Kolkata was the most sought after since it was the capital of British India. Delhi wasn’t that popular after it became the national capital in 1911. Then, next-door neighbour Mumbai became a priority. Housing was a major problem for the emigrants because there were no hotels or lodges in those days. Perhaps this started the phenomenon called kudds (clubs in Konkani) which would house migrants from the coastal state.
There are close to 200 such clubs stacked in the narrow bylanes of Dhobi Talao, Marine Lines, Chira Bazaar, Dockyard Road and Mazagaon. Jal Mahal opposite Metro cinema houses about 25 such clubs. Prominent among them are Curtorim, Tellaulim, Divar, Nuvem Makazan and Majorda.
Surprisingly, the dilapidated building has clubs from Karwar and Mangalore also. The Velim club, which is situated in the vicinity, dates back to 1850. Each kudd houses people from a particular village and most of them bear names of patron saints. During festivities, all themembers pool in their cash to prepare the best of Goan delicacies.
Home sweet home
Most of these clubs are more than 1,500 feet long. One of the most striking similarities is a huge aluminum trunk which bears the name of the owner. They remain here whether the member stays or not. A TV set for entertainment and a dining table are a must. Prayers are conducted in Konkani every evening. A night deadline prohibits entry or exit after a prescribed time which differs at every kudd.
But times have changed. A majority of the current residents are from the older generation. The present crop seeks a high-flying lifestyle. Working in Mumbai is no longer an option for them. They prefer better paying jobs on ships, in the U S or Europe. These kudds now serve as their transit point while flying abroad.
Says Manuel Silvera who has been staying in the St Sebastian Club of Navelim for the last two decades, “Currently there are just four people staying here. Seamen are the only ones who come, and that too for a day or two.” He adds that the next in line are job aspirants who try for an international posting. They stay here during their numerous visits to the embassies and travel agents.
Some,like the St Mathews Sports Club of Azossim, lie vacant and unused throughout the year. This one is going through a legal battle with a bar owner who wants to convert it into a sleazy night club.
Says Rex Fernandes who has been staying at the Corjem club for the last three years, “It’s not easy for these builders to entice us with big money. For us these places are like heritage structures. They have survived the ravages of time and we want to keep it that way.” It’s a common sight to see youngsters in football jerseys in areas adjoining Fashion Street.
Few people know that these are the very football crazy natives of my birth place who frequent these clubs. They kill their time here after completing job interviews at shipping firms or consulates. It also makes me realise that maybe, my forefathers went through the same fate before they could actually buy a house in our city of dreams.