in a pharmaceutical company at Bangalore, my colleagues there told me they felt disappointed. Reason? When news had spread that a new girl from Goa is coming, it had led people to harbor fond hopes of having the company of a stylish Goan beauty in a mini-skirt. My arrival was an anti-climax, they said, telling me, “Look at your sober dressing style and your long hair! Ugghh, you’re more South Indian than us!”
That kind of summed up my multi-cultural identity issues – when in Goa, I never thought of myself as South Indian. When transplanted to Bangalore, I couldn’t think of myself as a Goan.
Before beginning this NaBloPoMo, when I asked for suggestions on what they’d like me to write about, a friend wanted me to write about my childhood memories and experiences during my stay in Goa. So, today, I decided to do this post. I have a feeling this may spill over into two posts, but let’s see how things pan out as I write.
Memories I have of Goa
1. The sweet and buttery smell of maskaa paav as it was being made opposite our house when we stayed in Shantinagar – I seem to have no memory of eating it or how it tasted, though.
2. The exotic mesmerizing fragrance of the mogra, jayo, juyo and surnga flowers that were to be found only during specific seasons. Especially the surnga flowers were very rare to come by and it was such a joy to see those flower strings being sold by the roadside in some remote place where you wouldn’t think anyone would pass by to buy them. But we did pass by, and we did buy those flowers. The best part was that they continued to give that penetrating fragrance even after they dried up and even if you let them lie in some unnoticed corner of the house, they would make that place smell so nice.
3. Embarrassment and shame on the only day when I was made to stand on the bench as punishment in class 3 of my convent school because I had worn some flowers in my hair and the stinging comment of the nun saying “Why have you come dressed like a bride.” Surprisingly, even at that age, in those times, somehow, I knew the meaning of the word bride and her using that word had made me cringe.
4. The dark reddish brown, soft mud that was probably left over after extraction of the ore which had been dumped in a corner of the mining colony in Surla where we lived for several years. A few of us kids had made that dust hill into our playing area, competing to see who could slide fastest down the mud. Our clothes must have gotten pretty dirty but strangely, Amma never seemed to complain about it although she washed all our clothes herself.
5. Amma washing clothes in the backyard of our house in Surla where there was a washing stone in the middle of two guava trees. We called the fruits “Peru” not guava, though. One tree bore white fruits and the other one bore red fruits. The white variety gave more fruits and once, there were so many fruits that Amma made several packets of 4 or 5 fruits each and sent me off to distribute it to our neighbours in the colony. I distinctly remember one lady not opening the door when I rang the bell, so that packet returned home undelivered. A few days later, when Amma spoke to her and recounted this incident, she said she had heard the bell ring, but thought it was some Shigmo festival people and therefore, not opened the door. I remember thinking how foolish of her to assume that because Shigmo people always came in a big group and made a lot of noise, so you knew it was them and it was very different from just the bell chiming.
I'm forced to stop here now because its dinner-making time, but will get back to this same topic tomorrow because there are many more memories coming to the fore even as I write.