Sunday, August 18, 2013


Tiatr ani nattkulim Gõyant khub famad. Halinchea kallar tiatranchim vo nattkuleanchim hat-borovpam chhapun yetat (chodd korun Tiatr Academy-ntlean) hi gozal bhov khuxalkayechi. Osleach borpavollinchem ek pustok mhollear Arso: 26 Nattkuleancho Jhelo jem Pri. Michael Fernandes hannem boroilam. Hea pustokachem khaxelponn mhollear sovis-ui nattkuleanche mathalle, A-Z hea 26 Inglez okxoranche volleri promannem asat.
            Pri. Michael Fernandes-achem borovp Jivit, Gulab, Goan Review, V. Ixtt and kaim firgoz-potrancher uzvaddak ailam. Nibon’d, kannio, kovita, kantaram oxe sahityache sabar prokar tannem hatall’leat.  Arso hem tachem poilem nattkuleanchem pustok.
            Hea pustokacher nodor martoch amkam disun yeta ki him nattkulim bori dekh ani xikovnn diunk boroileant. Kannio sompeo asat ani hakach lagun borovpeak bori dekh diunk adar ditat. Bhurgeponnavoilo mog, vhoddilank respet ani man divop, promannikponn, Kristi mul’lyam , soimacho husko, adi osle mud’de hea pustokant borovpian ghetleat. Gõychi osmitay ani daiz, bhailo lok ani tanchea probhavank lagon je bodol ami onnbhovtat, osle-i mud’de Pri. Michael Fernandes-an amche mukhar manddleat.           
            Hea pustokant amkam oxem dison yeta ki jim patram vaitt monis mhunnon dakhoileant tanchem kalliz ani mon rokddench bodolta. Je toren – ani sompeponnim – him patram apunn borea rostear choltole mhonn utor ditat tantum kholay disun yenam. Punn ek-anki nattkuleank vell ani zago unno asta hem monant dhorun, borovpeachi hi oddchonn amcheamni somzum yeta.
Bãym hea nattkuleant Pri. Michael Fernandes amchea paromporik bãychem mhotv dakhoita ani ami udok kiteak chotrayen vaprunk zai temvui dakholl korta. Hea nattkuleant Saxtti boli vapurlolean ruch anink vaddlea. Dusrea-i kaim nattkuleamni Gõycheo her bolio vapurleat ani haka lagun borovpeak porbim! Kaim nattkuleamni je sonvad (dialogues) vapurleat te padriche sermanv koxe distat. Dekhik: Advogad. Sogllea suvatancher Povitr Pustokantle nomunne diupachi goroz asa,  hoi?
            Zantteanchi ani kheritponnim amchea avoy-bapaychi ami seva korunk zai hem dhoronn ak’khea pustokant amkam mellta. “Dor eka putak ani dhuvek mhozo ulo – tumchim avoy-bapuy kitlim-i zanttim pasun zalear, tankam pois korum nakat, nhoi mhonn azilant-ui ghalum nakat. Kiteak, je tyag ani koxtt tumchim avoy-bapuy tumche khatir kaddtat te sonvsarantle her khuinchech monis kaddchenant.” Pri. Michael Fernandes-achem hem dhoronn zorui hanv mandun ghetam torui hea rostear cholunk sodanch vatt meklli asta kai?
            Kaim nattkuleancho hangasor hanv ul’lekh korunk sodtam. Maim hea nattkuleant, Alroy-ak  sirvis mellunk ek lak farik korunk zai asta. Punn te itle duddu taka  mellttole zalear tannem poilim Saibinn mãycheo murteo moddunk zai asta ani Saibinnicher bhavarth dovorpant kaim boreponn ani faido nam oxem soglleank kollit korunk zai asta. Alroy oxench korta ani rokddoch taka aksident zata. Toxench Tallnni hea nattkuleant, ji zaun asa kanni dog supurlea bhavanchi, tanchi avoy tankam promannikponnan lisanv korunk sangta ani apunn bazarant veta. Eklo bhav tallnnek sampoddta ani aplea ixttam barabor khellpak veta ani thoimsor buddun morta.  ‘Devan-khast-laili’ osle vichar Pri. Michael Fernandes-a sarkea tornattea padrin soddun diunk zai. Amchea jivitant unneponnam asat, chuki ghoddtat hem monant dhorun ami amchem jivit jiyeunk zai, oslem novsorlolem  chintop khub gorjechem.
Hea nattkuleanchea jheleant zaite vixoy (themes) portun portun distat tori tanchi vachta asatanam addkholl zata oxem disonam. Kovorachem chitr Alvito D’Costa-n bore bhaxen kelam. Xevottak, hem pustok vachpak ruchichem asach ani iskolamni ‘Annual Gatherings’-a vellar machier haddunk khub faideachem poddtolem oxem hanv sobhemazar sangtam. Pri. Michael Fernandes-a sarkea tornattea borovpeank oslench protsahon mell’llear Konknnichem Sahitya pormollun, aninkui borovpi  mukhar sortole nhoi?

