April 28, 2011

Bharatpur’s Wandering Waterhen

It was just as well that the wandering Waterhen that had emerged from a thicket in the shade of the Peepal tree we had paused under to catch our breath at noon on a hot April day in Bharatpur was unaware of its name, blissfully unaware no less.

I probably understood the ‘blissful’ part of ‘unaware’ the best that summer day three years ago. There was sufficient irony in the name given the context of the situation the Waterhen had emerged from. Well, I could see the ‘hen’ alright, but barely spotted any water, except in isolated instances, along the entire stretch we had cycled through after renting the bicycles at the entrance to the Keoladeo National Park (popularly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) in Rajasthan for Rs. 25/- each.

While the bicycles were charged Rs. 25/- per visit, and you could spend the whole day cycling about in the bird sanctuary and not have to pay a paisa more, the three-wheeler Cycle Rickshaws rented out were however charged by the hour at Rs. 50/- per hour.

On the bright side you were saved from doing the pedaling yourself and could instead rest easy on the seat behind the Rickshawallah with binoculars on the ready as he rode the beaten three-wheeler along. However I preferred steering the bicycle myself if only so I could pause at the first sighting of a bird, or pause for pausing sake.

Intrigued by the parched countryside, an elderly Rickshawallah I met and conversed with along the way shrugged his shoulders resignedly and in a tone as despondent as the dry beds flanking the riding path on either side, said, “Too much politics. Villagers instigated by politicians tapping into the prevailing resentment have blocked the flow of water to the bird sanctuary.”

I was surprised to say the least, given the place of pride the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary holds among wetlands of similar stature, its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation notwithstanding. Birdwatchers over the years would speak of 350+ bird species inhabiting the 28+ Sq. Km. wetland area.

But in that moment, strained from seeing water beds drying out, I would’ve considered myself lucky if there were 350+ birds about the place, let alone as many species. However, we were lucky in that while the lack of water affects water birds, it’s not as much of an impediment to the other bird species not as reliant on water bodies for survival, species like the Parakeet, the Tree Pie, the Pheasant Crow, the Jungle Babbler and the Bulbul among others.

We would eventually run up a list of bird sightings in excess of 50-60 species if I remember correctly, many of which I had seen before. However this was little consolation for the lack of sufficient variety in water bird species we saw excepting the few fishing in the water amid weeds. I had hoped to see species of water birds not easily available elsewhere or rarely ever sighted away from wetlands.

Bharatpur was once the home of the valourous Jat kings and is for all purposes, notwithstanding Haryana, the heartland of the Jats, a community not averse to using muscle to back their demands, and for many among them it would unthinkable to do otherwise if Jat pride and dignity, derived as much from their folklore as from present day reality, were seen to be threatened or undermined in any way. Pride as an apt synonym would not be out of place with the Jats.

And I had heard of the rumblings before. Stories of how farmers, fearing lack of sufficient water to irrigate their fields, their fears stoked further by politicians not beyond making their political opponents squirm in their seats whatever the consequences, had eventually agitated successfully for shutting off the water, leaving the thousands of migratory birds headed for Bharatpur in dire straits. And it showed in the countryside as we rode along.

The agitation had centered around farmers opposing the release of water from the Panchna Dam located upstream of the Gambhir river, the primary source of water to the bird sanctuary. Political expediency ensured the gates of the Panchna Dam remained shut, and the bird sanctuary collared by the neck until it went almost entirely dry just as the summer rounded the bend.

The Gambhir river is the main source of water to the Ghana Canal, the lifeline of the park. The water flowing through the Ghana Canal is then routed around the park by a system of dykes and canals via a series of sluice gates, resulting from astute water management.

But water shortage through much of the park meant there was little to manage. The rust showed on the sluice gates standing on dry earth as I cycled along, shored up by gravel. Elsewhere, grass had come alive, at places swaying to the breeze stiffening up. The earth showed signs of wear from the harsh and unforgiving Rajasthan summer.

