A harbinger of real good news
Standing in the porch of a typical Goan house in a remote village in south Goa on a hot summer afternoon, I rang the doorbell and waited impatiently. The motorcycle pilot, who had brought me there from Panaji, stood nearby. A middle-aged woman opened the door and after asking the preliminary questions, I said, “Congratulations, Mrs Quadros, your daughter has stood first class first in the SSC exam in the Goa board!” One can only imagine what may have been the reaction of the members of the house on hearing my sentence. There were shrieks of disbelief, loud joyous exclamations by the student, who had topped the merit list, her mother and all family members.
To start with, I was treated to a home-made cake and bebinca. The head of the family, who happened to be at home, offered me a glass of chilled beer. After accepting the hospitalities, I sprang to my feet. As the campus reporter of my newspaper, I was on an important mission of the academic year. The Goa secondary and higher secondary education board had that morning announced the merit list of SSC candidates and it was my responsibility to visit the schools or residences of the top rankers to secure their photographs and, if possible, their interviews.
This was the tradition in Goa three decades ago when even landline phone connections were rare. Even if you had one, for outstation STD calls to Margaon, Mapuca, Vasco, Quepem and Canacona, I had to use the 'urgent' or 'lightning' call facilities, for which the tariff was quite high. But most people and schools did not have phones. So travelling to distant towns and villages on the two-wheeler motorcycle taxis -- a transport system unique to Goa -- was the only working option. I had to move fast to collect the photographs of the toppers before rival newspaper reporters could lay hands on them. My mission would be a success only if I managed to obtain photos of the 10 toppers. It would be a disgrace if I failed to get the photos.
I continued the flying visits to the residences of top rankers. At that time, Goa was a Union territory and it was a single district. Journalists keep meeting people in the course of their job. They meet people in diverse circumstances. Some of these meetings are unforgettable. Carrying the news of the academic success to the top rankers and their families and serving as the harbinger of good news to them have been some of the most cherished moments of my career.
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