Personal Tributes
to Pascoal

Family Trees

About the Author



Early in the morning of 25th May 1908, a son was born to Caetano Maria de Mello and his wife Christalina. It was their second child - their first having been a daughter, Maria Severina. The arrival of their first son must have been a particularly joyous occasion.

Caetano Maria de Mello

Christalina de Mello

To quote Anjuna's well-known writer of happy memory, Lucio Rodrigues : "A son is always more welcome than a daughter, for a son is the 'lamp' of the house, one who will help in perpetuating the family name. Above all, he is a financial asset, a potential wage-earner...... a son's coming is celebrated with three packets of crackers. That expresses the fullest measure of domestic bliss in our patriarchal society. Three is a mystic number, a sacred number, a lucky number, and so, a salute of three packets at the birth of a son."

The room in which the baby was born still stands as part of the present family house in de Mello vaddo. But with further extensions made to the house, the room has long been converted into a "dispensa" or store-room for dumping odds and ends like little-used bamboo mats, old brooms and kitchen utensils.

The baby boy was delicate; and maybe for this reason, or perhaps pending the arrival of his father, the baptism was delayed for several months. It was only on 18th August of the same year, 1908, that the sacrament was administered by the parish-priest in the church of St. Michael, Anjuna. We have obtained that information from the baptismal certificate, and also know from the same source that the god-father was Cosmo Napoleao Nunes and the god-mother Humbelina Carmelina Brito.

We know little else, for as Pascoal himself later humbly recorded in his personal memoirs : "My childhood was an uneventful one, having been born in poor surroundings." His early years were spent in the simple rural environment. The vaddo was still a cluster of primitive dwellings: palm-frond thatched roofs propped on a framework of solid posts sliced off the trunk of the coconut palm tree. Mud walls rose up from an earth flooring smeared smooth with a mixture of dried cow dung. What greenery there was around consisted of the scant vegetation the inhabitants kept planting near their homes, and shrubs and bushes which sprang up naturally in the now more fertile soil.

The child Pascoal woke daily to a chorus of sounds that gradually became familiar: the gentle twitter of birds, the lusty crowing of cocks, their wings aflutter, the grunting honk of pigs and the repeated barking of the dogs. He knew everyone around him in his friendly neighbourhood and never tired of watching people getting on with their daily chores, relaxing at last when the day was done. Life moved at a gentle pace - no one was in a hurry!

Little Pascoal played with his friends, running along the mud paths, chasing the pigs and sending the ducks and chickens helter- skelter; or just rolling his "atto" or metal hoop - all when he himself was little more than a toddler! In place of the bicycle of later years this was a fun-way to run on errands even when he was a little bigger.

Greatly attuned to his natural surroundings, the boy Pascoal was much attracted to the birds and like every naughty imp he aimed his home-made catapult at them. Yet he also wanted to have these feathered creatures as pets and searched for baby bulbuls in their nest. He kept them captive in box cages, alongside little squirrels that he had also ensnared.

Escola Regia

Young Pascoal was also drawn to the sea. How he longed to leap from the rocks and dive into the deep water! He also yearned to catch fish. He did go on the rocks to try his luck, but his mother soon came to know and strictly scolded the little lad. Perhaps what also deterred him was an event that he, an octogenarian today, recalls with startling clarity. Etched in his memory is the awesome vision of a victim of drowning. A woman of the vaddo had gone as usual to collect sea-weed, adrift at the water's edge, to use as manure. Somehow she was dragged away by the raging current, and when her body surfaced on the beach she was carried home and, in what must have been a desperate and futile effort at resuscitation, was hung head downwards for the water to drain out.

But young Pascoal indulged his pleasure for water-sports in other ways. At the age of ten, like most boys of his age, he began his primary education in Portuguese. This was in 1918, the year in which World War I terminated. The school he attended was the recognised Government institution located at the Tembi, a somewhat elevated ground, not far from his home. He walked there daily with a group of boisterous little boys from the vaddo. The school was their first real exposure to what lay outside the vaddo for "Escola Regia" provided an excellent meeting-ground, bringing together several children from all over the village. In Pascoal's day a priest from Guirim was in charge.

It was in this school that the young lad learnt to read and write in Portuguese. He acquired also his elegant flowing handwriting which must have been a great asset to him in his later clerical career. It has retained a distinctive flourish to this day.

His days in primary school also had some very memorable bright moments. School opened in June; the nights were marked by heavy thunder-showers and forked lightning heralding the onset of the seasonal monsoon. Incessant rains then lashed down, cooling the parched earth and creating a welcome respite from the prolonged intensive heat of summer. Soon the fields and even the mud roads got swollen with the coursing water gushing down from high places. Brooks and streams and numerous puddles appeared most invitingly on the surface. Overnight the ponds were turned into delightful swimming pools.

Which healthy lad could resist the temptation of playing truant? Soaking wet anyway, it was easy to slip home undetected when it was time to tear oneself from the pleasure of indulging in such heaven-sent water sports.

Red-letter days


The festival of "Natal" - birthday of the Saviour - always calls for special preparations. Every home in the village, however humble, observed the long-standing tradition of putting up a lighted Star. This initially involved the simple procedure of slitting firm bamboo sticks, joining them with string to form a five - pointed star. The frame was then covered with thin sheets of tissue paper. A lighted candle was then inserted and set on a perch. This would make the whole star glow. To every child this simple home-made lamp was an object of wonder.

