Saturday, August 23, 2008

Portuguese India, the Politics of Print and a ambiguous Modernity

Between Empires: Print and Politics in Goa by Rochelle Pinto; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007; pp 209, Rs 645. This book is the result of research undertaken for a PhD. Publishers however, usually impose restrictions of space and in such situations the author is often forced to make difficult choices and bear the responsibility of facing the consequences of those choices. Rochelle Pinto tells us that she seeks to explore print production in Goa, locating it within similar studies of print production in colonial India. Contrary to her own expectations, the evidence she gathered seemed to point to dissimilar processes in Goa and in colonial India. What could explain the difference? Her answer is: The different nature and guiding principles of the two colonial systems and the relations between the colonial states and their colonial elites. The two colonialisms are seen as historically and conceptually different. Print production in Goa had been generally identified with the Catholic elite, and that is where it stops in most histories of Goa. Pinto admits that her study too remains very far from an exhaustive representation of the responses to colonialism in 19th century Goa. Read the rest at: Teotónio R. de Souza

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Third Culture: Some aspects of the Indo-Portuguese Cultural Encounter

Alberto de Noronha, *The Third Culure – Some Aspects of the Indo-Portuguese Cultural Encounter*, Panjim, The Third Millenium, 2006, pp. 189, Price: Rs. 250, $15, € 12.
It is with a mix of sadness and satisfaction that I am writing these few lines about this author whom I did not get to know personally during my Goa phase of life. To enhance my sadness, I received the book by mail with a covering letter dated 16th October 2006 and signed by the author three weeks before he died. The tone of the letter written in Portuguese mentions the diagnosis of terminal cancer, which added to his advanced age of 80s, made the production of this book his last great challenge in life. Cites Sydney Smith who seems to have provided much needed inspiration: "It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can do only litte. Do what you can".Alberto Noronha ends his note with a humble request to me to provide some of my precious time to say if his book deserves scholarly merit. He hoped that my opinion could bring some weight of publicity in the Goa-based press. I feel honoured by the gesture of the author in sending me his book, which I shall cherish as "in manus tuas commendo" votive offering. There is little I need to add to the appreciation of the book in its Preface by Maria Aurora Couto. The book reveals a meticulous planning, a very liberal and critical mind, very up-to-date readings on the subject (including a reference to me on page 128, where the author cites a long passage in a funny mix of Portuguese and Konkani, which I did not even remember I had included in a paper I had presented at a local history seminar of Goa University but which I had never seen in print), and a pleasant and measured style of presentation. Since J.N. Fonseca's *Historical and Archeological Sketch of the City of Goa* or Claude Saldanha's *Short History of Goa*, we had not seen anything so comprehensive, unpolemical and readable on Goa and written for general public as this little book of Albert Noronha. The author and this book will remain with us and the generations to come as cultural representations of Goa that is presented in *The Third Culture*.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Songs of the Survivors - A Book Review

