Discussion:
“BASURKAR” – Reminiscences of the 50's and 60’s!
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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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domnic fernandes
2004-11-10 15:41:10 UTC
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I dedicate this article to Goans in the Gulf!

Goans have been migrating to foreign countries for over a century now. In
the late 19th century many Goans went to British Africa in search of jobs
and built their careers there. When the colonies reverted to indigenous
rule, some Goans chose to stay behind while others shifted to greener
pastures in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, etc.

The migratory situation took a different turn in the early 20th century when
Goans began to take up employment on ships as ?Tarvottis? (Sailors) and in
Middle Eastern countries. Thus, Goans working in foreign countries were
divided into three main categories - Africanders, Sailors and Gulfees.
While most Africanders were from Bardez, sailors were from Salcete, and
Gulfees were a mixture from all over Goa mainly consisting of Christians.
This article deals with the last category.

Oil was first discovered in Abadan, Persian Gulf in 1908. It was next
discovered in Iraq in 1918, followed by Bahrain in 1932, Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia in 1938, Qatar in 1940, Abu Dhabi in 1958 (offshore) & 1960 (on
shore), Oman in 1964 and Dubai in 1966.

By the late 1930?s, Goans who were suppressed by the Portuguese regime
managed to leave Goa and find employment in Middle Eastern countries, and
thus began the metamorphosis.

The first two Middle Eastern countries where Goans found gainful employment
were Iran and Iraq. By the middle of the last century, there were quite a
number of Goans in these two countries. Simultaneously, Goans took up
employment in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, followed by Abu
Dhabi, Oman and Dubai.

Although many Goans were employed in the above-mentioned countries from the
late 1930s to the 1960s, only one of these countries went on to become a
significant name for Goans at the time, and that was IRAQ, with BASRA as its
focus! Why? Because Basra was the first name Goans had come across when
they landed in the Middle East. As we know, anything that is first is
difficult to be forgotten. It was also an easy name to remember. Thus,
Basra is not just an ancient city for Goans but it means much more than that
because of our initial attachment to it.

Today, a Goan working in a Middle Eastern country is known to his folks back
home after a given colloquial name for that country e.g., Bahrain = Barinkar
or Barinvalo; Kuwait = Kuvetkar or Kuvetvalo; Saudi Arabia = Saudikar or
Saudivalo; Qatar = Qatarkar or Qatarvalo; Abu Dhabi = Abu Dabikar or Abu
Dabivalo; Oman = Mascatkar or Mascatvalo (known after its capital); Dubai =
Dubaikar or Dubaivalo. However, until the 1960s, regardless of the Middle
Eastern country where a Goan worked, he was known by one colloquial name,
?BASURKAR? ? after Iraq?s capital, Basra!

Upon a Basurkar?s arrival in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle Eastern
countries, he earned his salary in Indian Rupees. The Indian rupee had been
serving as the traditional medium of exchange in the Gulf States, the
Trucial States, and in parts of Muscat, for a long time. The Indian Rupee
thus became the standard against which other currencies were measured.
Because of problems in smuggling gold from the Arabian Gulf to India, in May
1959, India introduced the ?External Rupee? for circulation in those areas
outside India that used the Indian Rupee. Only the States of the Arabian
Gulf used the Indian Rupee at this time, so the notes designated as External
Rupees soon became known as ?GULF RUPEES!?

The Gulf Rupees were used in the region for a number of years before
becoming redundant. While Iraq replaced the Indian Rupee with the Iraqi
Dinar in October 1932, the circulation of the Indian Rupee continued in Iran
until 1959. Indian notes did not circulate in Saudi Arabia but they were
exchanged in the Kingdom for local currency, and holders of Indian notes in
Saudi Arabia sent the currency back to India for conversion into foreign
exchange.

