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Bhôrpis (gypsies) in Goa

Bhôrpis (gypsies) in Goa

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The bhôrpi wanderings in Goa or through Goa have not received any attention of the historians. This article records some personal experiences of the author and his family and friends. It also points to information about the «ciganos» in Portugal, and how many of them were deported at various times to African colonies and Brazil.
The bhôrpi wanderings in Goa or through Goa have not received any attention of the historians. This article records some personal experiences of the author and his family and friends. It also points to information about the «ciganos» in Portugal, and how many of them were deported at various times to African colonies and Brazil.

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Published by: Teotonio R. de Souza on Nov 21, 2009
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= = o HERALD o
Vol No CIX No: 325 Goa, Saturday 21 November, 2009

Bhôrpis (Gypsies) in Goa
ust as I was hesitating about what theme to take up in this column, I received in my inbox a message from Binaya Jena, the national awardwinning film-maker, seeking documentary assistance for her script Goan Sonata, to be screened with a background of Goa of the 1950s and with Oscar-winning actors. She was particularly interested in knowing more about the gypsies in Goa. Binaya Jena had read my Unwrapping Goan Identity and that’s when she seems to have connected in her mind the Goan identity with that of the wandering gypsies. Not a very far-fetched conception of the Goan diaspora, whether seen as outward- or inward-oriented since its relatively distant past. However, Binaya Jena will find it difficult to find traces of the gypsies in Goa in the 1950s, because that was a particularly worrying decade for the Portuguese administration. The satyagrahis had become a nightmare for it, and any roaming gypsies were likely to face zero tolerance from the Portuguese authorities. I first heard about the gypsies from my dad. Recounting his own “gypsy” past that took him from Goa to Hyderabad, where he initiated his expat career in the palace of the Nizam, to the time it would nearly 50 years later in the palace of the Sheikh of Kuwait, he was forever impressed by a gypsy who read his fortune. He was more impressed because she had told him that he had very recently lost a brother! That was a reference to his late brother Calisto, who had drowned at the tin manos (triple sluice-gates) in Moira, where he had gone fishing. Just a few years ago, I wrote a foreword to Alfred de Mello’s book of memoirs, entitled From Goa to Patagonia (2006). In the book, he too writes about a Hindu astrologer, who drew up his horoscope and had predicted that he would end his life in Patagonia. He took it as a joke whenever his father would warn him to behave well if he did not want to reach Patagonia. However, all said and done, he has been living in Uruguay (near the region of Patagonia) for the greater part of his life. The soothsayer inspired the title of his memoirs. Gypsies too know how to exploit the general human fears of facing the future and capitalise on them. I know that there were Bhôrpi in Goa. They occasionally scared us as kids during the Portuguese times. Bhôrpi was equivalent to uncouth or ill-dressed



TEOTÓNIO R DE SOUZA examines the history of the gypsies in Portugal and in Goa, and the age-old negative perceptions about them
authorities were effective in checking the movements of the gypsies in Goa, so that they were dissuaded from finding their way and circulating more confidently within Goa territory? Very likely, because from the time of dated presence of the Spanish gitanos in Portuguese Estremadura and some other regions, there are repeated royal orders banning the gitanos from entering into Portuguese territory. Such orders continue throughout the following centuries, proving obviously that the royal orders had little or no effect, until King John V (17061750), who for whatever reason disliked gypsies heartily, took tougher measures and deported them in regular batches to African colonies and to Brazil. There is one of his orders in 1718 indicating India as one likely destination. Historians will need to check that up in the surviving documents. One of the royal orders issued to the governors in Brazil and Angola was that the gypsies should not be allowed to return to Portugal or to use their language ‘Gerigonça’. This word continues in the Portuguese vocabulary, and from it derived the term gíria (= calão, jargão). Konkani too retains the word ‘gerigons’ to mean tudkibhas, but also false promises or something alike. Curiously the gypsies or ciganos of Portugal, related to Spanish gitanos, speak a language that contains words of Indian origin, such as pani (=water), cani (kan=ear), chalar (chalunk=to walk), chardó (chadar=), chor (=thief), churi (suri=knife), dai (mother), boque (bukh=hunger), chaló (=go), dicaló (deklo=saw), etc. According to a study by Adolfo Coelho in Portugal, the rom (gypsies) of Portugal are culturally closer to the Indian origin than the East European branches. The earliest gypsy groups may have arrived in Portugal in the fifteenth century. They were given the legal classification of ‘vagabundos e marginais’ (nomads and marginals). The classic Portuguese dramatist Gil Vicente has a play entitled A Farça dos Ciganos wherein he characterises the irksome begging practice of the gypsy women and children. He also points to their skills in black magic and fortune-telling. Due to this latter practice, in particular, they were persecuted in by the Inquisition. It is yet to be checked if the Goa Inquisition did not have such victims in its records. I can only wish all success to Binaya Jena’s Goan Sonata and her Goan gypsies! May these bring good luck to her and to us in the coming years.


