Friday, May 27, 2011


Facade of the church
Goa is dotted with churches that are lofty, beautiful and are many centuries old. Many are well preserved while others are less fortunate and find themselves in a state of disrepair. Some of the churches which were once unique and timeless have been demolished to make way for a bigger or a newer (mostly newer) church of concrete. Most of the churches that were demolished or are in the process of being demolished were razed due to the ignorance of the lay parishioners to the uniqueness of the structure and also due to the failure of the higher officials of the church (along with the lay parishioners) to recognize its heritage potential and historical value.
            Quite close to Old Goa, we find an example of preservation befitting mention wherein the church was renovated and restored and its erstwhile splendor revived: the Church of St. John the Baptist in Carambolim. According to the Archdiocese Directory, 1984, this church was founded in 1541. Originally a chapel, this church was elevated to the status of a parish under the tutelage of Dom João Afonso de Albuquerque (1539-53), the then Bishop of Goa. Fr. Moreno de Souza in Tisvaddecheo Igorzo tells us that during the earlier days the feast of St. John the Baptist was celebrated with much pomp and gaiety with the Viceroy and State and military officials in full attendance. They would enter the parade riding on horsebacks and mock-fights were staged accompanied by music. After the High Mass, the long, regal procession would begin and terminate at the College of St. Paul’s at Old Goa.
            The architecture of the façade of the church, informs Jose Lourenço in The Parish Churches of Goa: A Study of Façade Architecture, is in the mannerist Neo-Romanesque style (as are most of the churches in Goa). Standing boldly against the clear blue sky, it has 5 bays and is 3 storeys tall. The center of the façade starting from the main arched doorway is stacked in the sequence of Arch-Rectangle-Oculus-Relief. It has a single bell tower to the left. The main doorway is framed by fluted Corintianized columns.
The pulpit with 'mermaid'
            The peculiarity of the altar is that it has panels containing paintings depicting various incidents of the life of St. John the Baptist, including his beheading at the insistence of the daughter of Herodias. The main altar is dedicated to the patron saint, while the side altars show a crucified Christ and Mother Mary. The pulpit of this church is unique because the motif of the “mermaids” can be clearly seen. These mermaids are depicted as if they are carrying the weight of the pulpit.
            This unique church was in a state of neglect until the charismatic Fr. Conceição D’Silva took the charge as the parish priest from Fr. Lino de Sa, who had already begun the work of restoration by plastering the walls. In his brief tenure of three years, Fr. Conceição, recipient of the State Award for Meritorious Services to Society, completed the whole restoration work giving the church, in the process, a new lease of life. The whole woodwork of the main altar, the subsidiary altars and the pulpit are now richly adorned with 24 carat gold, giving us a glimpse, perhaps, of what the church may have looked like a few centuries ago. Experts for the gold gilding work were flown in from Portugal.  Now the church basks in pristine and clear light and the gold is seen shimmering.
Fr. Conceição D'Silva
            The floor was repaired as well, with the specialists, this time, coming from Bangalore. Imported chandeliers from Portugal now adorn the church. Near the transept of the church, an azulejos composition of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper has been installed.
The space around the church is paved with pavers and the church compound, the church property and the adjacent football ground have been fenced in stone and cement. The flooring of the Parochial house was also improved. All these improvements, informs Fr. Conceição, is bringing a lot of tourists to Carambolim, many of them genuinely interested in the history and the architecture of the church.

View of the church
             Fr. Conceição is of the frank opinion that the old churches must be preserved and protected. Perhaps, it was this line of thinking which had propelled him to preserve and restore not only the church at Carambolim but also the one at Mandur where he was posted prior to his appointment at St. John the Baptist Church. Fr. Conceição along with the parishioners has spared no expense even for procuring new pews and a state-of-the-art sound system along with the restoration work.
            In a few days’ time, the 1200-plus parishioners of the St. John the Baptist church will bid adieu to a priest who has not only attended to their spiritual needs, but has also given a commendable facelift to their almost five-century old church. It is time that the example set by Fr. Conceição needs to be emulated.