The first Gulf State to introduce its own currency was Kuwait, which
introduced the Kuwaiti Dinar on Apri 1, 1961 (two years after the Gulf
Rupees had been introduced). Four years later, on October 16, 1965, Bahrain
introduced its own currency ? the Bahraini Dinar. In 1966 a monetary union
between Qatar and Dubai saw the introduction of the Qatar & Dubai Riyal on
September 18. The remaining emirates of the Trucial States, with the
exception of Abu Dhabi, followed the lead by Qatar and Dubai in response to
the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, and temporarily introduced Saudi
Riyals, subsequently adopting the use of the Riyal of the Qatar & Dubai
Currency Board. By the end of 1966 the Gulf Rupee had ceased to be legal
currency in all states of the Arabian Gulf, with Muscat and Oman being the
only country maintaining it as an official currency. Muscat and Oman
introduced a national currency on May 7, 1970.

The first Indo-Portuguese issues of paper currency were the 'RUPIA'
denominated notes put into circulation around 1883. These were issued in
denominations of 5,10,20,50,100 and 500. In 1906, 'Banco Nacional
Ultramarino' was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing paper money in
India for the Portuguese-held territories. New denominations of 4 Tangas, 8
Tangas and One Rupia and 21/2 Rupias were introduced in 1917. The monetary
system in vogue in Goa consisted of the Reis, the Tanga and the Rupia with
one Rupia consisting of 16 Tangas. In 1959, the denominational unit was
changed from Rupia to Escudos with one Escudo consisting of 100 Cent avos.
New notes with the denominations of 30, 60, 100, 300, 600 and 1000 were
introduced. These remained in circulation until Goa?s liberation in 1961
when they were replaced by Indian currency.

Communication between a Basurkar and his family was very difficult. Once he
left for the Gulf, his family would only know that he reached there safely
when they received a letter from him which took over a month to arrive. I
would sit on a rock on the hill behind my house from where I could clearly
see Marmagoa Harbor on my left, Chapora Fort on my right and several
sailboats in the horizon, and imagine my father?s letter in one of those
sailboats. When my mother was worried at not having received a letter from
my father who was employed with the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), I would
console her by saying: ?Bhienaka maim, paichi chitt jerul hea satollean
ieteli karann hanvem aiz dorieant zaiteo patmari pollelea; tantuntle eke
tori patmarin paichi chitt asteli,? (Don?t worry mother; we will definitely
receive father?s letter this week because today I saw many sailboats in the
sea and surely one of them must be carrying father?s letter,) and to our
surprise we would sometimes receive a letter that week.

In those days there was no postal system in the Gulf States. Mail was
collected from sailboats/ships and stored. Initially, mail distribution
took place fortnightly but later in the mid 1950?s it was distributed
weekly. While one of the expatriates carried a gunny bag containing
letters, a local person carried a wooden stool with him. Both of them
arrived at a designated place where several expatriates eagerly waited to
receive letters from their dear and near ones. The expatriate stood on the
stool and read out the addressee?s name loudly. If a letter was not
claimed, he put it aside and read out the name again once he was through
with the first lot. He finally read out the name for the third time. If
nobody claimed the letter, it went back with them and they would bring it
back on their next visit to the place. They did not mind handing in a
letter to a friend if he claimed to know the addressee.

The Basurkar of yesteryears lived a very difficult life in the Gulf. The
place was basically a desert without any trees or greenery. There were no
residential buildings. So, he lived in tents in the scorching heat and
sometimes suffered from heat boils. There were no desalination plants; so,
he drank raw unprocessed water. In short, it was a tough life away from his
family.

The Basurkar sent hard-earned money to his family every 3 or 4 months
through a Demand Draft which took a long time to reach home because it came
by sea via Karachi. There was only one bank in Mapusa ? ?Banco Nacional
Ultramarino? but some shops in the town also exchanged Indian Rupee demand
drafts for Rupia and gave a better rate of exchange than the bank; the most
famous among them was ?Loja CORPO.?

