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GOAN NAMES, SURNAME

S AND …
By Valmiki Faleiro

Goan names are often interesting. Even surnames. And, best of all, our 
nicknames!
Let us delve a bit into this delightful subject over the next few Sundays. 
Permit me to
talk with no particular reverence. But, before I’m accused of poking fun at 
others, let
me start today with my own peculiarities.

I’ll begin with my family nickname, ‘Sulço.‘ Meaning, one from the south. Most 
Goan
nicknames, we must remember, were born out of derision. But, this rather 
innocuous
one carried a bit of history. Down ages, whenever Goans had to flee – from wars,
pestilence or persecution – Tiswadkars and Bardezkars generally fled eastwards 
or
north. Folks from today’s Salcete and Mormugao (‘Sasaxtikars’) invariably fled 
south.
Some never returned: the coastal Karnataka/Kerala Konknnis.

An ancestor was treasurer of the local Comunidade, repository of the village 
wealth.
Margao was a wealthy village. Her treasury was prime target in an enemy attack. 
In
the face of a Maratha attack, my ancestor fled. Naturally, southwards … 
possibly to
Mangalore. He either was a funk or fell in love with something in that balmy 
coastal
town. Because, despite reminders that things were safe, our hero was not 
returning.
Angry Margaoites christened him ‘Sulço‘ when he eventually did. Understandably.

How ‘Sulço‘ got morphed to ‘Sulço Combo’ (southern rooster), in the 20th 
century, is
something I’m trying to find out. No one seems to know. About an answer came 
from
an elderly man, now in Australia, who spent his boyhood years in my 
neighbourhood.
Alluding to my long-gone paternal uncle, he said, “I was not perceptive enough 
to
observe whether he was a Don Juan, or whether it was a sobriquet assigned to him
out of sour grapes by women who secretly craved for his virile looks, as I 
remember
them.”

From smiles that ‘Sulço Combo’ still evoke, to my family name: Faleiro.
‘de Souza’ is arguably the most common Goan surname. There is a whole township
called Souza in Mozambique, inhabited only by de Souzas. ‘Faleiro’ ranks among 
the
rarest of Goan Catholic surnames, which originated from missionaries who gave 
their
own surnames to the new converts. The trend continued with local ‘bhatkars’ 
thrusting
their surnames upon their ‘mundkars.’ That’s how the few Goan Faleiros turned 
into
slightly noticeable numbers.

Goa’s first native Faleiros emerged in the Salcete village of Raia. They still 
form the
bulk of Goan Faleiros, though now dispersed all over the world. Raia’s 
neighbouring
village of Loutolim had a sparse sprinkling. Margao had only two. One was the 
Borda
Faleiros. The other was my own ancestry – traditionally uni-linear by male 
descent,
hence even fewer in number.

Despite microscopic numbers, ‘Faleiro’ is a well-known surname. Perhaps 
because, as
a wag once said, they ‘talk’ (after “fala” in Portuguese) more, and get elected 
to public
office! One spent half a lifetime as minister in India’s union government, 
another at the
State level (this pen pusher himself was, though briefly, a Municipal 
President) and a
dear schoolmate, Quintiliano, Sarpanch of Loutulim. TJ Faleiro, whose relatives 
owned
Daman’s downtown ‘Hotel Paradise’, was with the Goa Civil Service. Heitor, 
another
schoolmate, is currently director of Goa’s veterinary services.

From surname to name, I’m often asked how I bear a ‘Hindu’ name. “Ask my parents,”
I say to escape a protracted explanation. I am, of course, proud of my Indian 
name.
The story in brief: mother’s first cousin, married to Dr. Constancio Roque 
Monteiro of
Nagoa-Verna, had a child baptized Valmiki. The boy died in early childhood. I 
was
born some time later. Dr. Constancio Roque and my dad, both doctors, were also
abreast with Indian traditions.

Another strange rarity in Goa… Valmiki, here, is not so much a ‘Hindu’ name as 
it is a
Catholic one. An internet search of the telephone directory yielded six 
‘Valmikis’ in Goa
– five Catholics … a Menezes (son of Goa’s last Judicial Commissioner, Justice 
Tito
Menezes) of Goa Velha,  a Braganza from Chimbel, a Costa from Margao, the well-
known diocesan priest, Fr. Valmiki Dias Gonsalves, and yours sincerely.

Two queer questions arise from the handful in Goa named after one of India’s 
greatest
Maha Rishis. Why are the last two from just six Valmikis listed in the telephone
directory – one a Catholic priest, the other far from any religious illusions – 
so often
mistaken with one another?

The second, and more pertinent, of the two questions that I shall try to answer 
in the
fewest possible words next Sunday: of six Valmikis in Goa, only one was Hindu, 
a Naik
from Panjim. Why do Hindus in Goa fight shy of naming their sons after the great
Indian sage? By its most plausible answer, hangs a tale… 
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