The East Indian Community

Original Inhabitants of Bombay, Salsette & Thana.

Bedtime story

Ek hota Kola, 

Kolache payvâr lagla ek ghau,
Geula te khaâzrat dahi tup karâvla,

Sheput tyachi pâdla chimboricha billânt.
Chibori chavli sheput, Dazkan Kola ucchâlla

Sheput sangati chibori nigali,
Kola chibori la dhela ani khâlla

He prakar changlâ hotâ,
Tasach kola karât ghela, ani chimbori karat gela

Kombra zadavar bâsla hotâ,
Bâgitlâ sâglâ je Kola kela,

Kola zaval guela urât,
Mangitli Kolyashi ek chimbori,

Kola mhanala maza sarkha kar ani bhetel tula.

 

Kombrani sheput chimborichi billant takla,
Chibori chavli sheput, Dazkan kombra ucchalla,

Sheput nigali pun chibori nahi,
Ani Sheput chi pess nigali,

Parat kombrani koshish keli,
Pun chibori nahi,  pessâch nigali.

Udasishin kombra zadavar geula,
Ani bhor khau lagla,

Zara vela nantar, kola tanyan aiyla,
Ani kombrala bhor khat pahila.

Kolyani Kobrala bhor mangitli.
 “Ge maza tor (bor) khajrancha yaad”
Bolun kobrani bhorachi hati takli.

Te ghusli kolache naket.
Barach prâytâna keli, hati ningâh nây

Guela Kola dhavât nai zaval
Karan tya vela asa sâgli kamâ naich sambalât asât.

“Nai dada, Nai dada nakat hati atakli,
Nai dada, Nai dada kar hati nakachi”

Nakanshi hati karavla
Naini guela vartara,
Kapla nai ni Kolachi naak,
Kola uchalla darun tyachi naak,

"Sagitlam me, hatim karavla,
Nay kapavla, maza he naak".

Nai cha ek nay aikala,
Bolun lagala raglela kola,

Nak de nahi tar  vastaar de.
Nak de nahi tar  vastaar de.

Kola hutt karat hota,
Nai ni dila ek morka torka vastaara.

Kola guela apla vatyavar,
Zara purâ geulyavar

Pahilâ kahi kolin baika vateshi,
Toplai kartho thai, chipa torit, dantashi.

Caclud karet baikan var,
Kolani dila tyana vastaar,
"Datanshim kala carta shipa,
He ge maza vastara !"

Biaka getli varstara ani vapru lagli,
Kam fatafat houn lagali,

Hota te vastaara morki torki,
Kahi velyani, Vastar Molli !

Kolani hutt karunshi baikana botla

Nak de nahi tar topli de.
Nak de nahi tar topli de.

Baikani Kolyala a morki tori topli dili,
Topli gheun kola nigala

Zara pura ki, ek mansala tyani pahila,
Mansache hatat hoti kalingâra,

Hath bharla hotam,
Tari beza kalingrala, tukavla bagit hota,

Ek tukilâ tar biza parat hota,
Barech prayatna kela ,

tari sagle kalingar yei na,
Dharun dila topli, kolyani mansala,
Sagle kalingar ekdum tukavla,

Tukilya var topli tootli,
Sagli kalingar heto padli,

Kolyani parât tyachi gun gayeli,
“topli de nahi tar kalingar de”
“topli de nahi tar kalingar de”

Dila a kalingar , Mansani kolala
Te geun gela, kola khushit davla,

Rastyache porana pahila bookhella
Shenache kir, karun khat hota

Ghella te kalingar ani dila porana,
Poran bookhilla hotam

Tari kolala nay visarla,
Saglyana vata karun,
Setgle ekmev kalingar khalla.


This story used to be told by my mother when we were very small. Few can remember the details. I typed it in whatever I remembered. . . prem@east-indians.com

How Bassein was acquired .

When the Portuguese arrived and wished to settle at Bassein, they resorted to a ruse. They begged of the King for a present of land “as much as a cow-hide”. Amused with the novelty of this request, the Sovereign granted them their modest petition and permitted them to choose a spot.

The Portuguese then cut the hide into thin stripes and with these proceeded to measure the ground hosen with the result that the surface now occupied by the Bassein Fort. The Raja was so struck with the ingenuity of the Firangis that he made over to the entire district of Bassein.

