The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 5
By Domnic Fernandes
KORONNDD ani PANZ
In the olden days, practically every family in Goa raised chickens - some made a living by selling eggs.
Before nightfall, chickens had to be kept indoors. If they were left outside to perch on the trees, they could be eaten by a “kattandor” (wild cat.)
By the time the Angelus bell rang, people would be busy calling out chickens - bha-bha-bha-bha-bha.... in order to bring them indoors. The chickens recognized the call was for them to get indoors and go into their “ghudd” (coop) where they would spend the night.
Those who had many chickens built a “kombieancho ghudd” (chicken coop) where they spent the night. But those who had few chickens used a “korondd” (a special bamboo-woven basket similar to Mittachi Konnki but much broader and larger in size); its top had a cover.
If all the chickens could not be accommodated in a ghudd or koronnd, they were gathered in a place inside the house and covered with a “panz” (a large basket like a cage made from bamboo with little windows.) A large “munddkutto” (wooden log) was placed on the top of a panz so chickens could not escape from it.
We all know that a mother chicken is very protective of her chicks. Whenever crows or eagles hover in the air, she hides her chicks under her wings and protects them.
During the day, a panz was used to cover newly born chicks to protect them from the clutches of predators.
Panz reminds me of a Konkani proverb: “Kombeak panji pondak dhamplear to sad ghalinastannam ravchonam.” (A rooster will crow even if it is kept under a panz; or just because the rooster didn’t crow it doesn’t mean that the sun won’t rise!
Here I recall a Konkani duet titled “Kombo kombiechi amizad” from Oslando’s cassette ‘Boas Festas’ in which the male owner of a rooster asks the female owner of a hen, as to how much dowry she would give to which she replies thus:
Male: Sang almar tum ditoli kosli. (Tell me, what type of a cupboard you will give.)
Female: Panz kelea zonelanchi (I have prepared a panz with windows....)
Here again, it was the Mhar community who made the koronndd and panz and helped Goans make a living out of chickens!
Weren’t these items indigenous?
In the olden days, we came across two types of “chavni” (strainers – devices with perforations through which finer particles pass through to separate them from coarser ones) – one made of metal, which was used by the well-off people, and the other was bamboo-woven, which was used by the middle-class and poor people.
The latter was manufactured by the Mhar community. It was mainly used to sieve husked rice and other cereals.
Even drying of boiled paddy has a method – it has to be dried just right so that when it is taken to a husking mill, it does not produce “konnieo” (broken rice.)
As a matter of fact, boiled paddy is never dried fully in the sun; it is brought home and left to loiter on the floor for a couple of days “zuim taka ravon-pavon chavo marit ravtat” (where it is turned over every now and then.)
In case boiled paddy is over-dried, you get mixed quality rice - whole and semi-broken. This type of rice is not considered good for daily rice consumption at lunch or dinner. But it is okay to prepare “pez” or kanji and also to prepare breakfast items like kailoieo, poye, san’naa, etc. where rice is soaked in water overnight and ground into “vanttlelem pitt” (ground flour) the next morning.
Goans may have been poor but they had their own standards and one of them was to eat good staple food with whole rice grains - not broken.
Therefore, whenever the husking machine produced broken rice, after it was brought home, next day the women of the house sat down and separated whole rice from konnieo.
They placed a few handfuls of husked rice into a bamboo-woven chavon, held it in both hands and moved it in a clockwise position while at the same time hitting its sides. In order to hasten the sieving, they held the chavon in left/right hand and placed free hand into it and stirred the contents, thus forcing konnieo to fall through tiny perforations at its bottom. The process is known as “chavnnem ghalunk” (to sieve.)
Usually, konnieo were fed to the fowls, which in turn gave eggs; so, it was worth it. Konnieo were also used to make various rice-based sweets.
Wasn’t the ingenuity of the Mhar community admirable?
A pettaro is a basket just like a panttli but it had four small legs to keep it elevated from the floor; and it had a cover. It, too, was a multi-purpose item.
In the olden days, no feast or occasion was complete without ‘san’na’, which were prepared from soaked ground rice, grated coconut and leavened with “maddanchi sur’ (coconut toddy.)
San’nas were prepared in special enamel ‘pirieo’ (saucers) which were then placed in a “konfro” (a large copper container with a dome-shaped lid and a round metal plate with holes in the center) on which san’na, sirvoieo, pudd’dde, etc. were placed and cooked.
Depending on the size of a konfro you can cook a dozen san’na at one time by placing six saucers on the metal plate and another six on top of each other.
Once san’na were cooked, they were taken out from konfro and placed in a pettaro.
Similarly, during Christmas time, every house prepared ‘kusvar’ or Christmas sweets at home like nevreo, kolkol, etc. The first item that was prepared and dip-fried was a cross made of maida flour. Once all the kusvar was fried, it was stored in a pettaro.
The pettaro used during Christmas time was prepared with colored “hevam” (layers of bamboo,) mostly red, green and yellow, which made it look more attractive during the festive period.
