Time-locked Tamboxem

This perennially tranquil and cool village has an unfading appeal.

By Alister Miranda

If you are a nature freak, the 26-km drive from Mapusa to Tamboxem will undoubtedly be for you an exhilarating experience. Rolling hillsides, dipping valleys will fly past as you zoom through on the well maintained National Highway 17. The picturesque panorama, in fact, starts unfolding as soon as one steps on to the Colvale bridge and into the Pernem taluka. Dhargalim, Malpem, Poroscodem, and Uguvem are virtually delineated on an expansive canvas in varying shades of green, before one comes face to face with Tamboxem. From here, Mopa literally lies east over Tamboxem’s shoulder, and Patradevi, which marks the Goa side of the Goa-Maharashtra State border is just 6 kms up North.

The romance with Tamboxem begins from its west with the caresses of the fish laden Tiracol River that beckons the interested angler, and heightens as one moves up its gentle gradient into the embrace of a cascading fresh water stream.

Coconut, mango, jackfruit and cashew trees dot Tamboxem’s countryside amidst bountiful rice fields, giving it a typical rural profile. Agriculture is the main occupation, as farming activity goes on almost round the year. Toddy-tapping was the prime occupation almost every Catholic family indulged in once upon a time, but, surprisingly, today there exists not even a single toddy-tapper. The decline which began around twenty years ago, has now come to a full stop. The present generation is not interested in the tree-climbing profession say the elders; and are seemingly afraid of heights. Some manage to find work in the hospitality arena, others are vehicle drivers, many have joined the police force and other government departments, while a few toil in foreign lands.

The unsophisticated, but simple, honest and hardworking folks live a rugged rustic life. The fields and the hills are where one would find them toiling; busied as they are in rice cultivation for most part of the year and in caju feni distillation during the summer. The only time they may be found lazing is probably while they keep company to their cattle that is grazing.

Tamboxem’s overpowering feature is its tranquillity; closely followed by the extraordinary coolness that envelopes it. And the combination of these twin natural ingredients have lent the village the hues of a nature resort. Even the motorised highway has not been able to disturb the soothing stillness.

“It’s cool, quiet, peaceful, silent and healthy. It’s cool even in the summer,” says young John Fernandes while describing his village. The freshness of the river on the west and a riverine stream gurgling past from the hilly east could be responsible for the existent coolness. In early December the sweet water that has its source up in the hill-hidden springs of Mopa, is harnessed by putting together a very innovative village designed ‘dam’ at Voilem Bhag ward, that forms the eastern landmark. The formation of a resultant ‘swimming pool’ transforms the area into a picnic spot during summer. A continuously flowing pool is what attracts picnickers from neighbouring villages to join the Tamboxemkars in enjoying their summer even as and when the mercury soars. The water which traditionally has been used for cultivation is then shared by the villagers of Uguvem and Tamboxem by canalled diversions. The set-up is dismantled in May before the monsoons set in.

Pointing to the spot where the dam will be built in December, Arjun Ganesh Asolkar informs us that coconuts are ceremoniously broken and the ear of a goat is cut off and put into the bandh while it is being constructed. “Nallacho ani bokdeacho man diumcho podta“, he says. The bund, which till recently was of mud and stone, is always built before the Zatra. The shaded coconut grove near this water-front belongs to the late Constancio Lobo.

Once virtually cut off, Tamboxem now at last finds itself well connected via the NH 17 that passes through its corridor. “There were no roads and no transport. We were always walking,” say the elders. This inadvertent aloofness deprived the Tamboxemkars from marrying brides from other villages. So the brides came from Sawantwadi, Satarda and Vengurla in neighbouring Maharashtra and, in rare instances, from Arambol and Morjim in Pernem taluka, since parents from other talukas would dare not marry their daughters into this once ‘remote’ village. But this is no longer the case as a change has now come about. Thanks to the well-oiled transport system in place, brides from Goa’s Sattari, Pernem and Bardez talukas, are nowadays easily attracted to Tamboxem’s eligible bachelors. Getting to and from Tamboxem is no problem at all, for buses galore zip through the village to Patradevi and beyond; and those include Maharashtra’s State Transport buses.

Another crippling feature that bowed out once Liberation set in was the poverty that riddled the Tamboxem of yore. Money was hard to get under the Portuguese regime, but the villagers hardly complained. Even the freedom struggle activity that went on relentlessly in Mopa failed to rub off on them. Reportedly, since no freedom fighter hailed from this village, the Portuguese police outpost at Tamboxem was never in danger.

