A well-known rendezvous for the people of Saligao is The Saligao Institute (SI), which celebrated its 94th anniversary in August this year.
As this social and cultural landmark slowly inches towards its centenary, we learn of the slew of activities, signature events and infrastructural changes planned to facilitate a closer bonding between the Saligaonkars, more so the youth, with the SI.
THE SI BOND
A lot of people who come here are defined by their past connect with the SI, Saligao, which could be either reading books in the library, being part of an impromptu gathering or simply lounging, says Desmond da Costa, President of the SI.
He calls the SI a place where people fraternise and bond. “It brings people together,” he says.
The late Fr Nascimento J Mascarenhas in his book, Land of the Sal Tree, writes about the visionary zeal of Vitorino Saldanha, Antonio Jose Cordeiro and Dr Rudolfo de Melo, three passionate people from Arrarim – the vaddo where the SI is situated – who helped in the building and foundation of the institute which was inaugurated in 1929.
Assumptina Cordeiro, remembers visiting the SI as a child along with her parents. She recalls vividly the activities that were held at the SI, especially the Christmas tree party.
Chat with senior members of the SI, and they will tell you how many members of the SI in the past were those who had returned from Africa, where they had migrated for reasons such as work.
In Africa, the Goan community would often meet and socialise with each other at Goan clubs and institutes.
It is notable to mention that two of the founding members, namely Vitorino Saldanha and Dr Rudolfo de Melo, were formerly based in Africa.
Vitorino successfully ran grocery stores in Mombasa, Nairobi and Nakuru. Dr Rudolfo de Melo had his practice in Zanzibar, writes Fr Nascimento.
Many members, today, are actually the children of the earlier generation who frequented the SI, informs Assumptina, the treasurer of the SI.
Desmond’s father, himself, was a past president of the SI. “We came down to Goa from Mumbai in 2011 when my father was not well,” says Desmond adding, “I became the president of SI recently. The membership of the SI has expanded, today, to include even those who have now settled in Saligao and call it home,” he shares.
Over the years, the SI’s popularity might have taken a dip as members migrated.
“The SI’s relevance could have possibly declined as people became more online and real communities became less of a reason for people to come to an institute,” remarks Desmond. He goes on to explain how it’s a challenge still faced with the onslaught of social media.
“Now, you have communities, say for example, for travel or for other purposes which was not there in the past,” says Desmond.
He however, says that despite this their activities, like their recent anniversary party, does attract a crowd.
‘MADE IN SALIGAO’ POP UP MARKET
The ‘Made in Saligao’ pop up market at the SI has made a mark for itself since its inception four years ago. The October to May seasonal market has vendors coming in every Tuesday afternoon, selling delicious food, decorative and useful items and handcrafted wares among other things.
The success seen at the market has set a ripple effect in other villages where similar such markets have also been started for enterprising locals.
This season, the SI plans on upgrading the market by training vendors to run their home-based businesses with a professional touch and expand their enterprise.
Desmond says, “We plan to enhance the level of the Saligao Market. Vendors at the market should make a profit, too, and not just be a part of the market for a social cause, and the SI recognises that sentiment. Price will no longer be the only denominator to determine the value of a product. We want to add more value to the products at the market and this should translate to increased sales.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The SI has a well-stocked library, and facilities for indoor games such as table tennis, bridge, pool etc. They also have an outdoor court area where people can play badminton and basketball. They will be improving the facilities for basketball so that the talented basketball players, who reside in the vicinity, can come and practice, informs Desmond.
The SI is also looking forward to developing signature events at the SI. Assumptina informs about the Ladies Week that is held annually and which draws a good response.
The SI hosts karaoke, film screenings, traditional mando events, talks and a lot more. Their innovative Sao Joao celebrations in June involved a Van Mahotsav where there was a seed and plant sale and exchange.
There are also plans to invite artistes at the SI and have different cultural performances.
However, understanding that it is not only activities that make the place inviting, the SI is investing on food and a good surrounding.
“Food and a good ambience is what brings people together,” believes Desmond. “What the SI lacked in the past was a cafe and a working bar. We are working on starting one soon which will operate throughout the week. To facilitate plans such as this, the general affair of repair and maintenance will be of a higher order,” says Desmond.
The SI has a beautiful vista – the terrace and verandah being examples of vantage points – of lush green fields which will be tapped on by building infrastructure for it.
Once the aesthetics are worked upon and there’s a revamp in infrastructure, the SI hopes it will be appealing to those wishing to take spaces in the SI on hire for celebrations and functions.
To know more about the Saligao Institute and its activities, you can whatsapp +91 9850 14417