Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
BLOOD, NEMESIS AND MISREADING QUITE WHAT MAKES GOAN SOCIETY TICK
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 sympatico.ca]
---------------------------- 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 sympatico.ca 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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Goa: An 'Aurorised' Story
------------------------------------- Goa: A Daughter's Story, by Maria Aurora Couto; Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2005; pp 436, Rs 350, (pb). -------------------------------------
Teotonio R de Souza
Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh (Vintage, 1994) depicts Aurora, as the last of the Gamas and a daughter of Camões, playing the perfect granddaughter to Epifânia da Gama, whom she wishes to murder. We are told that Epifânia had developed a healthy respect for the British, but her heart belonged to Portugal, as she dreamt of walking beside the Tagus, the Douro, sashaying through the streets of Lisbon on the arm of a grandee. Aurora’s grandfather, Francisco da Gama, had fallen prey to Annie Besant’s theosophy and propounded a theory of ‘transformational fields of conscience’, but his playing with Gama rays finished him off, after provoking cruel and satirical editorial comments in The Hindu. Those who are familiar with this “Aurorised” version of Rushdie’s novel (do not miss Chapter 13 of the novel) will find in the present book, another Aurorised version, Chico’s daughter and Alban Couto’s wife, a soulful, or to use her father’s “alma”-discourse, a passionate and emotion-charged reconstruction of Goa. ‘The Sunday Magazine’ of The Hindu of April 4, 2004 had reviewed this book under the caption ‘Apparent Divide, Actual Bridges’, relating Goa to south Asia’s macro-level processes, without leaving it isolated as a dazzling but inexplicable pendant on Asia’s hippie and tourist routes. It should not surprise the reader if a large part of the book is devoted to the Goan musical tradition, which serves to link and also bind the Bhakti cult with Goan Christianity, Goan “kudds” with Bollywood, a lawyer-politician-freedom fighter of Orlim with a Souza lady born to a music merchant in Karachi and trained by an Italian maestro in Bombay and speaking English at home in a predominantly Portuguese influenced Salcete subculture. Even a rat frequented occasionally (p 270) the music classes of Father Philip Soares in the Dharwar parish of Aurora. Perhaps, he mistook the Goan music for the “laddus” of Lord Ganesha.
A New Approach
Couto follows neither the tourist brochure approach that goes little beyond describing the sun and sands of Goa, nor does she take up the stance of the academic historian, who in this book will have to bear with absence of their preference for footnoted erudition. Aurora prefers rather to “imagine and interpret” the process of conversion, subversion and compromise (pp 240-49) to which the population and the land were subjected since its occupation by Afonso de Albquerque in 1510. She prefers to build her “story of Goa” on the basis of her own choice of sources, giving the pride of place to family reminiscences and other kinds of oral traditions and F N Souza’s canvases, but above all to the two major rivers of Goa. Maria Aurora believes that the “view from the river is dramatically different”. This river-borne perspective would certainly make Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha keen to come to Goa, even though Aurora does not extend her view to the Buddhist or any other phase of pre-Portuguese Goa. Unlike Rushdie’s Epifânia, his Aurora’s grandmother, here we find an Aurora who reveals a sound respect for the Portuguese, but whose heart belongs to a greater India. The Portuguese get almost off the hook of most academic historians: they are presented as non-aggressive as a rule and without delusions of superiority. We are told that their coercion did not mean violence against human person, but only the violation of right to practise Hinduism, or that the citizenship granted to Goans was not matched with the right to highest positions of power, particularly in the church hierarchy and during the dictatorship of Salazar.
I cannot but feel deep empathy for the exercise performed by Maria Aurora Couto. My own Goa to Me (Concept Publishers, Delhi,1994) was a somewhat similar exercise of weaving the history of Goa with my own lived experience of situations of anguish and opportunities, not very different from what Couto and most other sons and daughters of Goa have gone through at different periods and contexts of Goa’s history. I see Goa – A Daughter’s Story as yet another worthy attempt to piece together one’s own lived experience with the help of the life-performances of many others, at all levels of the Goan community, whose common umbilical bond with Goa makes them all, individually and collectively, the makers of Goan history. Couto does not hide her belief in the role of the elite, but also presents history in tune with Pareto’s “cemetery of elite”. The book seems to have provided an opportunity for catharsis by seeking to unveil the main causes of the declining and dying feudal elite to which a large part of her ancestry belonged.
