Just when I start feeling I know everything there is to know about Goa and my village (Benaulim), something new pops up. Friends from Panjim invited us to join them in celebrating the Sao Joao festivities. After a few emails back and forth and instructions to carry towels, a change of clothing my daughter and me were ready for a Holi like day in Goa.
Some background on Sao Joao festival, Sao Joao feast is held to felicitate the patron Saint, John the Baptist. This festival is specially important for the village of Benaulim where we have a beautiful old church dedicated to him. The story goes that the pregnant mother of St John the Baptist and Mother Mary with Christ in her womb were together, recognizing Christ to be god, St John took a leap in his mother’s womb. This leap is called the leap of faith and to imitate this leap of faith, young men of the village jump into the wells to show their leap of faith.
So far so good, till Shreya mentioned that St John the Baptist was older than Christ and he was already telling people about the arrival of Christ in the deserts of Palestine. My daughter asked, how was the other story possible? I told her that it’s our turn to take a leap of faith and believe in the stories told by Alex’s grand-mom and join the festivities.
We stopped at our local pond near the church in Benaulim, the village boys were busy decorating around it with balloons and streamers on poles, exotic fruits hanging from the tree branches and a boat placed on the side. The others were hiding bottles of beer and other liquors in the pond. The point being, boys from the village will jump into the pond and search for the alcohol that will be drunk as they find it. Now I wonder where that came from …… grownup baptism of sorts I guess!
As we traversed the distance between Benaulim and Siolim where the festival is celebrated with much more pomp and show. We noticed young men and women with beautiful floral wreaths driving down. Anjali and Noyna wanted their very own wreaths and I was hoping to purchase them on the way … that was not to be, as everyone makes their own special wreath. We have many ideas for next year, equipped with our flowers and staplers we shall make a gorgeous wreath that Julius Ceasar shall envy.
Siolim was decorated in a similar manner though instead of the village pond, it was beside the river. An old man dressed in gold lame lion cloth and a fake tiger skin was baptizing a pretty young kid in a white dress. The highlight of the stay was an upbeat song sung by two young kids in Konkani. Rain had abandoned us, which is normally necessary for the celebrations. Off we went to the party at the Riviera. Modern young kids were dressed in casuals with flowered t-shirts or girls with flowered hair ties. All gyrating to the DJ’s music or drinking beer, our arrival definitely skewed the average age of the party.
Similar parties were just beginning all over Goa with a promise to go on till wee hours of the morning. I am left with the thought that, would I have to allow Noyna to part take in these celebrations a few years from now? Two boys drowned in the shallow pools……….read the newspaper next morning.