Monday, December 1, 2008

The Goan Pao

From today inflation keeps its date with the Goan pao increasing its cost by 50 paise. A single pao will now cost rs 2.50. A traditional part of our staple diet, goans have witnessed the Goan pao increasing in price over the years and decreasing in size. As a child I remember running down the villGoan paoage lane to the melody of the ‘poder’s” honking and hugging 10 cubes of pao stuck together as a large tablet, for as little as Rs 1. That was somewhere in 1983. Times have changed. 25 years later I am paying exactly 25 times. However the pao is not exactly similar. It has declined both in size and in taste. But the addiction and allegiance to the Goan pao is too strong to switch or allow any other substitute on my plate.

Although times have become more modern and the slice bread has tried to invade our homes posing as the most immediate cousin of the goan pao, it has failed to find the same or near resourcefulness or taste associated with the pao. Indeed just like goan toddy, goan vinegar, our traditioGoan poienal coloured salt from our salt pans called agors, the love that we have for cashew niro, the pride found in the pure brewing of a brand like the goan feni ( which cannot be compared to any corrupted country liquor of India), our delicious and unique baked delicacies, our coconut curry, our sannas etc prove that our nostalgia with Goa has plenty of reason

Those were the days when the poie, the sweet bun (boll) or the undo had a distinct taste. The mere aroma of these buns sent us into wanton desire to have a bite. The pao was often had with the choris( sausage) and the taste was honest and pure. It was an addiction far too strong to be given up. Indeed like me, many a goan is still addicted to the pao and without it, it simply makes the breakfast or the dinner table denied of its rightful flavour.However with times the taste and the aroma of the Goan pao has deteriorated. Call it economical miserliness or poor quality of ingredients, the Goan pao has over the years changed in size, colour and taste.

Part of the reason for this change is also the goanness lost in the Goan pao. Earlier the Goan pao used to be the prerogative of goan bakers mostly from the catholic community. There was a silence of honesty in those days. You could trust whatever you bought from the poder. There was no air of suspicion. However now times have changed. More than 50% of the goan poders have either stopped or leased out their bakeries to poders from outside Goa mainly from Karwar, who have discovered Goa as their brand of Mumbai. The local baker coming to my house is now from karwar and so are all the poders pushing their wares in the cities. Rarely will you find a goan poder and even if you find one, he has already mingled with the rest of his new tribe that his pao is now in stiff competition with theirs and therefore devoid of the taste we once enjoyed.

Having said that I must also mention that the trade of the Goan pao is incidentally passing through difficult times. While lakhs of Goans still rely faithfully every morning on the goan pao, it also offers employment to thousands of poders and direct workers. The industry is hardly recognized and the goa government has shown little interest in improving the lot of the Goan bakers. Incidentally most bakers survived in the business only because they are relying on other baking products which go hand in hand and therefore bail them out against the economics of making the pao.

While other industries are being offered various schemes and incentives to grow, the goan pao and the goan bakers are made to fend for themselves in an atmosphere of rising costs . Since the industry gives employment to thousands people in goa and outside, and considering Goan breakfast with paothe addiction and love of the people fo Goa for the Goan pao the goan government should therefore arrange to identify the problems faced by this industry and strive to support their price by way of subsidies on raw materials, fuel etc, so that the industry does not face a crucnch situation which may eventually wipe out this trade and deny Goa their favourite love . The Goan pao
Xittuk Goencar

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