            Arso: 26 Nattkuleancho Jhelo borovpi Pri. Michael Fernandes (Bann’nnavle: Micferns Prokaxon), 2010; panam IX+237, Rs. 100/-; Fon: 91-0832-2221688 (Mellta: Dalgado Konknni Akademi, Ponnje)

            Inglezint hoch lekh vach hanga.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


“…A Matter of Time,” as the blurb says, “at the first instance is a memoir – full of simple episodes that might have been experienced by any child who grew up in a Goan village in the 1980s. At another level, it gives a stark reality of how much the topography of the Goan village has changed over the last few decades…” Indeed, these points were also emphasized at the launch of this book, authored by the debutant Brenda Coutinho and thus, this review would try to critically analyze the main themes emerging from this book.
            A Matter of Time is the story of five children Paula, Lucio, Mario, Xavier and Mandovi set in the fictional village of Benfica. The childhood reminisces are recounted by Paula, who is in her forties. Coutinho in this book, it must be said, brings out beautifully and in bold detail the memories of her childhood. The village life, the games she played with her friends and pretty much everything that she cherished about her childhood through her vivid and vibrant imagination.           

            The novel opens with Paula observing from her own balcão the demolition of the “palatial house” of the Mirandas – the Casa Miranda – “which once commanded the attention of the entire village called Benfica.” When Paula observes each little and beautiful facet of her village, it triggers childhood memories and this is the way the narrative of the book flows. The issue that appears to be at the heart of the book is one where land-grab takes place in the name of development – mostly for tourism related activity and how this process rapidly changes the topography of Goa. But for me there is a problem here because the way Coutinho presents her narrative to her readers, I would say that at the core of this lament for the changes that are seen in Goa, lies something else.

            There is, I would claim, a lament for the loss of bhatkarponn or landlord-ness in demolition of a big, palatial house. I would suggest that the demolition of the palatial house is symbolic not of a changing Goa that affects us all, in the sense that all diverse people are included but only a certain, restricted segment of the Goan society who were privileged at the fag-end of Portuguese colonialism. Thus, to return to the main themes of A Matter of Time, how can this book, drawing from the experiences of what appears to be a very happy childhood claim to represent all the children of Goa? Would the childhood of Coutinho or her characters be the same of, say a Gavddi child? Would we ever mourn the loss, consciously or subconsciously, of the demolition of a khomptti (hut)? Indeed, if one carefully observes the cover of this book, it does not depict children playing traditional games or scenes of a by-gone era that children of yesterday cherish today, but an idealized palatial house that was owned by the privileged. Beautifully done (by Savio Rodrigues), though it may be!
            Another quite disturbing facet of this book that I would like to point out is the frequent references to fair skin. It appears that many of the characters in this novel are beautiful, graceful because they are fair-skinned. Why is there a clear privileging of fair skin? What would a dark-skinned child feel as s/he reads through the book?
            I have never been able to understand why middle-aged and old Goans always lament those ‘good old days’. What they do lament (and the symbolic house is very much a part of it) it appears is the last forty or fifty years of Portuguese colonialism, not the whole 450 years. But it is important for us to recognize as Dr. Robert S. Newman observes that, “The Portuguese succeeded in creating an artificial prosperity based on iron-ore exports, high salaries, and low prices for duty-free goods. Aimed at the politically-aware middle class and the intellectuals, however, the system offered little if anything to the vast majority of people – those engaged in agriculture and fishing.”
            The problem that I have with such narratives like Coutinho’s is best brought out by Alito Siqueira of the Goa University. Speaking at a function at Goa Chitra in Benaulim in November 2013, Siqueira had this to say, “My concern for the moment is with our own loss. We are drawing our stories from a very small group of likeminded and like nurtured people and therefore the stories are remarkably similar too. If we look at the audience here today it should be painfully clear that we are a niche of English speaking Catholics with a few others thrown in for good measure and the artefacts [such as the work reviewed here] we produce are mostly those that talk to ourselves about ourselves. They are rather similar and predictable stories of Gaonkars or some such other versions of those who have dominated in the past. As writers, it seems that there are too many of us touting much the same point of view. It is sometimes a bit like looking at a wedding video. How far can such stories travel?”
            I do not want to go into details such as what kind of games that the characters in this book played and what was the village life then. Such accounts are found, more recently in Fr. Nascimento J. Mascarenhas’ book on Saligão. I feel that the narratives that either Mascarenhas or Coutinho present are ‘idealized pasts’; their worth needs to be critically evaluated today.
            While wishing Coutinho a long and fruitful literary journey, it is also my wish that she explores other stories that Goa – our beautiful Goa – has to offer. Otherwise our stories would be repetitively dull.
A Matter of Time: Vignettes of a Golden Childhood in Goa by Brenda Coutinho (Saligão, Goa: Goa 1556 and Golden Heart Emporium), 2013; pp. iv+123, Rs. 200/- [ISBN: 978-93-80739-58-8]