Why St. Joseph was chosen by Our Lady as her Spouse.

Because of her vow of virginity. Our Lady had made up her mind never to marry. But when pressed by her parents and relatives she did not wish to displease them. She, however, asked for one favor and that was the choice should be with her. They agreed. “Then let them repair to the Temple who seek my hand and assemble in the house of th Lord three days hence”, said Our Lady. “I will come and make my choice”.

            On the day appointed by Our Lady, going to the Temple handed each aspirant a rod of dry wood saying, “Whosesoever’s rod shall put forth leaves and blossom, him will I marry.”

            In that instant the rod in St. Joseph’s hand sprouted and blossomed !

Why the souls from Purgatory now do not visit their relatives.

The atmas (souls) from Purgatory were permitted by God to visit their kinsfolk once a year and to spend the day- mid-day to mid-day on earth. An old lady whose only son had died, whom she loved dearly, was very happy to see him back. She, however, would not let him go back when the time came and closed him under a zamp, i.e a large basket.

            On the souls return, when the roll was taken and his absence noted the matter was reported to God, who said, “Well, this means that we shall have to cancel this privilege in future” – and from that time the souls have lost this holiday.

A St. Francis Tradition

There is a tradition that St. Francis Xavier on landing at Utan was met with resistance by it’s inhabitants and force to leave the village. When he came to the shore, there was no vessel, so he spread his handkerchief on the waters, blessed the element and the floating piece of cloth, sat on it and was conveyed across the arm of sea to Bassein.

About a Hidden Treasure

In the parish of Our Lady of _______ within a quarter of a mile from the Church, may be seen (unless things have changed now) the foundations over-grown with the banian and papal of what must have been a Portuguese mansion.

            Here tradition says, there is a hidden treasure guarded by a headless Kafri, a Negro. Once a year a on a moonless night at twelve o’clock the treasure-trove come to the surface of the earth and glitters. If you can know the day, and what is more, are bold enough to undertake the journey alone to the spot, you will be rich; for you are permitted to exchange your silver and copper coins for an equal number of gold coins.

            The silver and copper which you throw into the trove immediately turns into gold.

The Water Nymph

Hel-li, an evil spirit, in the form of a young woman, lives in lonely wells and tanks, comes out on certain days at mid-day to play on the swing of which amusement she is very fond. Ia a banian tree is close by she prefers its hanging roots from which to swing leaving her long hair disheveled. (On this account a grown up girl leaving her hair loose is reproached asa Hel-li.)

            This spirit is said to take temporary possession of young people, who may encounter her whilst swinging making them boisterous for a time.

A Tale of Elf

On the other hand Zoting or Gera, who haunts the ourskirts of villages and marshy places, is a mischievous spirit who appearing in the form of a man but with the feet pointing backwards, takes pleasure in annoying lonely travelers, or in frightening a group of them by assuming fantastic shapes, and with this intent he is very officious and will offer his services to anyone that is stranded.

           

            One evening the parish priest of _______ was found waiting to be ferried across the creek that lay between him and his parish. The boat lay anchored, but there was no sign of the boatman. Darkness was gathering fast, and the poor priest was at his wit’s end. Whilst in this dilemma, he was addressed by some one whose voice seemed familiar:-

            “What are you doing here Father ?”

            “I am waiting to be conveyed across”

            “The boatman is gone home, Father, and will not return till morning.”

            “I see” returned the priest, “ so I had best wade through, while the tide is yet low, eh ?”

            “Why all that trouble, Father ? I’ll take you across on my back.”

            “It’s very kind of you” said the unsuspecting Vicar, and allowed himself to be carried.

            A few minutes later the Father was puzzled. Somehow, it seemed that all was not well, that instead of being across, the movement seemed to be at right angles to the ferry. Perhaps he thought, he was mistaken, and asked how far the shore lay.

            “Oh, its quite near, don’t worry”- but the tone had perceptibly changed.

            The Father was quick to note the change but said nothing. He thought for a while, drew his conclusion and began to pray.

            “What are you murmuring to yourself ? Stop it.”

            Heedless, the priest went on with his prayers.

            “Stop that ghun-ghun (murmur) of your, I say again.”

