Assolna - Oslem Naam

By Cleofato A Coutinho
18 May 2013 23:22 IST

I grew up in Assolna, a village bounded by the river Sal to its north and west. We were always told that after Velha Goa, Assolna had been a great administrative centre during the Portuguese era. We were raised with tales of glory that surround our village and the pride of the marshal spirit of the villagers of Assonla, Velim and Cuncolim (AVC). It is believed that the village name Assolna comes from Oslem na (nothing like it). Assolna is one of the villages confiscated by the Portuguese on the lines of religious intolerance in 1575. The aura with which I look upon my village probably rubbed down to the next generation.

One of my daughters, who was then in Std.VIII, had to write an essay in French on ‘My City’ as an assignment. She wrote on ‘Cidade de Assolna’. The teacher summoned my wife to question her. She believed that we have brainwashed the child with respect to the village. She opined that if our thoughts are regional, only ‘Cidade de Panjim’ could fetch marks.

As you enter Assolna after crossing the river Sal, one finds an old church dedicated to Regina Martyrum (Our Lady of Martyres).This church is over 400 years and was built in the vicinity of a Portuguese fortress on the banks of the river Sal. In the church compound lies the awesome statue of Christo Rei’ with two angels blowing their trumpets and the four apostles, all of marble, providing that majestic entry to the village justifying possibly the origin of its name. We have grown up with the belief that it is the only one of its kind in Asia. The village market welcomes all with a huge cross and  Betal temple alongside.

Dr Ram Manohar Lohia came  to the village  at the invitation of Dr. Juliao Menezes and the 18th June 1946 Civil Disobedience Movement was   pioneered from there. All the intellectuals and political thinkers of that time assembled at Assolna to draw up the blue print, of the struggle that was to follow leading to the liberation in 1961.

Villagers who worked in Bombay would generally come to the village in the month of May. Most of them enjoyed the evening walk towards the ferry wharf on the western side (Cavelossim side) or a walk along the road winding through the fields which would double up as salt pans of ‘Ogorwade’ (now Sucaldem in Chinchinim). The ferry wharf area and the bridge are great points for sunset viewing both for the young and the old.

As I look back to the days of my remembrance, in particular to the school days in the village parish school where I studied up to Std X, the village has not changed much, except that the fields are fallow, the Mangalore titled houses have become ground plus one RCC structures with the remittances from the gulf and the earnings of those who work on the ship. The trend that started a few generations ago of working on the ship or in Africa and now in the Gulf has not changed. Besides the remittances, the economy of the village was otherwise agricultural. . The villagers find it no more economical­­ to grow paddy or coconut trees which were the main economic activity until a few years back.

I remember many of the village fields having two crops. For my mother, the busiest time was during the monsoons when she had to gather labourers for cultivating, weeding, harvesting, drying and storing the paddy. The paddy would then be bartered for the various necessities of life.  Even the village laundryman who would come every week to collect clothes for washing would be paid by way of paddy. There was never money at home but the house economy was controlled by the general merchant-cum-coconut trader who would collect the three monthly coconuts plucking for the regular supply of items of daily consumption and would also provide loans to meet other expenditure. There was the summer economy of mangoes and jackfruits that would take care of holidays and the purchases for the new academic year beginning in June.

 

Though the village had a high school even in the sixties which catered to the young of Cavelossim, Velim, Chinchinim and parts of Cuncolim besides Assolna, the influence of the elders working on the ship or in the gulf somehow stultified the educational aspirations of the young. The lure of the ship was too much to overcome. The dropout rate around standard VIII was quite high even in the mid seventies. Even now the trend is not drastically different, the bar is now raised to Std X. Somehow the hospitality sector due to tourism boom has further added to the problem. The starred hotels across the river are seen a stepping stones to further the traditional employment in the Gulf or on the ship. Somehow this state is not seen as a land of opportunities and that is the bane of the entire coastal belt in Goa. Despite all the village pride, the spirit of entrepreneurship has not caught on. The gulf and the ship is still seen as the only haven for ‘coming up’ (whatever that means).

A few mirror images are worth recording. The April-May holidays was a time when the village would come alive as the villagers settled in Bombay came down on a holiday. Their presence added colour to the village, particularly the fanciful clothes. For a long time, the three quarter pants were seen only during April-May period.

The paddy fields which would dry up by April would become playgrounds for inter-village, inter-club and inter-ward football tournaments. Village tournaments were always a major activity in April-May that kept the youth busy. For me the high point would be waiting for a Cuncolim V/s Ambelim match that would normally end up with the losing side invariably  invading the grounds. The village now has a SAG football ground; but the enthusiasm of the seventies is lacking.

The local assistant parish priests always played a big role in organizing the village youth. The Assolna Youth Association was housed in the village hall with a full-fledged library. The association organized some of the major all Goa sporting events in the seventies. In the eighties the Assolna Welfare Centre built the children’s park without any public funds. Government now spends lakhs of rupees only in its renovation. In 1938, Dr.Juliao Menezes founded Clube Juvenile de Assolna to instill a   nationalist spirit along with sporting activities.

Collection of twenty-five paise was a big thing. It permitted us to hire a cycle from the village cycle shop for an hour and go around the surrounding villages without a reason or cause.  I cannot forget the local feasts after ten days of novenas with the stalls doting the church compound. The game of dice, locally known as godgoddo had always been a part of all village festivities in all the villages. Even Good Friday was not spared!

Speaking of Good Friday, the holy week was always a time when the local lake (ogor) fish was caught after the drying of the ogars. Though Good Friday is a day of abstinence fish was always on the table. Our village is known for its river fish. The Sunday tinto would always have persons from neighbouring villages. Even Madgaunkars who are strictly vegetarian on Monday normally drive down to Assolna for the tasty river fish for their Sunday meals. On Sundays the price of fish in the village is almost prohibitive.

For me, my village story would be incomplete without the mention of my Christmas star and crib. The star of bamboo and crib of wooden ribs were gifted to me by Franciso. He had fulfilled a child’s fancy in the midst of weaving his many baskets, way back in the year 1975. The same star is decorated with fresh white paper then by me and now by my daughters and lit every year and the same crib is used year after year for the past over thirty-five years. 

Even today I look forward to sitting in the balcao of my ancestral house in  Assolna in the  mornings to read the morning newspaper. Come to Bairo Premeiro, even the morning tea tastes sweeter there. For every Goan his village is a childhood story, a family narrative, a community memory, scenery of green fields and salt pans dotted with a temple or white church: the pictorial image of my village is also similar, yet so different! 

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

Hi sir,

I am pleased to read your blog. I am glad that you still have the same love towards ur native land.I am very much interested

In this place Assolna ...that is coz of a girl who inspired me of this place who is my colleague here and undoubtedly yes I like her a lot ... ppl come to goa to spend their holidays to forget their tiered boring life but I visited goa last year just to feel Assolna.may be Maria's nature inspired me to visit this awsome place,but unfortunately

even after 3 days of my investigation I could not find her ansisteral home ..hmm.

There is very limited info about this place in Web and am extremely happy to have read ur lovely blog.

Thanks with warm regards,

Shreesha Rao

- Shreesha, Karnataka,Bangalore | 25 th January 2016 22:36

 

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