THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

In the tropical climate of Goa, there were only three seasons that meant anything to me. They were the ‘rainy season’ (June, July and August), the ‘hot season’ (March, April and May), and the ‘cool season’ (December, January and February).

The months of September, October and November, which would equate to the autumn season in North America, was an extension of the hot and humid monsoons, but without rain. The rice crop would have been harvested in September, followed by our mid-term school break in October.

Now, back in those days we didn’t have swimming pools in the village, and the nearest beach was in Calangute, some three miles away. However, the next best place to cool off during the hot season was a natural spring – popularly known as “the fountain” – in the forested hillside in the ward of Salmona. Its cool, clear water flowed into a masonry channel (about six inches wide) that led to a spout under which we bathed. The fountain might have been the site of an ancient Hindu temple that the Portuguese would have razed in the sixteenth
century. But all that remained during my schooldays was the dilapi- dated rectangular pool like the ones that adjoin the larger Hindu temples in Goa today.

Every afternoon, during our school holidays, I’d grab my towel and an old pair of khaki shorts and call on my friend Cyril D’Souza who would accompany me to the fountain. As we walked along the dirt track leading to the fountain, we’d discuss the stories we had read in the illustrated Classic comics that Cyril’s dad would buy for him.

28thefountainClassic comics were condensed versions of books written by Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas, and other great writers, and Cyril would always pass them on to me to read.

The stories impressed upon us values such as honesty, integrity, and patriotism that had a great influence on our lives.

Cyril went to university and graduated as a mechanical engineer before joining Tata Steel Mills in Jamshedpur, India, while I quit after matriculation (Grade 12). However, for a grade 12 graduate, I did pretty well for myself in various managerial positions in the Canadian subsidiaries of Schering-Plough Inc. and Gillette’s Papermate Division before ‘retiring’ (or just ‘tiring’ of the workplace) to spend my time as illustrator, photographer and writer for Newfoundland’s Downhomer Magazine… and in travelling to countries that have had the greatest influence on the history of mankind.

The Saligão fountain may have been just a little natural spring, but there must have been something in the water. Because almost every kid who cooled himself under that watery spout, and drank from it, went on to bigger and better things in their adult lives.