August 25, 2013

A Goan Poder Paddles His Pao Around

No sooner does dawn trickle through windows in Goa and the familiar paaaan-pooooh, paaaan-pooooh sounds outside, gladdening many an anxious eye fidgeting at the window, awaiting the flash of blue before the horn sounds and the pedal pauses its exertions.

No horn sounds sweeter to a Goan ear than the one the Poder sounds on his morning rounds through neighbourhoods, announcing the arrival on the back on his bicycle, of freshly baked pao (bread) to go with the bhaji (gravy accompaniment) cooking on kitchen stoves in sloping roof houses tucked away behind trees, past bends in narrow walking paths that branch off quiet, sometimes lonely roads.

In the cane basket wrapped in the familiar and distinctive blue tarp, a thousand anxious hearts beat, awaiting the fragrance of the local village bakery to float in and grace many a Goan’s morning, afternoon, and evening. I could safely throw in ‘night’ and nothing would be amiss except the Poder will have retired for the day, his basket empty and the horn sitting lightly in a corner. The Poder’s horn rings in a Goan dawn just as surely as the sun.

Pao. What would Goa be without it? Rather what would Pao be without Goa.

If not for the Pao, the Bhaji that occasional itinerants like yours truly go seeking in nondescript gaddos (inns) in the Goan countryside would not have evolved to the state of being they have in the hands of enterprising cooks.

So long as Poders grace the Goan countryside not much can go wrong with the Goan dream even if many of the Poders you see around are not Goans but migrant hands from Hubli or Belgaum, or further afield who graduated from helping out in the bakery to carting pao around villages hidden from plain view.

The Poder in the photos here had rolled down the slope that winds past Balaji Temple off the road that meanders from Kundaim before rolling through Cuncolim and eventually, to Keri.

Just as we stepped past the gate and saw him going past, an old lady hailed him. The evening tea was upon the countryside and pao to go with tea would be just perfect. The lady, more likely than not, a regular, bought some katre pao and dropped them into a plastic pothi.

Lighter by a few pao, the Poder rolled merrily away.

Down the road we saw him again.

A smile playing on his face, he had uncovered the dark brown tarp (a departure from the familiar blue) and handed Kakon (bangles) from the basket to the little girl waiting on the side of the road with her dogs for the Poder who passes by a little past four in the afternoon.

Her house lay past the bend in the path off the road, and hearing the distinctive call of the Poder’s horn, paaaan-pooooh, paaaan-pooooh, way before he came cycling past, she was up on her feet and running with the dogs on her heels, in time for the Poder on his afternoon favti (round).

She held five kakon to her chest like it was the only thing that mattered.

It is October, 2008. Five years down, Goa hasn’t changed much in the hinterland, right down to dark, winding roads lit up by banana leaves filtering the Sun to a shade of rich, hearty and heartening green. When the breeze blows, late afternoon light sways with it.

I linger for a moment, wondering if the Poder does this route. I think it unlikely for we’ve passed him a long way back and a steep climb beckons before we crest the hill and come to the junction where the left leads to Vijaydurga temple in Keri.

But then one can never be sure of the Poder's range and pedal power. 

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am said...

Splendid post. Thank you for this glimpse.

Anant B said...

nice narration...pao with bhaji ka maja aur hi hai....

Anil P said...

Am: Thank you.

Anant B: Very true. If the bhaji is well made, and the pao fresh from the bakery, then nothing is as fulfilling on a break in a journey.

Francesca said...

This is a lovely evocative description - thank you. x

Rouchswalwe said...

A feast of delights and wonder at the things that matter. I find myself recalling the "Yaki-Imo" [roasted potato] man on his special motorscooter in 80's Japan. His distinctive call and the special taste of those roasted potatoes!

Riot Kitty said...

Poder means "power" in Spanish...seems apt. I love your posts, and your writing and photos - you really should consider writing a book.

Anil P said...

Francesca: Thank you.

Rouchswalwe: Roasted potato is a delight. I wonder if they're still about on their motor scooters now.

Back here, we have vendors selling roasted Singada (Water Chestnuts).

Riot Kitty: Thank you. Indeed a pleasure to know how you feel about this space here :-)

Maybe one might come along though I'm not sure who would read it.

But thank you for the faith.

Zhoen said...


Anil P said...

Zhoen: :-)

An Iengar Chick... said...

remembering the maska pao days :) nostalgic

Anil P said...

Red: These would be a different variety, and even more crispier.

An Iengar Chick... said...

so these would be crustier? hmmm interesting

Anil P said...

Red: Katre Pao. Undo.

Anu said...

Wow! As a true blooded goan settled in bangalore. ...the thing I miss the most is pav and uno. Even today, each time I land in goa. .my breakfaSt is compulsorily mix bhaji pav :-)