The Basurkar left his place of work in the Persian Gulf or Middle East for
vacation by ship and arrived home via Marmagoa port. As public transport
was minimal, it took almost one full day for an Anjunkar to travel from
Marmagoa to his home. Only one ?caminhao? (olden type bus) plied between
Siolim and Betim; it made two trips a day. He arrived home like a military
soldier carrying a khaki-colored, readymade back pack bedding mounted on his
back, a metal trunk in his right hand and a bundle of things in his left
hand. He had to carry his bedding with him to use on the ship. By the time
he reached home, he was a very tired person, but the moment he was with his
family he felt rejuvenated and forgot all the hardship. If he had small
children, they would catch hold of mother?s ?kappod? and gaze at their
father not knowing who exactly he was. He would then approach his children
and try to hug them but they would run away from him because they thought he
was a stranger - an uncle - but mother would call them and say: ?Baba/bae,
ho tumcho pai.) (Baba/baby, this is your father.)

Immediately upon reaching home, he would say a short prayer and thank God
for making his trip safe. His arrival home meant excitement for all,
especially for his wife. She would immediately fill the ?bhand? with water
and start a fire. Once the water was heated, she would call him and say:
?Udok taplem, navonk ieo.? (Water is ready, come for bath.) A wife in those
days never called her husband by name. In the meantime, she would hastily
prepare dinner. Small children would follow their father everywhere as if
to keep a tab on him. Within a day or two children would ask their mother:
?Maim, to uncle anik kitle dis amgher ravtolo?? (Mother, how many more days
will that uncle stay at our place?) To which mother would reply:
?Baba/bae, toxem mhunnonant; to tumcho pai; to hangach amchea sangata
ravtolo.? (Baba/baby, don?t say that; he is your father; he will be staying
here with us.) It usually took around a week for children to get acquainted
with their father, but he could win their friendship faster if he gave them
more sweets and eatables.

How did one recognize a BASURKAR? A Basurkar wore a gabardine pair of
trousers, a terelyne shirt, a WEST END or ROAMER brand wrist watch on his
left hand, a gold bracelet on his right hand, a gold chain in his neck with
a cross pendant, a gold finger ring on his right hand in addition to the
wedding ring on his left hand, Ray-ban sunglasses, leather shoes, and a hat.
He brought home with him ?Capstan? and ?555? brand cigarettes in tins of
50s. The empty tin was used as a measure for rice; it was equivalent of an
?annatti? (one of the olden wooden measures.) He also brought with him
BLACK LION (everyone called it ?Black Line?) tobacco and RITZ ?mot?tal?
(rolling paper) packets. He smoked cigarettes at home and outside as a
symbol of his status.

He offered cigarettes to anyone who visited his house, including laborers.
A visitor or laborer would pick up a cigarette from the tin, hold it in his
hand, take it close to his nose, sniff it hard and say: ?Ah-a-a,
cigrettichea paleacho ekdom boro pormoll ieta!? (Ah-a-a, cigarette tobacco
smells very good!) The host would then pass butane RONSON lighter with
which he would light his cigarette and enjoy every puff. Sometimes, he
would sit for a longer time and smoke two or three cigarettes, and our
Basurkar bhav did not mind it at all. If his wife smoked a ?pamparo?, she
would switch to rolled cigarettes; she also smoked regular cigarettes. Some
dedicated wives helped their husbands by rolling cigarettes during their
leisure time and keeping them ready for their use in a cigarette tin. When
the stock of cigarettes and tobacco was exhausted, our Basurkar would go
down town and buy cigarettes from the local market ? remember this was
during the Portuguese regime when foreign things were available in Goa.

