“Te poder ghele anim te undhey ghele”

An old Konkani saying that roughly translates to – “ The Poders have gone and with them the Portugese bread”

The Poders of Goa – derived from the word “padaria” meaning bakery in Portugese and “padeiros” meaning bakers – belong to the five century old institution, whose traditional occupation is baking or bread-making to be more precise.  Introduced to the craft during the Portuguese colonisation of the coastal state of Goa during the 16th Century, mainly by the Jesuit missionaries who trained new Christian converts in the art of bread making, this craft has since been passed down from generation to generation.Under the Portuguese rule, every village in Goa gave birth to a Padaria (or two), that became the primary source of bread for the entire village. Typically operating right out of the baker’s home with enormous wood-fired clay ovens set up in the back of the house, these bakeries would not even have a name registered against it, simply known as Joe’s Bakery or De Silva’s bakery and such, firmly interweaving the identity of the baker with his occupation.

As much as bread is one of the staple foods all over India, in no other state is it worshipped in as many unique forms as it is in Goa. Spoilt for choice, the traditional Goan gets to choose his daily intake of bread from the basic pao, cuniachi poi – whole wheat pouches of bread, Katrichi pao – scissored square bread, sweet cuniachi poi for the non-diabetics, Kakon- rings of crusty bread, and the Pokshe – slit at the centre. All of this, delivered twice a day, fresh from the oven right to your doorstep by way of the extremely organised and adept distribution system of all poders – the humble bicycle!

The standardised & packaged sliced bread available in the urban bakeries and supermarkets seems like a distant and poor cousin paling under the weight of the comparison to the rich traditions and history of bread-making in Goa.

However, it is increasingly apparent that the modern fixation with cultural homogenisation along with ever changing socio-economic conditions are threatening the very existence of this gloriously diverse traditional occupation today.

To begin with, the actual bakeries themselves, most of them still housed in the same home as the first generation of poders is today a space that is extremely hazardous, unkempt and dilapidated. To compound matters, the escalating costs of core ingredients, changing food habits of traditional Goans, an unreliable work force, easy access to the convenient, albeit soulless, sliced bread sold by multinationals – ‘fortified by minerals and vitamins” as the ads promise – all of these factors are contributing to the slow demise of the traditional padaria, as the Goans know it.

The local government was supposed to bring in stability to the traditional bakery unit by providing subsidiaries, two wheelers for distribution and ensuring that firewood (the most expensive and critical raw material) accessible at reasonable rates. But other than introducing a perfunctory subsidy that the bakers unfortunately do not find of value, the government seems to do little or nothing to stem the rapid decline of this traditional occupation.

To read the Long Form of this essay pls click on Poderanche Goa