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: August 17, 2013).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Taking the contentious romi-nagri issue as a case-study in his recently submitted doctoral thesis on the “Citizenship Experiences of Goan Catholics”, Jason Keith Fernandes argues that as caste plays a central role “in moulding the figure of the ideal citizen-subject” anybody who “fail[s] to embody the figure of the Konkani munis, a figure that is modelled on the Saraswat Brahmin” (p. 22) is considered to lie outside the boundary of legitimate Goan citizenship. This claim is made by borrowing the context of nation-states wherein there is only one ideal citizen-subject. Thus, in the case of the cultural productions of the Roman lipi as well as the persons who embody the culture of the Roman script are seen as lacking in standard. It is with this insight in mind I would like to place before the reader an alternate ideal-type, a Konkani munis who has as much a legitimate right to represent and take the culture of Goa forward on the road of progress.

            Brazinho Soares, from Santa Cruz just ahead of Bambolim is one such person who represents and embodies this alternate Konkani munis. Soares, nearing his seventy-fifth birthday this October, is a man who is crazy for the cultural productions of romi: romanxes, tiatrs and its handbills, cantaram and virtually anything and everything that bears the impression and inflection of the Roman script. A brief visit to his house (last month) revealed the wealth that he has collected – spending his own money! – for well over six decades. Soares has also published a book on Konkani proverbs Motiam and a tiatr, Konn To Khuni. He is also the recipient of the Goa State Award 2004-5 for literature among others.

            Why is Soares so addicted to romi? He explains, “When I was working at the lab of Dr. Tamba [later he joined the Goa Medical College till his retirement], I would get some free time and due to which I would read all the newsmagazines published from Bombay. Soon, what happened was one of my friends who would study music with me in the parish school, brought a copy of the Salesian published Aitarachem Vachop. This friend who worked in the printing press suggested to me to write a poem. I did write one and sent it to Aitarachem Vachop. Fr. Caitan Lobo, who was then the editor, published my poem…this proved to be an encouragement for me. I would read and bring the newsmagazines back and keep them safely in my home. I would buy all the publications issued from Bombay: Sot, Sot Uloi, Cine Times etc. I would even keep the handbills in Concani that I would find on the road. I started collecting from 1953. Since I would very meticulously keep all the newsmagazines, in no time a huge collection swelled in my house, much to the discomfort of my family! Later, when we had to renovate the house, I shifted my collection to another place and a few months later when I brought it back, I found that most of it was eaten by termites. I had to burn what was destroyed. That day I cried a lot. This was in 1986.”

            Given the fact that the self of the Goan Catholic is made through markers such as the Roman script, and that these markers if denied or destroyed results also in a loss of self for the Goan Catholic, is perhaps, the reason why Soares cried while watching his beloved collection of romi works being consumed by the flames. So passionate was Soares about reading in romi that he once even spent a fortune on romi books! “My sister took me out to do some sight-seeing of Bombay [this was his first trip to that city]. I purchased whatever romi books I could find from all the shops that we passed by. Books worth 150 rupees. I had exhausted my money.” He would even go to as far as Margão by taking a day off from his work just to buy romi books!

            Soares started reading and collecting romi books and newsmagazines at a time when many would read such literature. Many still do even now. It was from Soares that I learnt of the writings of Reginald Fernandes, hailed as the patxai (king) of Konkani novels, who in Soares’ estimation may have written more than 200 books of which Soares possess around 97. Being an avid reader of Reginald Fernandes, Soares would often communicate with Reginald Fernandes. Here is what he had to say, “I have many letters from Reginald Fernandes. I would write to him after reading his book. The publishers would pay Reginald about 500 rupees for a book, there was very little money involved in writing. Reginald would wrap up a book in as little as eight days! He would wake up at 5 in the morning and write till 12 noon while having his breakfast right at his work station!”
            By briefly acquainting ourselves with the life-history of Soares, an alternate Konkani munis is made available to us. This is not to suggest that the concept of ‘Konkani munis’ is the only framework to construct an alternate model of legitimate citizenship in Goa. Also what needs to be stressed, as Jason Keith Fernandes briefly identifies in his thesis (in the context of tiatrs), is the role of dignidad in the schema. This concept which needs to be developed further, stresses in its most elementary form, on the universal value of human dignity and which does not exclude anybody. Reginald Fernandes in his earlier novels did talk about dignidad (albeit briefly). Sadly, such a type of Konkani person has been cast aside by the dominant groups in the linguistic politics of Goa. While wishing Soares a long and prosperous life ahead, we also look forward to his continued inspiration to the field of romi cultural productions.

See Jason Keith Fernandes. “Citizenship Experiences of the Goan Catholics.” Unpublished Ph. D. Thesis, ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon, 2013.

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: August 7, 2013).