A measuring bar for water level stood likewise, pegged into dry earth. The notches indicating height rose upward speaking of times when water levels had risen, and probably stayed near head high, or at the very least indicating the levels the water could be expected to rise in the years the bird sanctuary had done well, the Siberian cranes among its guests. Over time it had gone a foot under, the silt hardening and lifting the earth by a foot no less!

What little water remained was stagnating in the Ghana Canal where Sambhars vied with domesticated cattle for water while the few water birds about in the water dodged them both. And it was at the turning in the road located at the Ghana Canal that we had stopped under the Peepal tree approaching noon when the Waterhen had come sniffing by.

Tom and Anne had gone in search of the Indian Courser the bird-watching guide had promised to show them, disappearing from view along a rutted path that led off the narrow road meandering through the bird sanctuary while we waited under a Peepal tree watching a Tree Pie, its distinctive whites on the tail having betrayed its presence in the lush foliage it shared with a noisy Jungle Babbler unhappy at being abandoned by its six sisters.

Also keeping us company was an inquisitive Red Vented Bulbul that would turn its head at an impossible angle from time to time to ensure we were up to no mischief, straightening up each time I caught its eye accusingly. The birds of Bharatpur, I would soon learn, left nothing to chance. With water scarce they could be excused their discretion.

A cycle rickshaw parked off the road was soon subject to a searching examination by the White Breasted Waterhen that had emerged from the bushes and wandered about unmindful of our presence, its short stubby tail held erect behind it while it glided along on long legs like a stilt walker at a village fair. Finding the cycle rickshaw to be in order it turned its attention to us. I kept the entry tickets handy just in case it decided we did not pass muster.

It was clearly evident that it had little fear of humans. Now whether it resulted from proximity to non-threatening human presence from a young age or from the compulsion to seek food in their presence is debatable though I’d go along with the former.

Approaching us up the road, a birding group made up of foreign tourists and led by a local birdwatching guide turned their faces up as the guide pointed to Kites circling in the skies overhead, identifying them for the benefit of the birders as they positioned their camera tripods for an unlikely shot.

Some others were on their own, smiling nervously on bicycles that tested their resolve to avoid making an embarrassment of themselves astride wheels built more for transportation and a sturdy backside than for riding pleasure. And there was no rope trick to fall back upon if the balance fell away.

Yet others stopped by to photograph the Waterhen as it sauntered about with an authority and sense of purpose that’d have made a Park Ranger proud, all along oblivious to the irony its name presented with the dry spell blanketing the bird sanctuary.

The irony was not very different from the skinniest boy in the class named Bhim, or the class bully named Shantibhushan, or the shy wisp of a boy named Ranvir who rarely ever piped up in class, or worse still the lad who shunned sports for fear of injury named Ranvijay. The intention behind the names was noble, but when has destiny ever contrived with intent to do justice to reality? Never.

But atleast the Waterhen’s parents were not to blame for its name, not that it was any consolation to its state of existence!

Before returning from the birding sojourn that summer day I wished the wandering Waterhen well and hoped the wetland would soon do justice to its name.

Note: Subsequent to my Bharatpur trip the situation in the bird haven is said to have improved considerably with the Rajasthan Government relenting in the face of urgent calls to release water from the dam, replenishing the Gambhir river downstream, and in turn the Keoladeo National Park.

The Keoladeo National Park is open to visitors through the year. Bicycles, Cycle Rickshaws, and Tongas are available on rent/hire at the Park entrance. Birdwatching Guides are available on hire at the same location, with hourly charges for leading a group between 1-5 people set at Rs. 70/-, and Rs. 120/- for a group more than five people. The rates might have changed since my own trip to Bharatpur.

April 20, 2011

Camels and Karma Bhoomi in Dwarka

Children ride a camel on the beach where the Gomati meets the Arabian Sea off Dwarka, rather on the banks of the Gomati that abuts the beach off the Arabian Sea just short of the Gulf of Kutch to the north.

