02 August, 2021

Phale! Phale!

Phale! Phale!
IN Goa last week after a six month absence, I made friends again with that delightfully exasperating Konkani word phale. Translated literally, it means tomorrow. A weasel of a word, it raises self-indulgence, procrastination and plain cussedness to dizzying heights. Depending on the nature of the exchange, and the empathy or loathing evoked, it may mean the next day, week, month or never.

All five phones in our fishing hamlet had been brought low by torrential monsoon downpours and, despite makeshift repairs (propping up the line on bamboo poles), the depredations of ill-mannered dogs and bored village lads ensured that the line went dead when it was most needed. I cornered the linesman in the local tavern where he was to be found every morning at 11 recovering from the exhausting labours of the day. "When will my phone ring again?" I asked. "Phale," he mumbled dolefully, but his voice lacked conviction. Next month? Never? I crossed his palm with gold. "Phale!" he said with a lilt that had the rafters ringing. And phale it was...

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