Thursday, October 04, 2007

Old Mumbai!

We all are temporary actors on the world stage. Nothing is static in this world. We do not know what is in store for us at the next step. On all occasions Human beings are not guides of their own destiny but sometimes our destiny lies in the hands of our creator. Death snatches someone from our mist. We feel sad on the loss of our dear and near one's. The memories of the person remain etched with us.

Bassiano too bid Farwell to this world. The clock is dragged forty years back to rewind a typical case of a Goan migrating to Mumbai from the Indian western state of Goa.

Call it Bombay or Mumbai or any other name. The city of dreams for many an Indian welcomes you. A surrogate mother, who tries to nourish the dreams of many Indians from different States.

A city, which is melting point of different languages, religions and cultures from all over India. A city of opportunities, which never stops itself.

Many people from the neighboring state of Goa keep coming chasing their dreams to Mumbai and made it big. Bassiano was no different. He too was chasing his dreams. Forty years back when he landed up in the city, Mumbai was known as Bombay.

For some the dreams and goals set reach a logical end, while for some the dreams remained unfulfilled. Bassiano is a typical case of the Goans migrating to Mumbai and virtually making it his home.


A typical Goan migration to Mumbai forty years back would start with the boy-child finishing his elementary school education. If the financial resources permitted and the child was studious then it would take a different course - either working or studying in the city.

The city was also a destination for many a talented and bright students to continue their further studies staying in the KUD (Club). Some of the Goan students in the 1950 and 60's have set shining examples through their sheer hard work by completing their higher studies. They were the role model for many Goan youngsters.

Bassiano had no options, he was the eldest one and he had to take on the responsibility of the family.

He was armed besides his school passing certificate with a short hand and typing certificates. The qualifications which would give a job as a steno job in any of the numerous offices in Mumbai. He finally found one.

The picture portrayed of the Goans to the outside world is that they are "Susegad"- lazy. But coming and settling down in the city of Mumbai, besides breaking the stereotype is a challenge for many a Goans.

Bassiano was prepared for the hard life and the sacrifices he had to make in the city. Back home he stayed in a palatial eight room house, situated in a prominent village. He had his brother and sisters to care for him and his mother. His father, a sailor had passed away.

Entrusted with additional responsibilities, he started on his dream journey quite early in life, when he has just come out of his teens.

The revenue from the paddy fields and orchard plantation sustained the day to day needs of the family back home in Goa. But he had the education of his younger brother in mind. A brother, who had set sights on practicing at the Bar. He did not wish to burden his mother by continuing his own education.

The pang of separation from his family was an emotional one.

He had packed his trunks and he loaded them on the village bus which would take him to Margao city. Once in the city he made his journey in the direction of the Margao railway station. A rail journey from Goa to Mumbai. The rail route to Mumbai from Goa which was a connecting one compared to a direct one nowadays.

The south central railway journey ended up at Miraj railway station. Bassiano was traveling by train for the first time. Like all concerned mothers, she too had taken care that his son had company on the rail journey. Restless by nature and always panicky, he had butterflies in his stomach. But his brave show calmed the nerves of his mother and other siblings.

His luggage of migration contained a huge trunk full of clothes and other essential food items. His mother had packed him coconut oil, Goan pork sausages and rice. The three food items, which will come handy for him for the next three months or so. The Goans are fond of their fish, curry and rice and Bassiano was no different.

With the passage of time he got used to buying fish from the market and then also added pork, beef, and chicken to his weekly cooking menu.

The train journey threw up the wonderful site of the Dudhsagar waterfalls as the train was on the verge of crossing the Goa border and about to enter Karnataka state. A picture perfect view, one which soothes the mind of a traveler. The water falls continue unabated till this date.

Fortunately, commercialization and lure of development has not reached the Dudhsagar water falls. The waterfalls, whose aesthetic beauty is appreciated by many foreign and Indian tourists till this date.

After changing a train at Miraj station, he finally reached his destination in 16 hours. A three wheel Rickshaw pulled up outside the Victoria terminus railway station in Mumbai. He and his fellow villager hopped into it and they went to their club (kud), he having already completed his club membership back in Goa.

The Kud life which had its own set of rules of discipline, and each member was assigned particular duties on a particular day. All his life, our new boy to the city had lived in his village. He drew water from the well with help of a long rope made out of the husk of coconuts to which was tied a copper pot.

Here in Mumbai once in a week he had to get up as early as 4.00 oclock in the morning to fill the utensils with water. Water, which was to be used by the club members for the next 12 hours, until the next supply came in.

Four decades back cycle used to be the mode of transport for many a teenagers and youths. Bassiano was no different he would cycle all his way to Margao and back to his village covering a distance of 26 kilometres. In Mumbai he could not do that, instead of the cycle his internal travel in the city was propelled by the railways.

Years passed by he saw many a youngsters staying in the 'Kud' having a shot at their dream careers. Occasionally he lost money to pick pockets and to theft but he carried on gamely on the challenges of life.

He finally bid good bye to the 'Kud' life after marriage and set another home, another migration but this time in Mumbai itself.

The city of Mumbai has seen a lot of changes over the years. A City, which welcomes hundreds of thousands of new people every day. Bassiano has had been a witness to all that. His annual trips to Goa have become pleasant over the years. With the introduction of the Konkan railway, one could finish the journey in 12 hours time.

His home state too has been engulfed by development. The kerosene lamps have been replaced by electric bulbs. Wood which was used to cook food has been replaced by gas stoves.

The cycles on the Goan roads have been rarer and rarer. They have been replaced by two and four wheelers. The old liquor taverns in the village have been replaced. Ultra modern liquor bars and wholesale liquors shops have come in every nook of Goa. The beaches through out the state have seen a host of development. Once deserted when they were teenagers they are now bubbling with life.

The Original inhabitants of Goa the Gawda and Kunbi population- have forsaken their traditional dresses and are now wearing the western dresses. The toddy taper in his village has long closed down his toddy extracting business. Instead his sons have migrated to the Gulf to work over there.

The cobbler shop which he frequented is no longer existing.

Over the years, Bassianio's dreams had changed. Some of his dreams remained to be seen. Like all proud fathers to give his daughter in marriage. The quest and hunger of his own youthful dreams been realized he could see through the eyes of his son.

Goa and Mumbai have changed a lot over the years. Will the dreams which Bassinao cherished while leaving Goa and setting up base in Mumbai were fullfied, we do not know but many Goans migrating to Mumbai the city is a spring board to realize their dreams.

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