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This biography is an attempt to enlighten foremost our grand-children about a part of their roots. I have tried to trace back to my parents´ birth and upp-bringing in Goa - India, my childhood and teenage years in Nairobi – Kenya and subsequent settlement finally as an adult in Uppsala – Sweden.
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META-quartet 2016, from left to right, Amanda, Emma, Matilda and Tove
To Matilda, Emma, Tove and Amanda (META) – our grandchildren and rose buds in the spring of their lives – my love and profound gratitude to each of you for enriching my life.
Chapter 1: Introduction and Background
Chapter 2: Goa – India
Chapter 3: Nairobi – Kenya
Chapter 4: Uppsala – Sweden
Chapter 5: The Pros- and Cons- of the Three Cultures
Chapter 6: The World awaiting Our Grandchildren and Concluding Remarks
ABBREVIATIONS (listed in the order of appearance)
META-quartet – Matilda, Emma, Tove and Amanda
SAS – Scandinavian Airlines System
SIDA – Swedish International Development Authority
KSTC- Kenya Science Teachers´ College
FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation
WHO – World Health Organisation
DDT – 1,1,1,-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane, p,p´-DDT
PCBs – Polychlorinated Biphenyls
NFA – National Food Administration
RGI – Railway Goan Institute
BBC – British Broadcasting Co-operation
GI – Goan Institute
RG – Royal Gymkhana
II – Indian Institute
UK – United Kingdom
UTK – Uppsala Tennis Klubb
KFUM – Kristen Förening för Unga Män
UIF – Uppsala IdrottsFörening
UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme
MS – Member States
EU – European Union
GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms
NF – Novel Foods
MS – Member States
YMCA – Young Mens´ Christian Association
SEK – Swedish Crowns
OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
CC – Catholic Church
BMI – Body Mass Index
This narrative is a diary of events and experiences intended foremost to enlighten our grandchildren – Matilda, Emma, Tove and Amanda (I have nicknamed them as the META-quartet) – who hopefully will master English by their teens and be able to apprehend what moulded their grandfather to the person he is and, in addition, to provide them with some insight into a quarter of their roots. The necessity of knowledge of one´s roots dawned on me with clarity when I recall Matilda´s indignation as her primary school (Class 1) classmates refused to recognise the fact that she has indeed Indian roots!
I, Custodio Resurrection Vaz was born at the Indian Maternity Home in Nairobi at 10:30 a.m. on April 1, 1945 and weighed 6½ pounds at birth. I enjoyed the luxury of growing up in the capital of the British Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, my home for the first 19 years of my life. These years were generally carefree, filled with the joys and pleasures that go with childhood, and that offered numerous challenges as a teenager into unknown and unexplored avenues in the pathways of life. I was hardly aware of in my young years, of the Kenyan nation´s struggle for independence from Great Britain, which started in the early 1950s, gave rise to the well-known Mau Mau uprising and finally resulted in the proclamation of independence of the liberated Republic of Kenya in 1963. The country chose then to become a member state within the British Commonwealth.
Both my parents originated from Goa, a tiny semi-island in the vast landscape of India, situated approximately in the middle of the west coast facing the Arabian Sea, with a coastline of 101 km. It was then a Portuguese province. Portugal defeated the ruling Sultan in 1510 and seized power in Goa where they set up a permanent settlement. Their rule lasted for four and a half centuries. I have the notion that, under Portuguese rule, few Indians from other parts of India were allowed to settle in Goa. The Indian invasion of Goa commenced on 18 December 1961 and on 19 December, Prime Minister´s, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian troops recaptured this Portuguese enclave and annexed it, together with Daman and Diu, into the Indian Union. On 30 May 1987, Goa gained status as the Republic of India´s twenty-fifth State. Although the smallest state by area, it boasts of being India´s richest state. The literacy rate was, according to the 2011 consensus, 87%, with 90% of males and 84% of females being literate.