There’re two camels about, both decked in bright designs, beads, and fluff. When they’re not carrying excited pilgrims around, they rest on their belly, their legs tucked alongside. They’re a picture of calm. The late afternoon sun tints them golden, and suddenly life, all life seems warm and beckoning.

Photographers meander among visitors, ever on the lookout for faces willing to be framed by the setting sun. A photo studio - Dharmendra Photo Studio - across the walking path beachside processes the prints. I count six photographers equipped with DSLRs, all but one are in their twenties. In the day when the sun is high and few pilgrims are about, they retire to the shade of the studio, whiling away time talking amongst themselves or looking through the pictures.

I find myself meandering among pilgrims gazing out to sea, at some fixed point that must exist more in the imagination than in the sea. It’s that vacant gaze seeking indulgence in a vacant space.

In the distance, a lighthouse stands on land abutting the sea. Spotting the lighthouse at night I imagine the deck-hands on passing boats and ships exclaim, “Look there’s Dwarka.” In that moment the night must forsake its darkness for the exclaiming voice delighting in Krishna’s Dwarka.

However I see no ships on the horizon. It is empty. Before me the sea opens up like a gate, or dwar. It beckons but there’s no path leading out. While Krishna’s teachings will show the way to the dwar, and beyond, they will not part the sea. His Dwarka could not part it when the time came, and I’m but a mere mortal.

The dwar will differ from me to you, from you to the next. It’s as much an exit as it is an entry, as much a passage as a dead end, only depending upon which way you’re heading, or wish to, or are pushed toward. I do not know. Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t.

Somewhere in the waters off the land I stand on, off the coast of Saurashtra, Krishna’s legacy in stone is safe from the prying eye. There’s every possibility that the sliver of land I walk on as I look out to sea will someday recede into the waters, extending the Dwarka of yore, and widening the Gomati further.

Having walked alongside her for a few days, I’d imagine she strains uneasily from being chaperoned by man-made channels as she courses out to the sea. She was placid in the time I spent on her banks, only briefly lapping the steps higher than usual as the tide rose, bringing the small fishes further inland, their aspirations limited by Gomati’s own, for now that is. The ‘now’ that seems forever. The ‘now’ of the moment that seems like eternity.

I stand with my back to the coconut vendor who is busy with pilgrims stopping by for nariyal pani, so busy he has no time to ponder on their pleasure at sipping the refreshing drink he makes them before picking up the next green nut to slice the top off before passing it out to the next eager hand.

In the day, when the Sun is high and strong, there’re few if any visitors queuing up at his cart, the coconuts heaped high and idle, their green the only relief for some distance around. He shares the silence with the camels resting likewise. And the sea contemplates them both while keeping the clouds company.

The picture of calm that descends through much of the day quickly evaporates as the Sun dips and begins its downward journey.

It’s not hot, nor thirsty. Still, a drag of tender coconut water, some tea by the tea stall, a smattering of chaat for the taste buds, and a ride on a camel serves to make the walk to the beach worthwhile, and the pilgrimage to Dwarka, memorable.

Dwarka, Krishna’s Karma Bhoomi.

The years have receded away just as the land he once ruled receded to the bottom of the sea thousands of years ago. Off the coast the divers found Dwarka, or rather some of it, for I’m told it used to be a large, magnificent sprawl. Now fishes roam among large portions of the city that Krishna had declared to be his Karma Bhumi.

The previous day, an elderly man I met in the bazaar, past the Dwarakadish temple, past the sari shops, past the provision stores, had raised his arms above his head, only his advancing age preventing them from straightening ever more skyward, motioning to Lord Krishna’s home in the heavens, before lowering his voice to a whisper, “He (Krishna) saw Kaliyug coming, and drowned Dwarka. It was his wish.”

“I come here each year. Many of us walk for fourteen days to reach here. It’s a tradition,” he said, before continuing, “I’m just happy being here, where Krishna once walked. To walk where he once walked makes me happy. Yeh Krishna ka Karma Bhoomi tha.”