Whenever we felt hungry, we would go to the ‘kuart’ (room), open the pettaro and eat as many sweets as we wanted.
If the contents of the pettaro got emptied faster than they were expected to last, our mother would sarcastically remark: “Kednam don paimanche undir pettareant pavlet ani nevreo khavn kabar keleot tor?” (When did the two-legged rats get into the pettaro and finish the nevreo?) The only item which remained intact and safe in the pettaro after all the kusvar was consumed was ‘the cross,’ which we dared not eat!
During distribution of vojem, bol and bananas were placed in a pettaro, and doce, kokad, bathq, etc., were placed in its cover and taken around.
The cover of a pettaro was also used to make ‘soji’ – a Goan delicacy served at a bhikareanchem jevonn. Soji is made from ukdde bhatache tandull (boiled rice), datt ani patoll narlacho ros (thick and thin coconut juice,) ‘borddilele gonv’ (broken/course wheat) and “maddanchem godd” (coconut jaggery.)
Broken wheat is soaked overnight in water. Thin coconut juice is boiled and ukdde tandull added to it. Borddilele gonv are then added to the mixture and allowed to cook until the mixture turns soft.
Finally, maddanchem godd is added to the mixture along with the thick coconut juice and the contents stirred until the mixture thickens. Just like on’n, soji has to be constantly stirred with a large wooden ladle, as the liquid can burn at the base of the vessel in just a blink of an eye. Fresh plantain leaves are then placed in the cover of a pettaro and soji is spread on it.
While on the subject of a Pettaro, I remember whenever children went around without any clothes on, people remarked thus: “Xi, xi, xi, nagddo pettaro.” (What a shame, what a shame, you are naked! This expression was used for both genders, male and female.
Also, while massaging and giving bath to a child, the massager/parents/grandparents would sing thus:
Xetkarachem mut pion ghara ailolo!”
Wasn’t the Mhar community wonderful designers of utility items?
As we all know, Goa is a land of coconuts. In the past and even now as soon as a piece of land is bought, people dig a well and plant coconut saplings in and around their properties.
Until around the Seventies, properties were wide open - there were no compound walls separating them; only “nis” (landmark or boundary stone) separated properties.
Goa had and still has a lot of cattle – cows, buffaloes, goats, etc. The only difference now and then is that present owners do not look after their cattle; they just leave them lose day and night, thus troubling the whole village; whereas, previously, owners either looked after their cattle or hired the services of a “gorvam raknno” (cowherd), who took them to graze in open areas or on a hill.
During the Portuguese regime, if any cattle ate home garden plants or paddy fields, all one had to do was to catch them and hand them in to the Regidor, who was the sole authority in the village – more on this authority some other time. Keep in mind there were neither Gram Panchayat Offices nor Police stations in villages then.
“Zonvarank dhorun voron Regidorager depostan ghaltalet” (The animals were caught and deposited at Regidor’s residence.) Once the offenders came to know that their cattle were detained at Regidor’s, they would approach him for their release.
The Regidor then sent for the person(s) who had brought in the cattle and met with both the parties. The cattle were released to their owner only after paying a fine with a severe warning not to repeat the mistake. If none approached the Regidor to claim the detained cattle, they were sold to a slaughter house.
When stray cattle, especially cows and buffaloes graze, they don’t spare “kavote” (coconut saplings.) Therefore, the kavote were protected with a “virlem” (cylindrical cage with small holes.) It looked somewhat like an hourglass but its mid-section was much broader. It had a tapering top to allow palm leaves to grow.
Virlim were also used to protect other plant saplings like those of mango, chickoo, jackfruit, etc. and even decorative plants. Nowadays, people use empty tar barrels to protect various saplings outside compound walls by the roadside.
The virlem is kept in place with the support of at least three “khunttieo” (wooden poles) around the sapling. As the sapling grows, smaller virlem is replaced by a bigger one and at this stage the khunttieo are removed and the virlem is tied to its “pidde” (palm leaf stems) with a "vayo" (fibrous peel from the upper surface of a green frond) or a sumbhacho kuddko.
People ordered their requirement of virlim in the summer for use in the monsoon when coconut saplings were usually planted.
The Mhar community took bulk orders for the manufacture of virlim. When the product was ready, they arranged them into bundles and delivered them to their customers.
To the naked eye, the bundles looked huge, as at least 8-10 small virlim were tied together; 5-7 large ones. The person carrying the bundle looked so tiny underneath that we (children) thought it was an ant carrying a huge load on its back! Actually, the virlim are light in weight but the sight of the huge bundle on a person’s head looked funny; at least to us, children!
Today, if we see vast stretches of coconut trees and have palm-fringed beaches throughout Goa, it is because the Mhar community helped protect them with virlim!
Does anyone think of the Mhars’ outstanding service to our society? Weren’t they great?
To be continued …………….
© All rights reserved
Forwarded by www.goa-world.com
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)