The Portuguese who had ruled for around 450 years appeared to have been completely overwhelmed and capitulated without a struggle. Goa merely overnight became an integral part of the Republic of India. I recall that my parents, then settlers in Kenya were shocked that there was no military resistance whatsoever from our former Portugal masters. Prior to its independence Goa was predominantly (over 90 %) Catholic but this has changed dramatically. According to the 2011 census, in a population of approximately one and a half million inhabitants, 66% were Hindu, 26% were Christian and 8% were Muslim. The society justly boasts today of a peaceful co-existence between the two main religions. The Catholic inhabitants of Goa who generally had Portuguese surnames called themselves then as Goans, while other communities such as Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims living either in Goa or in the rest of India were referred to then, by us Goans as Indians. I recall from childhood that as Goans we were extremely proud then of our Portuguese heritage and felt to some degree superior to other Indians. This attitude may have been partly based on the notion that the level of education amongst Goans was generally higher seen from our horizon when compared to the average Indian living in Kenya. We were of the impression in Kenya that a large proportion of Goans were considered by the British as loyal and thereby fit to work as employees in the Civil Service while the average Indian more often did manual labour or was into craftsmanship or within small or medium sized shopping enterprises. My current impression is that the term Goan as defined above and distinct from the term Indian has thanks to time gradually weathered away and merely refers today to an inhabitant from Goa.
I have spent two long holidays as a child in Goa, the first time for approximately five months between December 1949 and May 1950. Our second long holiday was between January and May, 1954. As an expatriate living in Kenya, I believe that Dad was entitled to long leave every five years. I have re-visited Goa twice on my own, for about a week each time, firstly following duty travel to Japan and China, in November 1981. Secondly, following duty travel to Ahmedabad, India, in January 1982, I sized the chance to first see New Dehli, then Bombay and, finally, revisit my relatives in Goa. My latest visit, to date, was in 2001, for two weeks, this time during the festive season of Christmas and New Year and in the company of my sister Olinda, my wife Wivi-Ann, our daughter Fredrika, her boyfriend then Joakim, our son Emanuel and his wife to be, Sofia.
Nairobi, my birthplace on the edge of The Great Rift Valley traversing Africa, has a song dedicated to it, by the British singer from the 1950s, Tommy Steel. It became a capital city in British East Africa in 1907. Nairobi of today has a population of a little more than 3 million inhabitants. At an elevation of 1795 metres above sea level just by the Equator, it is cool enough and ideal for residential purposes. It is the only major city in the world that can boast having a wildlife National Park within its boundaries. Nairobi was initially, in 1899, founded as a central railway camp and waterhole during the construction of the railroad from the coastal town, Mombasa, through to Kampala, by Lake Victoria, in neighbouring Uganda. I realise today that I was privileged to grow up then in an exclusive, although secluded and well protected segment of a very diverse Kenyan society, with little to worry about under my childhood and teenage years. I left Kenya thanks to a Swedish scholarship for higher academic studies in Uppsala. This journey of my life commenced on 27 July, 1964, when I boarded the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) flight which had started off in Johannesburg, landed in Nairobi and continued with transit stopovers in Khartoum, Geneva and Copenhagen. We arrived at our final destination on 28 July and touched Swedish soil at Arlanda Airport, at precisely 13:35 on a very sunny afternoon. It was the first time in my life that I had ever flown or travelled abroad all on my own. During this flight of about 16 hours I became aware of and got acquainted to two of my fellow travellers, who I realised were also selected to accompany me on the scholarship programme financed partly by the Student Union of the University of Uppsala and to a major extent by the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA). One of them was Olavo Fonseca, a Goan from Nairobi, in his 40s, and a teacher at the Kenya Science Teachers´ College (KSTC) in Nairobi, which was financed and run by the Swedish Government through SIDA. His pupils at the KSTC were Kenyan citizens who were trained to become teachers with the noble aim to help raise the level of education in Kenya. Olavo had been granted a one year scholarship at the University of Uppsala to help promote his knowledge in the Sciences that he taught at the KSTC. After returning to the KSTC, he eventually became the Principal of this college. The aim of our scholarship programme was to receive adequate educational and teaching skills so that we could successively replace the expatriate Swedish teachers at the KSTC. My second student comrade to be on the SAS flight was Suresh Gohil, an Indian (as defined initially) of about my own age, from Mombasa, with whom I studied alongside with in Uppsala between 1964 to 1968.