Through Maria Couto’s account, researchers like the present reviewer will perhaps find a wider readership for research on Goa’s agrarian economy and the baroque style of Christianity introduced by the Portuguese (p 158), the imposition in Goa Portuguesa of a “xendy” tax along the Mughal “jizya” model (p 200), the Mhamays of Goa, the debt owed by Jesuits to Bhagvatiny Camotiny at the time of their suppression, and African slavery in Goa (p 219), Lam Jaku’s (the reviewer’s grandfather) tirades against the pants-wearing (“calção-kar”) rulers and their native lackeys (p 239), the Jesuit impact upon the Goan agriculture and culture (p 251), the native Oratorians of Goa (p 319), the Pinto Revolt (p 324), and many other bits and pieces of information that do not always carry overt indication of their source. Maria Couto’s wide and rich survey of oral traditions and her encyclopaedic readings also validate many of my research conclusions, including the fact that Portuguese colonialism was sustained with the active collaboration of Hindu artisans, traders and diplomats (p 263). I can recall having chatted with Couto during her visit to Portugal and also during my visits to Goa. I remember having conveyed to her my conviction that with her socio-political background she was better placed than the scholars born and bred exclusively in Goa to present Goa on a larger canvas. That seems to have happened and a comparison of the book reviews at the local and national level bear witness to it.
Couto discovered in her genealogical lists a great-great-grandfather Antonio Caetano Pacheco, who has a road named after him in Margão. In 1955, the postal services of Portuguese India issued a stamp with his picture and name, to commemorate 450 years of the foundation of the “Estado Português da India”, to which he was elected as MP to serve in the Portuguese parliament in 1839. Had Couto gone beyond oral tradition, listening only to Priti Camotim, and “senhoras” Hira Sardessai and Hira Sakhardando in Lisbon, and found time to glance at the records of the Portuguese parliament (many of them can now be consulted online), she could have traced interesting details about her ancestor’s capacity to draft legislative projects in the company of Bernardo Peres da Silva. He was back in the Portuguese parliament after suffering exile from Goa in 1832 and after an aborted attempt by his relative and opium-baron Rogerio de Faria in 1835 to bring him back to power to serve his own business ambitions by ousting the Portuguese through a naval expedition he planned from Bombay, but which landed on the rocks of Vengurlá due to little attention paid to the announcements of early arrival of the monsoon that year (p 366), Bernardo Peres da Silva continued to be re-elected as MP for Goa till his death. He continued his political harangues on behalf of his land and his people in the Portuguese parliament, even when no minister in government cared to listen or respond to his demands. Silva did not relent till the end and earned for himself a mausoleum in Lisbon’s glamorous “Cemitério dos Prazeres”, a kind of open-air museum erected by the liberalism and secularism of the mid-19th century that took the burial grounds away from the medieval Catholic church precincts.
The Old Aristocracy
If I have pointed out in some detail the above cases, it is meant as an indirect comment on Couto’s lamentations and frustrations of the Goan feudal “bhatkars”, affecting significantly the destinies of her ancestry, including her beloved father (p 356) and inspirer of this book. They found little or no scope for idealism and creativity in the prevailing economic constraints that followed the British grip over Portuguese Indian economy (p 292) and after Salazar’s grip over the native political ambitions (pp 386-87). It is true that Couto cites the case of some young Goans, like Telo Mascarenhas, Adeodato Barreto and Lucio Miranda, who founded a “Partido Nacional Indiano” in the university city of Coimbra, in Portugal, or some visionary Hindu reformers in Goa, such as Hegdo Dessai, who led single handedly a press campaign through his newspaper Bharat, when some of his influential correligionaries had been co-opted to serve and toe the line of the administration. I am left with the impression that, while filial and human sensitivity makes Couto seek to mitigate the personal culpability of Goans who drowned their frustrations in alcoholism, she seems to be at a loss to explain how several others could resist and act within the same socio-political context with an intense sense of mission. Should we believe that most Goans, and many of the elite, like her cherished father could only find sublimation in faith and “alma”-driven music? If so, are we to conclude that the Portuguese “violence-free” colonialism did very well through the strategic promotion of a “lamb of God” or “suffering servant of Yahweh” theology with Lenten motets and what Salman Rusdie calls “kababed saints and tandooried martyrs”? Did music truly liberate the Christian soul (p 237)? Did it not rather lull and dull the pains and sufferings under the colonial rule, preventing an adequate political response of the masses?