Whenever a Basurkar called workers to work to his place, they would
immediately oblige him because at the end of the day?s work he would offer
them a drink or two and sometimes even three, and also give them ?rossanv?
(tips.) Even if a Basurkar did not drink, he would still have an ample
stock of liquor in his house. The norm for a Basurkar in those days was to
buy a ?kollso? (pot) each of Caju and Palm fenni so that he did not run
short of liquor or did not have run to a tavern to fetch a bottle of liquor
whenever guests arrived at his home. They say: ?Goenkaranchea ghoran anik
kiteim unnem assot punn nhoi soro!? (A Goan house may run short of anything
but not liquor!)

His wife served him bed tea while he still rolled in bed. When
relatives/guests who stayed overnight noticed this behavior, they couldn?t
believe their eyes and would say to themselves in disgust: ?Xi, koslo burso
saiba, tondd duvinastannam chav pieta!? (What a dirty guy, drinks tea
without washing his face!)

He shaved every morning without fail with a razor or with a shaving machine
using 7-O?CLOCK blade; it was one of the common give away gifts at the time.
Since there was no electricity, he had to choose a place where he could
see his face in the mirror. So, he either chose the kitchen window or the
balcao (verandah.) He placed a small mirror on the edge of window, stood
there and shaved, or he would place a mirror on a ?sopo? (couch made of
stone and plastered with cement), kneel on the floor and shave. There was
no shaving cream or spray at that time but he used an OLD SPICE soap stick.
He would collect water in a small container, dip the shaving brush in it,
and apply the brush continuously on the stick until lather was produced. As
soon as he finished shaving, he splashed OLD SPICE after shave lotion on his
face, the fragrance of which instantly filled the house.

Instead of sleeping on the floor on a ?dali? (a mat made of bamboo,) he and
his wife slept on a wooden bed which he bought from ?Milagres fest? Fair at
Mapusa, or ?Tin Raianchem fest? Fair at Panaji, or ?Sant Khursachem fest?
Fair at Calafura (Santa Cruz,) or ?Spirit Santachem fest? Fair at Margao.
He placed a thick ?kulchanv? (cotton mattress) on the bed which was a big
luxury at the time. When he went to bed, he wore a night suit and walked
the cow dung covered floor of the house with leather sandals. By the 1960s,
he replaced the cow dung floor with red cement and made it look like tiles
by pressing a tile form on it.

If our Basurkar happened to be home during the monsoon season, he would step
out of the house with a good quality raincoat, a plastic hat on his head and
gumboots; sometimes, he also carried an umbrella with him. Speaking of
hats, if he was home in September or October, he would buy a handmade hat
made of grass by cowherds. Grass grows on our hills during the monsoon
season. By August, it is fully grown. Cowherds used to take their cows and
buffaloes on the hills for grazing as soon as the rains subsided. While
their cattle grazed, they would pick thick grass, hold the grass blade in
the left hand and remove fluid from it by placing it in between the index
finger and thumb of the right hand and press the fluid out with the thumb
nail. They would first weave a round base and gradually come up with
various items like a hat, hand bag, small basket, pencil/pen holder, etc.
This was a small side business for them. As children, we joined cowherds on
our hill and many of us learned to weave grass items through them.

Since transportation was rare in Goa until the 1950s, a Basurkar bought a
?biciclet? (derived from the Portuguese word ?bicicleta? [bicycle]) for
himself on his first vacation home and proudly pedaled his way to the fish
market or to the town and brought home groceries, fruits, etc., filled in
cloth bags hung on the handle bar. If he was a married man, his wife
accompanied him to the market on his ?biciclet.? She sat on the cross bar,
placed her hands on the handle bar and chatted with her husband throughout
their journey, looking behind every now and then in order to have a glance
at his face, and, he in turn, smiled at her at every look. If he had a
child, he would make him/her sit with his/her legs crossed on the bracket
fixed above the hind wheel. While the couple passed by on their ?biciclet,?
people would halt and look at them with awe and murmur: ?Saiba, kednam amkam
biciclet favo zateli ani kednam ami tacher bosteleanv?? (God, when will we
get a bicycle and be able to sit on it?).