I have re-visited Nairobi 5 times after leaving for good in 1964. The first was for a month in 1966, to commemorate my Dad who had passed away in February that year. Although this was a period of strict mourning in black according to our Goan traditions where no festivities were permitted, Mum and Olinda hosted a party to celebrate my 21st birthday. According to British tradition then, this was the age when one was entitled to the key to adulthood. The 3 of us took also a short vacation at a seaside resort in Malindi. While in Nairobi, I was also privileged to function as Bestman at my good friend Cecil D`Cruz´s wedding, on 11 April 1966, at St. Teresa´s Cathedral in the suburb of Eastleigh (denoted as no. 1 on the map of Nairobi, see Chapter 3). My second visit took place the following summer during my vacation from Uppsala University, in 1967. Then, in 1971 when Wivi-Ann and I married, we celebrated our honeymoon with a trip to Kenya visiting Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi, as well as a brief visit to Tanzania. Among the popular tourist attractions we covered in Kenya were – the Ngong Hills (no.2) and the renowned Karen Blixen author´s home there, Nairobi Wildlife National Park, the Great Rift Valley at the Escarpment, Lake Nakuru, the habitat of thousands of pink flamingos, as well as the Wildlife National Parks at Amboseli and Tsavo. On the short trip to Tanzania, we stopped in Arusha and spent a night at a hotel at Lake Manyara with a magnificent overview of the surrounding Wildlife National Park.
My last two visits to Nairobi were in October 1981 and September 1989 respectively. These were duty trips in assignments as a short term consultant. In September 1989, I was in Nairobi on behalf of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The purpose of the visit was to investigate the feasibility of having the Kenya Government Analytical Laboratory in Nairobi participate in an international pilot project sponsored by the FAO/WHO (World Health Organisation) with the aim of analysing levels of the environmentally persistent chlorinated organic insecticides like DDT and industrial pollutants like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in human milk from breast feeding mothers. I stayed then in the suburb Westlands (no. 3) at my cousin Albyn Vazz´s home. Albyn was the very last of my close relatives to leave Kenya for life abroad in search of a safer, secure future. They opted for, were selected after application and settled in Canada.
Uppsala has been my home since 1964. My academic studies at the University of Uppsala led to, in 1968, the Swedish degree “Filosofie kandidatexamen” – which ranks higher than the British Bachelor of Science degree. I then went on to graduate for a Master of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry and was awarded this in 1969. In line with the intentions of my scholarship terms, I was then to travel to England for a teacher´s training course for a year before returning to serve at the KSTC in Nairobi. My scholarship, viewed from a legal perspective, contained no formally binding obligation that compelled me to fulfil the intentions of the programme. Since the political situation for Asian non-citizens in Kenya was rather unstable following independence in 1963, I chose to remain in Sweden and terminated my scholarship. Thus, I did not enrol for the teachers´ training course that SIDA had planned in England. SIDA who had taken over responsibility from the University of Uppsala for my scholarship was sympathetic to my plea not to return to Kenya and did not pressure me to do so. In addition, it was during this period in time that Uganda´s dictator, President Idi Amin, was arbitrarily expelling Indians from the country and this led to much concern among the Indian population of East Africa and was followed by a mass exodus of Indians mainly from Uganda but also from Kenya. To my knowledge the Indians living in the Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar, formerly German and then British Tanganyika, were more at ease with their political and personal situation and did not feel the pressure to leave the country they had decided to settle in and made their homes for decades.
It was not originally my plan to settle in Sweden – I had vaguely planned to complete my University studies and eventually consider emigration to, for instance, Australia, Canada or for that matter Great Britain. The notion of settling down in Sweden, where I really had no ties, was not on my map. I was far away from my family and friends, with a foreign tongue-twisting language and, in addition, the climatic conditions were definitely not in line with my background and taste. There was no way I was going to get stuck up in the vicinity of the North Pole. But destiny luckily chose otherwise! More explicitly, it is Wivi-Ann´s credit and “fault” – call it Swedish girl power – that I remain put in Sweden. Put plainly, it was the power of love – loosely defined in those days in foreigner circles as the “Swedish Sin” – that influenced my judgement and settled my fate. Well in all honesty, I fell for her and have paid the price for this – who could imagine that I who was born, breed and thrived at the Equator with all its advantages and charms would wind up close to the Polar Circle with polar bears lurking round the corner – instead of lions – in a country with endless dark nights during autumn and freezing temperatures in winter. All these features were naturally in direct and dramatic contrast to Nairobi´s pleasant and appealing tropical climate, which I took for granted while living there.
Do I have regrets – no, not for a second! It´s impossible to evaluate how extremely fortunate I have been. I should perhaps lay my case to rest especially as several of the Swedes close to me point out now and then that, on occasion, I tend to be more Swedish than them. Should I take this as a compliment? My feelings are mixed here – naturally, I am a Swedish citizen or should I say I have a Swedish passport. I possess an excellent grasp of the language thanks to Wivi-Ann, am comfortable and respect the morals and traditions that are characteristic of Sweden as a democratic, tolerant and solidary nation. Yet, why should I be categorised as a Swede in particular as the first 19 years of my life were moulded by influences from parts of the Asian and African cultures that I had the privilege to experience. Even though I have thoroughly acclimatised to living in a European culture today, I do not feel the need to have my roots and identity enchained in a particular sector. I feel cosmopolitan, with no compulsion to assert that I am a Swede in spite of holding a Swedish passport. I am inclined to consider myself as a citizen our global universe. Life is simple – home is where the heart is, no boundary restrictions can change this, especially in today´s world when we travel, commute and communicate globally, crossing manmade country borders in no time.