Karma Bhoomi

No sooner I ponder on the words, their import comes sailing on the stillness from Krishna’s own rendering of Karma to Arjun at Kurukshetra. The charioteer left nothing to ambiguity when he said –

Karmanye Vadhika Raste Maa Falesh Kadachan
Ma Karma Fal Heturbhuh Ma, Te Sangotsva Karmani

Karma Bhoomi.

It’s a part of my heritage, the words as much as their import, and calling. I roll them on my tongue. They roll easy, only on the tongue that is, not so in practice. I know only too well. But then that’s a different story, for another time, if ever.

Karma Bhoomi.

There’s a finality to it. A finality that comes from taking a stand, a final stand; a finality associated with making a choice for good, not for the good even though that might be the intended consequence; a finality that will not allow you another chance; a finality that comes from taking a responsibility that cannot be shifted, ever. A finality that says – this is it; this is where I’ll make a difference; this is where I will stay the course, to the end; a point of no return from a resolve made, banishing the possibility of return in the fear of exercising it should the resolve waver.

Karma Bhoomi, the land you work in the spirit of sacrifice to benefit self and society.

Karma Bhoomi, the land where you live and work in accordance with the teachings of your Dharma.

Karma Bhoomi, the land where you experience the cause and effect of your Karm or deeds, your Karma resulting from your deed or Karm.

Karma Bhoomi, the land where you discharge your responsibilities in accordance with the Dharma.

Karma Bhoomi, the land where you accrue your Karma that will in turn determine your present, and future experiences, and the life you’ll be reincarnated as.

Karma Bhoomi, the land that beckons, where you fulfill your responsibilities as a duty, ensuring your actions are not influenced by the desired or expected outcome, acting independently of whether you’ll benefit from it or not, instead leaving the fruits of your actions to your destiny.

Karma; nothing definite; nothing indefinite, its continuity factored into the timelessness of the soul.

I soon realize that I’ve stepped out of the frame even as I remain in it. Voices float by. Shadows shift slowly. I see the camels again, but in a different light. One of them is resting while its caretaker sips tea from a glass, his dusty cotton drawers the colour of earth, and the turban energised by the Sun warming up to the unfolding scene daubs the canvas deep red. He’s in no hurry. Neither is his camel. Stillness flows with time. Lack of it marks time.

While the colourful finery, real and plastic, marks the camel out there’re no ‘lesser’ cousins I can contrast its regal bearing with, at least not in Dwarka. However I was reminded of the camel wagons we passed on the road to Alwar in Rajasthan some years ago, marveling at their tenacity in dragging the wagons heaped with produce long distances. There wasn’t a jot of finery to acknowledge their Karma, not a wisp of colour.

I turn my gaze to the royalty before me, trailing my eyes along the contours of its hump, first rising before falling away, much like Dwarka’s own fortunes.

Each day the camel returns to its Karma Bhoomi with its caretaker, ferrying pilgrims about on joy rides, surviving the passage of time in the memories the pilgrims capture in frames, memories likely outlasting their own lives in the eternity of digital, the only continuum with a beginning but no end. Like Krishna. Like Karma.

The eternity of a moment is in its transience. And I returned from Dwarka with many such moments, stringing the transitory along until it acquired the permanence of a memory.

April 07, 2011

A Goan Landscape in Salcette

I cannot remember ever seeing Purple Herons work the water in a pair or more. Most times I spot Cattle Egrets in greater numbers than Purple Herons, fishing together in harmony, the Purple Heron easily recognizable among its shorter, fairer companions.

The image of a lone Purple Heron in its habitat is riveting not in the least because the lone ranger is a powerful metaphor for survival. It’s an image that can abide, and last time. And one which I’ve marveled in in the silhouette that distance will impose on the traveling eye early mornings and late evenings.

