Life in Goa – The Christening

By Cedric Serpes


Choosing a baby’s name in Goa is not a task that is taken lightly. Because we do believe that a name will probably make the child into the legend that the name signifies. I was fortunate to be closely associated to a naming of a neighbor’s friend’s first born son. And it is an experience that will always stay with me!

It started with a call across the garden wall from my friend Santan. “Hey Gabroo!” Yeah that’s me! He decided that my name did not suit me, now that I am Goan after a coconut fell on my head. So he re-christened me “Gabroo.” Which is not so bad when you consider the names I have been called out of sheer spite. (No, we won’t be going into those names today).

So I hollered back and he got to the point. It so happened that his friend was blessed with a baby boy. A nice little chap who threw up a lot and smiled widely when he pooped. Other than that there was nothing to go by, to get to a name. As I used to be in the “ad business, writing headlines” as he put it, would I mind thinking up some nice names for the boy! “Sure,” I said. “I would need a day of serious thought,” I told him. That made him go away very fast. I laughed my thinking laugh, “foof foof,” like it sounds in my head. Because unknown to him I have the internet – so names should not be a problem.

A day passed and like clockwork I heard my re-christened name, “Gabroo. Aarey, you sleeping awhat!” That was not a question, it’s what we neighbors say to each other when there is nothing really to say. We also ask dumb questions like “going to Mapuca awhat!” to a person who is sitting in a bus going to Mapuca and the word Mapuca is tattooed on his head. Like I said, it’s how we talk.

“So you must be having so many good names ha. You’re so clever,” he said showing me a particularly debauched incisor the dentist missed. “Yes,” I said, “I have a list of 11 names. Sorry, must give you in handwriting – printer is not working.” He did not have a problem with that, he said.

A few days later I hear him call out again. My mother still cannot understand why I would agree to be called Gabroo. “It is a short form for Gabriel – you know the famous angel who announced stuff before SMS was born,” I told her. Santan looked a bit apologetic. “Sorry Gabroo, the boy’s grandmother did not like any of your suggestions. Don’t feel bad.” I assured him I was tickety boo about it, no hard feelings. “But you must come for christening, he insisted. We want you to open the bottle of champagne.”

“So what name did the grandmother choose?” I asked. He looked a bit sheepish, showed me another incisor that the dentist had worked on but given up, and said, “We like to give name of saints so from Bosco, Xavier, Francis, Agnello, and Menino (Baby Jesus) she chose Bosco.”
“But isn’t every second person in Goa called Bosco?” I asked. “Yes, that is true, but no one near their house is called Bosco. And maybe he will become a priest like Don Bosco and make his parents proud.” There is really no argument against that logic.

Just then his son, a skinny kid with a falsetto voice called out to him to hurry as there was someone on the phone. “Coming, Elvis” he answered lovingly, his eyes shining with hope and pride only a father can have for his son.

Cedric Serpes’ grandfather was called Dhandliya saheb. And Cedric is often called Herpes. Just goes to prove a rose by any other name would smell just as bad!

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