Dr Anibel Ferus Comelo, a sociologist from Goa who with a group of American students from William and Mary College, West Virginia tours through Paroda teaching the students to weave a mat of reed and witness a traditional fugdi by the womenfolk. NESHWIN ALMEIDA catches up with the American crew and Dr Anibel on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It’s 10.30 am and it’s a slow wet Sunday. Through sheets of rain, we witness a group of 13 American students who’ve travelled a long way from West Virginia hurdled together besides a palm thatched roof learning to weave a mat from river reed and grass, while they learn how tight to pull the shaft and how to inter-twine the reed through palm string and prepare a perfect hard mat.
As tradition with the women in Paroda, weaving is an activity they carry out on a makeshift loom while tending to the fields and after they’ve collected enough river reeds to make mats for their homes. Interestingly Dr Anibel Ferus Comelo, a Goan by origin, associated with the William and Mary College is the one communicating between the American students and the women of Paroda explaining their instruction from Konkani to English and translating the students’ questions from English to Konkani to seek answers from the women teaching the weaving. Dr Anibel annually brings students from West Virginia on their summer break to learn and understand the culture of Goans and gives a tiny part of Goan history and culture to the world.
“From spice farms to Goan cuisine to the architecture at Old Goa and meeting historians and photographers of Goa, these children who are not on a holiday but on a visit as a part of their curriculum, learn and experience Goa and they even get credits in their marking system while they see a so much of Goa,” explains Dr Anibel as she’s co-ordinating the fugdi dance performance by locals, led by Amelia Dias in her backyard in Paroda. She explains to the American kids the fugdi and the mando and the stories told through song and dance.
Gul Ozyegin, a Turkish Professor of Sociology in Gender, Sexuality and women’s studies, accompanying the students as one of the faculty of William and Mary College, West Virginia explains that it’s a whole different insight that the students get from a study tour like this while they interact with local Goans of different walks of life. She says that the students are grateful to Dr Anibel who meticulously plans these tours through her contacts and tours like this goes a long way for the American students.
Similarly the womenfolk of Paroda, who nowadays give up their dance and weaving antheir traditional occupation for more lucrative jobs which ultimately leads to a huge loss of tradition and traditional methods, are happy that individuals like Dr Anibel gives them an impetus to keep their ways of their ancestors alive and it means a lot that someone appreciates their work and learns from it.
“I pick and choose the locations I take these children too or the cuisine and dishes of Goa I want them to learn and cook. I want these kids to get a whole different experience and take back these stories of Goa to their homes and friends. These are students of various walks of life from students in public policy to medicine to political science and they watch and observe our Goan women and their art and tradition and it’s heartening to give Goa to others,” explains Dr Anibel as she arranges a finishes mat to be displayed to the kids so that they get a real feel of the reed mat.
“From learning Konkani words to working with Goan spices to getting a feel of the fresh mud and the monsoons, I am so happy to be on this study trip of Dr Anibel’s,” explains Hannah Richman while another student Adriene Thompson appreciates the efforts of Dr Anibel to plan their stay in Goa and give them a mix of everything from religion and architecture to dance and art. He feels that she also had planned the distance well and it’s a rich experience to carry forward.