Songs of the Survivors, ed. Yvonne Vaz Ezdani, Broadway Book Centre, Panjim, 2007, pp. 289 by Teotónio R. de Souza
Oral testimony is one of the most valuable but challenging sources for the study of modern history, providing access to knowledge and experience unavailable to historians of earlier periods. However, it implies methodological problems of collection and interpretation, including the risk of re-enacting the role of the proverbial blind men of India who described an elephant after touching one single part of elephant's body. The British empire is in this book an elephant to contend with, and the goodies served to the imperial subjects, including the grateful ex-Burma Goans, constitute a serious challenge to the interpretation of the oral testimonies and record of lived experiences. Yvonne Vaz Ezdani, the editor of this volume is not unaware of the pitfalls. Her introduction sets Burma pretty well (in her perspective) and briefly in its geographical, cultural and historical context, but probably logistical difficulties did not permit her to ask her contributors some questions that could have elicited their responses about intra-community relationships, or about their day-to- day dealings with the Burmese population. This was essential when we are told that " this is not just a story of Goans in Burma, or Goans alone… It is a wider story of human determination to fight the odds, and also a story of yet another insightful chapter of the little- understood reality of Goan migration worldwide… Stories in the book also reveal other aspects of the Goan diaspora in Burma: why and when they went to Burma, how they earned their living there, how they adapted to the culture and lifestyles, what they felt about the land and the local people, and much more." We can see in these personal reminiscences of ex-Burma Goans how their traditional piety did not fail them through life's ordeals during the trek and during the difficult years that followed. Salman Rushdie may not have overstated in *The Moor's Last Sigh* the devotion of the Indo-Portuguese families for kababed saints and tandooried martyrs. In 1932 many of them came faithfully all the way to the feet of St. Francis Xavier. And with so many ex-Burma Goans in the *Songs of the Survivors* (Sunny Siqueira, Anthony John D'Cruz, Alex C. Fernandes, Patricia Carmen Therese (née Duarte), Francis Siqueira, Antoinette née Selkirk, Anthony Xavier Rego, L.C. Saldanha, Cajetan Bernard Silgardo, John Menezes, José Cordeiro, Alex de Souza) who made their living and brought cheer to others with music, Salman Rushdie's *The Ground Beneath her Feet* could once again convey fitting homage to these musical children of Goa who had learnt to rock and roll despite the ground cracking beneath their feet time and again. The editor tells us also that "this book aims at capturing the memories of a generation that is advancing in age. It hopes to help Goans understand another aspect of their own histories. It also seeks to record tales of determination and survival that are relevant to people everywhere. While aimed at the general reader, one hopes the scholar or historian may also find some useful information in the narratives of oral histories put down in print." But for being "a generation that is advanced in age" and closely related as family and friends, there could be little excuse for justifying opportunism as a very human tendency to want a good life. It may be true that when you don't get the opportunities in your home country you look for it elsewhere, and feel some gratitude and loyalty to whoever provides you with prosperity and status. But this is also a unique occasion to leave a question, that may appear crude and cruel: How do such simple and good people compare with other simple and equally good people who stayed put, struggled and even died in their resistance to the imperial-colonial logic in order to gain freedom for their countrymen? We have seen some other earlier Goan efforts at reaching catharsis after similar exit-ential tragedies, such as the one lived by Goan survivors of Idi Amin's expulsion of Indians from Uganda, in Peter Nazareth's scholarly fictional tale The General Is Up (Calcutta, Writer's Workshop, 1984) or in less scholarly edition of A Collection of Goan Voices by Susan Rodrigues. Such narratives, including the present one, whatever their literary form or academic quality, they are valuable records of human pathos. Even when some of them reflect faded memories as regards some details, they reveal by that very fact the human capacity to empty the debris of their past life-constructions and to look ahead with fresh hopes kindled and sustained by younger generation, as when Donald Menezes recalls in this book : "For ten days, we stayed at Kokine Lakes, bathing and swimming in the lake, singing, dancing, dallying with the girls, playing with the kids, joking with the elders and dashing for the trenches when the sirens went out. Our cheerfulness and helpfulness buoyed up the elderly". These and other, more or less heart-renting and comforting accounts raise long-term existential doubts. My critical comments are not intended here as discordant notes in the midst of so much music that resonates in this book, but as calls for greater self-consciousness of Goans as a community that needs to construct its own future, ceasing to be a play-thing of alien interests in exchange of short- term satisfactions. From time to time, tragedies have joined the Goans as Goans, or as relatives and friends from Goa into a fellowship of sufferers? However, Goans need to look frontally and question themselves as to how many of their fellow-Goans and countrymen they exclude from their fellowship and concern, consciously or unwittingly in good times. The differentiated caste- clubs in Uganda make me raise this question. The narratives in this book seem to be restricted to Goans of one caste, and curiously limited to Saligão and some surrounding villages, with a couple of exceptions of Benaulim and Divar. Beyond the village and family links, church celebrations and love for music it is difficult to perceive the "Goanness" in this book. From my private queries I got some responses, including thankfully from the editor herself, pointing to the existence of a Goan Club in Burma that was known as Portuguese Club, or about Goans who chose to distance themselves from Indians, who were seen in Burma either as exploiting money-lenders or as coolies working for half an anna. Goans preferred to be identified with the Anglo-Indians or with the Portuguese. We are also told that the Burma trek included a "White Route" for the Europeans, Anglo-Indians and Goans, and a "Black Route" for the other Indians. These colonial-racial biases could have merited some soul-searching or at least some passing criticism in these narratives. Contrarily, Gerard Lobo expresses unqualified gratefulness of Goans to Pax Britannica that permitted many to leave their motherland for parts of British India (what is now Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma) at times when there was little gainful employment under Portuguese. The editor herself presents a reading of the Burmese history and the behavior of her last kings from a British imperial perspective. We are told that the last king of Burma was "weak and arrogant", unlike his father who was a "shrewd diplomat" and maintained "correct relations" with the British by refusing to side with the Indians during the 1857 mutiny and even gave a big donation to the British victims of the Mutiny! Such a reading is a far cry, for instance, from *The Glass Palace* of Amitav Gosh, who handles Burma experiences of Indians very differently. For a historian born in India after 1947 this book represents a vintage of Goan nostalgia, blissfully unaware of the logic of the empires, be they British, Portuguese or Japanese. Though many contributors in this book refer frequently and gratefully to the Loretto Convent in Calcutta, where they were welcomed at the end of the grueling trek, while others made their way through Madras, or chose to rebuild their lives in places like Belgaum, where the cost of living was cheaper and had good schools and colleges, or in Bangalore, Bombay, Pune, Lucknow and Allahabad, where they found easy employment and supportive environment, these are all destinations that seem to be taken for granted, without questioning if it was Mother India, or Queen of England, or both that made them feel safe. Isa Vaz tells us that her family moved from Goa to Calcutta, and when the Allied forces announced victory in June 1944, she along with other children marched joyously on Chowringee Maidan to the tune of 'God Save the King'. Her family returned to Burma, but was back in India a few years later due to the Karen uprising. The bulk of these ex-Burma Goans lives happily today in India, and not in U.K. or Portugal. The publication of a book like this can provide a wonderful opportunity to the Goan writers and readers alike to go beyond reminiscences and to find some answers to the historical complicity of Goans, willingly or unwittingly, with the colonial powers and to their lack of national consciousness. Instead of stopping with the judgement of the rulers of Burma, past and present, we should be able to ask: What right did the British have to re-locate even the worst king of Burma to Ratnagiri? Or to deport Indian nationalist leaders, including the renowned Bal Gangadhar Tilak, to Mandalay? Does not the British exile of the King Thebaw remind anyone here of the present day Burmese Junta trying to erase the memory of Aung San Suu Kyi by placing her under house arrest? At least they have not yet exiled her from her country! If S.N. Bose and his INA were challenging the British in alliance with the Japanese in Burma, why is there so little appreciation for his efforts, even after Martin could improvise some music for celebrating Bose's triumphant entry in Manipur, following the fall of Imphal? It is curious that Goans play tunes for all masters; a recorded tradition that goes back to Albuquerque's military band following the Portuguese capture of Goa. The "Songs of the Survivors" has brought to life and to light one more little known chapter of Goa's history. Yvonne Vaz Eznadi deserves credit for the trouble such a venture involves. If "comfortable and serene lives were shattered and they (contributors to this volume) were plunged into chaos and refugees who fled to India", it is our common wish that true and lasting "comfort and serenity in life" may be forever theirs and ours, and may the ground never again slip from under our feet as a result of forgetfulness or insufficient consciousness of our collective responsibilities and destiny as Goans. --- the end ---

Monday, January 21, 2008

Goa books, best-sellers

List as per Golden Heart Emporium, Abade Faria Road, Margao-Goa. Ph.: 2732450/ 2725208 Email:
* GOA: The Land and the People. Olivinho JF Gomes, National Book Trust Rs. 110 * 100 Goan Experiences Pantaleao Fernandes The World Publications Rs. 395 * GOA Romesh Bhandari Roli Books Pvt. Ltd. Rs. 225 * A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of Goa P. Killips Orient Longman Rs. 195 * Goa: A select Compilation on Goa's Genesis Luis De Assis Correia Maureen Publishers Pvt. Ltd. Rs. 395 * Goa's Struggle for Freedom Dr. P. P. Shirodkar Sulabha P. Shirodkar Rs. 395 * Farar Far- Local Resistance to Colonial Hegemony in Goa 1510-1912 Dr Pratima Kamat Institute Menezes Braganza Rs 200 * Goa Indica: A Critical Portrait of Postcolonial Goa Arun Sinha Bibliophile South Asia in associate with Promilla & Co., Publishers Rs. 495 * Goa With Love Mario Miranda M & M Associates Rs. 350 * House of Goa Gerard Da Cunha Architecture Autonomous Rs 1900

Career books

In these days of competitiveness, when the world throws open a range of opportunities, are students in Goa geared up to seize them? At times when parents are willing to pay upto Rs 35,000 as annual fees for primary school, we could do with a better range of career opportunities at the adolescent level. Two Goa books on careers made it to the bookshops recently. One was ex-Gomantak Times journalist Ilidio de Noronha's "Careers: The Complete Guide" (Pp 178, Rs 150, Plus Publications, 2464687) and the other is "Choose Your Very Own Career: A Guide for Students, Parents and Teachers" (Pp 617, Rs 65, Basil D'Cunha). The latter is an English-Konkani book. Both carry advertisements, making their prices more affordable to the young, who would obviously be their main target audience. Question is: will such books, which contain a whole lot of useful information, reach to the educators, students, parents, and school libraries -- that can make better use of them? While everyone gets worked out about "non-Goans" entering the State, and the buy-out of Goa's land resources, we don't seem as concerned about ensuring that our kids are competitive enough to take on the bigger world. Books like these are a welcome addition to those published in Goa. Feedback welcome:, 832-2409490 or +91-9970157402

