More memories from my childhood by Zoe Rodrigues

The rains this year have been heavier than in the recent past, more like how it used to rain when I was a child. As I travelled on the Vasco-Panjim route recently, it was delightful and very pleasing to the eye to see the greenery all around. Hills covered with wild shrubs, long trailing green creepers everywhere, a patch of purple flowers in a field and a glimpse of white and yellow flowers growing wild by the roadside, brought back memories of my youth. These days what we usually see by the roadsides all over Goa is heaps of garbage, to which the plants have given only a temporary cover. Once the rains subside in a couple of months, the greenery will slowly dry up to expose the ugly mounds of rubbish and plastic underneath. But this was not so in my youth.
In those days, each of our families would take care of our own waste. Most households had animals like dogs, cats, pigs, hens and even cattle. Leftover food, canji (rice gruel), etc. would be fed to our animals. Our cat would relish the discarded fish heads while Fox, our dog, was eager for the meat bones. Coconut shells and other such material would be used as fuel in the fireplace for cooking or for heating, in large copper pots, the water required for our baths. Any remaining kitchen waste including fish water and fish entrails, together with even cow dung, would be put in a pit dug in the ground outside and covered with a little mud. The contents of the pit would slowly decompose and provide rich manure for the flowering and other plants, and the trees that grew in our compound. It might seem more tedious than to just fling the garbage somewhere, but it was such a normal part of our daily routine, that we never even thought twice about doing it. I think it was also a respect for nature, something that we picked up naturally from our parents and elders.
Of course, in those days we did not have plastics. Though my father subscribed to the daily paper “A Vida”, newspapers were usually not that freely available with the vendors in the market. Instead, all of us carried our own cloth bags that were sewn at home. Separate bags were used for fish and other such commodities. Once home, the bags were simply emptied, washed and hung to dry, ready for the next use. Since we did not have electricity in those days, we could not even dream of washing machines to help us in these tasks, but still we did not find it tedious at all. Recycling and reusing was something that we did naturally.
Today we have plastics, but these can be both a boon and a curse. Even when not really required, we tend to use plastic indiscriminately, and pollute the environment. The stinking mounds of garbage are a potential source of ill-health as they attract rats and mosquitoes which transmit disease. Besides, the garbage attracts stray dogs too, which then multiply and often bite people and cause rabies. Cattle too rummage in these garbage heaps, often innocently swallowing plastic bags that sadly block their insides and cause them a painful death.
I hope this article will remind us of what we are so carelessly destroying. Yet it is not too late to change. We need development but at the same time, we must respect nature and take care of our Earth. Let us each try to cut down on our use of plastics. Garbage must go in bins and we must not dirty or litter our public spaces. Each of us can do something for our land, as every little effort counts. As the saying goes, “Many drops of water make the mighty ocean”. Let us each start today to do our bit to beautify our city and keep it clean and green.