Tuesday, July 30, 2013


A few weeks ago, in the columns of this very newspaper, I had suggested that projects which dealt with the documentation of traditional practices unwittingly or not become enterprises where modernity was interrogated. I had also suggested that such an enterprise, therefore, should also interrogate traditions in the same token. In this review of a documentary Dances of Goa directed by Nalini Elvino de Sousa and produced by Sociedade de Fomento, I shall try to grapple with such narratives in the selfsame framework.
            Dances of Goa, in Konkani, English and Hindi, is resplendent with colour-rich images and soulful, mellifluous sounds of many of Goa’s traditional dances which are largely performed by the SC/ST/OBC population of Goa such as the fugddi, bhonvaddo, morulo, goff etc. Also featured are mando and khell-tiatr. In the technical aspects such as camera-work, sound and editing, this documentary is not lacking in any way. However, it is the narratives that are offered to the viewer by this documentary which need to be critically analyzed and thus will form the meat of this review.

The documentary, a series of 12 episodes, opens with the narrator observing that “…much has changed and life is no longer simple.” Thus, this sets the stage for a binary opposition between tradition and modernity; with the two worlds distinctly separated from each other. Traditional practices here are seen as fossilized, ossified entities, which I would argue creates problems as traditions do change.
            The gaze that is directed largely at Goa’s tribal population is one in which the tribal is projected as ‘essentialized’ and ‘othered’ being. In the episode which deals with fugddi, we are told that “…the Velips can proudly boast of setting a fine example of living eco-friendly and self-sustainable lives. The harmony which they share with their environs is a lesson, urban man can learn from.” Elsewhere there is mention about Quepem as being “…one of Goa’s still green talukas with hills and thick vegetation…” One only has to drive towards Maina-Pirla to see what mining has done to these hills and the green cover!
Further problems emerge because this documentary tries to understand Goa’s traditional practices through a nationalistic lens where one origin is sought and where Christianity is understood and is brushed aside as an historical accident. Take for instance the comments of Pandurang Phaldesai, (then) Member Secretary, Kala Academy, Goa: “Our ancestors have the same roots. Same culture. Due to historical accidents (itihasik apghat) two religions emerged. But our culture remained the same. Our heritage is the harmony that we have maintained.”
            Bhonvaddo is a form of dance that is practiced by persons of the Mahar caste. We are told that although not many persons from the Mahar caste are engaged in their traditional occupation of weaving baskets “…members still continue with the folk performances they were associated with.” Also what is interesting is the fact that when the narrator refers to the “Mahars”, the subtitle has the term “‘Harijan’”. We need to recognize the fact that Dalit groups have rejected this patronizing Gandhian term today. It is through such subtle techniques, I would claim, the seriousness of the role of caste is elided and erased in this documentary.
            Since this documentary clearly understands tradition through nationalist biases, how would one fit in mando given the fact that the mando resulted due to the colonial encounter? The argument falls back on a dubious revision of history in which, “During 451 years of colonial history Catholic Goans used music as a mediator of identity negotiation. In a political context repressing musical sonority of Indian flavour, in which Portuguese was the official language, Catholic Goans created their own music, sung in Konkani and performed according to Portuguese models. Mando is a good example of this and was able to acquire an emblematic status.” Information on the mando is given through an interview by Inácio Sardinha who chose to speak in Portuguese. I am not against anybody speaking in Portuguese, but the specific context in which Portuguese is used tells us something: that an attempt is made to reclaim the mando to the elite Catholic locations in which it had emerged and have since been considered to have fallen from grace. Perhaps, the ideological under-currents that are reflected in this documentary are best illustrated by an article that Nalini Elvino de Sousa, the director of this documentary, wrote in 2012 (See The Goan on a Saturday, 28-12-2012). Being surprised that “a bunch of people jumping all around, clapping hands to the sound of a kind of Konkani rock song with lyrics of a Mando…” at a wedding she attended, de Sousa tells her husband that this is “murdering the Mando”. If people want to sing and dance to the mando de Sousa argues that there is only one way and that is to “do it the right way.” Therefore, a certain conception of ‘purity’ is demanded from all of us and any innovation, such as “jumping and clapping” is to be frowned upon.
My final comments will be on khell-tiatrs. An interesting observation that Rafael Fernandes, professor of English at Goa University, makes in the context of tiatrs is “…that as long as Tiatr is alive, the Konkani language doesn’t have to worry.” What I would like to point out is although the documentary acknowledges the contribution of tiatrs, the crucial issue of tiatrs being viewed as lacking standard and thus, delegitimizing the cultural productions of the larger realm of the Roman script is glossed over. The fact is that cultural productions in romi are considered to be ‘polluted’ by the dominant discourse in Goa and hence not capable to represent the mainstream Goan culture. While on the subject of romi, it is quite troubling to observe that the subtitles in the Konkani version are only in the nagri script.
            The images and narratives that are presented in this documentary are uni-dimensional. While confining such traditional practices to a fossilized museum, the performance in contemporary times is expected to be mechanical and static. Can we look beyond such notions?