Publishing travails

I ran into Odette Mascarenhas via cyberspace, thanks to a brief mention of one of her books in last week's column. Writes Odette: "I would definitely help in any way I can to encourage Goan writers to reach their goal. I know how difficult it can be." She is herself the author of two books. Besides the one mentioned last week, there's "Masci: The Man Behind The Legend" on the famed chef Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas. Rashmi Uday Singh wrote about the latter in "It's fascinating how a Goan kitchen boy whose job was plucking 200 chickens a day rose to become world's celebrated chef who catered to the kings and queens and viceroys of the world. Not only does his story come alive, you can actually recreate his food and have a taste of this legend too." But Odette Mascarenhas, from her experience with two books, has another less glamorous story to narrate. The first major hurdle in her work was finding the right publisher. Says she: "We have been running helter skelter to all the big names for over three years. Tata Press, Wilco, Rupa, Penguin, Jaico. While they all liked the idea, the question was: is it a viable investment. Very few Goans are known in this field." After publishing the book on their own, getting the book stocked and distributed -- even in Goa itself -- proved another challenge. Says she: "Moreover... though space is expensive, it would be nice, if they (book outlets in Goa) could keep a small 'Goan corner' for writers to promote their skills (in local bookstores). After all if a fellow Goan will not help another, who will? Its happening for art, with exhibitions to promote local artists, but writing has taken a back seat." She adds: "The idea of having a read-out session (to promote Goa-based books) seems brilliant. They do it abroad. Maybe some shop could buy the idea?"

Online text

What the print world finds it difficult to do, the online world manages. A statement put out in cyberspace says that the entire Konkani Bible is now available online in Kannada script. See

Learn Konkani

How do you sell a book in a scattered market like Goa, complicated by the fact that, despite our literacy, we are not quite a heavy-reading population? Jesuit linguist-priest Dr Pratap Naik; recently announced that the TSKK Konknni Course Book in the Roman script will be released in the last week of September 2007. At a special pre-publication price of Rs 175, this book is available -- via post -- from the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, B.B.Borkar Road, Alto Porvorim, Goa - 403 521.

Memoirs ... of a voice from the airwaves

This is about the most bizarre thing to do while encountering a book: try to read it from the ending! That's just what I did with the autobiography of someone you might know, a lady called Imelda Dias. So one is still trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw together; but it was an interesting read. Most of Goa of a particular generation -- those around here in the 1960s and 1970s -- would probably remember the name "Imelda" (or even Imelda Tavora). She then was the most popular announcer in the State, at a time when radio was the unquestioned king of all the mass media. (Forget about TV, which didn't exist here yet, and newspapers were far smaller.) So I began reading her book with the Epilogue. This chapter took me to my schoolboy days in the 1970s, and the music that Imelda played for all of us via the radio. It came through loud and clear on Sunday afternoons. It came on Friday nights. It came in the afternoon siesta time on weekdays. All the names of the programmes sounded so very fresh -- 'Your Choice', 'Latin Rhythm', 'Your Favourites' and more. Many readers would probably even recall the sign-off name "Yours truly, Imelda". This book is about the Goa that was, touching a bit on colonial Goa and the period just after 1961. Those were times of change and uncertainty. But they were nice times too, in a way. Imelda's book tells the story of the Catholic elite of the times, the nostalgia with which it looks back, and life in the "good old days". Subtitled "An Autobiography of a Woman Ahead of Her Times", this is also a story of a woman going against the trend, settling for a divorce in the 1960s, and facing the patriarchy of Catholic Goa of the times. It's a book edited by Margaret Mascarenhas, editor of 'Skin'. Spiced with the gossipy details of Panjim's life in the 1970s, parts of the book are very engrossing. But one couldn't believe all one read, even if this only incited one's curiosity to learn more of those times. Besides her boarding years in Pune (then still Poona), this story talks about life in All India Radio, what it meant to be a political refugee of sorts in Salazar's Lisbon post-1961, and stories of love and romance from another era. It's a good read for anyone who grew up in the Goa of those years, and one would not hesitate recommending it (2006, Rs 250, printed and published by Imelda Dias, pp 189, hb). With an catchy title like 'How Long Is Forever' and a covered mostly in black-and-white cover, this is a book that would catch your attention. Strangely, it isn't very well displayed in most bookshops. Friends I mentioned it to, had all not come across it either!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Remembering the Fall of Portuguese India in 1961

