For centuries, Goans have moved out of their peaceful villages and settled elsewhere for work and employment. It is because of such diasporas that one can find Goans in all parts of the world, whether in large numbers or few. Once settled in some part of the country or outside it, by and large, they still hold fast to their unique lifestyle and culture. At the same time interacting with the other culture as well.
My educational pursuits landed me in Baroda (Vadodara), Gujarat. The Maharaja Sayajirao University hostel in Pratapgunj is close to the Rosary Cathedral and over here I got acquainted with a few Goans. Through Mrs. Charlotte Pereira, I had the opportunity to meet the President of St. Anne’s Club, Mr. Alleluia (Al, for short) D’Costa. We began talking over a delicious dinner which comprised of fish and Goan xitt-koddi prepared by his wife. Truly, I felt home! It is from him that I learnt the presence of a fairly large Goan population in Baroda, comprising of approximately 400 families.
A large Goan population and that too left high and dry without a Konknni tiatr is hard to imagine. This so called void of Konknni theatre in Baroda was filled when Menino Mario’s tiatr ‘Sottor Pauti Saat’ was staged for the first time in Baroda, by a troupe from Ahmedabad. Earlier this tiatr was performed in Ahmedabad too.
Amy Menezes, who actually hails from Colva but is now settled in Ahmedabad, procured the rights to re-stage the tiatr. The play was reproduced on the basis of the script and the video recordings. Joseph Menezes (who happens to be Amy’s husband) also helped in the setting of the drama. And finally after six months of hard practice, the tiatr premiered in Ahmedabad on the 20th of July. It is pertinent to note that all the actors are non-professionals and have managed their other occupations while at the same time giving their all for the tiatr.
The cast of the tiatr includes: Amelina (Amy) Menezes, Alegra, Agnessa Carneiro, Olivia Pereira, Florence, Flory, Darren, Agnelo Frenandes, Domnic Fernandes, Timothy Pereira, Vincy Vaz and Phillip. The music is provided by Joe Michael (Sexaphone), Tony (Bass Guitar), Cassein (Guitar), Richie (Keyboard) and Nicholas (Drums). Agnelo Fernandes is also the co-ordinator.
If the drama in Baroda goes well and everyone appreciates it, there is every likelihood that a tiatr from Goa will soon hit the theatres of Baroda. But the organizers are still reluctant. “It would be very expensive”, admits Al. The organizers only seek subsidized rates for the actual play, rest all expenses would be reimbursed. Maybe some of our Goan artistes can provide a helping hand to them.
Al D’Costa, who is one amongst others instrumental in the staging of the tiatr in Baroda feels that it is an occasion for all the Konknni speaking population of Baroda to come together. “The purpose behind staging the tiatr in Baroda is not commercial. It is an occasion to bond with each other for solidarity,” explained Al.
Another plan which is in the pipe-line is to publish a ‘directory’ of all the Konknni speaking population of Baroda. This plan was conceptualized some three years ago. The directory will be released on the 3rd of December, on occasion of the feast of St. Francis Xavier.
The objective of the publication of the directory, as confided by Al, is to find suitable matches for the would-be grooms and brides as they (Goans in and around Baroda) lose touch with people back home. Secondly, it would help bring Goans together on any enterprise.
The St. Anne’s Club operates like any club in Mumbai. A Goan can find cheap accommodation; members get ‘death benefit’ and can find fellow Goemkars! Accommodation is provided to bachelors and married men who are traveling alone. The club was established some 60-80 years ago.
Al D’Costa as the president of St. Anne’s Club has some very ambitious plans. They are to increase the membership of the club and to enhance the death benefit to an attractive sum. Since the community is mixed economically, plans are afloat to provide financial assistance to the middle and poor classes.
The Club plans to start a co-operative by the donations and lending of the well-to-do class. The interest rates offered will be slightly higher than the ones offered by banks. This co-operative will serve the educational and small business purposes of the people in need. The Club plans to provide some employment to the unemployed, by means of running small errands for other people.
The tiatr “Sottor Pauti Saat” (Seventy Times Seven) is one of the few Konknni dramas to be successfully staged in Baroda. Let us hope that tiatr in Baroda happens often. How about seventy times seven?
(A Version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: November 6, 2008)