Monthly Archives: May 2013

Column: Goa needs to be a better Paymaster

(Please note: This is my weekly column that was published in The Goan on Saturday)

Earlier this month, I happened to meet a college friend after almost three years. We were planning to meet since the last one year, but it wouldn’t happen. Finally, we met and drowned all the Mumbai-chaos in cold coffee on a hot Sunday evening, and began chatting about Goa. One segment of our conversation was about us, and ‘us’ being Goan girls in Mumbai. We do find a lot of Goan guys too, but Goan girls are here with a strong intention — to achieve something, to stay a notch higher than their competitors and to live an independent life.

The big question that arises here is why can’t Goa retain talent? It’s quite common to note that Goan boys complete their education and join the hotel industry. Quite a number of women follow the same trend. The shipping industry is quite fond of us or it could be the other way round. But that’s not the point. The point is why does precious talent always move to cities such as Delhi and Mumbai? Is it just better opportunities or is there something more to this migration?

When I came to Mumbai, it was clear that I wanted to achieve something. In Goa, I couldn’t. The state didn’t offer a journalism course at that time. It was the usual Arts, Commerce, Science and other vocational courses, not forgetting Hotel Management and Catering. Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Computer Application were the newest course introduced in Goa, but it wasn’t leading me to the media industry.

After I completed my degree in Bachelor of Mass Media in Mumbai, I returned to Goa hoping that some media house would hire me. Well, I did get through several interviews, but pay packages were poor. The state still seems to be a poor pay master. This friend of mine faced similar issues. After two years of experience working in marketing, she applied to some companies in Goa. She got through, but the company was not willing to pay more than Rs 8000 and in Mumbai, she earned Rs 25000 per month. Why would anyone take up a job at such a pay cut? On this note, she packed her bags and came back to this city.

A chat with another friend revealed her thoughts on the same subject. According to her Goa kind of mollycoddles you – it’s all about home and family and familiar places and people. You can’t do much sans people finding out. You can’t join a job without realising your colleagues know you some way or the other, which is awful because you are then compared to family members or people from your college etc. And Mumbai does not invade your privacy. This city provides just the right amount of anonymity and space.

After gathering all this experience and learning to live an independent life, we girls would like to come back home and do something positive for the state, but this is possible only if Goa starts to create better opportunities. We can do much better if girls are trusted with the jobs entrusted to them.

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Engineering Change

(Please note: This article was first published in The Goan on Saturday. You can also read the story here.)

big_4336_Leadbombay“In this day and age when new technology is unfolding every month, there is a need to catch up with development. Our challenge as an institution will be to get students who can match that rate of change,” says the newly appointed Director of St Xavier’s Technical Institute and Xavier Institute of Engineering in Mahim.

Until now, Fr Francis de Melo was the Principal of St Xavier’s Technical Institute for the past 20 years and will be promoted to a higher level this June. Why was he chosen to occupy the director’s seat? “There are not many Jesuits who’ve done engineering,” he says, adding, “And I have completed my B.Tech from IIT Bombay and Masters from Loyola-Marymount University, Los Angeles. As a Jesuit engineer I had an opportunity to take up teaching in our colleges. And that’s precisely what I did.”

In June, Fr. Francis also completes 50 years as a Jesuit. This alumnus of St. Stanislaus High School was inspired by the work undertaken by Jesuit priests to improve education, and he wanted to be like one of them. “So after two years of college I joined the religious order of Jesuits and simultaneously took up engineering.” And he believes that engineering came naturally to him.

“My dad was the secretary of the then Engineering Association of India (now CII) and hence I was familiar with this industry. Engineering was something that came naturally to me. I like mathematics and physics.” Fr. Francis was born in Goa and lived with his grandmother till the age of four. He then relocated to Mumbai where he lived with his parents in Bandra until he joined the Jesuits.

As the director, Fr. Francis will have to enhance the creativity of these institutions. “The Principals of the respective colleges will take care of academics and will ensure everything is smooth between the teachers, government and the students. They will also have to ensure that the fees are not hiked. I will now work towards building up the self-esteem of these colleges. Most importantly, I will look after the vision of the place.”

With great responsibilities, come challenges. “My key challenges will be to obtain permission from the government to put up a new building. Second, India has reached a level where it’s getting world class technology. But are we capable of creating an education that can develop the intellectual capability of a student? We need to get India at the top of the world. So we need to create an education system that will match the demands of today’s world and make our students see that they are capable of it.”