Couto’s preliminary disavowal of academic history left me with some misgivings, but as I reached the end of the book, I could not help recalling the 16th century Portuguese adventurer in Asia and author of his world-famous Peregrinação. Till very recently, the literary critics believed that Fernão Mendes Pinto was lying or exaggerating most of the incidents he was narrating. Now it is admitted by serious researchers that he was truthful even in most details, but was forced to put into the mouths of others whatever he himself wanted to say about the Portuguese atrocities and opportunistic behaviour in Asia. The Portuguese Inquisition would not let him publish his book had he said those things as personal testimony. He had devised a literary style. Maria Aurora Couto seems to have laboured under some kind of self-inquisitorial pressures and done a superb job of making many others, including the present reviewer, say whatever could go counter to her determination to avoid extreme positions.
Just as I cherish Jawaharlal Nehru’s approach to Indian and World History through his well known The Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History, I have no doubts that Maria Aurora’s Goa – A Daughter’s Story will go a long way in presenting the social and cultural (which is always political, as the author admits in one place) in a language that is both polished and passionate, conveying deep love and the “Indian-ness of pluralism” as another reviewer has summed up in his conclusions of the book. Despite my whole-hearted concurrence, I fear that the “mestiços” who are presented as the real enemies, feared and hated by Goans from both communities (p 193), may feel themselves at the receiving end of this otherwise suave treatment of Goan cultural pluralism. The recently published second edition of a massive three volume listing of Os luso-descendentes da India Portuguesa by Jorge Forjaz could provide much powder for commemorative salvos, if not for more provocative exercises, as the fifth centenary of the conquest of Goa and Afonso de Albuquerque’s policy and politics of miscegenation nears. Could the “mesticos” or their descendants be brushed aside in Couto’s account of Goa Portuguesa? Were they dismissed summarily (pp 134-35) to avoid getting sucked into less pleasant reflections and interpretations? How about Goan natives, men and women, who sought matrimonial alliances with the white Portuguese, and are now integrated on either side of the present-day political geography divide? Where do they figure in the evolution of Goan identity as presented in Goa A Daughter’s Story? While it is easy to present the mestiços as enemies in the context of the liberal politics and pre-liberation conflicts of the Goan society, a more systematic treatment of their long-lasting presence in Goan identity could surely enrich our understanding of Goa’s cultural history.
Contrary to general belief, more white blood transfusion may have entered the Goan society through white females who married propertied and influential Goan “ganvkars” than through Portuguese males for whom native taboos made it difficult to find high caste native mates. These are just some provocations, hoping that Couto will accept the challenge and answer some of these questions in the near future by delving little deeper into the feats and adventures of the “gente muito fina,… tao delicadas, tão bonitas” (very refined people, very courteous and beautiful) about whom Couto’s mother used to reminisce (p 330). Why limit and stop the influences on the character of Goan women (and perhaps men as well?) with Dravidian matrilinealism, Buddhist philosophy and Kadamba queens (p 51)? This is not applicable only to the Christian community. If we are to go by oral tradition, the choice of D Bandodkar as the first elected chief minister of post-liberation Goa permitted a smooth transition for Goa, less politically than genetically! Hopefully, the Muslims who were left out from the present Aurorised version will also find some place in future versions. It was among them that Afonso de Albuquerque found the “mulheres castas e alvas” (chaste and fair women) to reproduce the “casados” and to forge a new identity for Goa Portuguesa.
To conclude, I wished the paperback edition that is reviewed here had made accessible this magnum opus of Maria Aurora Couto, not just for less price, but also with less misspellings of Portuguese words. Goans need not be made more “socegado” than they seem to be by replacing “ss” with one “c”, or made less braggarts by taking away one “r” from “fanfarrão” (braggart)! (p 360). Many missing Portuguese accent marks change the meanings of words, particularly in some phrases that are not accompanied by English translation. The archaic Portuguese orthography could have been modernised as most research historians usually do nowadays. But these are minor complaints. I would add on a lighter note that, if Aurora continues copying dutifully and affectionately the Portuguese texts of her father without fearing his knocks (p 260), she will certainly have all the spellings right very soon and in time for the future editions.