            If any doubt had lingered in the priest’s mind, it had vanished now. And the prayer were mingled with many a sigh, not unmixed with self-reproach for being so easily taken in.

            “You won’t stop ? Then take ______”

            Next moment the poor priest found himself buried breast-deep in the bog !- where he remained until rescued next morning.

An Uncanny Beast

Bhaloo, a famous animal lives in caverns, and has the power of destroying whole villages by its howling. It seldom howls, but when it does howl over against a village, flames leap forth and coals of fire fall from its mouth and the doom of that village is sealed, some epidemic then sweeps the population, desolation sets in and the houses fall into ruin (The lost villages of Magathan and Old Gorai, and the remnants of Dahisar and Kashi, are some instances in point)

            No greater malediction can befall a family than to be cursed (by a woman, of cours) with this uncanny beast: “Tuje ghattanavar bhaloo bhunkel, ani tuja sagla sattia nas hoil.” On the ruined foundations of your house, shall the bhaloo howl, and your destruction will be complete.

 

The Ingenious Fox

 One day a farmer was seated near his well apparently in deep thought.

            “Why are you so sad, Thomas Fari ?” asked the fox.

            “I am puzzled about my mare, Sir Fox” replied the farmer.

            “How?”

            “You know my neighbor Jamboo Ghonsal ?”

            “Perfectly”

            “Well you see, my mare and his cow were friends and were always together. I never dreamt, when her time came, would come home with a calf !”

            “I see” mused the fox “ and I suppose the cow has the colt, is it ?

            “Yes, Sir Fox, that is the position which is puzzling me.”

            “A great puzzle it is, no doubt, and complicated too. What are you going to do ?”

            “Why ? Nothing”

            “Farmer Thomas Fari, you are a simpleton. Take the case to court….”

            “But, Sir Fox… ”

            “Take the case to the court, and summon me as you witness.”

            Poor Thomas Fari was puzzled more than ever. He consulted his friends who shook their heads, “Was Thomas mad to listen to the wily fox ?” said one. “ Who could stand against jamboo Ghonsal ? or gainsay his influence ?” said another. “What proof had he against the rich man and how dare he take the Patel to court ? said the third.

            Then . . .

            “You must be losing your senses, Thomas Fari” they all said in a chorus and left the farmer convinced of the fool-hardy advice of the fox.

            Next day Mr. Fox appeared for his drink at the well and inquired of Thomas how matters stood.

            “I don’t think I’ll proceed” replied the farmer.

            “Senor Fari, Take my advice and file your complaint. Don’t waste time.”

So the suit was filed.

Never was there a case which drew public attention as this one, for apart from the novelty of the case and the person charged, the enter of attraction was the fox. On the day of hearing, therefore, the whole village and even the neighboring village went to watch the proceedings.

            Jamboo Ghonsal and his witnesses were examined, Farmer Thomas went through the ritual, and then came the turnoff his witness. As his name was called, there was a general movement of people, but the fox was nowhere to be seen.

            The somebody said he had seen Mama (Uncle i.e the fox), asleep at the court-yard. And there indeed was the fox found fast asleep. With difficulty he was awakened, brought in and placed in the dock. Even here he began to doze and yawn. Poor Thomas Fari felt his case was lost for he read displeasure in the face of the Judge.

            A sharp word from the court brought the fox to his senses and still yawning, he thus began:

            “Sir, pray excuse my dozing and yawning, but you see, your Honour, last night the sea was on fire and was burning, and I had gone to extinguish it.” There was laughter in the court.

            “What ! Are you mad ? How can the sea catch fire ?” came sternly from the judge.

            The face of the sly fox beamed with joy, for he precisely waiting for a question like this from the Judge, and prompt was his reply, which was also his question:

            “Then Sarkar,” said, the fox with a twinkle in his eyes, “ how can a ow give birth to a colt ?”

            “What wisdom !” said the Judge and garlanded the fox, while shouts of “Shabas” “Well Done, Uncle, well done” rent the court premises.

Why the Water-Melon has disappeared from Bandra

The Water-melon grew luxuriantly in Bandra, and was quite a rival to its Alibaug and Pen cousins. But the time came when it disappeared from the very face of Bandra.