It is one reason why when I pass the waters off Borim in the direction of Margao, past a network of wetlands fed by the Zuari, Goa’s best known river after the Mandovi, I’m reminded of the lone Purple Heron outlined in the winter mist at dawn some years ago, poised in the stillness of its reflection, beak pointed at the sheet of water, not a ripple stirring the sheet to life.

In the moment I first saw it, it had metamorphosed into a painting, and I had paused to take it in.

Behind me the Chowgule Shipyard loomed over narrow waterways snaking inland, sheltered among mangroves fencing off the Zuari. I had turned my back to the Shipyard in the hope of ridding human encroachment in the unfolding scene, framing it so I could commit it to the primeval frame of reference that nature is best experienced in.

Across the Zuari, tracing a diagonal with Chowgule Shipyard, lay Mandovi Pellets Ltd.

Not for one moment did the Purple Heron move in the minutes that ticked by. In the urgency of its morning bite, it had delivered grace to the morning stillness that winter day, the wetland gradually revealing itself in the mist.

The wetlands, much of which are Khazan land, serve as a constant in a fast-changing landscape, and stretch some distance along the road in the direction of Margao before disappearing from view as the road turns South-West approaching Raia.

In late February this year, Ajay and I had turned off the highway at Tembim, riding South-East before turning left at Ganapoga where the waters parted on the landscape to reveal a road we might’ve missed if it wasn’t for a motorcyclist riding the barely visible ribbon.

"It looks like he is floating on water,” Ajay remarked. The road approximated a dyke barely rising above the water even as it kept the water at bay from harvested paddy fields turned to a shade of brown at the far end. It didn’t help that the tide was in, the water almost drawing level with the road.

The rumble of the motorcycle came in a series of gentle waves, fading out just as the next wave breached the quiet of the Salcette countryside, riding the light breeze that blew our way. If it wasn’t for the sound washing up at our ears in steady rhythm with the silence, we’d have been oblivious to the breeze.

The Sun was mellowing down for its date with the evening sky as we rode past a bus stop at the turn that straightened up and ran along, piercing a swathe of trees sheltering Portuguese-era homes before pulling up at Rachol Church adjoining the ferry crossing connecting Rachol with Shiroda to the east.

But before we made for Rachol Church dedicated to Our Lady of Snows, we paused briefly at the Chapel Nossa Senhora De Bom Parte in Caver.

Crunching to a stop in the gravel extending the narrow road on either side, we made for the Chapel Nossa Senhora De Bom Parte set back from the road and facing west.

As we walked up to the Chapel, the wetland stretched east behind us. The motorbike was long gone and silence had returned to the fading patch of sunlight dropping steadily on the Zuari hidden away among mangroves.

Behind us, in the distance the freshly whitewashed Rachol Church appeared like a piece of chalk flung into the trees and held fast by branches delighting in the prize, and history, cast their way for, the Rachol Parish Church is among the oldest churches in Salcette.

A gentle incline stretching a little over fifty yards brought us to the Chapel. The Chapel of Nossa Senhora Do Bom Parto stood alone, unlike most Goan Chapels that exist cheek by jowl with homes in the neighbourhood.

Standing in front of the whitewashed Chapel, I trailed my eyes along the contours of the mountains rising in the distance, their brown contrasting with the sky above while the wetland flattened the landscape to the colour of water reflecting the heavens above.

Decorative lights strung out on wires hung from the chapel, likely put up in the event of a feast in the honour of Our Lady, or possibly marking a thanksgiving function. I didn’t know for sure and there was no one about to check with.

Nossa Senhora De Bom Parte. It was an uncommon title to happen upon in Goa, surely not in my experience traveling around Goa. The title of this devotion to Mother Mary, Capela De Nossa Senhora De Bom Parte, is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ, and consequently sought by expecting women to offer prayers for their well being in the period, and that of their child while promising to bring the child up in a manner befitting the humanity Jesus Christ preached and lived by. The prayer likely including –

I promise to guide my son
Always the right way,
The way that your Son, Jesus,
Traced for all men,
The path of good.