Francisco Cabral Couto, O Fim do Estado Português da Índia, Lisboa, Tribuna, s.d, ISBN.10:972-8799-53-5, pp. 136. Priced at € 21.60 by FNAC in Lisbon, this hard cover coffee-table publication is perhaps the latest addition to the surprisingly rich and often controversial historiography about the end of the Portuguese colonial rule in India. The author, now a retired general, was a young 26-old fresher from Military Academy when he arrived in Goa on 27 March 1961 and was posted at the Afonso de Albuquerque military camp in the village of Navelim, with command over 47 «caçadores» (hunters) with responsibility for the defence of Borim bridge, Paroda canal, river Sal and Anjidiv island. Within months the reinforcements made a total of 158, including many youngsters with little military training. They were mostly involved in reconnaissance missions to ward off terrorist attacks. Describes the lack of basic conditions for any sort of defence in any terms of strategic or military means at disposal. The camp headquarters at Navelim had a generator that did not work, and depended upon the use of kerosene lamps and stoves. With the exception of the delicious mangoes and abundant supply of bananas, classifies the food resources in Goa as of poor quality. There were canned supplies of quality food and drinks from UK and Holland, but few could afford them. The author admits that he did not stay in Goa long enough to take the pulse of the civil society, but remained with the impression that most Goans favoured autonomy or integration with India. Felt that the Portuguese presence was tolerated and even respected, but not much loved: «Quanto aos portugueses, é importante dizê-lo, pareceu-me que eram, dum mode geral, respeitados, bem tolerados, mas não amados, a não ser por aqueles que com eles tinham fortes laços familiares» (pp. 20-21). While the acts of terrorism in Goa were multiplying, the Portuguese authorities were curiously encouraging the families of the men posted in Goa to join them, giving a false impression that all was well in Portuguese India. The author had his first son born on the eve of his departure to India. His wife and 5-month old son arrived by the first flight of TAIP in July. While reporting about the relics of the Portuguese naval force in Goa, the author refers to a curious incident in September 1963 when Salazar ordered the ground batteries at the fort of Almada in Portugal to fire upon the cruiser Afonso de Albuquerque for having joined the republican forces in the Spanish civil war! Hence, ironically, the Indians were the not the first ones to do fire upon this war vessels. The author does not fail to report that the Commander of the warship was gravely hurt in the Vijay Operation, but his life was saved by the Indian military medics who treated him on shore in the Naval Club at Caranzalem. The author reveals that in an emergency defence planning meet in September 1961 he had opposed the «Plano Sentinela» that was approved by the home government for resistance to Indian attack, suggesting that the defence should concentrate in the capital island, and not in Mormugão. Confesses that he was asked to drop his objections and withdraw his suggestions. Reveals another «Plano de Barragens» that has found no mention in earlier publications known to me. It complemented the «Plano Sentinela». It was meant to demolish the vital bridge links to delay the advance of the enemy forces. The same plan envisaged also mining of the main roadways and beach approaches. But lack of mines did not make it viable. We have a fairly detailed description of the events at Anjidiv on 23-24 November, when the Portuguese forces stationed there fired upon the passenger vessel Sabarmati passing between the island and Kochi harbour, causing some deaths. The Portuguese forces were convinced that Indians were planning to disembark in the island. The Indian press was agog with news on 25 November and provoked a rapid escalation of diplomatic and military tension. The Portuguese official sent from Goa to investigate the case reported that the soldier manning the gun had fired upon the ship alleging that it was within the Portuguese territorial waters on 17 November and had kept his action unreported. On December 9 the vessel India arrived from Timor on its way to Lisbon. With capacity for 380 passengers, it left on 12 December carrying 700, despite a telegram received from Lisbon ordering the Governor General to not permit any families to embark in the ship. The Governor General ignored the order. Allowed all who wanted to leave to embark and the passengers were fitted even into the bath rooms during night time. It arrived in Lisbon on the last day of the year. The most valuable and original contribution of this book are the very personal experiences of the author after his detention by the invading forces. Such details as we read in pp. 103-116 constitute the value that this kind of personal memoirs can bring to historiography, despite and precisely because of their questionable nature of subjective version. Every personal version counts and is important for the re-construction of an «objective» history. Francisco Cabral Couto describes the humiliation he felt when the Indian troops forced them to break up their weapons and arrange them in mounds. He got a gun-handle knock on his knuckles when tried to play dumb. Greater humiliation awaited him when his group was taken to the Navelim camp where he had been in command. Now he and his colleagues had to sleep on cement floor, dig trenches to serve as open-air latrines, and had to go make do with a jar of water that was supplied by tanks of Margão Muncipality. Confesses that this shortage was caused by the Portuguese themselves by destroying the bridges and other supply routes. Remembers how the Christmas was celebrated with some dry biscuits that meant much in the context. Most interesting is the fact that among the guards, soldiers of Indian army he recognized three who had served in Goa as train TC, another as Longuinhos bar servant and a third who would be seating as a beggar under a banyan tree. After all, they seem to have been serving the Indian spy system, and nobody had sensed it. The Navelim internees where shifted to the Ponda camp in mid January 1962, where the Alfa Detenues Camp was much better organized. Describes how a few soldiers tried to escape, provoking a serious incident when the some of the Portuguese officials were called upon to admit lack of responsibility and were threatened with death by shooting. The timely intervention of a Jesuit military chaplain ended it all without any tragic consequences. The author admits that he and his Portuguese colleagues admired the discipline of the Indian army, which was equally just in punishing its own members who failed to comply with rules. Describes how he left Goa by air to Karachi on May 8 and embarked on 9th for Lisbon aboard Vera Cruz. On arrival in Lisbon 11 days later, they were taken away early in the dark of night under police escort and without access to the families that awaited them. In the following months all were subject to unending questionings, until on 22 March 1963 a list was published of those who were subject to punishment of some kind, and many were dismissed from service without right for self-justification. The book ends by admission that Salazar failed to calculate well the international support, but that also the Indian invasion proved the Portuguese capacity to resist subversion. This conclusion appears to be a non sequitur after the author admits that Nehru has shown great patience for nearly two decades, and implying that no one can be tested indefinitely, as did the Portuguese diplomatic intransigence. Perhaps the photo chosen to be included in the book reveals author’s bias and provides an answer? Is the photo meant to illustrate Nehru’s intimacy with the Mountbatten couple, or does it insinuate anything else? Teotonio R. de Souza

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Goan women... and the written word

Aloke Fernandes <alokefer at> sent me these inputs:

Am a regular reader of your blogs and posts on various goa-linked forums.In response to an old query posted by you on Goacom [I guess he means --FN] -- on notification of new goan authors, below are two recent releases, both by Goans, and both based in part on fictional villages in Goa

There are also short stories (again based on Goa) by Nisha da Cunha, and a non fictional account by Maria Aurora Couto but I do not have a link to that. I have read and enjoyed all these books, especially the short stories by Nisha (the only non-Goan in the list above!) ... most of which however have a darker side to them. You could update your database/ reviews section with any of these if you like. Do let me know if this is of any use.

Thanks so much Aloke. Your post (though I knew these names, fiction doesn't interest me as much as non-fiction....) suddenly drew my attention to the fact that in our, patriarchal, Goan society, women writers are fairly well well represented. As it happens, I kept up till late last night, reading some chapters of Imelda Dias' How Long Is Forever? An Autobiography of a Woman Ahead of her Times.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Looking at Goa's heritage... in its various shapes

One of my favourite Goa-related journals was released the other day. Parmal. It's latest issue has on its cover this photo showing traditionally-attired Goan Hindu young women at a festive celebration. Parmal is published by the Goa Heritage Action Group, and calls itself "an annual publication brought to you by the GHAG, an NGO (non-governmental organisation) based in Goa dedicated to the preservation, protection and conservation of Goa's natural, cultural and man-made heritage".

Prava Rai is Parmal's editor. She does a great job of it. It fits in with my view that some of the so-called "non-Goans" (and returned expats) are among those who are contributing the most significantly to Goan society today. The simplistic barrage against them notwithstanding.

Prava says in the editorial: "The danger of equating heritage with identity fosters untenable claims to the bones, belongings, riddles and the refuse of every forbear into the mists of time: ipossible claims in the face of historical reality."

My view of the GHAG is that it tends to be a bit elitist in nature. Sometimes. This places it somewhat closer-to-comfort to the Establishment than it perhaps should be, and blocks it from taking more strong, campaign-oriented stands. But, on the positive side, it helps them get an official hearing. Sometimes. Their approach also means they do a great job to generate content that has much relevance to the debate about Goa.

This issue contains articles, among others, focussed on the mother goddess cult (by Portuguese studies specialist Ana Paula Lopes da Silva Damas Fita), the feminine space in Goan houses (architecture writer Heta Pandit), sacred groves (field ecologist Nirmal Kulkarni), the Fontainhas Festival of the Arts (artist and journalist Deviprasad C Rao), Goan residential architecture (Sanskrit scholar and prof of theology Jose Pereira), the parish churches of Goa (civil engineer-turned-author and Goalogist Jose Lourenco), the legacy of the house of Menezes Braganca (sociologist Nishtha Desai), forgetting Pio Gama Pinto (by SOAS-London educated researcher Rochelle Pinto), and Mumbai-based freelance writer Veena Gomes-Patwardhan's The Stars of Yesterday (from the Konkani stage).

If you'll allow me to brag a little (which is what one is usually doing!), we managed to point to the interesting ideas of some writers by having them e-published on Goanet Reader... and Parmal/Prava did a good job of following up. Of course, we should be doing far, far more on this front....