One of the first things a Basurkar did when he came down on his first
vacation was to buy a plot, dig a well and gradually build a house on it.
Until then Goans were used to seeing only ?bhattkars? (landlords) supervise
their tenants doing work for them with a cigarette or cigar in their mouths,
but here was one the tenant himself standing on a site with his left hand on
his hip and a ?Capstan? or ?555? cigarette in his mouth and issuing
instructions to workers. Like a ?bhattkar,? he also held an umbrella in his
hand to protect his head from sunshine, or wore a cap/hat. Owning a house
was a huge success for him especially because he could then send his
children to school without a ?bhattkar? restricting him from doing it. He
was altogether a satisfied man with a happy family.

Once the Basurkar settled in his new house, he became a popular person. He
earned a lot of respect from his neighbors and relatives and the people from
the area. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to belong to him. As soon as he
arrived home, all of his relatives would pay him a visit, including the ones
who never even knew him well. But the Basurkar did not mind it; he just
entertained them all. His poor wife had to do triple duty! While he was
away, his family usually ate rice, curry, fish and vegetables, and beef on
Sundays. Chicken was prepared whenever they had guests; pork and mutton
were prepared mostly on feast days/occasions. However, as soon the Basurkar
arrived home, he would bring meat (beef, pork, mutton, chicken) regularly,
and everyday turned into a feast day. He also slaughtered a pigling on
every Sunday. Children were the happiest lot because they got plenty to
eat and this also brought them closer to their father. In fact, a mother
would say to her children: ?Pai ghora astannam pott bhor khait ani jeiat
ani tumkam kiteim zai zalear atanch tache lagim magat; uprant mhaka bejear
korinakat.? (Eat to your heart?s content while your father is at home. If
you need anything, ask him now; don?t trouble me afterwards.

A Basurkar brought a few cosmetics for his wife like PONDS cream bottles (he
concealed gold coins in it,) CUTICURA or YARDLEY powder tins, PATRA perfume
bottles, lipstick, etc. A Basurkar?s wife could be singled out from the lot
because of her status. She would either put on a colorful ?xedacho vistid?
(silk dress) or ?gagro ani bluz? (skirt and blouse) and tie a matching
ribbon bow on her head, or wear a sari and blouse made of taffeta material
and tuck fresh flowers on her ?xenddo.? She would apply Ponds cream and
powder to her face which sometimes exceeded the limit, made her look like a
clown, and people questioned her: ?Mari, aiz Carnaval kitem gho?? (Mary,
is it Carnival today?) She would then pass on her CALICO brand handkerchief
to the person and ask him/her to wipe the extra powder on her face. Since
the Basurkarn was just coming up in her life, everything was new for her
including fashion; the poor woman did not even have a looking mirror in her
house. So, how could we blame her for applying too much powder or lipstick?
Hers was the case in the old saying: ?Dekonk naslelem deklem kalum khuimche
kailin ghalum??

For a Goan wife, glass bangles are a sign of ?surungar? (husband?s
existence.) Therefore, like any other married woman she, too, wore glass
bangles in pairs on her arms but unlike other local women she was able to
replenish them from time to time, and this was no problem for her as in
those days a ?vollar? (glass bangle supplier) visited villages on foot with
a huge bundle of glass bangles mounted on his back. As he walked the
streets of a village, he would give a loud continuous shout:
?Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? ? a kind of announcement to let the women
know that he was in the village. He knew each and every Basurkar?s house in
a village and got very good business from their wives. Some Basurkarni
bought extra pairs of glass bangles and kept them in stock, just in case
they had to attend a special occasion.