Built in 1899, the Chapel would have been among the earliest to cater to Salcette’s Christian neighbourhoods springing up in Ganapoga. Amid paddy fields and the Zuari abutting inland in the form of wetlands, the Chapel will have witnessed life steeped in and sustained by agriculture and fishing, with rural folk working as farm-hands and combining as community during religious festivals, first as Hindus, then as Christians upon their conversion by Christian missionaries as Portuguese influence swept inland upon their conquest of Goa, devouring the land with an intensity equaling their missionary zeal employed in forcibly converting the largely native Hindu population to Christianity.

It was a long time ago. It was not a long time ago. It depends on whom you talk to.

About us, serenity had triumphed, laying its card face-up. Floating on the breeze, voices of womenfolk walking along the road the motorcyclist had ridden over a short while ago, nudged us to the presence of humanity. Ahead, past the Chapel, a narrow road ended at the gate of a house shaded by trees and coconut palms (Madd in Konkani) in the front-yard. A dead-end.

Coconut husk lay in a large heap where the road ended at the gate. Walking up to the heap I noticed it to be of recent provenance, resulting from coconuts most likely harvested in the neighbourhood. Coconut groves, known as Bhaat in Konkani, are a common sight around Goa. Later I would come upon similar heaps of coconut husk piled up at Xeldem, and then at Pomburpa, all within days of each other, leading me to conclude January and February to be the coconut harvesting months in Goa, though not necessarily restricted to those months.

The open area fronting each house in the neighbourhood was planted with flower beds and trees. Clothes hung from clotheslines. A Goan catholic woman in a skirt was working in the front yard when I made my way across the road just as Srikant, the Podhyer or Poder (a bread vendor selling Pao from a basket covered with the once trademark blue plastic and hitched to his bicycle at the back), came cycling along, honking his hand-held horn, the signature sound much of Goa stirs to in the early mornings and late afternoons and is as much a part of its identity as its swaying palms.

A little girl ran up to him and asked for Kakon (bangle-shaped hard and crisp bread variously spelled as Kakna or Kankan). Kakon (or Kakna/Kankan) is Konkani for bangle.

The leavened, oven baked bread known as Pao (also spelled Paav) and offered up in several varieties is relished by Goans and is a local institution, owing its origins in the tiny state on the West Coast to the Portuguese, with the possible exception of Kakon.

The Kakon I saw growing up in Goa was favoured by Goans at tea time instead of biscuits. As children we would delight in slipping the bangle-shaped crispy bread up our slender arms and wave them in the air before slipping each off and breaking it before dipping it in tea, or occasionally milk, to soften it. Kakon (Kankan/Kakna) is kneaded hard in very little water and fired up in over 270 degrees C. In the lunch-break between classes the mischievous among my classmates would sometimes gather for an impromptu session of Catch using Kakon in the manner of a Frisbee.

The game would invariably end in the Kakon splintering to pieces but not before it had held its own over several flings, necessitating hectic cleaning up before classes recommenced after the lunch-break.

Placed atop each other and held together by a string, the Kakon you see hanging on the wall in the picture above is from my meandering in a village bakery in Bandora.

Srikant had run out of Kakon. He offered the girl the other variety of bread he had in his basket, Poyi or Poee, holding two out as she wavered with her purchase on being confronted with a choice different from the one she had skipped along for.

The Poyi, made from coarsely ground whole wheat flour as opposed to the finely ground Maida used in making Pao, is generally acknowledged as relatively healthier and not just for the whole wheat flour but as much for the absence of sugar in its preparation as for its fibre content, the latter acquired from rolling it in bran, easily visible on the surface. Poyi with sugar content is also offered up for purchase by traditional Goan bakeries.

Personally I favour Undo or Katre Pao over Poyi, unless if I’m offered a batata-vada wrapped in Poyi. Even so I’d prefer my batata-vada wrapped in Pao.