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Just found a number of references to books on Goa at the "Indian" aka Check it out!

PS: Would you believe there are seven books with the title of just Goa or Goa! ? They are by travel-guide author David Abram, journalist and author Mario Cabral e Sa, Harper Collins, (Sir) JM Richards, former Governor Romesh Bhandari, Rupa & Company, and (I think, the did-you-know-it trivia master) V Chandra Mowli.
Lots of links to Goa in the WorldEBookFair. Check this loooooong URL.

Apparently, this site is offering "free access to the public from July 4th to August 4th (2006), in celebration of Project Gutenberg's 25th Birthday". And, we're told that the World eBook Fair is pponsored by the World eBook Library Consortia and Project Gutenberg.

Even found an ebook in which one of my contributions appeared (and wasn't aware of it). It's called Silenced-v34.indd, and deals with censorship issues in cyberspace.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Secrets behind church facades (by Melvyn Misquita)

Secrets behind church facades

BY MELVYN MISQUITA [Herald] melvyn at

What do mermaids, a two-headed eagle, lions, the mythical Cyclops and a boat have in common? Believe it or not, they all grace the façades of parishes churches in Goa.

To be honest, a casual spectator may find façades of the 158-odd parish churches in Goa nothing more than repetitive white-washed multi-storeyed structures that deserved nothing more than a cursory glance.

That is, until they lay their hands on the recently published book "The Parish Churches of Goa", a study of façade architecture by Jose Lourenco along with photographs by Pantaleao Fernandes.

The 201-page book is packed with exhaustive, yet fascinating, information and pictures on façades of parish churches, right from Agassaim to Veroda and even includes a map of Goa identifying the parish churches for the curious traveller. The book, however, does not include facades of non-parish churches (churches at Old Goa).

The authors begin by briefly describing the various architectural influences of the west and east on church façades in Goa.

The early façades, according to the authors, were the 'peaked gable' façades, relatively unsophisticated late Portuguese Renaissance style, as can be seen in the parish churches such as St Peter (Sao Pedro) and St Lawrence (Agasaim).

The 'Cupoliform' façades, considered a Goan innovation, can be seen in churches such as Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (Moira) and St Cajetan (Assagao).

Other façades include the 'Pozzoan pediment' (such as Holy Spirit, Margao), 'Rococo' (such as St Jerome's Church, Mapusa), 'Templet' (such as Savour of the World church, Loutolim) and 'Neo-Gothic' (such as Our Lady church, Saligao).

A concise description of each parish in Goa is encompassed in a single page, which includes other interesting details such as a brief history of the parish, the feast of its patron (now you don’t have any excuse for missing out on parish feasts of your relatives), the elevation/ inception of the parish, the latest picture of the parish and architectural notes on the facade of the church.

While praising the rich architectural heritage of façades in the parishes churches of Goa, the authors seem pained over the recent unintentional 'distortions' to these façades, which, in their words, "have marred the elegant beauty of these edifices."

Some of these 'distortions' detailed in their book include the installation of metalor plastic sheets to protect doors, windows and belfry openings, concrete porches, back-lit signboards and 'blinded openings', the closure of the oculi (the opening that streams light into the church interiors).

The authors also express anguish over the recent trends to paint church facade in multicolours, a far cry from the "resplendent brilliance" of the white paint of yore, besides pointing to recent trends of introducing fluorescent or sodium vapour lamps on or around façades, aluminium windows and haphazard facade renovations.

A glossary and sketches containing the different elements of the church facade are also a useful addition in the book.

The book is certainly an eye-opener to those who will now admit that facades of churches are much more than repetitive white-washed multi-storeyed structures that deserved nothing more than a cursory glance.

While the book is strongly recommended for the fascinating stories that emerge out of church facades, there is, however, one drawkback -- its price.

Priced at Rs 495, the book is by no means cheap and could well elude the masses, who may miss out on the hidden secrets of church facades. (ENDS)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sonia's book, The Girl

Sonia Faleiro <faleiro_s at> has just released a novel, The Girl, this month. More information is on her website Looking forward to seeing the same...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Amita Kanekar's A Spoke In The Wheel (HarperCollins, 2005)

Below are three reviews of a book by Amita Kanekar, a Mumbai-based writer whose roots are in Goa. -FN

The Hindu, May 1, 2005

The Buddha emerges a more rounded figure in this reinterpretation, says R. KRITHIKA

----- A Spoke In The Wheel: A Novel About The Buddha, Amita Kanekar, HarperCollins, Rs. 395. -----

THE traditional legend of Buddha's renunciation and search for enlightenment is, in many ways, unsatisfactory. Could one be as divorced from the reality of his/ her times as the legend implied? Also the characters seem unreal cardboard cutouts rather than real live people, who felt, loved, lived and hated especially when compared with extant literary sources on social life of this period in Indian history.

Good use of history

Against this background, Amita Kanekar's A Spoke in the Wheel is interesting reading. Described as historical fiction, the book draws from Indian history to such good effect that one can't help wondering if things actually did happen this way. The period of the Buddha was one of great philosophical ferment. There were six main schools of thought, the Vedic ritualistic tradition was under attack and people were beginning to look at alternate schools of thought. Both politically and socially too, it was a time of changes. Republicanism had come to the fore.

The book moves at two levels. A monk, Upali, (who lives in Asoka's times) is writing the story of Buddha's life. Upali has lived through the Kalinga War and is not quite sure about the reasons for Asoka's conversion is it a true inner change or is it politically motivated? Upali's story has raised hackles in the establishment since he avoids the traditional rendering. His Buddha is an outsider in his own society, racked by doubts and finding something lacking in the political and socio-religious structure of his times. But, initially at least, Upali has the support of the emperor.

A modern reader might find Upali's Buddha a more rounded figure than the over-protected prince of mythology. The reader is drawn to the character as his doubts and worries do have a contemporary resonance. But one can also understand the horrified reactions of the community of monks. After building up the greatness of Buddha, to have him portrayed as a nave, self-doubting individual out of sync with the socio-political environment can be damaging.

Dismantling legends

Another interesting aspect of the book is the dismantling of each legend associated with the Buddha. Beginning with his birth right down to his renunciation, Kanekar systematically demolishes the otherworldly gloss. The touch I liked best was the handling of the charioteer Channa when he brings the news of Buddha's renunciation home. Our lovely legends are silent in this. But Kanekar has Channa thrashed and thrown in jail till it is proved that Siddhartha was alive. More like those times and these too.

Life in the Magadhan empire is also portrayed with an eye to historical accuracy. Quotes from Asokan edicts which we knew of as history but couldn't really relate to now come alive with a new imagery. The schism within Buddhism which Asoka tries to bridge with the Buddhist Council is portrayed through the conversation of the monks. Political intrigue, a given constant in all times, reaches through insidiously into the Sangha - one of the elders is a spy for the emperor, another monk is murdered for his political affiliations.