[One of my students wrote this review. -FN]
CHECK THIS VISION, FROM A VISUALLY-CHALLENGED ENTREPRENEUR IN GOA
By Anson Samuel firstname.lastname@example.org
--------------------------------- MOTIVATION... A man with a vision Rs. 30 Angelo D’Souza ---------------------------------
Have you caught sight of a butterfly opening a cocoon? Or a spider spinning its web? Or maybe an ant storing food in summer? You probably might have spotted or heard it as anecdotes. Don’t they need oodles of patience to go about doing this struggle of a task? And maybe a bit of perseverance and motivation too?
But, victory is favourable only to a few. In the rat-race of achieving success, present-day people leave no stone unturned burning the midnight oil and working indeed very hard. But failure strikes often, and right in the face. Failure gets plonked in the palms of so many today.
Aspirants are so simply bogged down to crash. The reason remains unknown, or does it really?
'Motivation: a man with a vision' is an autobiography written by Angelo D’Souza. An elderly slim man and an expert at the typewriter, he is the principal of the St. Jude’s Commercial Institute at Aldona. His institution is next to the Rosa Mystica Convent. One may say, what's the reason for creating a big din over a good and an experienced typist?
Well, this one is blind! And guess what, he's a damn good writer as well. He has to his credit the National Social Service Award which further motivated him to write news-items and articles. He has, so far, contributed two plays 'Will Power Lead Me On' (1995) and 'Love Triumph Labour Reward' (2001) to the BBC World Drama Contest.
Writing an autobiography can be tricky. If one stresses all his triumphs, s/he is likely to be classified as an egoist, reminding one of the saying that 'a donkey praises his own tail'. If he underplays achievement, he cannot convey the real intent and the very purpose of the autobiography is lost. So the jotting down of all experiences, though a knotty task for him, he has done it quite well.
This book also includes wise titbits and sayings, such as 'The need of the hour is not pity but empathy' and 'No one is more interested in you, other than you'.
The Goa State Branch of the National Association for the Blind recommends the book. Now, don’t cite the example of late Helen Keller, who conquered a triple-handicap. If you think about doing it, don't forget the circumstances she was born in, the social and family support she had, to be able to fight, totally in contrast with the circumstances and social environment in India in general and in Goa in particular.
The book deals with various facts of ones life. Chapters are based on interesting topics on his early stages -- the revelation made to Agnelo by his mentor that he is a victim of defective vision, his own reaction to the outbreak of the sad news and the early stages of anxiety.
Next follows a chapter that is about motivation -- the driving force within an individual: browse through it and activate the potentials in you. Take a peep into your own self. The chapter gives the idea of action, reflection, action.
Next comes a chapter to enables a person to encounter with the success he achieves, the fruit of his hard work. "The award did not permit me to sit and rest,” he says. Guess what follows: an attempt at being an upcoming playwrite and a mediaperson, as mentioned above.
Further in the book, the chapter 'Memoirs Of A Virtually Handicapped' is simply beautifully written. It brings out the thoughts, feelings and anguish of a blind person. Its anxiety is well-expressed in words. Deep touching, soul stirring and an eye opener to people who duck their heads low looking at their problems as "the" problem and not just "a" problem. This man of deficient vision shows how to stand face to face with a problem and encounter it.
The book provides with wisdom on the proper usage of words: don't get me wrong, this isn't a text for studying grammar and parts of speech, but rather words that will motivate and not cause one to efface oneself but to egg-on oneself forward. He makes us familiar with our very words that cause bitter torment and painful heart aches within others. The language has meandered through ones bold encounter with life. And, at the reasonable price it comes, do go for it.
---------- Anson Samuel was a participant at the Ixtt e-Mentorship Programme in Journalism conducted by Frederick Noronha during the academic year 2004-05, when he wrote this interview. If you have ideas or suggestions on keeping this programme running, and creating more socially-focussed journalists, please contact FN email@example.com What we need is your support, not of the financial kind.