Fr. Francis has travelled across India and the world, but he has had the pleasure to teach in Mumbai. According to him, his role demands to nurture his students. He doesn’t believe in pushing his students, but instead, guide them towards achieving their goal. “Our motto is ‘The joy of excellence in a world of high technology’. We want to be at the top of technology, but without killing ourselves. If there’s no time to enjoy life and nature, there’s no point of reaching the top. Hence, the ‘joy’ of excellence,” he concludes.

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My Vocation: Pen and Paper

1368514513984When I was in school, I wanted to become a software engineer. Sadly, my relationship with Science was not quite smooth, even though I loved Mathematics. Then I joined college and when asked what I intended to take up as a career, it was singing. To me, singing was the most convenient career option. I also started learning the violin. Again, didn’t work out. I decided to separate talent from career instead of confusing the two. Towards the end of junior college days, I started growing fond of the media space. So, with nothing more to think about I left Goa for Mumbai and completed a course in Mass Media. During the three-year course, little did I know where I was heading, and that’s something most of us face during college days.

Towards the end of my second year, I developed an interest in journalism. Completed an internship to figure out where I fit best – reporting, writing or editing. Reporting and editing seemed like my areas.

It’s been two years since I completed my graduation. Today, I’m working with a digital agency as a content writer and as a freelance journalist with The Goan on Saturday. It’s funny how I never considered writing as an option.

During school days, I would never read. A fresh novel would sit in my bag every week, and was treated like an untouchable. Even during college days I continued the same trend. It was in my third year at Sophia College that I developed an interest in reading. We were once given a project to review Known Turf by Annie Zaidi. I read the book and conveniently skipped pages. In the bargain, I found those bits interesting so I started reading the novel all over again. I went back to God of Small Things and read the novel again. Gradually, reading started capturing me. I started borrowing books from friends and professors. I then signed up to a library. Today, I regret not reading when I had all the time in the world as a child. How much I’d learn. Reading taught me much more than anyone else could.

And with reading, I don’t know when and how, I grew fond of that one segment I ignored during my third year. I thought I could make a good crime or politics reporter. But see where I’ve anchored my ship. This dock is called writing. Now I want to write. I want to keep writing. But it isn’t all that easy all the time. Ideas come and go like breeze. Even though I’m sitting all alone and writing, I’m as nervous as a shadow  before making a submission. But there’s something about typing words. Even though I enjoy writing, I’m not quite a fan of calling myself a writer. I’m yet not convinced about the road I’ve taken. Will I be a writer or is another profession awaiting me? For now I’d like to believe that this is my vocation.

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First Goan Nun to Have Served Under 3 Popes

I received this email this morning. Thought of sharing it with everyone 🙂 Also, I was quite exited to note that I studied from this same school – Maria Bambina. When I was in my primary section, she was the principal of the school. I still remember the day when I went to kiss the Tabernacle and landed up dropping the entire tent on the floor. “If only this had to fall on you, you wouldn’t survive,” she said. Back then, she used to wear a saree. And this lady was a gem, and she still is. Our blessings be with you, Sr. Lucy.

image001Sr. Lucy Britto is the first Goan nun to have this prestigious post of serving at the Secretariat of the Vatican under three Popes — Blessed John Paul II (1978-2005) , Benedict XVI (2005-2013) And Francis (2013— present).

Sr. Lucy was born in Veroda (Ganton) Cuncolim, Goa and completed her schooling from Maria Bambina Convent High School, Cuncolim. She later joined the same convent Order (Sisters of Charity) and proceeded to Dharwad where she took her vows.

She then went on to Hyderabad for further studies and was later sent to France. She has M. Phil in her academics and several other courses. She was a lecturer in French at St. Francis College, Hyderabad. She can speak fluent French, Italian and hence she does translation jobs at the Vatican. Perhaps her vast knowledge has rewarded her to work for the SECRETARIAT OF THE STATE – THE VATICAN – a first for an Indian nun to have this prestigious post of serving the Vatican.

Sr. Lucy was born to Late Ernestina Britto and Late Pedro Menino Britto on July 6, 1947. She spent her childhood and schooling in Goa. Her brother, sister, nephews and nieces all live in Mumbai.

