There was a time in Goa when doctors were scarce and illnesses were treated with home remedies; obtaining water meant going to the well to fetch some; and owning a radio or television set meant you belonged to an affluent family.
Those were the days elders often recollect and talk about. When they hear someone complain about little things, they often go on to describe the life they lived without the technological aid the current generation has. “You kids have it easy. Our time was different,” they say.
Life changed with technology and globalization. Improved communication and transportation brought modern advances into Goan homes. In time, these changes were welcomed and adapted with open arms.
Today, a fast-paced lifestyle has led to tasks such as cleaning being done by a robot vacuum cleaner. By calling out to Alexa (a voice-controlled virtual assistant) one can switch off the lights, tune in to music or search for anything. A flick of a switch can heat water or toast your bread.
One can’t imagine a life without technology today, especially the current generation that has grown up with it. But when the old days are still spoken about with such nostalgia, one can’t help but notice how modern ways have led to a sedentary lifestyle.
Here’s a list of five things that were different in the homes of our Goan ancestors:
1. GLOSSIER FLOORS
Even today, when you enter some old Goan houses, you’ll notice an endless red floor stretched across all the rooms, and the moment you step barefoot on this red oxide flooring, a cool sensation is felt with a sense of walking on a carpet.
Grandparents in Goa often describe how they used to have walls and floors smeared in shen (cow dung), which was not only a sturdy building material once dried but had other benefits like being able to provide thermal insulation that would keep the floors cool in summer. It is also said to be able to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
Nowadays, Goans opt for flooring that meets the aesthetics of each room – from colored, patterned to textured tiles, classy marble flooring, rustic wooden flooring or industrial-style floors.
2. NOISY ELECTRICAL MIXERS
Grinding shredded coconut and Goan spices by moving the rogddo (stone grinder) was no less than an arm workout. As this traditional stone grinder, comprising a motor and pestle, went round and round, water was added occasionally to turn everything into a thick paste.
When electrical mixers weren’t really a thing, all the masalas for delicious Goan curries were ground on the rogddo. It allowed one to have a better control over the textures, and the gentle movement helped retain nutrients, natural oils and aromas of the ingredients, which gave masalas a distinct flavour.
But with technological advances the rogddos are lying in a corner collecting dust, while the noisy yet efficient and time-saving electrical mixers have taken over to vibrate on the kitchen platforms.
3. SPINNING CLOTHES DRY
Not so long ago, the laundry was done only by hand. That meant, all the dirty clothes were piled in a bucket and taken to a nearby washing stone. Clothes were soaked in sudsy water and thrashed against the stone till they were dirt-free. They were then rinsed in clean water and squeezed to remove all the excess water.
Some may consider this therapeutic, but there is no doubt that it required a dedicated amount of time and effort. One would end up getting drenched in water as much as the washed clothes that now hung on a line to dry.
The present-day washing machines have eased this task of laundry. With automatic machines that work on a timer, one is not burdened with the piling clothes in the laundry basket but only with the task of deciding whether to a buy a top or front-loading washing machine.
4. SWITCH AND HEAT WATER
Water was often heated with firewood, wherein a huge modki (a copper vessel) filled with water was placed over three stones. The fire was managed by fanning it occasionally and adding more wood or dried coconut shells if required.
Over a time, the walls and the vessel would turn black with the soot due to regular combustion. Each member in the house took their share of hot water using a baldi (bucket), making sure everybody had enough water to bathe.
Today, it hardly takes any time to heat water. Just switching on the geyser and adjusting tap knobs, one can avail the water temperature they desire. Geysers have become common in Goan homes as a one-time installment – a hassle-free appliance.
5. HASTY MEALS IN STAINLESS STEEL
Allowing food to simmer at its own pace has its own benefits owing to enriched flavors to being more nutritious to the body. Goan ancestors did not have much of an option, so they'd cook in clay/terracotta cookware that took longer and allowed food to be cooked in its own juices.
These eco-friendly vessels also retained heat that kept food warm over a longer period of time. Its porous material allowed cooking with less oil and also promised an enhanced earthy taste.
Apart from Goans shifting to the use of LPG cylinders or electrical induction stovetops, cookware has also seen a drastic shift, from utensils made of copper and aluminum to stainless steel. The type of utensils you find these days in Goan households depends on what individuals need in terms of durability, heat conduction and non-stick property.