The following differentiated a Basurkarn from the others:

She wore a pair of Ray-ban sunglasses; high heel shoes; carried a colorful
umbrella and the most distinguishing thing was the wear of ?holdulem?
(gold). She wore as many thick gold bangles on her right hand as she could
afford. On her left hand, she wore a tiny elegant wrist watch. Around her
neck, she wore a thick, long gold chain with a cross pendant. During a
feast or an occasion like a wedding, she wore more ornaments, including a
well crafted ?jog? (necklace) with matching earrings, a finger ring and a
thick bangle with the same design. She applied the famous PATRA scent from
a ?sinsli? (a small bottle) - opened and tilted it on her dress and then on
her right index finger; she then applied the finger to her neck and
earlobes. At the very first glance and smell of the Patra scent, one knew
that this had to be a Basurkar?s wife!

A Basurkar in those days usually did not buy gold jewelry from the Middle
East but instead brought home with him small gold bars concealed in his
bedding, which he gave to the goldsmith and asked him to make ornaments of
their choice. In those days, ?Sonarvaddo? (goldsmith?s ward) in Gaumvaddy,
Anjuna, was very famous for making gold jewelry. I believe there were many
goldsmiths in the ward but to my knowledge I have known only five from the
ward from one family, the head of which was Shridar. Besides being a
goldsmith, Shridar gave tuitions to Portuguese primary school children in
Portuguese language and math. Shridar had four sons: The eldest, Laxman,
lived in a separate house of his own just across the road. He went to
Mapusa daily on foot. He would leave his house for Mapusa at around 7:00
a.m. and return at around 2:00 p.m. carrying a black umbrella which had
turned whitish due to continuous usage. Although his sons bought bicycles,
then motorcycles and cars, he never traveled in their vehicles; he continued
to walk to Mapusa and back home on foot every day. He walked with leather
sandals which always made a squeaking sound which we could hear from inside
our kitchen as he passed by my house. Shirdar?s second son was Govinda and
he was the one who mainly got Basurkars? business. The third son was
Narayan who gradually shifted to Guirim and established himself there.
Bhaskar, the fourth son, gave up the ancestral profession and took up a job
in Vasco. There were also some goldsmiths in Chinvar, Anjuna. I remember
two names, Ramnath and Intesh; the latter was a classy goldsmith and he
happened to be our family?s goldsmith.

Whenever a Basurkar came home on vacation, he would summon a goldsmith to
his house with a pattern book. The husband and wife would go through the
book and select a pattern either for a chain, bangles, earrings, or ?jog?,
including a ?fatracho jog? (a necklace with three rectangular blocks ? two
small, one on each side and a big one in the middle - with green plastic in
the background fixed to a thick chain. They would then discuss the price or
making charges. Finally, the Basurkar would tell the goldsmith that he had
a gold bar and ask him for a fresh quote. At the very mention of the gold
bar, the goldsmith?s face would brighten with a smile because a gold bar
meant very good profit for him.

There was no electricity in most parts of Goa until the 1960?s. Each room
in a house would be lit by a small flickering kerosene lamp. But, when the
Basurkar arrived home, he would buy a kerosene-based hanging lamp with a
glass shade, both of which rested on a metal frame. He hung the lamp frame
to the main wooden beam in the middle of the hall. Every evening before
saying the Angelus, he would fetch a stool, remove the chimney, pass it on
to someone to hold, raise the wick a little by turning the knob and light
it. He would then place the chimney back in the round groove and reduce the
flame by adjusting the wick with the knob. He also hung similar small lamps
in bedroom(s.)

Next, he bought an ALADIN table lamp which provided bright light to his
house. This lamp was the pride of every upcoming family then. In addition,
he bought at least one petromax and made use of it whenever he had too many
guests in his house. The petromax light was a real blessing to children as
it enabled them to play freely at night. Once father left for the Gulf, we
would use the petromax for ?vhallan nistem dipkavunk? (to catch fish in the
creek by light reflection.)