It was partly thanks to the efforts of Birgitta Dahl, then a University student and local politician in Uppsala – she advanced in 1994 (and held this position up to 2002) to become the second ever female President for the Swedish Parliament under the Social Democrats – who helped me substantiate my application to the Swedish Immigration authorities for a permanent work permit and eventually Swedish citizenship, which I acquired in 1974, the year our son Emanuel was born. Bigitta Dahl was a pioneer and instrumental in the struggle and achievement of greater equality between women and men in Sweden. I was granted citizenship at the ripe age of 29. I deliberately awaited applying for citizenship until close to this age because it was then highly unlikely I would be called upon to do military service, obligatory under law at that period in time, in particular for Swedish males. By sheer coincidence, I ran across Birgitta Dahl one morning in August 2014, in the city centre in Uppsala. I sized the opportunity to thank her for helping me in the late sixties and she vaguely remembered my case. She was then 77 years old and happily enjoying the privileges of retired life as a Senior Citizen.
My first serious long-term employment was as an analytical chemist in 1969 at the Agricultural University of Uppsala, situated on the outskirts of the city, in Ultuna. I began in 1971 commuting to work at the Special Analytical Laboratory of the Swedish National Environment Protection Board in Stockholm and was employed there up to 1975. I was then fortunate to gain employment in Uppsala at the Swedish National Food Administration (NFA). This drastically reduced my commuting time, from home to work, to 15 min on a bicycle instead of over an hour by car or by train and public transportation in Stockholm. I remained in the services of the NFA, with different positions and tasks within the organisation, up to my retirement in 2012.
The notion to put into print the history of my life popped up several years ago and resulted in collection of raw data on my family tree, mainly through conversations with Mum and Olinda and in part by interviewing particularly some of my cousins now living in Toronto, London and Goa. I was in this manner able to complement and check details of the rough family tree sketch of our family and closest relatives. Most of the information gathered on our parents´ background has been passed on orally with scarcely little written official documentation to verify the data. My own memories of our young days are very scarce, thus fortunately, Olinda´s memory bank is much greater than mine and I have taken advantage to record here her knowledge of our earlier days, to fill in the gaps. The time and patience to settle down to serious writing came first in 2014. This inspiration has been at its best either in the quiet, very early hours of the fantastic summer mornings at our cottages in Lövvik, – in the county of Hälsingland, 230 km northwest of Uppsala – just as the first sun beams break through the trees around our plot, or at our flat in the Uppsala suburb, Rickomberga, as the mist lightens and the autumn leaves start to fall. Inspiration in winter time comes only after a New Year, in February-March, when the number of light hours increases dramatically, and the landscape is preferably covered in glimmering, crisp snow that revitalises the senses after having gone through the darkest months of October-November, when the sun is barely capable of lifting itself above the horizon.
As the saying goes, writing has been for me, “1 % inspiration and 99 % perspiration”. It is not my intention to put into print a literary masterpiece, this narrative is strictly dedicated to our grandchildren who hopefully by their teens have grasped sufficient English to be able to understand this “Swenglish” essay, meant to enlighten them on my journey into each of these three worlds. Initially, I had planned just to record the history of my life so that our grandchildren, the META-quartet, embodying plain and sheer girl power, would have an idea as to how it all started in Goa, continued in Nairobi and eventually ended up in Uppsala. As my efforts to write progressed, I, gradually, felt the need to expand my story to include some information that Fredrika and Emanuel could find of interest. Eventually, I gave into the urge to go into greater details, for my own benefit, as I have scattered pieces of information in various articles, clips and documents I have saved through the years. Having been educated as a scientist, I guess that this yearning to dig into details and facts lies in my nature. In addition, in the wildest of my fantasies, I picture myself as old and senile, with a fading, unreliable memory, when one of the META-quartet, makes the effort to visit me. Imagine then, being able to having this narrative at hand and read to me, helping me to remember all the good old days that I had the privilege to enjoy. Finally, I blame our good friend Gunnar Lemhagen who managed to sow the idea that I should seize the opportunity to compare these three cultures. This challenge has gradually matured and I have attempted to highlight the advantages as well as disadvantages, as seen from my horizon. I hope that I have, in this process, managed to convey these observations without turning them into seeds of discontent among family and friends, as I communicate my personal conclusions on these cultures, in particular, on aspects of religion, politics and social behaviour.