Same old stories

The other interesting issue is the expansion of so-called "civilisation" and the effect it has on tribals and other forest-dwelling people. The young Siddhartha is troubled by the treatment and enslavement of defeated tribals. By the time of Asoka, the expansion of the Magadhan kingdom sees the forest dwellers fighting a losing battle to retain their way of life. One quote brings the reader slap up against the tribal agitations in today's world and the conflict between civilisation-development and the traditional cultures "Everything in the forest is not the same ... . Magadh has this way of demeaning the forests - using them, plundering them, destroying them and ignoring the richness, the layers, the differences, the thousands of thousands of differences." Not much seems to have changed in the years that have passed since then.

Kanekar's language is forceful and direct. Vividly drawn word pictures bring old textbooks to life. Upali is a figure who draws and holds the reader's interest. His stubborn refusal to accept the legends as sacred, his championing of the communities, his doubts over the king's reasons for conversion and promotion of Buddhism ... This is a book that will be of interest to anyone interested in philosophy in general and Buddhism in particular.


Revealing the real Buddha by S A Karthik, The Deccan Herald, May 29, 2005

New Delhi, India -- The book is an attempt to strip away fanciful stories surrounding the Buddha and reveal him as an ordinary man who had an extraordinary approach to his problems.

In his Buddhacharita, Asvaghosha describes in majestic verse the unnatural splendour of the Buddhas birth: as Indra, the chief of the gods holds the newborn in his hands, two streams of the purest water from the heavens fall on the baby together with mandaara flowers. The baby then utters words of majesty and meaning: I am born for the benefit of this world. This is my last birth on this earth.

Amita Kanekar's debut novel, A Spoke in the Wheel is an attempt to strip away layer by layer such fanciful stories surrounding the Buddha and reveal him as an ordinary man who had an extraordinary approach to his problems.

At her hands the Buddhas story emerges plainer but more than makes up for that by offering a wealth of alternate, rational explanations that challenge blind belief in legends that were formulated largely to serve the selfish interests of particular clans, kings, and communities.

The novel has an interesting structure. It begins with the story of Upali, a monk in the Maheshwar monastery on the Narmada. He begins rewriting the life of the Buddha as he sees contradictions in the Suttas. The reader changes lanes every alternate chapter, from the story of Upali set in 256 BCE during the emperor Ashokas reign to the story of the Buddha three hundred years earlier as retold by Upali.

In his reconstruction Upali adopts what is a blasphemous approach in the eyes of the leaders of the Buddhist sanghas. He portrays the Buddha as an ordinary prince, apathetic to the kshatriyas vocation of war, abhorrent of their animal and human sacrifices, and sympathetic towards the plight of the slaves and other repressed peoples.

Upalis account is thus shorn of the legendary elements in Buddhas life - his divine birth, the reasons for him leaving home and hearth and his war with Maara the Tempter on the path to enlightenment.

Throughout the book Amita presents issues of ethics and socio-economic relationships that are relevant even today. The ruler-priest nexus that exploits the commoner, the ethical ambivalence of the merchant classes, the morality of war, the issues of displacement and rehabilitation (as in the case of the people of Kalinga after the war with Maghadha) and so on.

The book attempts to show that the Buddha went away in search of solutions to these earthly, mundane problems, not esoteric questions of existence. His Middle Way was his solution to the excesses of all types indulged by all classes. Did those who professed to follow the Way, including Asoka, actually do so or did they merely use it for their own ends?

The book has some stimulating answers to this question.

The narrative is rich in detail and every aspect of life in those ancient times stands out vividly before the reader. There is a glossary of terms at the end. Perhaps the only lacuna is the absence of notes that indicate the sources for Amitas inferences. At the end of the book we do not have the comfort of knowing what is supported by research and what is imaginatively concocted. But this is not to deny the books deserved place on our bookshelf.

A Spoke In The Wheel - A Novel About The Buddha; Amita Kanekar New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2005; pp 447, Rs 395


Spetrum, The Tribune Sunday June 19,2005 Buddha demystified Arun Gaur

A Spoke in the Wheel by Amita Kanekar. Harper Collins, New Delhi. Pages 448. Rs 395

"Influenced by all!" said Mahanta. "Upalis Buddha is a confused fool parroting whatever was said around him!" "Thats not true," protested Upali. "Perhaps it is not deliberate," conceded Mahanta. "Perhaps it is only your stupidity." He turned to the others. "But just imagine, brothers, if everybody started this kind of imaginative interpretation, what will happen to the legacy so carefully protected this far? It will be torn apart, destroyed! Well be left with only interpretations, each one more adventurous than the last!"

Upali is a monk, a Chandala, a remnant of the Kalinga war, seething with hatred towards Ashoka. Ironically, he is supported by the king himself in his private enterprise of writing Buddhas biography. Only three centuries separate the Buddha and his biographer, but these are enough to mythologise him heavily.

Now the primary task, the self-appointed mission, of Upali is to demythologise the sage, deconstruct the associated fantasies of the Suttas and the Jatakas, and to place him firmly in the historical matrix. His fears are strong: "To make him a god is to make him ordinary. He will be one of thousandsthis is a land of gods. He will be swallowed up by myth and ritual. He might even become a sacrifice demander and a slavery-patron tomorrow, one who needs blood and flowers and incense and servants!" The biographer is irritated at the inimical stance of the fellow monks: "My understanding is simple... The Buddha was a very wise man, but a man." Harsha knows better: "Upali! The Buddha is already a godone story cant stop it."

How can Upali be free to create his own Buddha? Even Ashoka opines that time is not ready to receive his Buddha and directs him to deposit his manuscript with him. The post-modernist debate about the right to authorship is in question here.

Upali does not seem to nurse any ambition to become a renowned author and his enterprise seems to be a purely private affair, an exercise in self-contentment. Even then, society at largehis friend Harsha, Mogalliputta, who is the powerful thera of Pataliputra, and the courtiers of Ashokaholds the opinion that Upali is trying to appropriate a privileged position of an author. And that would not be granted to him. The interference of the state machinery cannot be countered by the individual flashes of genius. When the writing begins, a writer has to die. This option is not acceptable to Upali; for him, writing as well as the author has to die. Consequently, he throws his unfinished script into the fire and slumps into silence.

The abstract story of the recreation of the Buddha is embedded in a multi-layered phenomenon. The philosophic gaze of Upali takes into cognizance the spiritual, commercial, political, and artistic ingredients of the society surrounding him and somehow manages to persevere through this maze. Unwittingly, Upali also becomes a part of the intrigues of love and political assassinations.

Clearly, Kanekar has done a lot of research that this kind of novel writing demands. She examines diverse historic issues: Dhamma, jungle versus city, slavery-system, stature of a devadasi, national identities, crime and punishment. There are evocative descriptions of burgeoning cities like Kapilavastu, and Benares Ujjayinis "raucous noise" is sharply demarcated from Pataliputras "laughter from glamorous carriages."

