If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Jul 7, 2008

The Goa Diaries. ..1

Once upon a time there were two steam ships. One called the Konkan Sevak and the other called the Konkan Shakti. One left from Goa for Bombay and the other from Bombay for Goa at 10.00 in the morning. They were a few cabins for the very very rich. There was an upper deck for the rich. And a lower deck for everybody else. You bought your ticket at ferry wharf and stood in a long line waiting for the gates to the gangplank to open.
Once they did you ran. With a clutch of bedsheets. And you tried to spread them out on the life rafts that were apread out on the deck. This staked your claim. Bedsheets on the boat deck were the equivalent of newspapers on the seat of the 7.08 Bandra Churchgate local. The ship would sound it's foghorn and the great voyage would commence. You would settle in and eye your neighbours. A half hour ago you would have run them off the gangplank drawn and quaterered if they stood in your way. Now you open your Eagle flask and invite them to share a cup of Earl Grey with you. Ok Ok Brooke Bond. And you discover that you'll are all from Bardez.
Yippe do dah.
Man those guys from Salcette are almost like Mangies.
In fact anyone South of Panjim falls below the pale. The bucket man comes around. A bucket piled high with Limcas and Thums Up. And in his many pockets he has quarts of Feni. Which he sells at Goa prices. Even though you can still see the Gateway in the distance. If Moraji Desai only knew. The bell is sounded for lunch. Where you get fish curry rice. With fish that taste so fresh, they’ve probably jumped straight out of the Arabian sea into the kitchen.
The passengers took turns to eat. You bought your coupon for a lunch service. And carried your feni to the table with you. The ship would meander along the Konkan coast meanwhile. With a sudden listing towards the side when someone spotted a dolphin. Or dolphins. The whole compliment of passengers would line the rails .
The ship would pull closer the coast. A little canoe loaded with bags of rice and chickens and Mangoes and more people than the Titanic carried would come out. Out from the protected harbours of Vijaydurg or Sindhusurgh or Jaigadh or Ratnagiri. Where they’d clamber a rope ladder up the side of the ship. Making sure their saree didn’t snag in the rungs. Chickens and mangoes would be hauled up . While the waves did their best to claim all these elements in transition as their own. Nothing and no one ever fell. A million hands would reach out to help them over the rail when they emerged over the side of the boat. And away the ship would sail.
A man would come around announcing Housie. And everyone who was tired of looking at pristine beaches, at swaying coconut trees, at the rise and swell of the sea would head for the mess. Now cleared of fish curry and rice. Tickets would be sold. The electrical engineer would be deputed to call out the numbers. A few feni glasses would make their appearance. On tables that had a raised border to keep the glasses from getting to know the floor. In the biblical sense.
And the housie would get under way. With Jaldi fives and lines and full houses helping to defray the cost of your ticket. Or add to it if the numbers didn’t turn your way.
Back onto the deck to watch the sunset. While this little world unto itself chugged on towards Goa. The bucket man had run out of Limca so now you were drinking feni with limbu pani. And after the third feni the talk turned to God and love and who made the best Goa sausages.
Dinner was announced in the now familiar as your own house dining hall cum housie room. Back to the deck post dinner. Where the rosary would commence. All five decades. The whole litany. Petitions at the end for everyone and everything. Including Fluffy ,whom the neighbours were looking after, because they did’nt allow dogs on the ship.
The life rafts that had doubled up as card tables, bar counters and diaper changing tables, were now converted into beds. And you lay your weary head to rest.
Some where in the night we’d pass the sister ship, a toot from one Captain to the other to let him know all was well with the world.
Sunrise would wake you up. Smiles to everyone around you. Including the Uncle whose snoring had kept you awake for a minute and a half longer than you wanted to be. Breakfast coupons. Hot tea. .
And you were sailing past Chapora fort. Chapora, then Anjuna. The Baga hill in the distance, with the Jesuit retreat house at its peak. On to Calangute and Candolim. Around the Fort Aguada. Up the Mandovi. Past the barges loaded with iron ore.
Telephone numbers and addtresses are exchanged. Promises to stay in touch. Best wishes for job interviews and pending land disputes.
And as we step onto the jetty at Panjim, a sign of the cross and a mumbled prayer in thanks for a safe and happy jouney.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey! I've been on the ship... the waiters had coins on their foreheads - we would practice sticking coins on our foreheads (with spit!) back home. And the Hippies. They'd walk around barefoot - even in the filthy loos. I loved lying on the deck watching the waves - we called the foam BEER! OH the memories that this brings back!!!

Edward said...

Another great one clemde...have one for you...written by dunno who???...in your Gmail box...
Been on both the sevak and shakti...both great experiences..
Thanks for the memories..
Rgds Edward

Anonymous said...

Great to remember the sour smell of those rushing to the rail to bring up their fish and curry when the boat bobbed and rolled heavily.
All the same the experience is one to remember. God bless all those who have braved the Konkan vessels.

Neil said...

I have vague memories of the vesssels thru a haze of miraculous smoke... But the sunsets were always the best....

bablu said...

Thanks for the wonderful journey. I never had the chance to travel but did got a chance to drop off my uncle once.

Anonymous said...

Nothing rong vit us Salcette buggers men. At lesat we don't say

Bus -ees-stop like u Bardez goondas

Smiling Dolphin said...

hilarious! and when did you become a bardez goonda??

Saltwater Blues said...

"Man those guys from Salcette are almost like Mangies."

hahahaha ....so true!!

Saltwater Blues said...

"Best wishes for job interviews and pending land disputes." LMAO

Clem my man, you are the best!!

klintvaz said...

Great! I rememeber being on one of the ships but this was sometime 1983-1986 soon before they were discontinued. Still have some memories though i was just 5. Wish we had them back! -Clinton.. (Born at Holy Family, Bandra, lived in Goa all my life) klintvaz at gmail

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