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: July 30, 2013).

Saturday, July 27, 2013


“Gõyank suttka mellunk thoddinch vorsam urlolim. Doxim vattamnim suttke zhuzari chollvolli choloytale. He chollvollintlo ek zhuzari aslo, Zuzart. To bhiyenastanam Purtugezam add zhogoddlo. Sogllo lok tachi toknnay kortale. Tachi toknnay aikonuch Catharina tachea mogant poddlem. Gõychi suttka korunk zhuztanam Zuzartan aplo jiv vompun dilo. Hech karonnank lagon ‘Catharina’ hem sobit nanv ‘Kotrin’ zalem,” oslea utramnim Willy Goes-achea Kotrin kadom’boricho attap (blurb) vachlo ani dekhunuch hi kadom’bori vachunk mhaka chodd umollxik lagli.
            Hi kadom’bori Gõychea Suttke ani rajbhas andolonache fattbhuimyer attaploli asa. Kotrin don ostoreanchi kotha: Catharina jem eka suttke zhuzareachea mogan poddta ani Venisha jem Mon’xastr xikta. Venisha aplea xikxonnak ani eka yogayogak (chance) lagun Catharinachea jivitacher obheas korunk pavta.
Catharina/Kotrin apunn gorbest asam oxem somzota. Hem bhurgem Kotrinak Zuzartachem dista karonn tachi mansik stithi pirdear zaloli asta. Kotrinak khobor asta Zuzartak Purtugez pulisvale, ani odik korun Agente Monteiro piddapidd ditale mhonn. Venishacho bapuy-i ek pulis odhikari asta ani durdoivan tacheim nanv Monteiro asta! Dekhun jednam Kotrin aplea pisantt bhesar Venishachea bapaik sobhemazar hinnsaita tednam Venisha Kotrinachea jivitacher obheas korunk pavta.

Kotrin pixem kiteak zaunk pavta? Hi kadom’bori vachlea uprant amkam kollun yeta ki Catharina Zuzartachea mogan poddta karonn tannem ganvche lok Zuzartachea dhaddxiponnachi khobor kortat tem aikololem. Punn Catharinan Zuzartak kednanch polleunk nam ani mellunkui nam. Catharinachea bhurgeaponnachi ek sonvõy mhullear taka konneim, koslea-i vostuchi tust-tokhnnay korit zalear taka ti vost zaich asli ani tem oslem tem’ gheun bostalem. Mhojea mota pormonnem hanga Willy Goes-an Catharinachem patr anink sudravunk zatalem. Mon’xastrache nodrentlean hem patr ubem korta astanam aninkui jiv funkpachi ani mitt-mirsanganchi goroz asli kiteak Kotrin hench zaun asa ‘keystone’ he kadom’boricho. Ek bhurgeponnachi sonvõy pixeaponnachea bhesar pavounk xokta, hem dhoronn matxe dubllem dista.
            Hi kadom’bori Gõychea Suttke ani rajbhas anodolona vellar guntloli asa dekhun Romintle borovpi oslea vixoyancher aplem borovp kortat tem pollounk borem dista. Punn hachi dusri bazu mhollear itihasachea veg-vegllea surank ani talleank ami tor parkhunk xokonant zalear ami khoim tori chukonk xoktat ani hi gozal bori nhoi. Oslea vixoyancher zori ami boroytat zalear amkam itihasacher ani vosnnukponnacher (colonialism) ttika-i korop bhov gorjechem tharta. Punn hem kortanam mat ami huxarkayen ani choturayen korchi goroz asa. (Zoxem Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children he aple kadom’borint korta).

Dekhik, Willy Goes jednam Gõyche Suttkechi ani suttke zhuzareanchi khobor korta tednam tachem dhoronn oxem disun yeta: tea kallar Purtugez vosnnukponnacher virud’dh soglle asle mhonn. Punn tem oxem asonk nam. Kaim zonn fokot Salazarachea hukumxayecher virud’dh asle ani nhoi sogott Purtugezancher.       
Hi kadom’bori Kotrinachea mornnacher sompta. Venishachea nhovreak Zuzartachi ‘part’ korchi podddta karonn Kortin mornnachea vellar pasun Zuzartakuch usketa. Kotrinachem moronn zorui ‘dramatic’ toren dakhoilam torui Willy Goes amchea kallzak hat ghalunk yesosvi zala.
Willy Goes Konknniche Romi lipientlo ek moladik borovpi oxem hanv mandtam ani tachem borovp naslem zalear Konknni sorospot khuim tori dublli thartoli asli oxem-i hanv kollit kortam. He kadom’borint zaitim Purtugez utram asat ani tim asat mhunnon he kadom’borik ek vegllich ruch ailea. Willy Goes-an oxench boroit ravchem, hoch amcho anvddo.