As the novelist is a teacher of the history of architecture and comparative mythology, she comfortably deals with the details of a Yakshini on the stupa: "Her pose seemed modeled on a liana vine, her ridiculously generous curves on fruit-laden trees, but her expression? The amused challenge in her eyes" Still more important is the fact that this observation is not a dry piece of analytical realism; as it is conveyed through a monks eyes, it suggests an amorous hidden dimension of a spiritual being.

Here is an abstruse difficult-to-handle story that could easily have gone drab, but it goes to the credit of the writer that in spite of her being a debut-novelist, she has been able to keep it lively. It seems to be an important contribution to Indian historic fiction.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dr Jose Pereira ... on the mando

Here's an April 2003 review of Fordham University professor emeritus of theology Dr Pereira's book, co-authored with the late maestro Micael Martins of Orlim and priest - psychotherapist - musician Antonio da Costa now based in Arizona. Details below. Published in 2003 by Aryan Books <>, this volume deals with Mandos of union and lamentation. Some publication data: %T Song of Goa %S Mandos of Union and Lamentation %A Pereira, Jose <eximirom at> %A Martins, Micael %A da Costa, Antonio %I Aryan Books International %C New Delhi %D 2003 %O paperback %G ISBN 81-7305-248-4 %P 190pp, Rs 200 %U %K Goa, music

Goacom's page

Here's Goacom's page on books

Friday, December 23, 2005

Blood, nemesis and misreading quite what makes Goan society tick (book review)


Being trapped in the immobility of their social structures, the Lusitanian supremacy did not matter to the downtrodden.

[A review by: Lino Leitao lino.leitao at]

---------------------------- Blood & Nemesis by Ben Antao Goan Observer Private Limited Pages 318, Rs 250. Goa 2005. ----------------------------

Ben Antao's 'Blood and Nemesis' is a historical novel. In this novel, the author attempts to recapture Goa's freedom struggle from Portuguese colonial rule. In doing so, he gives us insights into Goan psyches of both the Hindus and Catholics -- the two main sectors of the Goan population.

In the very first chapter of the novel, we are introduced to Jovino Colaco, a young constable in Goa's colonial police force at Margao. Jovino's character is very vividly drawn, as if the author had known such a character personally; and many a Goan freedom fighter might have come across such a lout in those days of their struggle to free Goa from Salazar's tyranny.

Though Jovino is a bonehead with nothing much of substance, he is shrewd enough to use his position as a police constable to acquire money by graft, harassing the drivers of carreiras -- the busses of those colonial times. He has huge appetites for booze and sex; and of course, he likes card games, gambling with his friends. For him, dictatorship isn't ugly; he has a nose to sniff out freedom fighters. His boss, Gaspar Dias, a fearsome detective, likes him for that, and promotes him as his assistant. And Jovino, who spends more money than he earns, sees it as an opportunity to make a lot of cash to support his tainted lifestyle. He is happy; the promotion goes to his head.

Jovino's sexual exploits introduce us to the Devdasi cult at Mardol. (Devadasi refers to temple-based prostitution, which existed till the early part of the 20th century. In Goa, a devdasi was also called Bhavin, or the one with devotion.)

Antao draws vibrant and titillating sexual performances; and Kamala, a family devdasi, a steady sexual partner of Jovino, an expert in innovative Kamasutra poses, knows to give and take sexual pleasures for herself. But at the same time, a reader might question, as I did, how this kind of degrading humiliation of the woman came to be sanctified in the Hindu religion?

June 18, 1946 is a historic date in Goa's history. On this day, Dr. Juliao Menezes, a Goan, and Dr. Rammanohar Lohia from what was then still British India lit the torch for civil liberties at Margao, defying the ban on the freedom of speech.

Santan Barreto, Jovino's nemesis, who was only eighteen years old then, was on the scene. Seeing Juliao and Lohia hustled into a Police jeep and driven to the Police station, had an effect on Santan's soul. It awakens to freedom.

Santan dreams going to college in Bombay, and participate in politics after India's independence. But his ambition is shattered when his father, a seaman, passes away on board the ship. Having no one else to support his ambition, he pursues his dream by becoming a 'social worker' -- a euphemism for joining the ranks of the unemployed. He runs errands to get in touch with the like-minded Hindus to bring in freedom and democracy. He could have easily got a job in the colonial administration; but being the zealous Goan patriot that he was, he couldn't compromise his principles. Nor do we see the like-minded Hindus offering him a job in their businesses that they owned.

Santan, an ardent idealist, whose soul burns fervently to usher in freedom and democracy to the Goans, has no scruples, whatsoever, to freeload on his mother's meager widow's pension. The poor woman, to make the ends meet, works her fingers to the bone laboring in the fields owned by others.

Santan, when released after Liberation from the Aguada jail doesn't rush back to his mother, the mother who had sacrificed her own needs and fed him on her paltry widow's pension, when he was a 'social worker'. Instead, we see him basking in 'hero worship', for a week at Vaicunto Prabhudesai's, a like-minded Hindu and a fellow political prisoner from Aguada jail.

The author portrays Santan, a freedom fighter, as an impulsive individual with no ability to control his anger when enraged. The reader will come across two incidents in the novel. One: a glass of pale amber liquid, which is Santan's urine, which he arrogantly demands Jovino drink. Why? If you read the novel, you’ll know the answer to it.

The other incident is when Santan snatches the revolver from Jovino's holster. These are impulsive and sporadic acts, not worthy of freedom fighters. Committed freedom fighters to the cause plan their acts carefully and execute them to get the desired results.

After Liberation, Santan and Vaicunto, their self-importance puffed up as Goa's liberators, rush to settle scores with Jovino. The author, in the end, renders a debauched Jovino, on his dying bed, as a better human being than those two vengeful liberators.

Subtly, the author exposes the conceitedness of Santan. One gets the impression that the author must have known such a character like Santan personally too, the way he draws out his hidden traits of his personality.

The plot though unfolds around these two main characters -- Jovino Colaco and Satan Barreto, other fascinating characters also pop up in the narrative, giving us the overall view of Goa's life in those colonial times under the dictatorship of Salazar.

Unsubstantiated historical perceptions are thrown into the story, sometimes they come through the mouth of the characters, or sometimes injected by the author himself. For example in pages 21 and 22, we read: "He (Gaspar Dias, Jovino's boss in Police Force) was convinced that the political sympathies of Goan Hindus definitely lay with India.... The younger generation of Hindus, if you cared to ask them, would say without hesitation that they wanted freedom from colonial rule; they wanted Goa to become a part of India. As for the Catholics, by and large, they tried to be good citizens...."

Gaspar Dias can be excused for such analysis of the Goan society of that time, he being a mestico, might not have ever assimilated the intricacies of Goan nationalism.

Again, in page 110 the author probes the thoughts in Santan's mind. The author writes, "...But he (Santan Barretto) was also aware that many Goan Catholics somehow had been brainwashed into thinking they were different from other Indians, that they were superior because of their Western ways of life."

We can make allowances for Santan too, and overlook his assumptions of this nature because the author has portrayed him as an impetuous freedom fighter; impetuous persons do not use their brain muscle but their emotions.