Ageing Princess, fading beach

he Disaster Management Authority’s sub-committee on River Princess on Thursday rejected both the bids submitted for removal of the grounded ship at Candolim Beach, on ‘technical grounds’. Two companies had submitted bids for cutting up the ship into sections and floating it away. These were G M Services of Mumbai, and the old, unsuccessful suitor of the Princess, Jaisu Shipping. For the latter, it was its fourth bid. Apparently, a clause in the tender that the ship has to be cut into not more than five pieces for salvage deterred potential bidders. The government had floated tenders for removal of the ship, grounded since 2000. The technical bids were opened on Friday 13 November. This day seems to have proved unlucky, because both company’s bids have been rejected on technical grounds. G M Services submitted that it can complete the job only by breaking the ship on the spot. This is unacceptable, and it was therefore rejected. Jaisu, on the other hand, submitted options to either tow away or to break the ship on the spot. Why its tow-away bid was rejected remains to be seen. Both companies naturally claimed that they were technically qualified for the job. Tourism Director Swapnil Naik said that the government would have to verify the claims before considering either. This sounds strange, considering that the government had earlier awarded the contract for salvaging the ship to Jaisu Shipping, a company whose expertise is in dredging, not in salvage. Is this a subtle admission by the government that the company may not have been qualified to do the job? The tragedy is that with this new development, tenders will have to be floated afresh for the salvage operation. It is already mid-November. Even if the government moves quickly on the new tenders, it is unlikely that they can be opened before the end of December or early January. This means it may be end-January by the time the contracts are awarded. That would leave only three months of fair weather for the task, an impossible time frame in the circumstances. This means that the chances of removing the vessel before the onset of the monsoon in 2010 are bleak to nonexistent. What does this development mean for Candolim Beach, which has suffered from alarming erosion as a result of the grounded ship? Last year, large chucks of land adjoining the beach were swept away by the angry waters. The government’s attempt to stop this, by sand-filled ‘geo membrane tubes’, recommended by the Central Water and Power Research Institute (CPWRI) and implemented by the state Water Resources Department at the exorbitant cost of Rs6 crore, failed to protect the heavily eroded 1.5 km section of beach from further devastation. Each geo tube was about 20 metres long, 3 metres in circumference and designed to rise to a height of 1.8 metres after being filled with sand. Each tube could hold about 24 to 30 tonnes of sand. They were supposed to be laid in the sea and on the beach, to form a double barrier; the line of geo tubes in the sea would break the waves’ velocity and help deposit sand in between the two barriers. However, said the contractors, cross currents made it very difficult to lay the geo tubes, so they put down only one line, to protect the beach. Half measures rarely work. The big monsoon waves simply battered the high-cost tubes till they were in tatters. Endless delays have made the removal of the River Princess very costly. The estimated cost has now been calculated at a staggering Rs75 crore. Of this, only Rs25 crore can be recovered through sale of scrap. It may seem like a huge sum, but every monsoon will only raise these numbers, not lower them. If at all a new tender is floated for the Princess, it should be for the postmonsoon season in 2010. Let us get the formalities over before the monsoon starts, so the contractor can get started as soon as it ends and take this ageing Princess away.

