Tonferns - A Nostalgic Journey

Once upon a time in Goa

In the days before Liberation, 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," reminisces 69-year-old Milind Angle, a retired citizen of Panaji. Going down memory lane, Angle relived the people's joys and pleasures, as also the trials and tribulations during the decade leading to Goa's Liberation.

The Indian currency was extended to the Portuguese-ruled Goan territory for a short while. An anna (four paise, a rupee had 64 paise and 16 annas then) 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," Angle said. Sugar cost 50 paise per pound (half kg) and jaggery and potatoes, about 3 annas a piece, per pound.
ONE British rupee was made up of 16annas

British Nickel 1 Rupee, 1/2 Rupee & 1/4 Rupee (Obverse & Reverse)
British Annas
British 4 Annas, 2 Annas - Nickel & 1 Anna (Obverse & Reverse):- ABOVE
BRITISH 1/4 Anna, 1/2 Pice :- BELOW
BRITISH 1/4 Anna, 1/2 Pice & 1/12 Anna OR 1 Pie (Obverse & Reverse)
  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. "They could not even afford to buy a bicycle," he said. After working in towns, many preferred to walk home. Lack of inflationary trends made it easy to carry on with life.

Angle, who was born in 1943, recalls that there were only 14 or 19-seater caminhaos 
in 1950s and even later. Very few families had cars. A few buses were introduced later in the same decade (1950s). "On an average, there was just one or two on every route," he said.

The first caminhao would leave from Panaji at 7am to Agasaim, taking about an hour to reach its destination, without any regular stops. "Anybody could stop the vehicle anywhere. There were instances of passengers dressing up while boarding the bus," he laughed.

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 road from Saligao to Calangute had only two nine-inch strips of tar on either side for the caminhao wheels.

The lack of basic infrastructure determined people's lifestyles and 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.

"A stretch of the deserted, untarred road from Branco's house to Taleigao would turn into a haunted place after dusk," Angle recalls. Villagers were often seen lighting torches of coconut leaves and walking home in the dark. The situation did not improve much after Liberation. "Even in the 1960s, we used kerosene-lit chimney lamps and petromaxes for illumination at home," he said. Students had to make most of natural light to do their homework.

People traveling to cities were very few. They would venture either to work or take care of their personal work or make purchases. "The seat next to the driver was much sought after and some even preferred to sit in till the next trip," says a bemused Angle. "It may look silly, but these were small pleasures, which gave much joy and pride to people then," Angle recalls.

Now, the governor's car races through the streets, enjoying priority status for the right of way. "But during the Portuguese era, on December 3, my father told me the governors would walk from the old Secretariat to Old Goa for the St Xavier's feast, accompanied by officers in uniform," he said.

Once, a group of pilgrims had applied for free transport, but the governor turned it down with a remark that, "One who has faith should go by foot."

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. A few high schools were being run only 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. Students from Aldona and Britona availed the launch service. "I remember only one student who used to cycle to school from Agasaim for English sessions," Angle said.

Angle, himself, went to school in the city barefoot. Most students from outlying areas stayed with their relatives in towns for schooling. "Some who had no relatives stayed at Casa Dempo house in the city free of cost," he said.

For Angle, the journey to Bombay for higher studies is simply unforgettable. "Goa's Karwar border was the only one kept open," he said. The train service from Goa had also been stopped. Now, one can reach Mumbai in just over 10 hours by train and 14 hours by bus, but it took 36 hours then. "A person going to Sawantwadi via Karwar and Belgaum would spend almost 24 hours," Angle said.

The journey from Panaji to Polem, a one-km walk through no man's land with luggage in hand to enter Indian customs area at Majali to the Indian checkpost to board a bus to Hubli was a nightmare. After boarding the train at Hubli, the passengers changed trains at Pune to head to Bombay.

But the worst part still lay ahead-- the formalities at the Indian checkpost. "The officials harassed Goans and often sent them back on flimsy grounds," Angle said. If allowed, some of them were directed to report to authorities in Mumbai at periodic intervals. A Goa official almost missed his daughter's marriage in Mumbai.

Goans, who had to fill forms under Registration of Foreigners Rules, were allowed to carry only 100, increased by 50 later, with them. Letters were also censored by the Indian government.

The last few decades of the Portuguese regime were pleasant. People were disciplined, and there was no harassment of locals, as projected by some factions, says Angle.

Freedom fighters were tortured brutally sometimes, but there was no restriction on religious freedom. "People who accepted the regime carried on with their normal lives," he said.

Angle feels it is grossly unfair to call the Goan people lazy. "Given the trials and tribulations they faced, walking long distances, making do without available


Assagao Union, Goa, India (Old Photograph), St Cajetan Church

Portuguese troops in Goa, India - 1954 

Portuguese troops, West African rank & file, attending a special mass in the Church of Born Jesus.

Portuguese troops, West African rank & file, marching away from the Church of Born Jesus, after mass.

Portuguese troops, West African rank & file, attending a special mass in the Church of Born Jesus.

Goan customs guards leading invading "Satyagrahis" down the road into Goa, eventually delivering them to Goan police.

Marchers of Goa getting into provided bus, at invitation of Goan custom guards, then are driven into Goa to be handed over to police.

Portuguese customs guards at one of the borders between Goa & India, stopping marchers, searching their luggage.

Gov. Gen. of Goa Paulo Benard Guedes, leaving for the office.

Portuguese troops attending special mass in the church of Born Jesus in Old Goa.

A procession of Goan volunteers approaching the boarder between Goa & India.

Marchers on Goa encountering Goan Customs guards at the border.

Indo-Goan border, with Portuguese police officer, Goan customs guard at one of points by which Hindu nationalists might invade Goa.