I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to embark on this incredible and fascinating journey between 3 cultures. It begins on the Asian continent, in Goa where my parents were born, continues to Africa, in Nairobi where my sister Olinda and I came to see the light of day and lands finally in Europe, in Uppsala, with my marriage to Wivi-Ann and the births of our children, Fredrika and Emanuel, and consequently of our grandchildren, the META-quartet. I have been gifted with the chance to select rather freely the very best of each culture and have for the most been open heartedly welcomed into each of these.
The history of events described below are divided into 3 main chapters – GOA, NAIROBI and UPPSALA respectively. Then the chapter entitled THE PROS- AND CONS- OF THE THREE CULTURES attempts to summarise most of the positive as well as some of the negative aspects of each of these cultural experiences, from my very own point of view. In addition, I wish to account for my reflections and thoughts on the present day political, social and cultural environment in each of these cultures, that I am inevitably part of. Finally, the chapter THE WORLD AWAITING OUR GRANDCHILDREN is an attempt to share my desire and hopes on how I would like to see the environment my grandchildren grow up in, both as teenagers and eventually also as adults, benefiting naturally from the best of these 3 cultures. Ideally, our planet would definitely benefit if society chose the narrow path of harmonisation for peaceful co-existence between different lifestyles. However, looking at the succession of events in the world of today, some of the developments taking place within these cultures seem to suggest the contrary. Opposite to what seems logical, there is a tendency that dictators or extreme groups worldwide appear to be determined to promote head-on clashes between cultures and clans, resulting in racial or religious clashes. Some of these disputes have lead inevitably to wars that seem to rage forever, with no compromises or solutions in sight. There is wisdom in the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “An eye for an eye simply makes the whole world blind”. The subsequent wide scale global refugee migration catastrophies the world has seen in recent years, have resulted in right-wing political populism gaining major grounds among nations that normally welcome the influx of young migrants in particular, as they are absolutely necessary for developed countries, in order to maintain their current standard of living.
Map of Goa with numbers to denote places mentioned in the following text: No. 20 – Navelim, No. 21 – Cuncolim, 22 – Margao, 23 – Salcete, South Goa, 24 – Panjim, 25 – Majorda Beach, 26 – Colva Beach, 27 – Bardez, North Goa and 28 – Calangute
Goa was a former Portuguese colony and the explorer Vasco da Gama first set foot here in 1498. Today, it is a popular tourist paradise because of its tropical beaches that attracts Westerners in particular just after conclusion of the Monsoon rains, which coincides with the winter months in Europe. Goan cusine is tasteful and has been influenced by culinary traditions from Portugal, India and the Arab world. Communication is rather easy as a large majority of its inhabitants speak English. The atmosphere is friendly and both Catholics and Hindus boast of living in peaceful co-existence. Goa is often referred to as “India for Beginners” or “India Light” as I see it, when compared to many other parts of India, as a tourist here is less exposed to extreme poverty and sickness. India can, initially, be a shocking experience especially if one visits some of the major, congested cities in the country.
My Dad was Graciano Pinto Vaz – Pinto was apparently his godfather´s name (Pinto is a typical Goan surname). Mum was Ligorinha Joanes Vaz, her maiden surname was Gomes – Joanes is also a typical Goan surname. I am slightly confused by the fact that they each had two Goan surnames, which to me is unusual for Goans. They were both born in Goa, Dad came from the village of Navelim (denoted as no. 20 on the map of Goa) and Mum from Cuncolim (no. 21). The Portuguese ruled in their childhood and days of youth, the vast majority of its inhabitants were practising Catholics, who were educated in Portuguese. In addition, Goans spoke Konkani, which today, is the sole official language. Current statistics claim that 61% speak Konkani, 19% Marathi and 5% Hindi. Dad and Mum were originally Portuguese citizens and the few legal documents they owned were as such in this language. When Goa was taken over by India in 1961, my parents then living in Kenya chose to become Indian citizens, while they decided that Olinda and I – both born in Kenya – should apply for British citizenship. As British subjects of Indian origin, we were awarded, in my mind, with so called “second class D-passports”, issued by the British High Commissioner in Nairobi, which implied several curtailments compared to an authentic and genuine “first class” British passport with full privileges in The Commonwealth and Colonies.