In Goa she was Mother Superior at the same convent where she studied 25 years ago and was very famous with the community. In Mumbai, she was Mother Superior in Yuvathi Sharan, at Dadar West.

Earlier, she worked in Hyderabad, Goa, Dharwad and Mumbai before proceeding to Italy.

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The Mastermind Behind Candies Cafe, Bandra

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The crowd visiting Candies – a café in Bandra – is enough evidence to reflect how amazing the place is. The multi-cuisine chain is a hit among college-goers and young executives because of the moderate pricing and variety of food. And best, you can sit at any of the three outlets in the heart of Bandra and be assured not to be asked to leave once you are done hogging.

Allan Pereira the owner of the café, always wanted to have something of his own. After completing his schooling in a boarding in Darjeeling, he returned to work with his father at Mac Ronells — a restaurant and a pastry shop, which also offered catering services. “I wanted to enroll to a catering college, but at Mac Ronells, I received hands-on training,” says the owner of the Candies which completed 27 years.

Before launching Candies, Allan travelled across the world to get a larger perspective of the confectionery sector. After the demise of his father in 1983, Allan continued to work with Mac Ronells, and within three years, he set up his own business – Candies. However, as popular as it is, the first outlet of Candies was opened in Andheri.  “Within a year, I managed to lease a place in Bandra. So I shut shop in Andheri and decided to run my business in Bandra, the place where I was born and raised. After two years, I bought a place in Pali Hill and that’s how the journey began,” Allan says.

Travelling the world helped the restaurateur not just with the menu, but with the décor as well. He also has an appetite for perfection. “Before introducing something new I like to know if it will make me happy. I wanted to make Candies a place where anyone could come and pass their time. The décor has a European feel to it. Interiors are mostly Portuguese, Spanish and a bit Grecian. I transported these looks from the places I travelled.”

Besides the gorgeous décor, Candies is known for serving delicious meals. “One can get a meal within Rs 200. The menu comprises snacks such as sandwiches, pizzas and burgers prepared in different styles. “20 per cent of the recipes on the menu belong to my dad. The rest are my own experiments.”

With such a huge café come challenges. “The key challenges are to retain quality of the number of items we serve and gathering workforce,” Allan says, adding, “We need to constantly check the ingredients. Not a single item is kept for the following day. As the clock strikes 8 pm, everything on the menu is sold at a 25 per cent discount. And we never run out of takers. On the other hand, Candies has a workforce of over 180 people. None of the staff members are professionals. They are hired and kept under my supervision until they know their job.”

Today, Allan manages three outlets in Bandra, but given a chance he would love to open an outlet in Goa too. “Candies in Goa is an excellent idea,” he says, “Goa is blessed with tourists, and these tourists enjoy continental food, plus we are priced reasonably.”

Being a Goan, Allan has ensured that Goa specialties feature on the menu. His ancestral house is in Majorda, and he has his own place in Candolim. “We serve fish-curry-rice, sorpotel, pulav, Goa sausages and prawn curry. There are times when I’ve heard people bet on whether the owner is a Goan or a foreigner,” he chuckles.

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This feature first appeared in The Goan on Saturday.

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Column: Mumbai Lacks Open Spaces

Marine DriveA couple of years ago, I was assigned the task to accompany my brother during his SSC board exams. I would take him to this school in Dadar where he did not study, but only wrote his exam papers during those 10 days. Each examination was for three hours and I would wait for my brother till he left the examination hall so that I could take him back home. What would I do during those three hours? My exams were approaching, so I would study. But there was one problem. I was not allowed to sit anywhere in the school premises. Also, I couldn’t stand on the pavement because it was occupied by vendors. One day I walked down the lane and was surprised to see a park. It was 11am, and I headed towards the entrance. However, I wasn’t allowed to enter as the park was not open to the public. I had to have a membership card (which I clearly didn’t). So there was no place I could go. That same day, I found a cyber café in the adjacent lane and I spent those hours reading news or researching some topics.

Mumbai lacks open spaces. It’s very difficult to find a place where no fees or paid tickets are required for entry. Some months ago, I was meeting a group of friends and we decided to just go out and have fun. We wanted to play games and sit by the sea. The first place to come to our mind was Jogger’s Park in Bandra. When I was a kid, my siblings and I were taken to this park every weekend. It was the only place we could play games and is well maintained. But no one can enter Jogger’s Park without paying an entrance fee.

