May 16, 2006

Hilvon goes to Dabholim

Who will forgive me for poring over and sometimes giggling at the obits in the Goa papers? Yes, the obits. I once subscribed to The Statesman for three years purely because of their obit notices; after Goa, I'm considering a similar subscription to O Herald or The Navhind Times.

What's funny, you want to know?

For one thing, a lot of the ads look similar. At the bottom, they list the agency that has placed the ad: Confident, Digital, Boss are three. After a couple of days and several obits, you don't need to look for the name, you can tell the agency from the style of the ad. Confident tends to be elaborate and font-heavy; Boss is spare, minimal.

For another thing, nearly every notice, regardless of agency, has this line at the bottom:
    Relatives and friends kindly accept this as the only intimation.
But best of all are some of the names that you see listed in the ads (for example, of mourning relatives and friends). Check these out:
    Succorina, Asica, Princessa.
    Joyfon, Hilvon, Aplone.
    Oshan Maize, Georgit, Denver and Denveer.
    Micas, Taumaturgo, Plinio.
    Quiteria, Veristers, Felly.

    and my favourites:
    Filander, Educacao and Wilmix.
Why is "Education", in Portuguese yes, a name? Why is "Filander" a name? And where did "Wilmix" come from?


A warm and charming 91-year-old friend lives essentially alone in a great rambling house in Macasana. Huge rooms, high ceilings, rusted and cobwebbed umbrellas hanging from a beam, well behind the house, piles of old magazines everywhere and fading photographs on the walls. Loved the place on our last visit, 12 years ago, it's even better this time.

Over a glass of red wine, we get talking about the Portuguese names for various places. Suddenly, he leaps up and rushes into his bedroom. "Come here!" he calls. We follow him in there and find him pointing delightedly at a gorgeous old wood bureau against the wall. It has 15 or 20 drawers, and our friend asks us to get closer and look at them.

Each drawer has a name carved and painted on it. Some are now faded and hard to read. But we find "Mocambique", "Tanna" (Thane), "Dio" (Diu), "Damao" (Daman) and "Bacaim" (Vasai).

And "Ceitao", anyone know where that is?


Speaking of names and Portuguese ... if you pay attention to the names in Goa, to the way Konkani is spoken, it strikes you that in at least one respect, the Portuguese were fortunate to have ended up in this particular little pocket of India. Because the way Konkani is spoken seems to lend itself naturally to Portuguese pronunciation. The nasals, the soft "j"s and "sh"s and "t"s, the "ao" and "aw" sounds all fit Portuguese well.

So the way locals pronounce what we would write as "Kurtori", with a slight nasal inflection at the end, could be written easily in Portuguese as "Courtorim", the final "m" indicating the nasal part. Similarly "Panji" to "Panjim", "Parvari" to "Porvorim", "Dabholi" to "Dabholim", even "Vasai" to "Bacaim".

And then came the really interesting part. The local "Panji" got Portuguized (to coim sorry coin a word) to "Panjim", and that got Anglicized to the way a lot of people now pronounce it: "Pan-jim", to rhyme with "Tim". Similarly "Dabho-lim" and "Porvo-rim" and so on. "Vasai" went to "Bacaim" went to "Bassein."

One more sign of the delicious mix of cultures here. Now where did "Wilmix" come from?


Anonymous said...

"Ceitao" is probably "Ceilao" - Ceylon, or Sri Lanka, where the Portuguese once had a presence.
Talking of Portuguese linguistic influences, not many people know that just south of Mumbai (or Bombaim / Mombaim, as the Portuguese spelt it) is a village called Korlai, where the people still speak a Creole Portuguese mixed with Marathi, that dates back to the sixteenth century!
In fact, have recently been shooting a lot about this and other aspects of the fascinating "Lusification" of various Indian community cultures that took place in places like Goa, Bombay, Daman and Diu, under Portuguese rule - for a TV series I'm currently doing for Portuguese television called Contacto Goa

Dilip D'Souza said...

Hey Christopher, I should have realized that was "Ceilao"! Thanks. Tell me more about Korlai, how do I get there? It sounds fascinating and I'd like to visit.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks Christopher! I will certainly go. I've deleted your comment to prevent some kook calling you. Will call/email to get some more details, when I can do this.