We celebrated Dad´s – or Pai, in Konkani, as Olinda and I called him – birthday on Boxing Day, 26 December. We are uncertain of his exact year and date of birth, we believe in 1909, as there is no official birth certificate record in our possession to prove this. Mum was born, in reality, on 8 March 1928, but unfortunately, her passport states 1929 as her year of birth. A practical problem due to this, in Sweden, was that she would have had to work an extra year before achieving her official retirement age, which was then 67 in Sweden, and resulting pension benefits. However, it turned out that she was granted early retirement, due to illness.
Dad´s parents were Martin Vaz – from the village of Pedda, Navelim and passed away in 1915 – and Angela Vaz, from the town, Margao (no. 22), who died in 1920. Both places lie in South Goa in the district, Salcete (no. 23). They raised a very large family of ten children, six sons that were born first and followed then by four daughters. My personal interpretation is that our grandparents must have been, relatively speaking, rather well off to be able to afford so many children. In addition, being devout Catholics, there was a lack of birth control as this was and still is strictly forbidden within the Catholic Church. The following is a short extract according to the information we have, beginning on Dad´s side and continuing on Mum´s, in a chronological order of the births and fate in life of their brothers and sisters.
Dad´s family tree
Cautaniho/Kajtano/Filip, a farmer, married Philomena, who gave birth to 13 children (five boys and eight girls), one of them being my cousin Michael, who lived with us in Nairobi for several years, while I was a teenager and whom I grew to despise for reasons I intend to elaborate on later.
Antonio Jose Minguel (nickname Patio), a baker and a bachelor who had tested priesthood, with whom we stayed in the village of Navelim, when on long holiday in Goa. I recall that as children we were fond of him. Even though my memory of our childhood days are unfortunately very obscure today, I believe that he baked bread for us children, in the form of cute animal figures with bright red sugar pearls as eyes.
Joaquim Camillo, born 1903, moved to Nairobi in 1925 and ran a bar there, but moved back to Goa in 1948, married Faustin, born 1911. She bore 6 children – Blandina, Flavian, Anthony, George, Erik and Dolly. Our cousin Anthony now lives in London and he and his children Marisol and Agnelo have each visited and stayed with us in Uppsala a couple to times through the years. We too have met them and Yvete (Anthony´s wife) several times during our trips to London over the years. We have always appreciated Anthony´s and his family´s humility and friendliness towards us, both when living in Kenya and then in the UK.
Charles, born 1904 and died of cancer in 1955 (i.e. at the age of 51), left Goa for Nairobi in 1935. He worked at a butchery in downtown Nairobi, and married at the age of 34, in 1938, Ludmilla, who was born in 1923 and thereby only 15 years when she took her marriage vows. They settled in Nairobi the same year they got married. My favourite aunt is still going strong, now 94 and active in Toronto, where she moved to from Kenya in 1975. They raised 5 children – Antonette (nicknamed Tieta and born in 1939), Albyn (1943), Victorio (1945), Wanda (1948) and Greta (1950), all of whom we grew up with in a close relationship in Nairobi. Tragically, Tieta passed away when the family, with Albyn driving, met with a car accident in Nairobi in 1972. Victorio was raised from 1950 by his aunt in Mozambique and graduated to become a Professor in viral diseases, his permanent address is now Phoenix, Arizona. Aunty, Albyn, Wanda and Greta have all settled now with their families in Toronto. I visited them on my own, in 1989, and later Wivi-Ann and I visited them there twice, in 2000 and 2013 respectively.
Graciano Pinto (nickname Luzer, do not know why?), my Dad, was born in 1909 and married in 1942, at the age of 33 my Mum, who was only 13 years old then. He passed away in 1966, at the age of 56.
Graciano Thomas, occupation sailor, who died in 1959, was married to Isabella, born 1907 and passed away in 1977. They had 1 child – Maja?
Idalina, lived in Betulbatim, passed away in 1960, had 2 husbands with surnames Gomes and Cotta, gave birth to 4 children, 2 of each gender. Her sons were Anthony and Dominque Gomes
Maria Augusta, husband Cotta, gave birth to 6 children, 4 daughters and 2 sons, one of them named Rickardo.
Henrietta, married to Joaosinho, passed away in 1972 had also 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. We recall that one of the sons was Josefat Pinto, who married his first cousin Blandina, i.e. Anthony Vaz´s eldest sister.