He also brought home from abroad a WINCHESTER or EVERREADY searchlight which
he proudly used whenever he visited neighbors at night or went for a tiatr.
He bought a wall clock and hung it either in the main hall or in the master
bedroom. Whenever visitors stayed overnight, they were disturbed by the
hourly strike of the clock and commented: ?Kitem baba hanger sogllo vell
igorjechi ghannt koxi ghodial vazta; matso dollo lagtanch portun ttanv,
ttanv, ttanv zata!? (What nonsense, the clock keeps on striking all the time
like a church bell; when about to fall asleep, it again strikes ?ttanv,?
?ttanv,? ?ttanv!?) Initially, it was the same with home people but they
became immune to the sound over the years.

By the late 1950s, the Basurkar introduced a battery-operated radio in the
house and filled the home with music. The most common brand at the time was
PHILLIPS. The famous ?Binaca Hit Parade? program from Radio Ceylon became a
regular feature in almost every house with a radio.

Celebration of any function at a Basurkar?s home was marked by lighting lots
of firecrackers. The more the firecrackers and variety of drinks, the
better a function would be. A christening, laying a house foundation, a
litany and a birthday were some of the common functions at the time. When a
Basurkar held these functions, it meant a better treat for everyone. For
example, if he held a litany to a cross, he would paint the cross with
?koiear? (whitewash made of baked sea shells,) decorate it with lots of
?aboleanche jele,? light more firecrackers than others, serve cake,
?Bolinhas? (sweets made of wheat flour, sugar and coconut) and other
biscuits, serve ?Kabuli chonne? (Chick Peas,) serve MACEIRA brandy in
addition to local liquor, and please children with a small glass of wine. A
Basurkar was often nominated to be the president of a church or chapel or
community cross feast and he made sure that he more than justified the
people?s choice. In fact, feast celebrations became a competition over the
years between the Gulfees and sailors; sometimes Africanders, too, joined
the fray.

Speaking of firecrackers, we had a person called Lazarus (Lazar) Fernandes
from Sorantto, Anjuna, who was employed at Aramco in Dhahran in the 1960s
and 1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he would buy many cartons of
firecrackers, open them and keep loose packets on the seat of the car, and
as soon as he crossed Assagao boundary and entered Anjuna, he would light up
each firecracker packet with his cigarette and keep throwing them out
through car window until he reached home. When this happened, everyone in
Anjuna knew that Lazar had come home! He died last year. May his soul rest
in peace!

During the days of the Basurkar, sweets were a rarity. So, he brought home
with him dried fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, raisins, ?khajur?
(dates), etc. Khajur was packed in bundles. It was wrapped on the outside
with date tree leaves and secured with a ?sutli? (gunny thread.) As soon as
my father reached home, he would pass on dried fruits to my mother to store
in a container, except the bundle of khajur which would remain in the main
hall. He would cut open the bundle and remove chunks of khajur with a
knife. He would then wrap the chunks in newspaper and send us to distribute
them to neighbors. Half of the bundle would go for distribution and the
remaining half would remain for us. The neighbors in turn would give us
whatever fresh fruits they had like bananas, mangoes or even vegetables like
drumsticks, cucumber, etc.

There were no airplanes in those days. So, the Gulfees traveled home by
ship via Karachi. It took around three weeks for them to reach home but
nothing would happen to dry fruit. Some of the houses in Goa have date
trees in their compounds. These trees are the result of date seeds which
were thrown away in those days. A couple of times, the ?khajur? smelled
like petrol and I guessed the packer must have been packing and selling
petrol simultaneously like our old time ?posorkars? in Goa.

Most Basurkars were nice, generous and helpful. One of our ward members,
Antonio Joao Fernandes, worked in BAPCO from the 1950s through the early
1970s. Whenever he came home on vacation, he brought tennis balls and
distributed one ball to each child in the ward. As soon as we received the
ball, we would jump with joy, thank him and say ?Dev borem korum ankol!? We
used those balls to play cricket with a ?piddeachem? (coconut leaf stem)
bat. We would use only one ball at a time and replace it only when it was
broken. The stock of balls he gave us would last for a year when again he
would bring us more. I came to know later that the balls he gave us were
collected from tennis players in his Company who usually changed balls after
every two sets, but for us in those days they were brand new, and to receive
a ball as a gift was one of the greatest things. I am grateful to Antonio
Joao uncle to this day, and I mention this fact to the children in Gaumvaddy
every time I am home on vacation.

