PRANK ON MY PAPA
Panjim-Goa: Yesterday, 6th March, was the 16th death anniversary of my papa Edwin Lawrence Carvalho (24.02.1920 – 06.03.2005). He died at Pune but interred at Kalina Church, Santa Cruz East, Bombay. He lived 42 years in Bombay (now Mumbai) and loved it. He didn’t want to leave it, till I persuaded him to settle down at our home.
I have many interesting anecdotes related to my papa. Today I will share with you an interesting prank that I played on him as a boy while studying in second standard. My papa was working in Bombay. My mama was living at our newly adopted village Gangolli (South Kanara district then) with me, my younger sister Genevieve and brother Valerian (the other two siblings Florine and John were not yet born). Papa came for holidays once in two years for 21 or 22 days. From Bombay he traveled by train to Miraj by broad gauge, changed the train to metre gauge up to Harihar. From Harihar he traveled by bus to Kundapura. Then crossed the broad river of Gangolli and walked 600 metres to reach our home. It took him three days of a tiring journey one way. While going it was the worst. From Harihar to Bombay he traveled without reservation in a general compartment, at times standing day and night!
When he came down for holidays, he brought us delicious cakes from Parsi bakeries, Mumbai halwa, variety of biscuits, cloth to stitch clothes and many other things. We were longing for his arrival. The communication was only through inland letters of Indian post office. I posted mama’s letters to papa and brought home our mail which was kept by the postman at Imam Saheb’s grocery shop (Our house was away from the main road and the postman refused to deliver our mail at home, so he was told to keep the letters at the grocery shop) I had learnt the art and skill to read his letters to mama and mama’s letter to him without opening them and without the knowledge of mama! Those days inland letters partially could be read from the side openings. Though I knew the content of their correspondence (no romanticism but simple language to communicate the news), I pretended that I am totally unaware of the content. I am confessing this act of mine for the first time.
When I was studying in second standard papa came from Bombay. One morning he told my mother that he would visit his parents and close relatives at Kundapura and return in the evening. My mother jokingly said, “Fine. You come for holidays from Bombay. Where can I go for holidays? Today I will go to visit my parents at Trasi (6.5Km from our home), spend a night and return tomorrow morning.” Papa at once retorted and said, “You can’t do that, I have come out of love all the way from Bombay. You visit your parents, when I return back. Besides, who will cook and take care of our children?” Mama coolly replied, “About food, you need not worry. I will cook the food and go. Children will stay at home during the day. At night you take care of them.” “I know that you are joking and would not dare to do such a thing.” papa said and left for Kundapura.
In the evening around 5pm mama went to our neighbour’s home. From far away I saw papa coming home. I knew that papa loved my mama beyond words. He wanted her physical presence at home all the time when he came down for holidays. He was never tired of seeing her lovely face and to hear voice. I called my sister and told my plan of prank to her and to tell papa that mama has gone to Trasi to see her parents. Valerian was slow in speech then and he did not learn to speak in words but only through hand gestures. I instructed him too. I warned both of them not to reveal the truth, otherwise I will punish them. They agreed out of fear.
When papa arrived, I served him coffee. He enquired about mama. I said that she has gone to Trasi. He didn’t believe me. He asked my sister; she too said the same thing. He asked my younger brother. He too said the same through his hand gestures. But papa was not ready to accept our version. He thought that mama was hiding somewhere in the house. He searched the entire home. He could not find her. He thought that she must be hiding in the house loft where we were stocking hay for the cattle.
He asked me to bring the torch (we didn’t have electricity at home and used kerosene oil lamps). I gave him the torch. He asked me to hold the bamboo ladder and he climbed. I too climbed the loft. He searched for mama on the loft and inside the bales of hay. She was not there. Then once again he asked me, “Has really mama gone to Trasi?”
With a sad face and a low voice, I told him, “In the morning mama told you that she would go to grandparent’s home for a day. She left after preparing the food. You don’t worry. Let us say the angelus, rosary, and night prayers. Then we shall have our supper before going to sleep.” He began to sob like a child and said something like this, “Why did she do this to me? I have come all the way from Bombay. Now how shall we spend the night without her?” Like an actor I was consoling him but he was crying like a child. At that moment, mama returned home. She was not aware about my prank. Valerian and Genevieve tell her that papa has come and is searching for her. Hearing her voice, papa said to me, “You little rascal, all of you told me a lie and made me shed tears.”
Mama then joined us and said, “I should have gone to Trasi, I made a mistake”. We children narrated the whole episode to mama about our prank and all of us laughed to our hearts’ content. Such was papa’s love for mama, though theirs was the arranged marriage (03.01.1946). They had not seen each other, till one of the relatives of papa asked him to see my mama barely a week before the marriage. Their love for each other and for us children was really remarkable and exemplary.
Papa, on your death anniversary bless me, my siblings and all those who were dear and near to you when you were alive. Now continue to remain cheerful and active as before, till I hopefully join your company.
About Author-Fr Pratap Naik SJ :
Fr. Pratap Naik, S.J., is a Jesuit priest based in Panjim-Goa. He is the director of the Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr (TSKK), a research institute working on issues related to the Konkani language, literature, culture and education. The institute is based in Alto Porvorim, on the outskirts of the state capital of Panaji, Goa. Fr Naik was one of the proponents for founding the TSKK. The proposal to do so was brought up before the provincial congregation (one of the official bodies of the Jesuits) in 1978.
TSKK is named after Thomas Stephens, the 16th century English Jesuit priest missionary who came to Goa in 1579 and lived in the region till his death. Stevens authored the Arte da lingoa Canarim, which was written in Portuguese, and was the first printed grammar of what is now called the Konkani language. In 1982 TSKK was registered as a society, and it commenced operation in January 1986 from its former premises at Loyola Hall in Miramar, Goa. Miramar itself is a centre for training young men wanting to become Jesuit priests.
The TSKK focuses on education and research of the Konkani language, literature and culture. Speaking about the professional activities of the TSKK, Pratap Naik has said, “We are not limiting ourselves only to Goa, but wherever Konkani is spoken. Shortly, we are going to study Siddi Konkani, spoken by a community of former slaves who were once located in Goa, and are now based in Yellapur in Konkani. For this we are collaborating with two Brazilian professors.”. Since 1986, Jesuit scholastics training to become priests were sent for a one-month training in Konkani. In 2003, a Konkani postgraduate diploma course was proposed. In 2006, Naik was involved in a campaign to get official recognition for the Roman script of Konkani, along with the Devanagari script, which is the sole officially recognized script for Konkani in Goa.