Abolianchem festival offerings: (Clockwise from top-left) Lots of coral-coloured abolim flowers everywhere (state flower of Goa); rangoli of the flower; women were wearing them as hairpieces; dancing underway; demo of mollam weaving with coconut fronds; ghumott small and big on exhibit; that’s Nirmala Niketan principal Dr Rita Paes with women’s rights activist Auda Viegas and…pièce de résistance, boiled kabuli chana laced with coconut chips!

By Tara Narayan
HEY, I’ve just discovered this and am thrilled!  What’s a great snack to indulge in without feeling guilty that somewhere you’re contributing towards killing yourself softly?  A dry jackfruit leafy pudi packed with freshly boiled kabuli chana (also garbanzo beans/chickpeas) with itsy bitsy fresh coconut tossed in…still warm, very mildly salted chickpeas and milky sweetness of the coconut bits make for a combo to live for and fill up hunger pangs. Don’t use grated coconut, little coconut bits are better, and so simple, nah? Why do our children have to tear open endless plastic pouches to crunch on stomach churning over-salted, over-sugared fryums of the marketplace!

Of course Sunday last, March 11, 2018, I was at the Abolianchem festival at the Nirmala Instute of Education up at Panaji’s Altinho thinking of all this. (Sigh) I’m in love with the cool green arbors of Altinho here and there, on a bad day all I have to do is ride up on my baby blue bike to cheer myself up looking at trees, spend some moments gathering grace at the austere Nirmala Niketan chapel.

Last Sunday beneath a gorgeous rain tree students, faculty, visitors, celebrated Goa Day with just about everyone wanting a taste of the Goan apple or so to speak.  A band played up tunes, Konkani songs filled the air, there was mando dancing, insightful information by Auda Viegas, Tomasin Cardoza, Prajal Sakardande and others, cluing up everybody about all things Goan…and Sister Delia Antao and Rita Paes walking about anxiously to check if everything was going well! Someone said it was rocking, I agree.

I can do with more Goa-centric festivals like these but must note they take time to plan, the students had been learning how to play the gumott (Goa’s drumbeat) and dance the mando much in advance, as also plan the entertainment program, refreshments menu of wholesome snacks/meals for breakfast, lunch and tea-time. From what I could see folk were packing up polle/pau and chicken xacuti/alsande ros; I feasted on the boiled kabuli intermingling with fresh milky coconut chips, later tried the beetroot-stuffed vegetable cutlets… a bowl of rice kanji with mango chepnim in it, a sannam redolent of real toddy (these Goan “idli” came all the way from Cansaulim down south Goa, the girl here told me, for where can one get toddy in Panaji), and a chunky slice of the sweet gram sweet called attol. Other things to beguile the taste buds: batat fov, shevio, doce de grao, delicately creamily crunchy “angel’s wings” (also called phenorio/shiroti)…I forgot to buy some brinjal pickle!

AMONGST the speakers who entertained were Tomasin Cardoza, Auda Viegas who said in time to come if men learned to respect women in their life there would be no need to celebrate International Women’s Day for everyday would be women’s day. She’s got a point. The irresistible farmer’s man Minguel Braganza had set up p a table with samples of various herbs/spices to identify and learn about; a separate nursery pavilion exhibited various kitchen and medicinal value plants…which reminded me of what Ratan Tata said in a recent speech about educating your children to be happy and not rich, also that it’s better to let food be your medicine than medicines your food later on. No doubt about that, we need to eat more greens, salads, sprouts in our day-to-day life to fuel our energy levels an stay young and fit longer!

Elsewhere there were eco-friendly things on sale like jewelry incorporating all kinds of seeds; Vaishali Chauhan of Dhairyansh Green had these lovely lightweight kora kapda bags in which to store rations, there were  interesting “eco femme” washable cloth pads for menstrual use, little ceramic “baini” in various shapes, large and small gumott in case someone wanted to buy one and learn to play it for rejuvenating the mind! Too soon it was time for me to say goodbye and left with the words of a song teasing my mind…”She walks like a lady from Africa, She talks like a lady from America, She shakes like lady from Jamaica, yeah, She’s a lady that I love, She’s a lady from Goa…” (an Alfred Rose song I learned).

I confided in Miguel Braganza that the mando dancers’ colourful outfits reminds me of the baju-kurong outfits of Malaysia/Indonesia and he enlightened, mando dancing  comes from Borneo (part Malaysia, part Indonesia), “At first only the Saraswat Brahmin community would do this dancing privately, later tiatrist Tomasin Cardoza started a group to promote the dancing for everyone!”  Well, likely some trading went on between GSB community and South East Asia courtesy Goa’s Portuguese history, and men are known to marry locally wherever they went, some might have married the Malay women of Borneo and brought them back to Goa as brides!

Goa has some real melting pot history. Now I’m wondering if anyone can get Goa Tourism to celebrate an  annual Goa Day along the lines of the Nirmala Niketan’s Goa Day? I don’t see why the Goa government cannot sponsor a traditional Goa Day to educate and entertain Goa’s younger generation about Goa’s history, influences western and eastern.

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