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 27, 2011)

Friday, May 20, 2011


When we are in a classroom, particularly that of a school, the world outside seems so much fun. One can’t wait for the last bell to ring and dash out of the classroom with howling urgency. I particularly never liked the air-tight regimen and unnecessary memorizing of information, which all students had to undergo in schools. So, when a copy of Free From School landed in my hands, I started to read it immediately. Here was one book which suggested an alternative to learning in school. What more could anyone who had a difficult experience in school, ask for?
            A few months ago I had read the slim book titled Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich. This book when published in 1971 had caused quite a controversy. What Ivan Illich quite simply suggested was to do away with schools to have a better society. The ideas that Ivan Illich suggested instead of formal schooling way back in the ’70s, I feel, had little practical use but with the rise of internet his ideas can be looked into afresh. Schools are not necessarily the temples of learning; they are also used by the ruling elite to propagate ideologies that justify their power. The French philosopher Louis Althusser in his Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays says, “…the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology.”
Ivan Illich’s book is firmly rooted in academia. Rahul Alvares’ Free From School, on the other hand, is an honest and delightful account told by a 17 year old, who took a break after his SSC (scoring a whopping 87% marks!) examinations to find his ‘true calling’. Since Rahul was finding school becoming “quite a chore”, his parents Claude and Norma, decided to offer him a year’s break after completing the SSC examination to do anything of his choice. Both the parents observe that schools, “…often does not encourage learning. In fact there is good evidence that learning stops once schooling begins.” There was only one condition imposed on young Rahul: that he would maintain a regular diary and produce monthly accounts of special events and experiences.
When we read this book it is not important to consider how well Rahul wrote this book. What is more crucial to note is what Rahul and his parents dared to do. Since Rahul was interested in wildlife, his parents left no stone unturned to see to it that their son got the maximum exposure in an area of his liking. The result: Rahul ended up travelling far and wide all by himself to various zoos and wildlife sanctuaries to gain some experience and learn about the various types of animals. Snakes seem to have a special place in Rahul’s heart. “In fact, as mum tells it, I seem to have gone out of my way to befriend snakes as a child. I would be afraid of dogs…they had teeth and could bite, but snakes didn’t appear to have any…,” he explains.
Rahul gives an account of the various places he travelled and the institutions in which he apprenticed during the one year sabbatical. Along with his memoir, Rahul gives some tips to breed and take care of fishes, measures to be taken in case of snake bites, garbage disposal, etc. Since he travelled on his own, managing money and preventing theft was also Rahul’s main concern while on the go.
If our interest propels us to learn any facts or information our chances of retaining them and actually using them in our daily and practical lives is greater. Rahul too, had such an experience in a crocodile research facility near Chennai, “Apart from my practical studies, there was a huge library at the Croc Bank where I would browse through several books on crocs, snakes, monitors, turtles, the works. It was always with great pleasure that I would search for information about something that I had learnt or seen that day. And the best part is that although I didn’t have to memorize the facts for any examination, nothing of what I’ve read has gone out of my head.”
The experiences of the Alvares family indicate that we can look beyond school. If the grind of mugging up the whole textbook(s) leads to the destruction of creativity in a child, is there a difference between a student and a factory worker working at the assembly line? This book is in no way a guide for parents who feel that the present education system does more harm than good and who would like their children to try some other things. This book, in fact, serves more as an inspiration for parents wanting to take the plunge in cold water. This book says, dive in, the water is very refreshing!
Since the choice of Rahul to take a sabbatical and pursue a career that was other than that of the clichéd doctor and engineer, he surely must have faced a lot of questions. The nosy neighbours, the annoying relatives or even passers by must have set up an inquisition table right in front of him. Rahul dwells on the topic for a fleeting second. For a young reader of the book who decides to take a sabbatical, dealing with such unsolicited interlocutors can be very taxing. Knowing how to deal with them surely, then, would be considered as a survival skill!
            With SSC results in Goa round the corner, I recommend this book, with illustrations by Alexyz, to students and parents alike. I shall allow Rahul to say the last words, as he will surely echo the sentiments of whoever reads his book, “I certainly look forward to another sabbatical! And so, by now, should you!”
(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 20, 2011)

Name: Free From School
Author: Rahul Alvares
Published by: Other India Press
Year: 1999 (1st ed), 2005 (2nd ed)
Price: Rs. 100/-
ISBN: 81-85569-44-4
Phone: 832-2263305

