Parra – SWEET, RED MELONS..
People in Bardez know Parra because of its sweet, red watermellons. People elsewhere know it by virtue of its pioneering English institution, the Sacred Heart of Jesus High School. Though these are Parra’s important facets, the fame doesn’t end with them, because the enigmatic Porrikars have shone in various walks of life.
Porrikars get their nickname kallnganche dhodde
Though Parra, Canca and Verla are clubbed together into a single parish, the village has two separate panchayats and three Comunidades. The typically caju covered hills hedge the North- West from Assagao, Anjuna and Arpora in an emerald semi-circle. Otherwise Parra shares borders with Mapusa, Guirim and Nagoa. The undulating topography dissolves in the vast, fertile sandy plains, and sprawls over 3.5 square kilometres of picturesque countryside.
Porrikars got over the problem of traversing long distances within the village, dotted with as many as 23 wards, with the help of bullock-carts. The humble bullock-cart played a crucial role in the agrarian economy before the turn of the last century. Enterprising Porrikars were heading the boyadas
From Goa the caravans carried salt, dry fish and bettlenuts. Each Bardez village contributed five carts to the ancient caravan, which was traditionally headed a cart from Parra. Rigging and repairing carts and cartwheels too developed into the village as a result, and this is still being done by the Charis of Parra. Goa’s Charis are very intelligent craftsmen and blacksmiths, capable of assembling carts to cars, repairing any type of locks, and one Parra family excels in etching tombstones. Of course, good goldsmiths come from here like the late Jagannath Chodankar, the best diamond setter’s in Bardez once.
Of course, today Porrikars own plush cars and involve themselves in a variety of enterprises from catering to construction and from bottling soda to producing imitation jewellery. Yet carts, which creak and rumble along the typical palm-lined roads, still form a common scene along the roads bisecting the fields. Similarly, one watches man, woman and child ploughing, watering and gathering watermellons, chillies and sweet potatoes.
“Though we are basically agriculturists, the prosperity seen around is owing to Gulf remittances,” says Claudio Pacheco, owner of Habitat Furnishers in Parra. He adds, “The paddy, onions and chillies we grow are meant for home consumption and only the excess is sold. But what fetches hard cash are the watermellons.”
The Pachecos, virtually 50-odd families with over 200 members, claim that they had imported the art of growing the tastiest water mellons when they left their native Majorda, the watermellon nursery of Goa. Today the Pachecos have nearly outnumbered others and converted the Almeida Vaddo into Pacheco Vaddo. Goa’s famous trumpeter Alex Pacheco comes from this stock and vaddo.
Entrepreneurship of Porrikars was first witnessed virtually in the last century when the late Mariano Almeida started Amchi Agbott Those who migrated to the then Bombay, were helped by the elementary education obtained at the local Sacred Heart High School set up by the late Walter D’Souza on 7th January, 1872. It was the second English school of Goa and its alumni include some very prominent Goans – the principal of Dempe College Dr SN Lawande, Judicial Commissioner Tito Menezes, public prosecutor Leo Gama, mining magnate M S Talaulikar, former editor of Marathi daily Gomantak
The Goan community of East Africa will remember the distinguished services rendered to English education by the late Ildefonso D’Souza. And there is a whole lot of famous Porrikars like the late Willybald Paes, who was the Consul for Cuba in Bombay, Dr Norman Luis, scientist at the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre in Bombay, Clifford and Clarence Rebello, scientists at NASA in the US, Dr Leo D’Souza, head of the Orthopaedics at the University of Minnesota, Napoleon Almeida, a research scientist in the UK and Dr Angelo Mario Freitas, Director of the Aga Khan Hospital in Zanzibar.
Even if the list sets one’s head spinning, one need not bother because there is Dr Cleta Lobo and her daughter with ready psychiatric help. Ivan Rocha, the popular teacher of St Britto High School in Mapusa could reel out a litany of local greats.
And if you miss the Mumbai side of the story, drop in at Francis da Gama’s tastefully set house at Almeida Vaddo. In this vaddo, noted writer-environmentalist Claude Alvares and his advocate wife Norma have settled with their kids, who rear snakes and fish for pets.
Coming back to white-bearded Francis da Gama, he was the foremost Lusis hockey player. He was selected to captain the Indian side for the 1948 Olympics but horse-trading was rampant even then and he lost the privilege. But in horse racing, jockey Joseph Luis, from Parra, won a baker’s dozen in the very year of his apprenticeship. In soccer, mercurial striker Visitacao Lobo represented India in the USSR, while Bobby Purke, Jerry Nogueira, Vishwas Gaonkar and proudly donned State colours.
The late Bishop Andre Paulo D’Souza (1889-1979) was the first Indian Bishop of Pune. The late Conego Jeronimo Freitas was the first Goan DD in Rome and was the rector of the Rachol seminary and Dean of the Se Cathedral. Bishop Gilbert Blaise Rego has recently retired as the Bishop of Simla/Chandigarh.
Quite a few Porrikars plunged into the freedom struggle and some names which come to mind are Peter Alvares, Laura D’Souza, Sacarai Shirodkar and Frank Andrade. There were quite a lot of outstanding social workers and doctors.
Among the non-coastal villages to have outdoor eateries, Parra boasts about Alvito Santiago’s Alva Mar Restaurant and Alex Saldanha’s Emerald Lawns for dances and weddings. Marie Nogueira figures among the most sought after dress designer by Bardez brides for their wedding trousseau. Among gourmets, Francis Fernandes has earned kudos for the tastiest continental cusine and today ranks among the cream of Goan caterers for special occasions.
When Francis was young, he enacted female roles beautifully in Konkani dramas. Talking about tiatrists, one recalls the role Francis de Parra, played in the development of the Konkani tiatr as he was one of the finest composers and singers. His brother Sebastian (S.B. Radio) too excelled in this field. Joaquim has set up Joma Builders and a row of buildings is already up where Parra meets Mapusa. At the foothills, Gregory and Nicholas are manufacturing beautiful imitation jewellery, which is marketted countrywide. Parra is no more a cart-and-wheel tale of yesteryears. It’s evolving constantly and picking up rudimentary industries.
One can’t leave the village without visiting its monumental landmark, the church of St Anne built in 1649. The church has beautiful murals done on its vast ceiling. Earlier Parra formed a part and parcel of the vast parish of Nagoa. The church was, however, attacked by the forces of Sambhaji while the Luso- Maratha war was on in 1683. The villagers have set up a multi- purpose hall behind the church but the sports stadium which was started way back in 1992, is still to be completed.
Parra has a couple of lakes which help irrigate the fields during summer. The one which is called Ganesh tollem at Verla is supposed to have a tunnel linking it to the dhobi lake. No one has yet verified this claim. Perhaps one could find traces of the old Hindu heritage, of destroyed temples and deities. Not much of the past is seen in Parra today though a few new Hindu temples have been erected recently.
It’s time to bid adieu. In Parra the places for the sundowner ain’t among the several glitzy bar-restaurants which have cropped up all over the place. Considered locally as the right place is the vintage Moti Bar (Loja de Vinhos Nativos) established in 1862 at Sales Vaddo and the Simao Bar nearby. These tavernas have served the feni fraternity for donkey’s years without respite. And despite the fact that feni is a badly watered down version of the age-old Goan traditional drink, these establishments somehow manage to serve the better stuff. And like wasps to a flame, the brotherhood throng at these watering-holes at Anjelus time. And one might even hear a voice singing, Uddon gelem paruveamchem birem…