Goanet Reader: An imaginative story of Goa's turbulent time (Ben Antao's novel reviewed by Cornel DaCosta)
[A nice review from Cornel. -FN]
BLOOD AND NEMESIS: AN IMAGINATIVE STORY OF GOA'S TURBULENT TIME
A review by Cornel DaCosta
On beginning to read this novel by a Goan author and set in Goa, my memory was drawn to a period between August and December 1961 that I spent in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, whilst temporarily away from my hometown of Mombasa. I had stayed at a relatively new up-market YMCA, made new friends, including fellow Goans, others from the Indian sub-continent, and a few Brits, Germans, Dutch and Danes.
One was a particularly jovial young Portuguese gentleman. Television was not yet available to us, but in the main, BBC radio kept us informed about news around the world.
On the morning of December 19, 1961, on radio, I heard the dramatic news that, after 461 years, the Portuguese rulers had been ousted from Goa by the Indian armed forces. I recall being quite elated by this news. I had always opposed colonialism in principle and felt happy over the removal of the colonial yoke in my ancestral homeland of Goa.
Over breakfast that morning, it became clear that most of my new friends were rather excited and seemingly pleased with the news. However, the Portuguese gentleman in our midst wept inconsolably. When he calmed down, he explained that it was not so much the news about the Indian "occupation" of Goa that really upset him. He felt that this would have occurred sooner or later, because of the obduracy of the Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar. Rather, it was the manifestation of joy in me and fellow Goans, that morning that upset him greatly.
"How", he asked, still in tears, "could you, my Portuguese brothers celebrate the Indian takeover of Goa?" He was pained even more when I told him, as gently as I could, that as a Goan, I was never pro-Portuguese as he had perhaps imagined but an Indian at heart.
On continuing with Ben Antao's recently-released novel 'Blood and Nemesis', it further struck me that, despite visiting Goa several times from my subsequent abode in England, I had not followed the political changes in Goa too closely over the years. Instead, I was strongly drawn to study the abomination of caste practice among significant numbers of Catholic Goans, and also, to explore the effects of mass tourism on the paradise that is Goa.
The novel, however, captured my attention to the dramatic events leading to the incorporation of Goa into the republic of India and the roles of many individuals there who were for, or against, the expulsion of the Portuguese from the territory of Goa.
We thus get a vivid account of many antagonisms and actions centred mainly in Goa, over a relatively short historical period, up to, and soon after December 1961. The Indian military action is presented in considerable detail and the many characters involved are very real in terms of the actual events of the time.
In this very absorbing story, we note the ever-vigilant police presence represented by Jovino Colaco and his immediate boss Gaspar Dias. Both are determined to suppress any Goan anti-Portuguese sentiments and political activity sympathetic to Indian nationalism.
They take it upon themselves, on behalf of the authoritarian Portuguese administration, to bait freedom fighters, capture them, physically abuse them and then incarcerate them in the infamous Aguada jail in Goa. Their particular quarry from May 1955 was a fellow Goan, Santan Barreto. They kept a close eye on him and on his friends who usually spent their leisure time at Bombay Cafe in the town centre of Margao in south Goa.
This cat and mouse strategy is captured brilliantly in the novel. It depicts Jovino, the policeman invariably on his motorbike, as a power-hungry individual, with a weakness for drink, gambling and prostitutes.
He is determined to amass wealth corruptly and to gain promotion at work, having been told by his superiors that his advancement would depend on his success in capturing Goan freedom fighters who operated clandestinely.
In contrast, Santan, fired by a powerful desire to rid Goa of the Portuguese presence becomes increasingly elusive but very active in the subversive underground political network. He surreptitiously outsmarts and frustrates Jovino for a long time. He also gets emboldened by minor skirmishes against the police, and with fellow conspirators, manages to attack isolated police posts to obtain firearms and ammunition. However, his luck eventually runs out. The vigilant Jovino strikes lucky late one night and Santan is captured, abused, and then summarily jailed. He survives the harsh treatment in prison for years and is eventually freed in 1961 during the rapid Indian military action.
Freedom for Santan Barreto and his fellow freedom fighters is sublime, but clearly, at a high cost of life and limb for many in the struggle. He eventually manages towards normal life and his fame as a freedom fighter and hero spreads rapidly with considerable adulation from the local people and also in Bombay. However, he is determined to find his former oppressor, Jovino. Thus the former hunter nowbecomes actively hunted.