We are uncertain of who was she and have vague memories that she passed away in her childhood.
My Dad´s parents were essentially farmers, had cattle and grew rice in paddy fields. I believe that they or one of their sons also ran a bakery. They were I guess rather well off since I recall that my grandparents left each son a plot of land in the adjacent neighbourhood – in the village of Navelim – in order that they could as adults eventually build a home of their own. I do not recall that the daughters were endowed with a plot of their own. I guess that tradition in those days assumed that daughters married into other families and were thereby taken care of. My impression is that in the case of daughters, parents accepted arranged child marriages, thus easing their family burdens. In contrast, the sons had to start afresh on their own and, thus, with a plot donated to them, they had better possibilities to kick-off comfortably into the future.
When my grandparents passed away, the eldest brother, Kajtano, became head of the family as called upon by tradition among Goans at that time. I have never given this a thought previously, but realise now that Dad was only 6 years old when my grandfather passed away and just 11 when my grandmother too died. It must have been difficult being orphaned young and growing up without parents, just having brothers and sisters to rely up on. As I understand, Dad found Kajtano´s authority too strict and when he could not put up with it anymore, at the age of 26, he boarded a ship destined for East Africa and literally disappeared from Goa one day in 1935, without informing the family. I have a feeling that his decision may have been encouraged and influenced by the fact that two of his older brothers, Camillo and Charles, had emigrated earlier from Goa to Kenya.
He disembarked in Dar-es-Salam, now Tanzania, where he supported himself as a cook and tailor for other working Goans. He eventually moved to Mombasa, Kenya, where he earned his livelihood as a bus conductor. Dad returned at the age of 33 to Goa, in 1942. There he met my grandmother to be, who he knew from earlier days. He became infatuated by their eldest daughter, my Mum, who was then only 13 years old! The result was an arranged marriage. He announced his intention to marry Mum and then return to Kenya to live there and raise a family. My grandparents consented to their marriage, in particular as Dad agreed not to demand any dowry as was the Goan custom in those days. Mum was devastated, she did not want to marry or to leave her family or Goa for that matter, she just wanted to complete her schooling and had an ambition to become a teacher. They married at Castlerock Chapel on 11 February, 1942. It was not a church wedding as Mum was a minor. They left Goa for Mombasa, Kenya, in May 1942.
This photo of Mum and Dad was taken in 1942
Mum´s family tree
Mum was born on 8 March, 1928, this day of the year is currently in Sweden celebrated as the International Woman´s Day. Unfortunately in her passport, her year of birth is officially stated as 1929. She passed away on 22 September 1994, at the age of 66 years. She was the eldest of 4 children, comprising of 2 sisters – herself and Ofelia – and 2 brothers – Brazinho and Casmiro. My grandfather was Joaquim/Pobre Gomes, born 1909 and passed away just 46 years old, in 1955. Olinda recalls that he worked overseas as a sailor for part of his life. My grandmother was Piedade Gomes, born 1905 and deceased in 1976, she lived to be 71 years old, an admirable achievement in Goa in those days. We used to call her “Cuncolim Mai”, that translates in Konkani to “Mother from Cuncolim”. They ran a bakery in the late 1940s. Olinda recalls that our grandparents started work at the bakery at 9 p.m. and worked to approximately 6 a.m. the following morning. Then Granny had a cupboard outside their flat, in the Municipal Council of Cuncolim, where the newly baked bread was stored and sold to customers who came to buy fresh bread for the day. My grandparents had under their care a household servant called Pedro, who was slightly retarded and from a so-called lower Goan cast. Pedro helped to sell their bread at the marketplace close by, where he stood at a stall there up to midday.
Brazinho, born 6 years after Mum, in 1934, grew up to become a singer and member of a theatrical group that played local musicals, which incorporated songs, called “mandos” (a traditional Goan art form), that communicated stories of Goan life in a musical form. According to Wikipedia, these theatre groups “Tiatr (Teatro)”, are the chief forms of Goa´s traditional performance arts and help keep the Konkani language and music alive. They are played in scenes with music at regular intervals, the scenes are portrayals of daily life and are known to depict social and cultural scenarios.