But it's historically fallacious inferences to assume that Goan Hindus were pro-Indian because of their religion, and that Goan Catholics were pro-Portuguese. The civil rights movement that was launched in 1946 was launched due to the endeavors of Dr. Juliao Menezes, who was a Goan and baptized Catholic, though he might have been an agnostic later on in his life.

In that civil rights movement, many Goan Catholics participated. To name only some important ones: Tristao da Cunha, baptized Catholic, though atheist later on; Berta de Menezes Braganca, baptized Catholic, perhaps atheist later on; Evagrio George, baptized Catholic; Aresenio Jaques, baptized Catholic; Critovao Furtado, baptized Catholic and many, many others.

Jose Inacio Candido de Loyola in Free Press Journal, Bombay, September 26, 1946 sums ups this movement in this fashion, "An attempt is being made in certain quarters to create among the Catholic section of the Goan population, the impression that Dr. Lohia's movement is directed against the Catholic religion. There is no truth whatsoever in this propaganda. This movement has nothing to do with any religion. It is a movement for all Goans."

Goans always struggled to break the fetters that bounded them, and the author brings to our mind at page 95 the Pinto's rebellion that took place in the summer of 1787. Weren't they Catholics?

Francisco Luis Gomes, in his maiden speech in the Portuguese Parliament (18th January 1861), spoke: "... but far better models are the sacred principles, which in a free government require that hundred of persons should not be deprived of their political rights, of rights through which they share in the creation or exercise the political powers, simply because they had the misfortune to be born in the overseas colonies." (Dr. Francisco Luis Gomes, 1829-1869, by Inacio P. Newman, Coina Publications Goa, 1969.)

And again, Menezes Braganca, when Acto Colonial was incorporated in the Political Constitution of Salazar's Dictatorship in 1930, repudiated the mentality of the Act, "Portuguese India does not renounce the right of all peoples to attain the fullness of their individuality to the point of constituting units capable of guiding their own destiny, for it is a birthright of its organic essence." (Menezes Braganza, Biographical Sketch)

At page 21, the author, while probing into the mind of Gaspar Dias, writes: "...(Gaspar Dias) knew that the older Hindu businessmen mostly paid lip service to the Portuguese administration in order to make a living -- and some became wealthy in the newly booming mining industry of iron and manganese ore."

The Goan Hindu businessmen, tradesmen and landlords weren't that naive; they knew which sides the winds were blowing. Goa was their personal fiefdom without an economic base. They understood that the economic power that they were holding would slip away from their hands if Goa integrated with free India, which had an economic foundation.

So, they organized a public assembly in Margao (O Heraldo, July 30, 1946), and petitioned Salazar's administration for autonomy for Estado da India. Jose Inacio de Loyola gave the presidential address. The others who spoke were Mrs. Krishnabai, the niece of 'Bairao' Dempo, Datta Naik, Francisco Furtado and Vicente Joao Figueiredo.

Laxmikanta Bembro, making various observations, proposed a committee of the following: Adv. Vicente Joao Figueiredo, Adv. Polibio Mascarenhas, Manganlal M. Kanji, Adv. Panduronga Mulgaocar, Adv. Francisco de Paul Ribeiro, Adv. Prisonio Furtado. Adv. Antonio Xavier Gomes Pereira, Bascora Desai, Dr. Jose Paulo Telles, Adv. Álvaro Furtado, Adv. Francisco Pinto Menezes, Adv Vinayka Sinai Coissoro, Adv Datta Phaldessai, Dr. Krishna Sanguri and Laxmikanta V.P. Bembro.

But their efforts did not bear any fruits. And again in 1961, Purushottam Kakodkar perused autonomy for Estado da India, with no success. Gaspar Dias, the character in Antao's novel, who is a fearsome detective and obviously based on Agente Casmiro Monteiro, seems to know nothing about Goan native nationalism.

"The Goan people, for all practical purposes, have been pulverized by these heinous acts of brutality; in effect, Goans had been figuratively castrated over the years and rendered effete. And thus in the course of time, generations of Goans had grown up denationalized (p. 95)."

The above quote doesn't come from any of the characters that abound in the novel. This above statement is inserted in the narrative by the author to remind us about the heinous acts of brutality committed by the Portuguese conquerors on the Goan populace. No historian will ever dispute the atrocities of the Inquisition, nor the ruthlessness by which the Portuguese conquerors put down rebellions, nor Salazar’s brutality in suppressing the genuine Goan aspirations to free themselves from the colonial yoke.

But before the conquest, the most inhuman injustices were seared in into the Goan collective psyche, through their religion and the caste system. In their religion, there was the practice of sati -- burning the widows on the funeral pyre. Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese conqueror of Goa, stopped this barbaric practice. The Devdasi cult, which the author depicts with all its dimensions in the novel, was a part and parcel of that culture.

Dayanand Bandodkar, the first Chief Minister of Liberated Goa, sought to put the Devdasi practice to end a few decades ago. The caste system, in its evil designs, had contucares (the village servants) system and the manducar (serfdom) system incorporated into it. These deep layers of subjugation implanted into the Goan society before the conquest 'pulverized and figuratively castrated' the collective psyche of the Goans.

Being trapped in the immobility of their social structures, the Lusitanian supremacy did not matter to the downtrodden. Their main pressing concern was to eke out a living. The rural uneducated had no luxury of thinking for themselves. Goan journalist Frederick Noronha writes in one of his essays, "a society which has no chance to think for itself is an enslaved society".

Though they were enslaved and servile and branded as denationalized because of the Lusitanian influences that made a way into their soul, they were never de-Goanized. They carried a love for Goa in their soul wherever they went to make a better living; and now in the present, we are the witnesses of Little Goas blossoming in all corners of the world.

The central theme of the novel is expressed through an Australian folk song:

Freedom isn't free You've to pay the price You've to sacrifice For your liberty

Goans were paying the price and making sacrifices to break the chains that bound them. They were imprisoned in Aguada, Peniche, Azores and Africa; and they were brutalized and their liberties were taken away. But Nehru's administration, discarding Gandhi's credo of non-violence, invaded Goa on December 18, 1961, thereby robbing Goans of their right to seize their own freedom from Portuguese colonial rule. One can only hope that the Liberation that was handed to the people on the platter helps them to empower and bring the control of the economy of the land into their own hands.

'Blood and Nemesis' is a thought-provoking novel. The various contradictions that the author introduces through his characters, or his personal comments, in the narrative are debatable issues.

------------------------------------------------------------------- ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lino Leitao grew up in Salcete, Goa, and was a young man when Goa transitioned out of Portuguese colonial rule. He subsequently migrated to Canada, where he is currently based. Leitao is the author of 'The Gift of the Holy Cross'. His manuscript of short stories is at present being readied for publication. He can be contacted via email at lino.leitao Goan Observer, which also published this book, earlier printed an abridged version of this review in its issue of August 20, 2005.

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