It’s Clinton Pacheco’s 21st birthday today. This is the son of my landlady and they live downstairs.
I have experienced a couple of Goan weddings but this is my first experience of a 21st birthday celebration. It starts with the day being spent preparing the decoration for the garden by the men of the family while the women – well Connie (my landlady) and her relatives prepare food to feed a lot of people. When I ask her who is coming she tells me they are expecting around 200 people!! – that is all the neighbours and relatives close by of course. Phew – some people will do anything for a free meal! So she is cooking up a lot of rice and a few meat dishes too.
I arrive back from a half day working around 1pm and Connie invites me to have lunch with them. So I go to wish Clinton Happy Birthday and take him a small gift of a cup/mug with “best 21yr old” written on it. This I have been informed will be enough.
Connie has cooked a spread of various Goan foods.. First we are all called to pray – or presumably give thanks for what we are about to eat. As I actually don’t understand a word said, I conclude this from the fact that they all bow their heads, clasp their hands with half closed eyes – oh and the fact that we are standing around the food table at this point. Then in dribs and drabs we all rather randomly get stuck into the dishes – a help yourself when you want free for all really!
Others seem to be leaving it until later but then a plate is shoved in my hand and so I help myself to some chicken dish, rice, salad and sorportel (but NO fish of which there are 2 dishes),
Then I have a sanna which I love (coconut rice cake) and Connie brings me a bowl of ice cream which I drop into my lemonade to warm up and to make an ice-cream soda. After eating I go back upstairs andI notice that the remaining women (except one who left already) start to prepare food for tonight’s feast. Maybe I should have offered but I had to prepare my room for a Reiki session later.
Here they are chopping onions for a big pot of something they will be cooking up late
So by now the garden is decorated with banners and an arch and balloons and there is a disco style set-up out there and it will be at 7.30pm that it all starts apparently. I look out from my balcony at 7.30 and there are already a few people in the garden sitting on the chairs arranged there so maybe this is going to start on time though I doubt it as normally things are at least an hour later than planned here.
However, 5 minutes later and the bangers go off and I go down to see what is happening and this gang of people are all stood inside and outside the house looking in and singing a number of hymns one after the other with a friend of the family, George, leading them on the microphone. It is NOT like my Tuesday night at karaoke but at least they seem to happy and singing along.
Anyway, these hymns go on for about half and hour and I can’t understand one of them as they are being sung in Konkani (a derivative of Hindi and Portuguese I believe). Anyway they end with a prayer and then everyone shuffles around while Glorio (Clinton’s dad) and the boys get therathe nice looking cake and set it up on a table to be cut.
At this point the whole famiy gathers behind the table, Clinton cuts the cake and then we all sing Happy Birthday. Then a toast is proposed by the singing friend George, (again I don’t understand anything until the end), champagne is popped and I proceed upstairs. However, 1 minute behind me is Connie and she gives me her champagne (non-drinker) and invites me back down where I get a snack handed to me and watch the next proceedings.
One girl, and presumably friend of Clinton or his brother Geoffrey (pronounced Joffry), is the designated MC for the evening. She organises young kids to play games for prizes and then older kids to play games (18 year olds!). Once that has finished then main course food is served and I decline and am back upstairs again.
Food is consumed to the sounds of loud, banging disco sounds on the system and the neighbours would have had no chance of peace so I am not surprised they are all here guzzling the food and soft drinks on offer.
So at 2130 I check the garden again and see that the oldies have all eaten and gone and only the youngsters (Clinton and his brothers and their friends) are still there chatting to the sound of banging music and I am wondering whether this will continue into the early hours of the morning. or…..?
However, I am sure some of my neighbours will probably still have a moan about the noise here tonight but heh, we were all young once weren’t we? And I for one still know how to enjoy a party even it is more observing than taking part nowadays.
Even though this Goan 21st didn’t compare to my wild night when I was 21 and living in London, (apart from the banging music that is!) it is still a great way for family to celebrate life, birth and memories after all.