I live in Andheri, so if I want to go out with friends, it’s either Juhu Beach or the nearest mall. While the former is always congested and noisy, the latter may not be a public space but malls do serve as open spaces. It’s okay if you don’t shop for anything. Window shopping is luckily not a crime.

Bandstand, Carters and Jogger’s Park are the highlights of open spaces in the suburbs. If you go towards South Bombay (SoBo), you will find Metro, Hanging Gardens, Horniman Circle, Chowpatty and the very popular Marine Drive (Queen’s Necklace) where one can hangout without being bothered.

Mumbai has over 13 million residents, where being jostled in crowded places is part of daily life. On the other hand, Goa has a lot of beaches where one can sit for hours. It’s still not as crowded as Juhu Beach or Chowpatty. Open places are clean and well maintained in Goa. When in Goa, I can visit a park, garden, a church or temple without having to pay a fee. The biggest challenge to open spaces in a city like Mumbai is that these places are misused, abused and neglected. Generations to come may have to open their wallets every time they want to enter a public space. Let’s just hope this never happens.

(Please note: This is my weekly column that was published in The Goan on Saturday)

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My First Interaction With A Goan Chef In Mumbai

This feature first appeared in The Goan on Saturday.

Chef Savio Fernandes, Pastry Chef, JW Marriott MumbaiSavio Fernandes gets the distinction of being the first Indian Executive Pastry Chef.

In April, Bangkok Marriott conducted the Marriott Pastry Chefs conference that was attended by 25 pastry chefs from across the world, and Chef Savio Fernandes of JW Marriott, Mumbai, was one of them.

Savio describes the event as unforgettable and fun.

“We had to bake 300 cupcakes along with girls from an orphanage. The task was to go out into the streets in our uniform and sell these cupcakes to generate revenue for the orphanage. It was amusing to see chefs in white uniform running around selling cupcakes,” recalls the 38-year-old Chef.

Savio is Goan-Mumbaikar who was born and raised in Mumbai. He completed a course on Hotel Management and Food Technology from Sophia Polytechnic, and has been associated with JW Marriott since the last five years. Prior to this, Savio has worked with the Jumeirah Madinath in Dubai, Oberoi Towers, Taj Air Caterers, Palm Grove and Goa Marriott Resort.

Savio was born to a family that had a special relationship with everything food! He draws most of his inspiration from his parents. While his father pursued his love for cooking despite being an engineer, his mother would bake cakes on a regular basis which attracted the chef to the oven. But did Savio always want to be a pastry chef? “Yes,” he says, “My mother would bake every Thursday, which used to be a school holiday. She would walk me through the process and then leave it to me. I also had an uncle who was the pastry man at the Taj and kept me abreast of the pastry world. I’ve been good at art and craft, which I think added to showcasing my skills in pastry.”

While at JW Marriott, Chef Savio has been a recipient of multiple awards, but there’s one award he considers dear. “The Manager of the year award is very dear to me because it boosted my confidence, which later made me the first Indian Executive Pastry Chef for this flagship property.”

At work, Savio follows a strict management style. Rule one is treat everyone like you’d want to be treated. And rule two is maintain complete transparency. When not at work, the chef confesses that he is a complete family guy. “After I swipe out, I love spending time with my children and nephews. I also love ballroom dancing. Not forgetting photography that’s growing to be a passionate hobby. I used to also play football, but today I just dribble the ball at home.”

Savio is an aggressive baker who does not permit re-takes but still manages to stay patient when he’s handling pastry or fine art confectionary. His best creation and his personal favourite has been the Cointreau Gulab Jamun Brulee. “In this recipe I soak mini gulab jamuns in cointreau for five days and then bake it along with a cointreau vanilla brulee.”

This is how it looks in paper:

Savio

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Goan Weddings In Goa Have A Higher Score

(Please note: This is my weekly column that was published in The Goan on Saturday)

The month of May is not quite different from December. The first variation you find is in the weather. While December brings with it the chill, May does just the opposite. Both months have 31 days and are regarded as vacation season. Schools pull down shutters, there’s a hike in travel fares, and celebrations take centre stage. One such celebration is weddings, and Goan weddings are a perfect example of an occasion where the enjoyment begins well in advance and the excitement does not subside even after the wedding is over.