            The story goes that the farmers, in the anxiety to ‘watch’  the malas (farm-yards) in the season, forgot to pray. And Father X___ of St. Andrew’s Church saw with concern that his parishioners were keeping away from Sunday Mass and were thus neglecting to hear the Word of God. He remonstrated, he persuaded, but his was a voice in the wilderness. Finding his fatherly admonitions falling on deaf ears, he begged of them with fear in his eyes not to force him to do anything that would injure their interest, but even this threat was taken no notice of.

            Then much against his will, he ordered a water-melon to be brought to church and  . . . Maldisao dilam kalagravar. . .  he cursed the water melon “Never shall the like of you grow in Bandra anymore.”

            Hence no water-melons grow in Bandra, or for that matter in Salsette or Bassein.

A Saying about the City of Bassein

In connection with siege of Bassein by the Marathas and the gallant defence of the doomed city by the Portuguese garrison. There is a saying (which is current also amoung the Hindus) that seems to point to an appalling loss of life on the side of the besiegers and evidently to record the ‘Phyrric’ nature of their victory” “Naw Lakh bangri phutli” . . .  Nine Lakh bangles broke.

            Incidentally, it must be mentioned here that it was a bangri-walla from Marol, (near Andheri) who acted as a spy and disclosed to the Maratha General the plight of the defenders. It is said that the ladies of Bassein were particularly fond of bangles and consequently the pedlars of these dainty wares were, so to speak, a privileged class, and were allowed to enter the city without let or hindrance. The bangri-walla ranks next to the village barber in cunning and shrewdness and here he was not long before he took advantage of the freedom that was his. He secretly conveyed information to the Peshawa’s brother, commanding the Maratha forces, who had already come to the end of his tether and was planning to raise the siege and retire to Poona.

            The General acted upon the information and pressed the siege with more vigour, until the sick and famished garrison was compelled to capitulate.

            Thus was fair bassein lost.

            Woman’s vanity, was once again the cause of loss.

Why the banana blossoms once only.

Once Our Lady was on a long journey (the reference evidently is to Our Lady’s visit to St. Elizabeth after the Annunciation, or what is more probably, to her return journey after the sojourn with her cousin) hungry, tired and foot-sore, she sought a shady spot near a place where grew the banana and the date-palm, side by side. Whilst resting she beheld the banana tree bending with the weight of a large bunch (longer) of plantains. This alcove or grove was on the way-side, that is to say, on God’s earth, and no-man’s land. Otherwise, Our Lady would never attempt without permission to do what she presently attempted. She rose, stepped to the inviting tree and was about to put her hand to the ripe fruit when the treacherous tree straightening itself grew higher and was thus out of reach. At this moment the date-tree seeing the perfidy of the banana tree, lowered itself down to Our Lady’s height that she may reach her dainty hand to the tiny but luscious fruit, ate it and satisfied her hunger.

So spontaneous as act of charity could not go unrewarded. Our Lady thanked the date-palm for the delicacy of her though, no less for her gracious deed which thenceforth was to sweeten the mouth on happy and auspicious occasions.

While to the banana tree she said “ Henceforth your fruit shall be your end. Therefore you shall blossom and bear fruit only once and then . . . die”

            So the plantain tre yields fruit one once and is then cut down.

An Episode in the Life of the Baptist

Our Lady dwelt with her cousin, Elizabeth until after the birth of St. John and ministered to her. Mother-like St. Elizabeth, expected Our Lady to kiss the new-born, but her expectation was not fulfilled, for Our Ldy did not kiss the baby. St. lizabeth, lady-like said not a word, nor did she show any sign of disappointment, but Our Lady read the mind of her kinswoman and thus addressed her:

            “Cousin, Elizabeth thou art troubled (sad) because I gave no kiss the baby, but when thou knowest the reason, thou wilt understand and rejoice.

            “My lips shall not touch John’s baby face until that which is done unto me shall come to pass, then, when I have imprinted a mother’s first kiss on the Fair Countonance of the Saviour of mankind, my sanctified lips shall touch John’s prophetic brow.”

            “So be it, Blessed Mother of my Lord,” said St. Elizabeth.

            Hence the boy John is represented, in art, with the child Jesus and His Blessed Mother, but not with St. Elizabeth, his own mother.