Brazinho´s occupation was frowned upon by the family, considered gypsy-like, he was depicted as the ‘black sheep’ of the family for not having a proper career. He refused as the eldest son to shoulder responsibility as the family provider after my grandfather passed away and pursued instead his own interests. It was common in his circle of work to party quite a lot and his excessive consumption of the local brews earned him a reputation of being a heavy drinker. His life got complicated even further as he chose to marry, in 1969, Timotina, a teacher by profession, but from a lower cast among the Goans. It is frustrating to note that cast goes before profession, in particular as teachers often have a privileged position in society. In addition, having a profession and job was unusual for women in those times, as the majority most often ended up just being housewives and mothers, depending entirely on the husband for financial support. She was from the outset, a wrong match and as a result he was disowned by Mum´s family.
Tragically, Brazinho committed suicide by drowning, in 1980, at the age of 46, and left his wife, his son (Blyton, born in 1974) and daughter (Lydia, born in 1979) stranded in great shame and poverty. My grandparents´ family flatly refused to assist Brazinho´s widow and children in spite of their economic predicament following his death. Taking one´s own life in those days was almost unheard of among Goans and definitely forbidden among those who were raised in strict Catholicism, where suicide is considered to be a capital sin with no redemption and banishment to hell, in other words guaranteed rejection from a free ticket to paradise for all eternity. To make matters even worse, Timotina´s own brother evicted her and the children from her parents´ house where she was living. Once her parents passed away, he made his claim on the house and she was given no option but to leave. When we were in Goa in 2002, we visited her, Lydia and Blyton, and saw for ourselves that she lived under extremely simple circumstances, in a shed rather than a house. Very much opposed to this insensitive behaviour, Mum, Olinda, Wivi-Ann and I have through the years following Brazinho´s death supported his family financially, by sending a sum of money regularly from Kenya and then Sweden, to his wife Timotina and their children Blyton and Lydia. We sponsored the 2 children so that they were able to acquire a decent education.
Mum´s second brother, Casmiro was 9 years younger than her and born in 1937. He too died in 1994, i.e. the same year as Mum passed away. He had to, early in his life, at 18 years old, shoulder the burden of becoming the family´s provider after my granddad passed away. He married Myra (maiden surname Vaz) in 1973 and brought up three children – Fatima, born in 1974, then Savio, born in 1975 and finally Melwyn, born in 1980. He supported the family including my grandmother, by running a local bar that still is situated strategically on the main road through Cuncolim, Mum´s home village. The bar has the street address Loja 1 de Janeiro, a name which as a child I found was very exotic. The village of Cuncolim was in the 1950s and is to date a pleasant and quaint community with amenities all within short walking distances, for example to the Catholic church, the cemetery where my grandparents lay at rest, the school, the post office and local fish market. I recall that my grandparents´ bakery was situated some distance away from their home.
Casmiro´s bar was a fascinating environment to observe, both as a child and grown-up, as it reflected some of the typical realities of life in Goa. It catered for the needs of two different categories of clients. One category was the lower cast, local hardworking labourers who came by for their midday ration of the local liquor, either coconut fenny, made from the sap of toddy palms or caju fenny, made by fermenting the fruit of the cashew tree and then distilled under very primitive conditions, to form a very rough smelling and tasting aquavit. This group often consumed their liquor in silence. The second category were more boisterous and comprised of middle class Indians who often came on motorbikes. Their conversations in Konkani were lively and vivid and they apparently selected my uncle´s bar since he specialised in overseas whiskies which he managed to acquire through his contacts with numerous Goan sailors who worked on container vessels and passenger cruisers that travelled around the world. Working on ships that sailed overseas was a means of livelihood that was popular among young Goan men. They managed in this way to earn sufficiently and were able to save part of their overseas wages. Having worked in this fashion for a number of years, they were then able to return to Goa wealthy enough build a house of their own and settle down to family life.
Ofelia Maria Gomes, the youngest in Mum´s family was born in 1940 and thereby 12 years younger than Mum. She is the only current survivor of Mum´s family and is now, at the age of 77, a widow still living in Cuncolim. She does not have any children of her own and her husband Eugenio, whom she married in 1965, spent most of his life working on vessels overseas. Rumour has it that he came up as far as to Gothenburg in Sweden on one of his overseas trips.
Dad emigrated from Goa in 1935, went back to marry Mum in 1942 and apart from our two long vacations in 1949/1950 and 1954, respectively, he never set foot in Goa again after that, passing away in Nairobi, in 1966. On the other hand, Mum and Olinda were forced to return from Nairobi to Goa in April 1968, as they were refused work permits in Kenya, the main reason being that they were non-citizens – Mum held an Indian passport while Olinda possessed a British D-passport. They arrived in Goa at 10:30 a.m. on 30 April, 1968, after a 10 days´ trip by boat from Mombasa. They were allowed to disembark at noon, but had to
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