Just like a Tarvotti who passed on a ?nolli? (scroll of certificate) to his
son and secured a job for him on a P&O (most people called it ?Piano!?)
ship, the Basurkar also arranged for a visa and brought his son(s),
relatives and friends to the place of his work and provided them with
employment. Thus, right now we probably have the fourth Goan generation
working in Gulf countries!

The Basurkar and his generations have contributed vastly towards overall
development of Goa. Every time he visits Goa, he creates temporary jobs for
his fellow Goans as masons, carpenters, painters, laborers, etc., and helps
them as much as he can. But life for him has not been a bed of roses as
many may think. Everything has a price tag on it, and many Goans in the
Gulf have had to pay a heavy price for their long stay here. In the process
of providing a better life to his family, the Basurkar lost a lot on his
home front. Prolonged absence from his home and family has resulted in many
family separations. Many of his family members, relatives and friends took
undue advantage of his generosity and duped him time and again. As a
result, he has had to make a new beginning many times. What does he do in
this case? Hang in there endlessly!

Goans are spendthrifts - a happy-go-lucky people! This being the case,
over the years they never gave a serious thought to saving. As a matter of
fact, they really didn?t get the hang of savings until after Goa?s
liberation in December 1961, as the norm for most Goans during the
Portuguese regime was: ?Haddli podd, khal?li podd,? which roughly translated
means ?Live for the day.? Until recently, they also believed in: ?Bhurghim
zoddit, bhurghim khait? (let children earn and support themselves.) Goans
love entertainment, so when it comes to parties and celebrations they are
always in the forefront. Goans believe in keeping their relatives and
friends happy and do not mind spending large amounts of money on them. They
will even go out of their way to borrow money in order to keep them happy -
the result? No savings! What do you do? Hang on in the Gulf endlessly!
However, there is a big change in this regard among the new generation born
after 1970; they are more cautious. Of course, they have learned from
previous generations? mistakes!

Many Goans working in the Gulf invested their entire savings in building
palatial houses. Those who managed to pay for such projects are now trying
to save for their future, and others continue to pay for such projects,
which mean they have to hang in there until they pay for the house and then
begin to save for their future.

Until the 1980?s, education was quite cheap and did not warrant any fund
planning. It is altogether a different ball game now, as we have to make a
provision in lakhs of rupees and sometimes in millions just to give adequate
education to a child. So, what does a Gulfee do? Hang in there!

Life in some of the Gulf States is like being in paradise - so good that
many Goans get themselves drowned in it and are never able to come out from
it. These States have practically everything that is available back home
and much more ? club entertainment, drinks, night clubs, dances, hops, jam
sessions, all sorts of celebrations, parties, gambling ? you name it. There
are many Goans who fell prey to such a lifestyle and returned home
empty-handed after decades of service in the Gulf. Many of us thought that
the Gulf was our permanent home. Well, it is not so any longer; most of us
might have to leave this region pretty soon ? the writing is already on the
wall! So, make hay while the sun shines!

The above are only a few reasons why Goans have prolonged their stay in the
Gulf, but considering the present circumstances in the region, is he going
to be able to hang in there in the near future? The need of the day is ten
fold more compared to the past, and it doubles with a single earning family
member. In the late 19th century Goans found jobs in British Africa and in
the early 20th century in Middle Eastern countries. If the Gulf closes its
gates to the expatriates, where do we head next? ?Dhonia Deva Tum amkam
pav!? (God help us!)

That?s all for now from Dom?s antique shelf!

Moi-mogan,
Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna/Dhahran, KSA

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