27 Sep 2023  |   05:05am IST

Arroz Refogado!

Do not ever forget, those who sold rice to the Portuguese were the original rice bags. Reinforced with provisions, the Portuguese attacked and defeated the forces of Adil Shah
Arroz Refogado!

Radharao F Gracias

The people of Taleigao saw an opportunity to trade with the Portuguese, who were stranded and starving on their ships in the River Mandovi in the monsoons of 1510.  Under the cover of darkness, the Konkne - the Portuguese named them so- silently rowed the waters, to sell them rice and other essentials. Every night, the sailors who eagerly scoured the waters for their arrival cried out Aí vêm os sacos de arroz (here come the rice bags) as they proceeded to upload the rice into their own boats. Thus, the rice bags came to be synonymous with the Konkne.  Do not ever forget, those who sold rice to the Portuguese were the original rice bags.

Reinforced with provisions, the Portuguese attacked and defeated the forces of Adil Shah. The missionaries then moved all over the conquered lands, preaching equality of all men and condemning as inhuman, such ingrained local practices as sati, cutting  limb of a Súdra with which he struck a Bráhman and the classification of people as untouchable.   The Konkne who accepted the concept of equality became Cristao, and heirs to the rice bag tag. Those who did not subscribe to equality but wished to continue with their caste superiority decamped, carrying their idols. The Cristao learnt the art of cooking rice braised in lard, (arroz refogado) from the missionaries. 

The arroz refogado had the same effect on those who partook of it, as the bite of the forbidden fruit had, on Adam and Eve. It opened their eyes; they have been happy with what they saw—potato, tomato, chilly, pineapple, chikoo, custard apple, corn, papaya, guava, taro—and what they cooked—sarapatel chorizo, assado, guisado et al— and are enjoying it all.

Where are the rice bags now? What is their contribution?   I did not even have to leave the bounds of my village to locate a cross section of successful rice bags. Among the many things the rice bags learnt was the art of tailoring western style clothes.

Here is what India Today has to say about the descendant of one rice bag, with ancestry in my village, Majorda:

“Since India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the only PM who managed to generate enough buzz with his sartorial choices is Narendra Modi. And, the feat can be credited to Mumbai-based menswear designer Troy Costa.......”

“.........The fashion designer—who specialises in western formals—is known for dressing the country’s hottest Bollywood stars, CEOs and the biggest names from different walks of life, but it’s his work as a ‘tailor’ for Prime Minister Narendra Modi that catapulted him into the limelight......”  Is it not a wonderful feeling —even if you disagree with what he says— to see the Prime Minister of India proudly address the world in clothes designed by a rice bag from Goa? 

From fashion, let me move to politics: José Maria Pereira Coutinho is a Macanese politician and jurist. He has been the counsellor of the Portuguese Communities since 2003, President of Macau Civil Servants Association since 1998, and President of pro-democracy party New Hope and deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Macau since 2005.

José Maria Pereira Coutinho is son of former police chief Basílio Câncio Coutinho and Maria Ida Lourdinha Julieta Pereira Coutinho who were both born in Goa, before immigrating to Macau. José Maria Pereira Coutinho has a licentiate in law from the University of Macau. He led the Department of Intellectual Property of the Economy Services of Macau Government, and worked as a general secretary of Volunteered Arbitrary Centre in Macau World Trade Centre. He traces his ancestry to a rice bag from my village. 

Now, over to IT: In the aftermath of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Indians from Uganda, Norman Godinho son of a successful entrepreneur fled, to settle in California in the 1970s. There, with Varad Srinivasan he founded ‘Net Logic Microsystems Inc’, a fabless semiconductor company that developed high performance products for data center, enterprise, wireless and wireline infrastructure networks.  It was acquired by Broadcom Corporation for $3.7 billion in February 2012. Besides, he is the holder of nine patents and has other ventures to his name. Previously, his father and namesake had migrated to Uganda from Majorda and prospered owning vast sisal plantations, theatres and other businesses.  Norman Godinho School founded by him in 1933 still serves students in Kampala.

 As we can see, just from one village, descendants of the original rice bags have travelled far and achieved wide success. Such stories exist in every village, where rice bags had lived. I have pointed out only a few flourishing legends, from my own little village. What is it that has propelled the rice bags to such remarkable achievement, while others continue to luxuriate in grime? If being a rice bag helps achieve greater heights, why not be one?

Remember, we can today enjoy the choris-pao and the vada-pao because our ancestors had supplied rice bags to the Portuguese. On a more personal note Vittal Naik is believed to be one of the villagers who was part of that momentous decision, centuries ago to see merit in what the missionaries offered.  I am his descendant; several others are scattered over the state, country and the globe doing well and contributing to countries, they live in. All are thankful for that historic decision. And have no issues with those, who chose to remain hugging their haystacks! My family still resides on land inherited from and named after him as Vittalnaikalem.

 I do hope and trust you have enjoyed the taste of arroz refogado served above! 

(Radharao F Gracias is a senior trial court advocate & a former Independent MLA)


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