Kotrin borovpi Willy Goes (Ponnje: Dalgado Konknni Akademi), 2012; panam 135, Mol 100/-; Fon: 91-0832-2221688 

Inglezintlean hoch lekh vach hanga.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Robert Eric Frykenberg’s book Christianity in India: From the Beginnings to the Present, opens by dwelling on the intrinsic nature of the Gospel. He says that evangelization was not optional even in the earliest times and thus, “The Good News…possessed qualities that were also intrinsically disruptive and revolutionary.” Frykenberg asserts that the ideology of the Gospel, “by its very nature, [is] expansive, trans-cultural, and globalizing. Yet, its spiritual and universalizing claims also required flesh and blood – incarnation – concrete expression in the particularities of each ethno-local culture.” Since the Gospel needed an “earthly manifestation”, it was “altered and remoulded with each successive wave of expansion without contradicting itself or departing from what became the sacred canon or established Scripture.”
            It is through the work of such historians like Frykenberg, that we have learnt not to treat the history of Christianity and Christianity itself as foreign to India or Goa. Now what does this mean for the people of Goa (and not just the Catholic population)? Surely there needs to be a rethink on how the history of Goa has been written and the way Catholicism is being perceived.

            For some time now, Fr. Victor Ferrao has been devoting himself in the project of creating a theological response to colonialism, conversion and the challenges that Christians are facing in contemporary Goa. In fact his book Being a Goan Christian dealt with the abovementioned issues. Our Goan-ness and Christian-ness is informed and influenced by perceptions of the past and hence theology plays a role as a response of the church to the existing, dominating and hegemonic discourses of Goan history.
            During a two-day seminar organized by the Pedro Arrupe Institute, Raia, (on 22 and 23, June, 2013) on “The Challenge of Being a Goan Christian,” Ferrao asserted that till now theology has “bracketed” the colonial past and hence it is important to understand colonialism from a theological point of view. Because Goa was exposed to Portuguese orientalism (which is different from a British one), we have a unique position from which we can understand ourselves as well as understand and theorize about India. Thus, this opens a unique space to develop a theology in and from Goa owing to different experiences of colonialism and post-colonial times, whereby Goa becomes or is the ‘other India’.
            There were some interesting strands that emerged from the seminar. Take the issue of ‘conversion’, for one. Along with a therapeutic dialogue that would enable healing due to the trauma caused by conversion to both Hindus and Catholics, it was pointed out that we also need to inculcate such claims like the ones made by many Christian tribals (Gavddis) of Goa that conversion left them landless while their Hindu counterparts possess land today, in the theologizing.  On the issue of conversion we can profitably look towards alternate narratives such as those provided by Mahabaleshwar Sail’s novel Yug Sanvar, where a ‘social inquisition’ that operated within the then ‘Hindu’ society can be observed.

            Much of the thrust towards developing a new theology depends on how we understand and read history. Therefore, a key strategy that emerged was the need to take responsibility for our past. This becomes imperative because, as Ferrao claims, the Hindus as well as the Christians are forgetting history (both for different reasons) and are also suffering as a result. Thus, it becomes important for us to understand our pre-Portuguese past; how this past was not Hindu but was composed of multiple and fragmented identities and in this sense the Christians can own their past, rework and rewrite it.
For a unique theology to develop, Ferrao identifies six challenges:

  • ·         For the Christian to take possession of their history

  • ·         Respond to the de-historicized condition of theology in India and Asia

  • ·         Therapeutic dialogue with the Hindus

  • ·         Tourism: to theologize on the shores of Colva and Calangute

  • ·         Reaching out to the Goan diaspora across the globe

  • ·         Eco-theology: responding to the effects of mining in Goa

Although Ferrao recognizes that the dominant, upper-caste discourse understands the colonial experience and conversion as ‘polluting’, caste does not form part of the schema for a theological response. We need to stress on this point as sooner than later the Church in Goa needs to own up to the subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination meted out to the so-called lower-castes; a sense of discomfort that the laity as well as those of the Church experience must be remedied.

One eagerly hopes that much more progress will follow from the start made by people like Ferrao. One also hopes that Ferrao is not an only and marginalized voice in the Church.

(A version of this article appeared on Round Table India on 22, July, 2013. View the link here).