The death of John Gomes, who was affectionately known as Kokoy, on May 24, 2011 has left the tiatr community in particular and the Konknni community in general in deep sorrow. He had written tirelessly on tiatrs and its personalities for many decades, travelling the most distant places of Goa to get his stories. John Kokoy composed over 3000 songs and has two audio cassettes – Sopon and Gõy Apoita – to his credit. Besides lending his voice in numerous tiatrs and cassettes, John Kokoy also wrote a few tiatrs as well. Atancho Sounsar, Devacho Hukum Padricho Gutt, Guneanv Konnacho, Dubhav, Poriksha, Fukott Charlie are his well known works. John Kokoy was the recipient of the Goa State Cultural Award. John Kokoy wrote most of his articles for the Romi Konknni monthlies like Gulab and Jivit while also contributing to the English press.
His qualities of head and heart and his immense love for Konknni came in for much praise during the condolence meet held in Margao and organized by Tiatr Academyof Goa (TAG) on the 9th of June, 2011.
Many tiatr lovers, tiatrists and prominent personalities were in attendance to condole the death of John Kokoy and to provide solace and comfort to the bereaved family. Speaking on the occasion, noted tiatrist Anil Kumar said, “John Kokoy was a keen observer and thinker. He had the art of asking questions in such a way that the desired response was elicited and at the same time the interviewee had no clue as to what exactly was going in the mind of John Kokoy.” This resulted into numerous articles on the personalities of tiatr and last year they became the backbone of a book titled Tiatr Palkache Khambe released during the anniversary celebrations of Jivit, a Romi Konknni magazine. Agnelo Alcasoas of Queeny Productions who attended the condolence meet, distributed a few copies of the same at the gathering.
Teotonio D’Costa on the other hand dwelt on the humbleness of John Kokoy which he found in abundance during the brief period that he had known him. During the meet, Sharon Mazarello pointed out that John Kokoy had composed more than 3000 songs but sadly had only two cassettes to his credit and that his work need to be extensively documented.
Roseferns, another noted tiatrist and the Vice President of TAG praised John Kokoy for the extensive knowledge he possessed about tiatrs. His mind was a treasure trove, he added. Speaking on his reviews of tiatrs that were staged, Roseferns felt that they were “balanced” and his criticism was always “constructive”. Roseferns also appealed to the family of John Kokoy to handover any material/manuscripts that they possessed so that TAG and the Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) could publish and/or document the same.
Sabina, the Iron Lady of Konknni Stage (a title given by John Kokoy himself) expressed her deepest regret in not being able to attend his funeral. Chimtti bhor mati legun ghalunk mellonk na [I was not able even to put a handful of earth in his grave], she added.
Premanand Lotlikar, President of DKA, recalled memories when they travelled together for Tiatr competitions at Kala Academy, Panjim. During the last few years of his life, John Kokoy moved to Bombay. It was during this time that he went “out of reach” and most of his friends lost contact with him. But one fine day, the DKA President recounted that he received a call from John Kokoy informing him that his leg was amputated. Jessie Dias mooted the idea of visiting sick artistes; which was readily accepted by Tomazinho Cardozo. He assured to make available the services of the TAG office vehicle in such situations.
Tomazinho Cardozo, the President of TAG said that more than a tiatrist, John Kokoy was a writer who wrote about other artistes , gave them much desired publicity expecting nothing in return. “John Kokoy was responsible for keeping the memory of tiatrists alive. It is our duty to forever remember John Kokoy as well as other persons like him who have contributed immensely to the Konknni cultural milieu,” Tomazinho said. He used the opportunity to again appeal for unpublished scripts for publication and documentation.
It is said that the importance of a well is seldom known until it runs dry. The death of John Kokoy will be a case in point, who wrote so selflessly and tirelessly on tiatrs and tiatrists. John Kokoy surely has left a vast void in his death.
A visibly moved and touched Webly Gomes, the nephew of John Kokoy thanked everyone on behalf of the bereaved family. The brothers of John Kokoy, Frank and Baldwin, shared the dais along with Tomazinho Cardozo and Roseferns.
Writing about other khambe (pillars) of the tiatr stage, John Kokoy himself was a khambo (pillar) amongst tiatrists and Romi Konknni writers!
(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: June 17, 2011)