Arjun Ganesh Asolkar uninhibitedly speaks of his impoverished younger days. “My father was an expert at slicing out beams from coconut trees, but would be paid just two paise per finished beam. My mother would come home with only half a pod of rice for every Khandi of paddy she polished,” he narrates, while also adding that plenty of wild fruits, at times, formed a major part of their diet. “We were very poor during the Portuguese era. The silver lining came along with Goa’s liberation,” confirms 72-year-old Anthony Fernandes, a retired Camp Supervisor of the Kuwait Oil Company. And grabbing the ‘silver lining’ with both hands, Tamboxem slowly treads the path to progress.

“Don’t mistake us for being backward. We are on the road to progress and development. We get and we thrive to get what we want for our village,” points out Tamboxem’s enterprising young brigade. The combined dedication of the two panchayat members in the seven-member panchayat, and the village folks’ unbridled dedication has now given them a panchayat building that houses, besides the Tamboxem-Mopa-Uguvem Panchayat office, the post office, a bank and a library; a. telephone exchange and a government primary school (that lie adjacent to the panchayat building); a sports ground, an ambulance and a cemetery. Once electricity lit up the village, the ‘ghosts’ vanished, nevertheless, plenty of interesting and ghostly tales and anecdotes still float around. With no market place, for shopping, it is the well stocked weekly bazaar in Pernem held every Thursday that Tamboxekars rely on. No flashy hotels here, but do check out the bhaji-pao at Visava hotel, and sip from an assortment of thirst quenchers at the Royal Hallmark bar & restaurant.

Health care is what Tamboxem sadly lacks. A sub health centre limitedly operating from a private residence doesn’t help much. The closest doctor practices in Uguvem. In olden days, the ever reliable Voiginn’s expertise with ganvtti vokot (country medicines) it was that tackled many a health problem successfully. Babies were effortlessly delivered in homes by the voiginn midwives. The Late Concessao Marie Fernandes, a voiginn of repute, is respectfully remembered; and the ageing but amazingly agile octogenarian Annie Fernandes is still in demand for her medicines specially for donth and gonxe – both children-related illnesses. Till recently she used to undertake the post-delivery oiling and massage of mother and child. “After hospitals sprung up I gave up delivering children in homes,” she smiles.

For education, Tamboxem relies on Pernem and Torsem. In the early ‘40s there was a Mistir (teacher) from Salcete who conducted Portuguese classes upto Second Grau, in the chapel’s residence where he stayed. He is also remembered for keenly encouraging sports. The slightly educated Hindus used the temples to teach the uneducated.

Bounded on the North by Torsem and on the South by Uguvem, Tamboxem comprises the traditional wards of Govandi Wada, Voilem Bhag, Siddharth Nagar, Bodant and Tamboxem. Predominantly Hindu, Catholics make up just 25 per cent of Tamboxem’s population. But the numerical religious imbalance has in no way dented the perfect communal harmony that has traditionally existed here. “We are all one. There are no distinctions whatsoever,” quipped agriculturist and cattle owner Mahadeo Ramkrishna Samant, while his Catholic brethren smilingly nodded in agreement.

The 40 Catholic families, majority surnamed as Fernandes and Lobos, are affiliated to the Pernem’s St Joseph’s parish. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated once a month at the petite 200-year-old chapel dedicated to St Francis Xavier. The chapel feast, which was formerly celebrated on 30th December is now held on the 20th of May with great pomp.

vv1The main Hindu festivals celebrated are Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Shigmo; all of which revolve around the Brahmani Mandir, Dadheswar Mandir, Datta Mandir and Vithal Mandir. The Zatra held at the Brahmani Mandir in December is Tamboxem’s biggest Hindu festivity. On the day of the Zatra, the idol of Brahmani Devi is ceremoniously taken around the village in a palanquin upto the Dadheshwar temple. On this day, the village folk play host to bus loads of people that specially come all the way from Karwar in Karnataka for the Zatra. They very often also come for Holi.

The reason for this Karwar-Tamboxem pilgrimage is that their Goddess stays at this village. How come? One would ask. The answer: because the first settlers in Tamboxem are believed to be people from Tamxe, a place near Karwar. And thus the ethymology of Tamboxem also stands revealed. These early settlers then left the village – the reason being unknown. Maharashtrians from Paroda and elsewhere then chose to embed their roots in this village. They branched forth and have till today remained rooted to Tamboxem’s red soil. The Brahmin families – Desai, Samant, Patil and Govankar mainly pack the ‘Tamboxem’ ward.

Brahmani Mandir facing the east and standing alone in silence amidst greenery provides great ambience to pray. The Siddharth Nagar, which consists of only the Mahar community, lies tucked away into the woods beyond the Mandir. Historic pointers indicate that the possible segregation of the lower caste Harijan community in the bygone days may have led to the isolated d