Jovino had decided earlier, to continue to live in Goa, despite the available option from Gaspar Dias, to flee Goa by air for Portugal via Karachi in Pakistan.
Tracking Jovino proved to be more difficult than expected for Santan and his comrades as the canny policeman had hidden all traces of his whereabouts in Goa. Nevertheless, after much assiduous detective work of his own, Santan is able to find the final location of his Nemesis, Jovino, and has to then deal with a totally unexpected situation towards the end of this scintillating novel.
This is Ben Antao's first novel and seasoned readers of novels will detect features which are innovative in this genre in terms of the story line, its grounding in a specific historical period and in the presentational style.
For me, it absorbingly took me from my pre-independence Kenya experience, as described above, to the time of Goa's liberation in 1961. Whilst reading the novel, I also reflected on the continuing intellectual premise encapsulated by VS Naipaul, the famous novelist and Nobel laureate, and others, that fiction is dead, vanquished by our need for facts.
To my mind, this is highly debateable, but there is nevertheless, much on-going discussion on this theme and about those novels, which have, in their narrative, strong links to actual facts as in the case of Blood and Nemesis.
Clearly, we can have accurate historical accounts of actual events, but so too, the literary novel of the kind presented by Ben Antao, that stretches the reader's imagination in a way that a historical text may also do, but rather differently. In Antao's case, introspective imaginative storytelling has had the power to reveal underlying truths in highly turbulent and trying times.
On a related issue, today, there are those who have not accepted Goa as liberated but as under occupation by India. This novel zeroes in on the elements of this dilemma around the time of the military action in 1961.
Antao, who lived in Goa and Bombay for much of his life before eventually settling in Toronto, Canada, depicts this particularly well and insightfully. He has had other publications, one of which, available to me, was biographical in orientation. But I enjoyed Blood and Nemesis very much, despite what I thought was perhaps a bit of an abrupt ending.
Perhaps this specific comment stems from my desire to have wanted to read even more material in this particular novel. But in another sense, the novel has whetted my appetite for a welcome sequel that could take us from the dramatic events of 1961 to the present in Goa.
The particular conundrum whether Goa has been liberated or is an occupied territory in the eyes of some people living there, and in the Goan diaspora, is worthy of a follow-up by Antao. Hopefully, when readers convey their impressions of Blood and Nemesis to the author, he will be inspired to generate more pleasurable reading in his distinctive and inimitable style.
Blood & Nemesis By Ben Antao Goan Observer Private Ltd. 318 pages, Rs. 250 ($25 CN)
Blood & Nemesis was released on June 18, 2005, at International Centre, Goa, by freedom fighter and author James Fernandes.
For inquiries contact: Ben Antao (Toronto) 416 250 8885 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cornel DaCosta, PhD, author and specialist on University Education, is based in London, England.
This review is by Zoe Ackah... FN
Book Review - The Sixth Night by Silviano C. Barbosa
By ZOE ACKAH [The Epoch Times July 21, 2005]
The Sixth Night is a scaled down, James A. Mitchener style historical fiction set mainly in colonial Goa. Admittedly, before reading the book I had no idea where Goa was or that it was such a unique and interesting place. Those of you who lived during the hippie era are probably more than familiar with Goa, which gained great popularity as a tourist attraction in the 60s and 70s.
For those who don't know, located in India, Goa has been on the world stage since the pre-Christian era, first documented by the Summerians around 2200 BC. It has been recognized as a fertile paradise by everyone who has been there since.
In more recent history, Goa was colonized by the Portuguese for 400 years until the 1960s. This creates and interesting cultural mélange. The population is now 30 percent Catholic, 65 percent Hindu and 5 percent Muslim. The cuisine and cultural traditions are a complimentary mix of Asian and European.
The Portuguese were expelled from Goa in 1961 when India "reclaimed" her. It is precisely this point in history, the pivotal generation that experienced Goa's return to India first hand, that the author explores.
Our main character, Linda, is a simply-drawn Catholic village girl of the shudra caste. Battling caste discrimination with a stunning intellect, and a childhood of good fortune, Linda is the first in her family to receive a high-level education.
The book chronicles Linda's trials and tribulations as a woman, a shudra, and a Catholic educated in Portuguese just as the English-language-dominated Indian government takes over her homeland. She travels through Europe, ending up in Toronto, Canada.