in common Konkani parlance till very recent times. S R Dalgado’s classic Konkani-Portuguese Dictionary of 1893 lists the term as meaning trickster, robber. Today’s Goa has made a big cultural turnabout and we can visit a gypsy mart or a gypsy boutique near the Calangute football grounds, or view the bull dance by roadside as in http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ACYzZ-Wa8zk where a traditional bulldancer gives instructions to his bull in English, or a westernised metallic high-decibel ear-mistreat of Gypsy music associated with the Anjuna freak festivals. Victor Rangel-Ribeiro posted the following information to the Goa-Research-Net cyber-forum on the 16th of this month, drawing from the unpublished memoirs of his father in 1930s: “A group of bôrpi came to Saligão when I was about five years old. We lived at that time in ‘Filpa Tio’s house’, which faced a field that led to a toem and was the second house east of the crossroads where the Mapusa-Verem road via Pilerne met Saligão’s main street. Joaquim José Campos and his family lived some houses farther to the east of us, and closer to the pond. The gypsies, men, women and children, prepared to set up camp in the field opposite our house and some neighbours came to our house in a panic, asking my father to intervene. The fear was that they would steal whatever they could, including livestock and children! However, when my father prepared to go out, my mother became quite concerned and almost hysterical; I have a faint recollection that a knife fight had already occurred or been swiftly aborted. Anyway, in the middle of the turmoil, a cabo (Portuguese police officer) showed up from Mapusa with no weapon but a whip in his hand, and he ordered the group to march before him on the winding road up the Saligão hill. They surrounded the man and there was a bit of an argument, but he showed absolutely no fear and the group eventually did as he commanded.” Could it be that the Portuguese colonial

Tongue in Cheek

his week saw the whole country and indeed the entire cricketing world shower accolades on Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar on his completion of twenty successful years of playing cricket at the highest level. And why not? Over the years Sachin, on his way to breaking several records, has given every Indian something to cheer about, something to be proud of. Completing twenty years in international cricket is comparable to celebrating one’s hundredth birthday. It takes resilience, motivation, passion, determination and, above all, physical endurance to achieve what Sachin Tendulkar has achieved. Many of us may not have played the game of cricket, or for that matter any sport, at even the school level. But there are a lot of things we can learn from the life of this little ‘master blaster’, who can now also be called ‘master laster’. He has lasted in international cricket for so long that younger team-mates like Yuvraj call him “grandfather”. How could Sachin Tendulkar have lasted for so long in a competitive sport like cricket? Sachin says that it is passion for the game which has kept him going. Indeed passion can be a great driving force for anything we wish to do over a period of time. “Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things,” wrote Denis Diderot. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion. Our very own Leander Paes plays the game of tennis which intense passion.


Learning from Sachin
That is probably the reason why he has been playing on the circuit for so many years. You need not be a sportsperson of international repute to show passion for something. People like Baba Amte have show a passion for social service. Others have shown a passion in religious matters. Some have a passion for writing – I have been writing for newspapers for the past twenty-five years. The same enthusiasm is there in writing an article today as it was when I wrote the first article a quarter of a century ago. One need not do great things but should strive to do small things in a great way. Determination is a quality the master-blaster has shown in great abundance. You should be determined to accomplish whatever you have set your heart to achieve. Many great personalities have not lived to their full potential because somewhere on the way they gave up. They showed very little determination to achieve their goal. Many times success goes to one’s head. As a result of the pride that follows, the person meets failure. Sachin Tendulkar has been an epitome of simplicity. He has his feet firmly on the ground, even though he has achieved success of unimaginable magnitude. That is what separates truly great persons from the mediocre. People tend to get carried away by their temporary success. That contributes to their downfall. We should be humble even if we have achieved success. Indeed humility is one of the greatest virtues that one can possess.

By Adelmo Fernandes

Sack the DGP!
Peter Andrade, Vasco
DGP Bassi should be sacked from the police force for equating churches with casinos. He needs to realise that one does not go to church for entertainment or for the purpose of financially benefiting or ruining oneself. After falling flat in the Vasco church blast case, I wonder what the DGP is trying to prove with such blasphemous statements. The media has time and again said that the police patronise and benefit from illegal gambling. DGP Bassi has now proved that his senior officials are also into gambling and has compared this act of visiting the casino with spirituality. Can the wise DGP tell us who bombed the Vasco Church? The Goa police need to realise that they are testing the limits of patience of

the Christian community, which are not boundless, even though the Bible prescribes forgiveness.