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Seby de Quepem receiving the best play award
Despite the onslaught of cable and other more glittering forms of entertainment, the traditional khells have survived all odds. The khells along with the tiatrs are the most loved form of theatre amongst Goans, especially Catholics. Originally, the khells were performed on the ground and hence were called zomnnivoile khell. These khells which were staged during Carnival in Quepem received a shot in the arm due to the efforts of the Navyug Vikas Manch, Quepem.
The Navyug Vikas Manch held the prize-distribution ceremony of Konknni Traditional Folk Play Festival organized during this year’s Carnival on 11 May, 2011. The folk plays were staged at various places in Quepem and were judged by a panel of three eminent judges: John Claro Fernandes, the noted tiatrist from Quepem, Jose Salvador Fernandes, the secretary of Dalgado Konknni Akademi and Jerome Rodrigues, a music teacher from Quepem and former conductor of Kala Academy’s Goa Symphony Orchestra. The khells are a traditional part of the Carnival celebrations which consists of three one-act plays called partios.
            A total of seven troupes participated in the competition taking the overall sum of individual actors to more than a hundred (inclusive of musicians and back-stage support artists). Seby de Quepem’s Him Amchim Konn? was adjudged as the best play. Ubaldo Fernandes (Salam’ Tuka) and Celina Fernandes (Sonvsar Mon’xak Haloyta) bagged the best acting award (male and female respectively). The best child artist (male and female) award went to Floid Fernandes (Sonvsar Mon’xak Haloyta) and Kenisha Fernandes (Tunvem Mhaka) while the funniest comedians (male and female) were Saldie Colaco (Pois Kelo Mhaka) and Jenifa Simoes (Gõychi). The prizes for the best Kant, best direction and best script was bagged by Jose de Velim (Pois Kelo Mhaka), Seby de Quepem (Him Amchim Konn?) and Xavier de Sanguem (Tumkam Visvas Asa?) respectively.
Twins in real life, Clarina and Clarissa Gonsalves (Fottoilem) and Bobet de Quepem received special mention awards. Clement Goes (Him Amchim Konn?) was judged as the best musician. All the participants received a certificate, a gift and a Romi Konknni book of either short stories or one-act plays. The winners of special awards received a memento.
            The later tiatr had its antecedents in the zagors and khells and organizing competitions of this nature will only ensure that such traditions and heritage is kept alive. Case in point proved to be the competition organized at Quepem during the Carnival. Remedio Rebello, member of the Navyug Vikas Manch informed that because the judges could pay a visit anytime to any venue where the plays were staged, the directors and actors had put in much hard work and people were able to enjoy some good plays. Since most of the people residing in the interiors and backward areas of Quepem rarely come to the cities during Carnival, staging the plays at their doorsteps “made them feel very happy,” informed Mr. Rebello. He further revealed that the competition was organized with the main intention of improving and elevating the standard of the khells, which are a part of our heritage.
            I tried to get some local feedback on the plays that were staged and although many felt that this was a good beginning, much is needed to be done as far as standard is concerned. The talent and enthusiasm is very much there, only it needs to be channelized in a proper way. Many of the performances were raw but a diamond only becomes a diamond when properly cut and polished.
On being asked how he felt after winning the best play award, Seby de Quepem said, “It was a great moment. This award is encouragement enough for me to pursue bigger forms of the drama.” Commenting on what improvements should be made in the traditional folk plays he said, “A message needs to be conveyed through every song and skit. There should be no vulgarity and foul language included in the play as they are always meant for family viewing.”
The chairman of the Navyug Vikas Manch and the MLA of Quepem, Chandrakant (Babu) Kavlekar, when contacted said, “We are going to continue organizing this festival every year as it would lead to a healthy competition amongst the directors of Quepem.” Asked if any workshops would be conducted to improve the standard and impart guidance in khells, he said, “Whatever steps that are needed to be taken to encourage talent in khells and tiatrs, will be taken by our trust.”
The students of the Fr. Agnel School of Music and Performing Arts led by Fr. Mark Furtado, enthralled the audience with a rich repertory of instrumental music at the beginning of the awards ceremony.
Seby de Quepem, who won the award for the best play, has already been motivated enough to leap from the ground (zomnnivele khell) to the stage with his maiden tiatr scheduled in December. We wish him and others like him, all the very best!