Having fathered a child by a Portuguese diplomat, from whom she is accidentally separated during the turmoil surrounding Goa's transition to Indian rule, Linda's story is the notable personal conflict in the novel.
The details of this conflict are described rather mechanically and superficially. The emotions likely associated with the painful events surrounding the adoption of Linda's child, and the emotions of the child herself are suspiciously shallow. Indeed, the characters seem unbelievably innocent after all they have been through. The likely consequences of their suffering are left unexplored, and the prose is simplistic.
It seems as if the characters serve merely to explore Catholic Goa's history and unique culture – a feat the author accomplishes very well, making the country itself the real star of the action. Luckily, the book is well researched, and Goa's history is sufficiently interesting, making The Sixth Night a worthwhile read for history lovers and travel junkies.
For a look at "The Sixth Night" web-site visit http://email@example.com. The descriptions of Goa's geographical beauty, pristine village life, and fantastic food, food and more food, will make you want to visit. Luckily the government of Goa's tourism site is really fantastic, and includes recipes for all the food carefully described in "The Sixth Night".
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The writer Zoe Ackah is editor of 'The Epoch Times', a Canadian publication, where this review was published.
GOANET READER WELCOMES contributions from its readers, by way of essays, reviews, features and think-pieces. We share quality Goa-related writing among the growing readership of Goanet and it's allied network of mailing lists. If you appreciate the above article, please send in your feedback to the writer. Our writers write -- or share what they have written -- pro bono, and deserve hearing back from those who appreciate their work. Goanet Reader too welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org Goanet Reader is edited by Frederick Noronha <email@example.com>
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr of Alto Porvorim has recently come out with Sod-9, a new issue of the Konkani research bulletin. It's a volume to felicitate Dr Matthew Almeida SJ who completed 70 years recently. Many would know Fr Almeida as a teacher-rector-principal in St Vincent's (Pune), St Britto's (Mapusa), St Paul's (Belgaum), St Paul's Junior College (Belgaum) and in other roles at Loyola Hall (the Jesuit-training institution at Miramar), the first director of the TSKK (when it was transitioning between Miramar and Porvorim) and as Sod editor from 2000.
Those working in Konkani may not get the attention deserved. As his colleague and confrere Pratap Naik sj writes: "Konknni lok mootbhar and toh shipdoon padla sansarbar. Tantun Konknni vachpi chimtibhar. Boroupi teelbhar." (Konkani speakers are a fistful, and they too have been scattered across the globe. Of them, Konkani readers are a pinch-ful, and writers, and even less significant number.)
That apart, this volume, priced at Rs 100, does a good job of bringing focus to a language that adds to the linguistic diversity, and encodes within its rich insights into this what makes this region tick.
Joseph Velingkar of St Xavier's College (Mumbai)-based Heras Institute writes on the village communities in Goa and their evolution. He writes: "This system of village communities, in turn, gave rise to social distinctions among the population. It not only divided into castes, each disputing superiority over the other, but again divided the villagers into two big classes, ganvkars and residents (moradores). The ganvkars, being the descendents of the founding fathers of the village, claimed to be the aristocrats of the place, and looked contemptuously on the residents, i.e. those not descending from the original settlers. The struggle for dominance between these classes is more clearly seen in the celebration of religious feasts and processions."
But another argument seems a bit to simplistic, and officially-attuned: "After Liberation, the village communities being found stagnant, the Agricultural Tenancy Bill was passed to provide security to and reduce the rent burden on the on the tenant cultivators. The tenant was also freed from the absentee landlord's exploitation and kept in direct contact with the State."
Former XCHR founder-director Dr Teotonio R de Souza's focus is on the use of 'confessionarios', or manuals of confession. His chapter is titled 'Missionary tools and their colonial uses: the case study of Goa'.
Souza writes: "The pioneering role of the Portuguese Discoveris in extending the impact of 'modernity' was far from a secular exercise. The age of 'lights' was yet to dawn. The Portuguese 'Padroado' system was a weeding of the State and Church interests on a world scale. The Society of Jesus played a pivotal role in the practical functioning of this joint venture, saving the State much cost in violent domination of the eastern countries."
But he also says: "Even though it is not uncommon nowadays to read derogatory comments about the missionaries as accomplicies of the Western colonial expansion, we need to admit that colonialism could have been a much more brutal reality without such a missionary accompaniment."
