A sneak-peek into life in Goa decades ago

Have you ever wondered how Goa was in the past? A simple 82-year-old Goan lady shares details about her life with us.

Sheryl Gonsalves | NT GoGoaNow

What was Goa like during your youth?

There was unity in the family. My mother used to go out of the way by making less for the family and giving the neighbour. My food diet was usually rice and curry. Chicken and other meat was a luxury which was eaten for festivals. Beef was rarely consumed but pork was the most common thing. There were no fridges so we made dishes that could last for some time. I also usually had pulses, beans, pumpkin, gourd, and long string beans.

A lot of superstitions were believed in those days. We were told to not go out at night because evil spirits are roaming. On ‘All souls day’ people believed that the souls will come and drink water. They would keep food on top of the roof for the souls. Another superstition was that after midnight a headless evil man/ spirit will roam with a stick. So if people heard any sound like a stick beating something, they would put the lights off and hide in the dark. One day I waited till midnight to see if such a man was passing. I never saw anything.

There was no luxury for many people. It was a simple life. I used mango leaves to brush my teeth. People weren’t that qualified in those days and job opportunities were less. We had good relationships with our neighbours. People were in harmony, were very helpful, and had concern for others as far as I remember.


Tell us about your daily routine during those years.

It was very peaceful then. The beaches and river were very clean. There were no hippies around. Goa was pollution-free and the food was more natural, simple, and tasty. River fishes were delicious but now the taste isn't that good.  There were a lot of trees around and plenty of fruits were available. Since very few hospitals were built, treatment was done in the house with local herbs. We hardly went to the doctors.

Our houses had cow dung floors. All of us used to sleep on a mat. Every household had a hole in the kitchen table where you could pound your paddy to get rice for daily use. Taking it to the mill was cumbersome, so it was done at home. Our house didn’t use electricity and so we had kerosene lamps which we made ourselves. There was water scarcity and so we had to get it from someone else's well. I used to carry 3 huge pots back home from that well. Whatever leaves were fallen on the ground were collected by us every day before going to school to heat the water.

I remember that during World War II there was no food. My mother had to go walking all the way from Colvale to Taleigao for food because hardly anything was available. She used to stay overnight there and come back home to us with a sack of sweet potatoes. We had to eat sweet potatoes for a long time. To light the lamps in our house, we had to stand in long queues for kerosene. There used to be many fights over the kerosene.


What are the differences between life in Goa that time and life now?

Modern life is different. I now live in a furnished bungalow. These days’ messages can be sent instantly. We used to send telegrams for urgent news. There was no proper sanitation in the olden times. Most of the people were illiterate but now they have big degrees. Violin was more famous at that time. Drummers were there and saxophones were also played. The music that time doesn’t sound like the music now.

During the monsoons we used wooden slippers. Raincoats weren’t there. In fact, plastic was not to be seen. There was no public transport. Some people used to travel in a ‘Kameo’- similar to a bus. We used to mostly walk. Rich people used to wear ‘chinella’- leather velvet embroidered footwear.

For church, my mom used to wear a sari and cover her head completely with a white cloth which was called ‘wole’. The rich people used to bring stools to church while the rest sat on the floor. During my time, there were no halls to celebrate weddings. People used to celebrate it in their compound and cover it with coconut thatches or cloth. The brides used to wear saris and not much jewellery. They used to travel in the ‘machil’ which is similar to a palanquin.

We didn't have an easy life. Our generation isn't scared of rats, cockroaches, snakes, etc. All the hard physical work done by us has made us healthier in comparison to the newer generations.


 What was your school like?

There weren’t too many activities in school. Football was a popular game. We didn’t have projects and all that but we had to write a lot. Our classrooms were poorly maintained. Teachers were very strict at that time. My math teacher used to hit our hands with a big ruler until it became red. However, they were also kind. The problem of bullying has always been there among students. That time there was the Portuguese rule so our second language was Portuguese.  I forgot the language now.

My brother used to fish during his school interval, run home and give it to our mom and then run back to school. He did all this in half an hour. If his cycle tyre got punctured he used to fill the tyre with hay and continue cycling as we didn’t really have access to pumps or repairmen.


Do you have something to say to the people of Goa now?

We lived in harmony. There was so much love and concern for everyone through tragic or happy occasions. This is definitely missing in today's Goa. We Goans are basically caring people and this care we used to show each other in the past irrespective of caste/ religion should once again be ignited in our hearts.