Even though Mumbai houses a lot of Goans, the wedding here are not as exciting as they’re back in Goa. The ros ceremony – anointing the bride and the groom with a mixture of coconut juice and coconut oil by family and friends is quite popular. But it doesn’t have the same charm of singing Konkani songs, mandos or dulpods. This either happens one or two days before the wedding.

Bhium Jevon (a ritual meal) or Bikarian Jevon (food for the poor) is another popular tradition followed by Goans. The Bridal trousseau is sent to the bride’s house on this day by the groom’s family; again, not something popular in the metropolitan city. This is usually replaced by a bachelor and bachelorette party where friends of the bride and groom come together respectively to celebrate before the couple ties the knot.

There are not many alterations in the Nuptial ceremony except that, in Mumbai, the Resper takes place at the bride’s parish, and in Goa, it’s at the groom’s parish. The Kazar (Wedding) is the most loved segment during Goan weddings. Isn’t it? Once the couple walks down the aisle and are announced man and wife, everyone proceeds to what we call “hall”. If the wedding is during the monsoons, it’s in a hall. Otherwise, it’s open air. Readers in Goa will totally agree. But the celebration is way different.

A live band plays a very important role, but in Mumbai, live bands do not go beyond cafes and clubs. At weddings, a DJ mixes numbers – Ballroom dancing is associated with Goan Catholics. Everyone jives, and if you don’t, heaven save you! In Goa, we play safe and dance a waltz. After a couple of dance numbers start the Konkani masala. That’s the best way to distinguish a Goan wedding from any other community wedding in Mumbai.

Come to a Goan wedding, and you know you’re in for a sumptuous treat! Food and drinks are always the highlight. Initially, food used to be cooked by the family. Gone are those days when the village came together to put together a meal for the guests. Today, it’s a caterer who’s given the task to feed everyone at a wedding.

The last and final tradition is the Porthepon (invitation to the bride’s house). I remember how the entire village would squeeze into a bus that was going to be our ride to the bride’s house. Everyone ate, drank, danced and returned home. However, this is not something you will experience in this city. Once the wedding is done, it’s done. Thanks for coming!

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Feature: Gina Dias

Gina Dias finds working in Mumbai exciting and challenging. Read more.

GIna Dias

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Column: The Banter, Booze and the Goan Connection

ColumnA cliché is an expression or idea that has been overused to an extent that it loses its original meaning. However, clichés are not always false or inaccurate. It’s just a notion that grows bigger as it is accepted by the masses. Okay, this isn’t a piece on clichés. Today, I write about one cliché that is associated with Goa.

Living in a city like Mumbai, friends prefer to chit-chat over a drink at least once a month. If you’re working, teams go out drinking after putting a week’s work to bed. Everyone bonds over a pint of beer, cocktails or some other spirits. It is assumed that everyone will drink, but as a Goan, if you say otherwise, the immediate question that is fired at you is – You are a Goan! How are you not drinking? You guys are known for it!

Breathe buddy, breathe! Just because someone is a Goan doesn’t mean he/ she will gulp down alcohol like water. I’ve known a lot of Goans who do not drink. Not even beer. Yes, not even beer! And I was unaware of the same. Just the other day I ran into a Goan friend and in the course of our conversation I suggested that we should go out drinking sometime. We exchanged looks, but different looks. He was smiling mysteriously while I was already chalking out a plan in my head. “What is it?” I asked. His reply was unexpected. He said he doesn’t drink. First, I laughed. Second, I laughed harder. I couldn’t believe that a Goan guy just said that he doesn’t drink. However, I apologised for my insensitive behaviour. But I was curious to know the reason. There was nothing, he said.

Drinking has nothing to do with which state you hail from or which community you belong to. When people drink it’s to celebrate something. However, this too is debatable. A lot of people drink for the wrong reasons, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. It’s quite embarrassing to be known as the community that drinks to an extent that we can’t carry the weight of our own body. Bollywood films have an important role to play in drawing this picture of Goa. A lot of Goans find this offensive. They are very happy with either a glass of water or fresh fruit juice. Some also prefer aerated drinks, but liquor is a complete no-no.

I usually prefer to abstain from beer during Lent. And a friend asked me the same question – But you’re a Goan. How can you not drink? Make note, the question is never – why don’t you drink? The question always emphasizes on the word Goan. Just because Goa offers booze at pocket-friendly prices, it should not be assumed that we bathe in it. This is just an exaggerated depiction of Goa. Like I said, a cliché.

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