Souza tells about his chance find of a "small sized, leather-bound codex (4.5" x 7") in the 'Additional Manuscripts' collection of the British Library some years ago. It begins with 'Arte do Canarym, composta pelos nossos Padres, e tresladada pola mao do clerigo Antonio da Silva Bramane de Margao...."
Delio de Mendonca, sj, the current-director of the Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Alto Porvorim, looks at the 'alvara' (colonial diktat) that deposed the local language from Goa. Mendonca's view questions some current views. He writes:
"If the Portuguese empire in the East had dwindled, Goa nevertheless continued to appear, for the Portuguese at least, as a very important place to be defended. From 1530, Goa had become the capital and centre of the Estado da India and symbol of social and religious unity. Even in the seventeenth century, Goa was spoken of as the best territory Portugal had in India. Had the alvara been implemented, as it is often believed it was, Goa would suffer the most. But some prefer to see this alvara as the work of a paranoid viceroy, or that the alvara was never implemented or that such never existed. Truly, there is no alvara just for ousting the Konkani language, and much less one on the suppression of the language as I had believed earlier this alvara was all about."
Prajal Sakhardande of Dhempe's history department has an article on Margao "the historian's delight". Goa Konkani Akademi's Jayanti Nayak has another piece on 'Lokvedantleayan adhunik sahityachee prerana' focussing on the local popular culture.
Pratap Naik has another piece on the literature of Konkani and its dialects. He explains the concept of a standard dialect, political, historical, social, economical, educational, cultural and literary 'bolis' (dialects). Then he touches on the script issue, and the differences between the Goan Christian speech and that of the Mangalorean Christian. There are also differences between the Mangalorean Christian and the Karnataka Gaud Saraswat. Or, for that matter, between the Goan Saraswat and the average Goan Hindu (aiylo-yeylo, udok-uddik, ashillo-asllo, taka-teka, cholo-chedo, tanger-tenger, chali-chedum, hataar-hateer, etc).
Naik, who heads the TSKK, ends with the orthography he suggests for an easy-to-pronounce and read contemporary Romi script. Using it, the Our Father's Prayer would be rendered thus:
Amchya bapa s^rgi~chya, tuje~ na~v p^vitr za~v; tuje~ raz amka~ ye~v; tuji khuxi s^rgar zata t^xi s^~vsar~t za~v. Amcho disp^ddto gras az amka~ di; ani ami amcher chukl^lya~k bh^gxita~v t^xe~ amchi~ patka~ bh^g^s; ani amka~ tallnne~t p^ddu~k di~v naka, punn vaytta~tli~ amka~ nivar.
[TSKK orthography could be used to write Konkani in Roman script in a scientific way. Except three speech sounds of Konkani other speech sounds are represented in this orthography. Here below I will give you a key how to pronounce Konkani speech sounds for those who are not familiar with Konkani. ^ as in ago. ~ is used for nasalized vowels.]
Rinald D'Souza has a piece on the Goan Fisherman: His Fish and His Life. Would you believe that the traditional fisherman in Goa has a rich-enough vocabulary to describe some 132 species of fish! From Arro (Caranx kurra) to Xinanni (Mytilus viridis). D'Souza does a good job in describes the various mores of fishing prevalent in traditional Goa, now under pressure from mechanisation, trawlers and the lure of the tourism dollar. These include the porsovnni, zalli oddop, gorovnni, poler, davnni, choddovnnechem nustem, kantalli, mag, har, kinv (poy), jilettin, koblem, manos, umallo kaddop, nustem oddop, khannem pikovop, khunttavnni, pagop and ttrolor. Of course, the last isn't traditional, but came into Goa only in the 1960s.
Allan Baptista writes an introduction to the Xavier Centre of Historical Research and its activities, while Matthew Almeida ends with a piece on the evolution and modification of the Roman script for Konkani.
All in all, a very useful publication. Get a copy before it goes out of print, as happens with publications in Goa quickly. One would wish the articles could come from beyond a largely-Jesuit research circuit; but then the difficulty to get in contributions related to Goa (this journal uses English-language pieces related to Goa too) might be one reason.
More details from tskk at sancharnet.in or 241 5857 and 241 5867.