Other Sayings

  1. If the hen after taking sand or mud bath should come into the house to shake off the dust. It is believed that a visitor is due today.
  2. If the visitor is due at nightfall, the sign is different, the housewife or the person baking appas or chapaties is the first to notice it. In this case the plate called khapri, shows more than once tiny sparks of fire in  line, a little below the rim, outside. The one who notices it usually says “Khapri hansteya, kon pauna yetya ?” i.e “the khapri is laughing, who is the guest that is coming ?”
  3. The crow is considered bird of ill omen. His persistent crowing in the peculiar raucous manner near the house is a sign that all is not well. Usually “a messenger arrives with news of a relative’s death.”
  4. If a number of crows should perch on trees or house tops and begin their cawing, then a body leave still cawing, fly a certain distance, come back, and then repeat the procedure several times, it is a sign that the village will soon be visited by a pestilence.
  5. Should a person going on business find a cat cross his path from right to left, he will stop short and wait until another passer-by goes past him. He will then continue his journey as the bad luck, which might have befallen him has been counteracted by the passer-by
  6. The hoot-hooti: “Who-did it”, a bird usually hard during the night and particularly in hot season, is considered unlucky. A pinch of salt thrown into the fire counteracts the evil.
  7. The male cobra encountering a woman in delicate health turns blind. To regain his sight he lives in hiding about the neighborhood until the baby is born and bathed, when he come out to drink or bathe in the water in which the baby has been washed and thus regains his sight—and we suppose runs for his life for all his worth !
  8. The honey –comb, which we should go far to seek, is considered to bring ill-luck, if the bees take into their heads to build their hive in a dwelling place. A fire is prepared on the ground immediately below the hive to drive the bees away.
  9. Bhut or the devil is supposed to be haunting oarts, gardens, deserted habitations and the wilds  from sunset to first cock crow; so that no driver of vegetable carts (though these move in a body caravan-fashion) will ever think of yoking his bullocks till the crowing of the cock has sent the ancient adversary to the nether world.
    1. Incidently the rowing of the cock is interpreted as: Sao Pedro negar: St. Peter denied the Lord !
  1. Rocking an empty cradle gives baby a stomach ache.
  2. The spider is always associated with good luck. When it is found crawling on one’s shoulder or arm he or she is in for money.
  3. Sweepings from the house, especially from the kitchen, must not be thrown out at night, but allowed to remain in a corner until the morning. If  they are thrown out the prosperity of the house will suffer.
  4. When a person sneezes, or whilst drinking the liquid should enter the wind-pipe resulting on a choking sensation, it is a sign that some one is thinking of him.
  5. Giving fire from the chula to your neighbor at night time is considered bad luck to the giver.
  6. Eggs may not be set when the tide is in, or when the moon is full, as they are likely to be spoilt.
  7. Among the many small points for good behavior the young bride carries from her mother’s home, the first is that she must place her right foot on the first step when entering her husband’s house the first time.
  8. Our Lady of the Mount has seven sisters each of whom she visit once a year.
  9. If  a person drinks water at sun-down, that is, while the sun is sinking below the horizon, he deprives his relatives who may be in purgatory of their quota of water for that day (the reference is that every mortification in their behalf helps the souls)
  10. The broom, especially the reed one, mush not be kept vertically (standing) in a corner of the house, but must be left flat on the house, but must be left flat on the floor after use, otherwise it creates a friction in the home and is also a sure source of quarrel with the neighbors.
  11. On the other hand a vertically placed broom has the power of sending away in haste a boring or an unwelcome visitor, provided the “zaroo” is intentionally so placed, that is in the name of the wearisome person.
  12. Married persons and even unmarried ones must avoid eating the twin banana (plantains stuck together) lest twins be their portion.
  13. An old discarded sandal, slipper or shoe tied to a fruit bearing tree keeps away the evil eye.
  14. When the lizard chuckles the housewife is heard to say: “Sital hov maule” “tender calm Mother Mary”
  15. The rearing of pigeons is considered unlucky usually the bread-winner of the family dies.
  16. After death the soul appears before the judgment seat on the third day, until which time the body lies in the grave intact. After the soul has been judges, the earth begins its work- the tip of the nose being the first organ of attack.

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