Letter of the Day
Soter D’Souza, Socorro

Freedom to gamble
Cedrick B Fernandes, Margao
With regard to the report ‘Clean chit for casino cops’ (Herald, 16 Nov), I would like to know the basis on which DGP is equating churches and temples to casinos and why he has not mentioned other religious institutions apart from churches and temples. Were these police officers trying to fulfill the Indian Constitutional rights of equality and freedom of expression during their visit to the casino and by organising belly-dancing at the inauguration of Anjuna Police Station? Is he trying to motivate youngsters to frequent casinos, by ruling out any action against these seven police officers and by saying that casinos are not illegal? What message are the police giving the Goan youth, when casinos and belly-dancing are not part of Indian culture?

Policing or hooliganism?

100 Years Ago


Belly-dancing for all!
Murad Karol, Navelim
The campaign against DGP Bhimsen Bassi and his officers is unfair. What he originally said has been misinterpreted by the media. The police did not go to a rave party. Casinos are legal, and they went there while they were off-duty. Some people are in the habit of criticising others for some hidden agenda. When most of the politicians go to five-star hotels to see belly-dancing, then why not police officers?

21 November 1909
Saptah festivities begin Wood prices shoot up
In the City, the festivities of the Saptah of the Hindus, which will last 7 days, have begun. The price of wood has shot up in the District of Bicholim due to devastation caused by mining explorations.

The reports about some senior police officers partying on an off-shore casino should not surprise Goans. It is sad that a couple of respected police officers got entangled in this controversy. But the behaviour in the police department has by and large been not at all exemplary. A law-abiding citizen visiting the police station may end up being verbally abused, while thugs and anti-social elements get a dignified reception. The reply of the DIG to the casino incident and the belly-dancers speaks volumes about the sick mindset prevalent at the topmost level. Visiting a casino could have been compared to a visit to the toilet, bar or a brothel. In no way can it be equated to a visit to a place of worship and prayer. If the argument that casinos are legal holds good and there is nothing wrong in police officers patronising them, does it mean that it would be appropriate for senior police officers to indulge in booze parties after office hours, as alcohol consumption is legal? Are senior police officers not meant to be mentally, spiritually and physically fit for duty 24 hours of the day and therefore avoid places where they can become vulnerable to compromising behaviour? What example do these officers set for their subordinates? Defensive arguments that the police are only human may find favour in other states but not in Goa. We have a sizeable population who have been abroad or at least have relatives who narrate experiences about the fitness levels and sober social behaviour of policemen in other countries. Policing, which is a sacred duty, has unfortunately been reduced to a mere hooliganism in Goa due to increased politicisation. Senior police officers need to find positive and constructive avenues of entertainment and coping with stress, other than boozing, gambling and gaping at foreign belly-dancers. sand dunes and greenery will be destroyed to accommodate the additional beach shacks. ite restaurants. What made our holiday so special was being able to walk the length of the beach without falling over sun-beds or having no room at times to walk on the beach due to the number of sun-beds. We had no hassle on the beach and found a nice restaurant further back than the temporary shacks normally are, which was fine for us to eat, drink and be happy. Though the weather was not perfect, it really was blissful to walk on that gorgeous stretch of beach. I am sure if things remain like this Goa will attract a better clientele who enjoy peace and space.

sert that the Rs150 advocated by the Minimum Wages Advisory Board is reasonable. Most unskilled labourers in Goa are migrants and are paid much more than that, sometimes even more than some white-collared Goan workers. If the minimum wage of unskilled labourers is raised, the repercussion will be that skilled labourers will demand more. As manufacturers and industrialists raise the prices of manufactured goods, there will be all-round inflation in prices of essential commodities, in turn leading to unemployment. Several unskilled workers have eventually become skilled workers. Rather than putting the government to shame, we need to blame the workers who choose to remain unskilled.