I had half-expected Srikant to offer her Undo or at the very least Katrecho or Katre Pao (Cut-bread) since the latter’s crust approximates the Kakon in crispiness as compared to Poyi, which is softer and more in the mold of Chapati. There’re people who’ll pronounce Poyi as Poli, the latter usage alternating with Chapati among Marathi-speaking people.

For a moment the little girl was undecided, probably wondering if she should buy Poyi after being sent skipping along to buy Kakon.

Soon he had another customer asking for Kakon only to disappoint her as well. Instead he sold her Pao. Kakon or not, nobody went back from him empty-handed.

“Don’t you bring Kakon along?” I asked him.

“I do,” he said. “They got over along the way. They’re in much demand.” I was surprised to hear him say that for, in a village bakery in Velim a little over a year and half ago, the baker I met with had told me that they no longer make Kakon since few favour it now. Hearing Srikant note the contrary, I assumed it must have to do with changing neighbourhood tastes though it seemed unlikely.

Srikant spoke in the heavy Konkani accent that usually distinguishes Goan Catholics uniquely from Goan Hindus, and particularly those hailing from Salcette. But that is not to say that Goan Hindus will not speak in the Konkani accent of fellow Catholics if they’ve lived and grown up in majority Christian neighbourhoods.

There was no one else on the narrow dead-end road separating the mostly Goan Catholic neighbourhood from the Chapel. I gathered it was tea time, a time for quiet, reflection, and a bit of rest from working all day.

A badminton court stretched out empty in front of the Chapel, aiding a spot of recreation for neighbourhood youth, more likely womenfolk for, the men and boys likely favoured football, evident in the page affixed to the Chapel door, listing names of donors contributing to the “1st All Goa 1ASIDE & 3ASIDE Tie-Breaker Football Tournament held on 15th Jan 2010,” organized by Caver Youth Association.

‘2010’ was probably a typo. The page had not yellowed with time and exposure to elements. It should have been ‘2011’ and not ‘2010’. Human beings are creatures of habit and it takes more than a month into the new year to get the year right on paper.

Thirty local residents were listed as donors to the Tie-breaker Tournament, a common sight in Goa, particularly among largely Goan Christian neighbourhoods in Salcette, and to an extent in Tiswadi. While most Tie-breaker Football Tournaments in Goa will split the prize money between Winners and Runners-up, some will stage the tournaments to raise funds for the local parish church, or to local charity supported by the church or otherwise. The tournaments draw feverish competition and much of the village turns up to cheer the contestants on.

The Caver Youth Association had managed to raise Rs. 4,750/- from the thirty donors - Anthony Alemao, Xavier Cardoso, Santan, Gloria, Melinda, Joswin Dias, Erkin Dias, Agnelo Moraes, Wilroy Cardoso, Joy D’Souza, Vinya Monteiro, Jose Gomes, Afi Moraes, Inacio Vaz, Joel Fernandes, Anand Bandekar, Janny Vaz, Stanley D’Silva, Kapil Fernandes, Nobert Pinheiro, Soccoro Dias, Richard Oliveira, Samsan Dias, Mary Dias, Agnelo Oliveira, Rosario Oliveira, Fraser Rodrigues, Costao Pinheiro, George Oliveira, and a ‘Well Wisher’ who didn’t wish to be named.

I was intrigued by the cheeky line below the list of donors that read: “Thank you, may God bless you and help you as much as you have lend a helping hand to us.”

While most donors donated Rs. 100, with a few donating Rs. 200, barring two donors who donated Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 respectively, I'd imagine they'd be generally happy with receiving God’s blessings equally, excepting the few who donated Rs. 50 and could not have been pleased upon learning of Caver Youth Association seeking for them, God’s blessings commensurate with their donation, half the blessings of those who'd contributed Rs. 100, and a quarter of those contributing Rs. 200!

Calling out his presence to the neighbourhood one last time, the Poder paused for a few moments before cycling back the way he had come, soon disappearing out of sight past the bend in the road.

And stillness reigned once again.