There was also a bustle preparing typical Goan culinary Christmas delights: the inevitable "neureo", a rice flour fried pastry stuffed with a mixture of scraped coconut sweetened with "gor", black palm jaggery (mollases). Maybe there was also "dodol", a thick spread of rice flour cooked in coconut juice and "gor", garnished with cashew nuts. And "dos", yet another platter of sweetened ground coconut cooked along with cardamon-flavoured pulse. And of course "sorpotel", that spicy Goan pork specialty which lasts for days, tasting better and better, gently heated in the traditional "thowli" or earthern pot over a crackling wood fire. To go with it would be fresh "vodes", wheat flour pastry cut in rounds and fried in deep oil or, better still, fluffy white "sanna", cakes of rice fomented in "toddy", flowing juice of the coconut palm, and steamed in a special "confro" or deep cooker made of copper or clay.

Santa Cruz

But the real highlight in the village calendar was 3rd May - feast of the Holy Cross! As was customary, a cross marked the entrance to the vaddo. Ever revered as affording protection to the inmates, it stands as a symbol of solidarity. In de Mello vaddo, as all over Goa this celebration was a big event, a most welcome break in the hot sultry season before the rains.

The cross was invariably given a lick of whitewash. A festive air would be created with streamers of coloured paper , garlands of flowers and leaves decked from tree to tree, and flickering wax candles lit in the gathering dark. Then, at the loud burst of fire crackers the crowd would assemble to join in the traditional litany, in chorus.

This "ters" in Konkani, "ladainha" in Portuguese, would be sung with the greatest gusto by one and all. For everyone knew it by heart as it had been handed down for generations. Invariably there was at least one solitary violin accompaniment. After the Litany itself, there was a long recitation of common prayers, mostly for the benefit of the living and deceased members of the family of the main celebrant.

Happily, after this came festivity in a lighter vein. We have Lucio's description again: "What followed was the usual social gathering, the distribution of boiled gram with coconut chips, conversation among grown-ups, mischief among the village scamps, and general good cheer. The first service of drinks, fenni for men, branco for women and boys, went round. It was a quick gulp down the tired throats of all. Then came the second round. The elder holding the cup of fenni in his trembling hand raised the toast in Konkani and lastly, an excited "viva" leading to the grand finale "viva maruya, saud koruya" - long life and health!

Cashew seed contest

Another exciting event in the vaddo during the height of the summer season was the annual cashew seed contest. Who was best at the game? It was the marble game, but with cashew seeds used as a substitute. And who could present the largest seed? This involved search - no problem at all, for this was the best time in the year for gathering fruit.

Stolen fruit, they say, is the sweetest. Goa has a natural abundance of delicious fruit. There were in season such a choice variety for boys on the rampage with nothing better to do. While their elders - lethargic in the heat - stole a nap, they stole fruit. And the lovely cashews, bright yellow and red, were far too irresistible! Specially good to chew on a blistering hot sunny afternoon!

When still green the seed yielded "beebes", a sweet tender white kernel. But the smooth dull grey seed of the ripe cashew was lopped off and stuffed into many a boy's pocket for the game. The largest find was stored hopefully for the final selection. The winning seed was split open, its kernel scooped out and the hollow filled with molten lead. This made an excellent "boto" or striker for the game.

So many other fruits too! Mouth-watering raw green mangoes , to be eaten stealthily with salt; and so many mangoes - ripe and luscious, hanging invitingly from branches, high and low. Which young lad could resist such temptation? There were juicy "jamlans", big purple berries literally falling plop, squealching their rich dark pulp and carpeting the ground beneath the boughs. The scrub bushes too were loaded with "churnam", white milky berries - just waiting to be picked!

San Joao

This feast fell on 24th June, invariably the day of torrential rain when all the wells in the village were overflowing. Young men of the village took this as a signal to display their prowess in swimming. They donned a green floral wreath on their heads and, bare to the waist, boldly leapt into the wells. Soon, to the joyous beat of the "ghumot ", earthern drum, up they surfaced proudly retrieving the choicest fruits that had been flung down specially for them by young pregnant mothers of the village.

This festival is supposed to commemorate John the Baptist leaping for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, when her cousin, the Virgin Mother, entered their home pregnant with the child Jesus.

Old Goa

When Pascoal was in primary school he sometimes accompanied his mother to Mapuca - the big market centre of Bardez!

At the great Friday Bazar one could purchase provisions to stock for the rainy season when communication would be difficult. It used to be a treat though they went on foot for the three miles, sometimes getting a lift in a passing cart.

Once his mother and he went along with a group from the vaddo to visit Bom Jesus, the famous church enshrining the relics of St.Francis Xavier. December 3rd is the feast day of "Goencho saiba"/ Lord of Goa! Once every ten years the body of the saint is exposed for public veneration, and draws thousands of people from all over the world.

Going to Old Goa, Pascoal and his mother trudged part of the great distance on foot. It was interesting: bullock carts chugged along; now and then passed a wealthy couple seated lazily in their private "machil" or palanquin, drawn on the shoulders of four burly sweating "bhoias". And sometimes they watched with a trace of envy people seated in the "match-box" - a vehicle that matched its name in shape and size. Drawn by a pair of sturdy bullocks, it was somewhat like a carriage with a step, doors, windows, and seats for about six passengers. Yet,despite the discomfort of travel, the jostle and bustle, it was good to be part of a friendly group and to witness also the fun of the fair.

These were some of the delightful happenings in childhood spent by Pascoal in the peaceful little vaddo that was his home.

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