With the Goan terrain criss-crossed by a number of rivers, at many places one has to cross a river to get to the other side. Before bridges were built, canoes and ferries were an important and essential mode of transport in Goa. The most important crossings were from Panjim to Betim and Agacaim to Cortalim, and vice-versa, across the Mandovi and Zuari rivers respectively.
The ferryboats plied from one ramp to another across the river. Earlier there was only one ramp on each side. But as traffic increased, another ramp was built and the number of ferries crossing the rivers too, increased. Having a single ramp was inconvenient for the passengers, especially at peak hours. No particular timings were observed, and the ferries would cross, once the ferry was full of passengers.
The ferries were connected to the ramp by wooden planks called shigdi in Konkani. People and vehicles walked over these, to board or alight from the ferry. These planks had hoods at one end, which were used to fit and fix the ferry. The planks were left on either side of the river, on the landing. When the ferry reached one of the sides, the planks were pulled by using long iron rods that had hooks to facilitate holding of the planks.
Placing the planks at the right place was important and needed some skill. This was required specially when four wheelers had to move in and out of the ferry. The drivers had also to be skillful and be able to manoeuvre the car on the narrow planks, or risk falling in the water.
There was discipline while boarding the ferry. First of all, the vehicles would move in: Two wheelers, followed by four wheelers. Last came the passengers. Similarly, after mooring, the people would move out first, and then the vehicles. However, some people who were in a hurry to reach their destination, or board a bus, would jump from the ferry ramp, without waiting for the attendants (kalasi) to set the planks. Some of the youngsters and agile passengers would jump even before the kalasis threw the rope to moor the ferry. Funny scenes were sometimes witnessed when a person fell into the water instead of onto a dry ramp or he/she broke the strap of the sandal or slipper.
Traveling across the rivers was cumbersome. Those who wished to travel from Panjim to Margao or Vasco da Gama had to first travel up to Agacaim and go across the river Zuari by ferry for their onward journey. There were bus stands on either side of the river, one at Agacaim and the other at Cortalim. Taxi owners would wait for individuals to come and take the seats. Each passenger would pay for his or her own fare. This was a practical and viable mode of transport for those who could afford to pay the higher fare of the taxi. In return the passenger had a comfortable trip, spending minimum time. Many such taxi 'sharing' service were available in Goa, even ten years back. However, at present most of these services have been discontinued as traveling regularly by taxi has become expensive. Panjim-Mapusa and vice versa has still got this service and has many passengers patronizing the taxis, specially during the morning, afternoon and evening (after office) time.
Traveling to the north, one had to cross the Mandovi river and take a bus or taxi from Betim bus stand and proceed to Mapusa and other onward destination. At every such point (ferry wharfs) the passengers would alight and rush to buy the tickets, to cross the river. Some regular passengers carried monthly or annual passes. Passengers would queue up to buy the tickets at the ticket counter. Sometimes when the ferry was about to leave, latecomers would rush into it, with some jumping in even after the wooden planks.
By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
Herald, Sunday, August 19, 2007
Posted By : Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues, Goa on 20/08/2007