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 14, 2011)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The birth anniversary of the noted Goan philologist and scholar, Msgr. Sabastião Rudolfo Dalgado was celebrated with much vigour and vision by the Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) on 8 May, 2011. The day-long programme consisted of three segments: ‘Sod-Vavr’-achi Kam’sall (workshop on research), Kovi Som’melon (poets’ meet) and Kadamborinchi Uzvaddavnni (release of novels).
            ‘SOD-VAVR’-ACHI KAM’SALL
            Dr. André Rafael Fernandes, author of a well researched book on tiatrs, When the Curtains Rise... Understanding Goa’s Vibrant Konkani Theatre, was the resource person who guided a select group of writers and potential researchers on the various subtleties and nuances of pursuing research. The main concern in the workshop emerged to be the documentation and preservation of cultural products through various multimedia. “This workshop is primarily organized as a fitting tribute to Msgr. Dalgado who was himself a great scholar and researcher and also to highlight the need for research oriented work in Romi Konknni,” informed Jose Salvador Fernandes, the secretary of DKA.
                In his address the President of DKA, Premanad Lotlikar informed that many schemes were formulated by DKA to facilitate research in Romi Konknni but there were no takers as potential researchers had no proper guidance (and hence the need of Dr. Fernandes) and direction. Mr. Premanand Lotlikar added, “Writers in Romi script have immense intelligence; some of the pioneers in the Konknni cultural milieu were from the people who utilized the Romi script like the new form of drama – tiatr, the first cinema to be produced in Konknni and the first Konknni audio cassette tape.” He at the same time lamented that, “contribution of writers and intellectuals in Romi script was being tried to be swept under the proverbial carpet.” Dr. Fernandes too, had something similar to say on the same topic. “There are vested interests in the Konknni language…one script is mahapatok (a grave sin),” he said. For a fragmented Goan society which is blissfully unaware of its own innate inherent cracks, the statement of Dr. Fernandes should jolt one to reality.
Young Briget Coelho reciting her poetry
            The one-and-half hour session of poetry recitation was presided over by the noted Konknni poet Yusuf A. Sheik who also recited some of his poems. There were poets of all age groups: from small kids to youth to the very wise and old. The poetry rose to great heights in the departments of rhythm, rhyme, thought, expression and presentation. Many topics were covered ranging from mothers to mothers-in-law, greed of money to traditional occupations and a true love lost.
            Some of the poets like the young  Levin   
Fernandes, Watson D’Souza, Selza Lopes, Gigirose Fernandes and the more seasoned Cyril Fernandes, Matthew D’Souza, Menino Almeida, Gracy D’Souza held the entire audience spellbound through their vivid and animated words, flourishing hand movements, quivering lips and depth of thought. This truly was the highlight of the day. DKA has plans to organize such poets’ meet every two/three months due to the immense response and talent, informed Premanand Lotlikar (during the concluding session).
Book release of Todd Zodd by Pandharinath D. Lotlikar
            Yusuf A. Sheik had a very interesting observation to make at the end of the session. He said that it has become a fashion among Konknni speakers to quote a poet or a writer from other languages. He suggested that our own poets and writers should be quoted in speeches and writings and given their rightful place under the sun. They too create beautiful and meaningful poetry, he observed.
            On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Msgr. Dalgado, the DKA also released two prize-winning novels in Romi Konknni taking their overall sum of publications to 19 (more are in the pipeline, we were told). One was penned by Pandharinath D. Lotlikar titled Todd Zodd and the other was Willy Goes’ Kantto. The books were released at the hands of Rev. Fr. Santana Carvalho, the parish priest of Pomburpa (Devache Matechi Firgoz). Premanand Lotlikar, Jose Salvador Fernandes and Yusuf A. Sheik were the other dignitaries on the dais.  
Book release of Kantto by Willy Goes
            Speaking on the occasion of the release of his novel, Pandharinath D. Lotlikar thanked DKA for the good encouragement they have given him. Initially a writer in Devanagori and Romi, Pandharinath D. Lotlikar gave a shocking reason for turning to Romi completely, “I used to write in Devanagori and Romi but Romi has more readers and I receive encouraging feedback.” He also talked about two kinds of Zodd. One was about zodd or bonds that need to be forged amongst the Konknni community and the other zodd was pelf. Willy Goes also spoke.
            “The future of Konknni literature,” remarked Yusuf A. Sheik during the poets’ meet, “is bright indeed since even small children composed such beautiful and eloquent poetry.” We’ll say Amen to that!

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 11, 2011)