Letters to the Editor
Paths of Wisdom

Sachin puts his heart and soul in his game. He is one of the most intense players around. He enjoys his game. That is the trait we should possess if we are to achieve something in life. We should enjoy whatever we do. The more you enjoy doing a thing, the more are the chances of you coming up trumps. It is only when you enjoy doing something that you can give a hundred per cent. Sachin has been able to achieve greatness because of his physical endurance. A tennis elbow almost ended his career. But his determination to get back on the field, which resulted in him working on his fitness after an elbow surgery, speaks volumes of his reslove. Sachin said that while recovering from surgery he could not even lift his son’s bat. But he came back more strongly from the injuries. We may not be called to go through a physical endurance test. But we often require mental endurance. Many a time we lose a battle much before it is fought because of our mental attitude. Sachin has never rested on past laurels. There is a world of difference in experiencing satisfaction and being satisfied. When you are satisfied is when you stop performing. One should have an insatiable thirst for success. Sachin said that he never discussed a game that was finished, but prepared himself mentally for the next game. We should always look forward. Indeed, we have a lot to learn from this boy from Mumbai who took the cricket world by storm.

Nirodha and Ekagrata
Attention, contemplation and meditation are anterior to and not immediately productive of that kind of meditation in which the distinct cognition of the object is lost, which is called meditation without a seed. There are two trains of self-reproductive thought, the first of which results from the mind being modified and shifted by the object or subject contemplated; the second, when it is passing from that modification and is becoming engaged only with the truth itself; at the moment when the first is subdued and the mind is just becoming intent, it is concerned in both of those two trains of self-reproductive thought, and this state is technically called Nirodha. In that state of meditation which has been called Nirodha, the mind has a uniform flow. When the mind has overcome and fully controlled its natural inclination to consider diverse objects, and begins to become intent upon a single one, meditation is said to be reached, When the mind, after becoming fixed upon a single object, has ceased to be concerned in any thought about the condition, qualities, or relations of the thing thought of, but is absolutely fastened upon the object itself, it is then said to be intent upon a single point — a state technically called Ekagrata. (Patanjali)

Women to the fore
R Fernandes, Margao
Two-wheelers are doing roaring business in Goa. Their advertising theme is ‘macho’, and this is fueling reckless driving. The ads are taking a toll on young Goan lives. Girls are more level-headed and understand that this type of ‘macho’ behaviour is just not worth it. It is time they take control and cock a snook at show-offs. The greatest ‘macho’ quality a young person can show is disciplined driving. Create a revolution on Goan roads. That will be the mark of a man.

Sena vs Sachin
Yogesh A Shivji, Pernem
The statement by Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray on Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar is in a really bad taste and has hurt the sentiments of millions of people in India and abroad. The Shiv Sena is playing the game of politics in the name of ‘Marathi Manoos’ and hurting the Indians’ sentiments and feelings.

Uneasy heads
Blossom Cabral, Nagoa
It is said, “Uneasy is the head that wears a crown.” A helmet cannot be termed a crown, but it can protect the rider’s head from an injury in case of an accident. After all, prevention is better than cure. Letters should be 150 words or less in length, and should have the writer’s name, address and telephone number. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for size and readability, and to delete any personal attacks or libellous /objectionable matter.

Assassination plot that wasn’t

The arrest of two individuals mentioned in OHeraldo two days was motivated by infringements over a license to sell gunpowder and not to assassinate Lord Minto.

Reduce the shacks
Maria Fernandes, Calangute
Cyclone Phyan has made topographic changes in altering the Calangute, Baga beach stretch with sand erosion. GCZMA needs to conduct a re-survey of the beach and reconsider the reduction of beach shacks. The media has shown the sand erosion on this beach through photographs. If the Directorate of Tourism does not reduce the number of beach shacks, more

Millionaires turn smugglers

Various millionaires from New York, Philadelphia and other American cities are defrauding the American government by indulging in large-scale smuggling.

Shack-less perfection
Michelle Bradbury, UK
Our sixth visit to Goa was unique and we had a perfect holiday. We met all the good friends we made over the years and ate in our favour-

Keep wages low
Aureo Fernandes, Margao
With reference to Alex de Souza’s letter ‘Paltry minimum wage’ (Herald, 19 Nov), I feel as-

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