Wednesday, 27 April 2011

FATHER OF KONKNNI CINEMA REMEMBERED



From L-R: Tomazinho Cardozo, Rajendra Talak, Premanand Lotlikar and Walter Menezes
Sonia Fernandes
Tiatr Academy of Goa (TAG) in association with Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) observed Konknni Cinema Dis (Day) on April 24, 2011. It was on this day, in the year 1950 that the first Konknni cinema – Mogacho Aunddo – was premiered. This film was produced and directed by A L Jerry Braganza, who also acted in the lead role along with Leena Fernandes. Since Mogacho Aunddo was the first Konknni film on the silver screen, A L Jerry Braganza has rightly been considered as the Father of Konknni Cinema.
            Rajendra Talak, noted Konknni filmmaker and recipient of many national awards, graced the function as the Chief Guest. The presidents of the TAG and the DKA, Tomazinho Cardozo and Premanand Lotlikar respectively too shared the space on the dais.
Clarissa Fernandes
            The gathering was welcomed by Premanand Lotlikar. In his speech, the president of the DKA, stressed on the immense contribution of A L Jerry Braganza to Konknni films. A L Jerry Braganza ventured in a place that no one before him had dared to go, he said. In order to raise the finances for the movie, A L Jerry Braganza visited each and every kudd (Goan club) in Bombay and did not hesitate to collect a donation of even five rupees. The shares of ETICA (Exchange Talkies of India, China and Africa) which co-produced the movie came in for a special mention during the function. 
What was interesting to note was that Premanand Lotlikar, by a dint of good fortune, came across a share certificate of ETICA and displayed the facsimile of the same to the gathered audience. He also shared a letter, which states that the said company was also in the process of producing two documentaries, but unfortunately no record so far is available of them, the DKA president informed. He also opined that perhaps, due to the huge financial resources required to make a film, A L Jerry Braganza may even have taken loans without thinking as to how to repay them.
Succoro de Santacruz and Maria Cardozo
            Rajendra Talak in his address marveled at the feat achieved by the Father of Konknni cinema. He said that even with the latest technology and equipment available, the task of making a film is not rendered any easier and hence it would be have been a lot more difficult to make movies during the time of A L Jerry Braganza. Rajendra Talak suggested that such a historic day like this and such a colossal contribution to Konknni cinema by A L Jerry Braganza merits not a modest function like the one organized by TAG and DKA but a full-fledged Konknni film festival lasting a few days. He pledged his full support to any future endeavours by TAG and DKA (which incidentally do have big plans in the future). Rajendra Talak was also happy to inform that the number of people going to theatres to watch a Konknni movie is steadily increasing. There is a need, he stated, for directors and producers to continuously offer good Konknni cinema as people are starting to appreciate such films. 
            The common thread running through all speeches of recognizing the true contributions of personalities hitherto neglected (like A L Jerry Braganza) and giving them their due was also found in the address of Tomazinho Cardozo. He was of the opinion that comparing Konknni films with that of Bollywood films was not proper. This is because Bollywood films are made on a huge budget compared to a budget of a few lakhs spent to produce Konknni films. By unceremoniously dismissing a Konknni film as substandard, Tomazinho opined, that we dismiss the hard labour of everyone associated with the film. It is our duty, he stressed, to purchase a ticket and watch every Konknni film as that is the only way films in Konknni can thrive.
            The formal function was followed by a brief musical programme wherein Succoro de Santacruz, Sonia Fernandes, Clarissa Fernandes and Maria Cardozo belted out hits from Konknni films and they were accompanied on the keyboards by Mukhesh Ghatwal. Walter Menezes compered the function and gave valuable information about Mogacho Aunddo.

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

Saturday, 23 April 2011

GOA THROUGH THE EYES OF SHYAM BENEGAL


This article is written on the eve of the release of Dum Maaro Dum, a movie mired in controversy for the alleged callous misrepresentation of Goa and its people. To be very honest, I always found the portrayal of Goa and Goans (especially Catholics) in Bollywood movies very stereotypical and one-dimensional. I had no hope or faith that in future movies, Bollywood would bring a fuller and unbiased characterization of a Goan – and especially the Catholic Goan – until, on the recommendation of a friend, I watched Shyam Benegal’s Trikal (1985).
            
 The story centers around the elite Souza-Soares bhattkar family. The matriarch, Dona Maria has a daughter Sylvia and an illegitimate daughter of her husband Senhor Ernesto named Milagrina, whom she adopts and who works as a domestic help. Sylvia has two daughters of marriageable age – Anna and Aurora and two small sons. The movie opens with the narrator, Ruiz Pereira returning to Goa after 24 years. The whole story is told in flashback.
            The opening scene of the flashback is of the death of Senhor Ernesto who lies on his bed, mourned by his family and friends while his wife, Dona Maria listens to Portuguese Fados sitting in an armchair. In the graveyard, after the coffin is lowered, a strong gust of wind blows kicking up a storm of dust. A symbolic foreboding of Goa on the brink of a fierce tempest in the days to come?
            The whole movie is very much Goan. The many Goans associated with the movie (Mario Cabral e Sa and Remo Fernandes to name a few) together with Shyam Benegal (a native Konknni speaker himself) as the director has resulted in the production of a truly meaningful and thought-provoking film. Shyam Benegal has taken pains to incorporate the minutest details of Goan village life. The camera gently and poetically captures the graceful scenes and characters. I particularly liked the diction of the Konknni and Portuguese words and names (Saiba bhogos/ Kaklut kor Dhonia).
            Trikal is a movie of two worlds – or rather two social milieus. On one hand we have the chandelier-lit ballrooms of the elites and on the other, the dim and sooty kitchens of the servants. The immaculately tailored suits and frocks and the kaxttis (loincloth) and puddvims (dhoti). The depiction of the Latin rite during a church service and the serenading too finds a good space in the movie. Trikal tries to bring the realities of the elites as well as the poor to the fore on the eve of Goa’s Liberation and at the same time raises some interesting (not always overtly) questions.
            During the dinner after Senhor Ernesto’s funeral, Dr. Simon Pereira makes a speech about the imminent invasion of Goa by the Indian army and raises a toast to his dear departed friend, not with imported scotch but with the local feni! He passionately makes a claim that Goa has a better future ahead under the new rulers. The dinner table is also divided by some who would like the Portuguese to continue ruling and some asking for an ‘independent nation’ status. Elsewhere in the kitchen, the servants are indifferent as they are skeptical that a change of rulers will bring about any significant change in their economic condition. In doing so, Benegal might have stumbled upon a historical fact that those directly affected by Liberation were mostly the elites of Goa. Perhaps.
            Due to Senhor Ernesto’s death, the engagement ceremony of Anna to Erasmo (who flies specially from Lisbon or Lisboa as in the movie) is put on hold. The hyperventilating, tantrum-throwing and forever weeping Sylvia requests Dona Maria to skip the customary mourning. Dona Maria on her part wants the permission of her dead husband and hence, using Milagrina as a medium, invokes the ghost of Senhor Ernesto. But rather than the ghost of her husband, the spectres of people wronged by her family resurrect. It is interesting to note that the ghosts of the Ranes (Vijaysingh and Kuxttoba) are the only ones depicted in the movie. The Ranes, we are told, fought tooth and nail against the Portuguese. The landed bhattkars surely must have wronged not only the politically active but also the politically subdued.
            Ruiz (the narrator and nephew of Dr. Simon) is madly in love with Anna, but his love is unrequited. At the behest of his nephew, Dr. Simon proposes their marriage to Dona Maria only to be given the cold shoulder. Anna, however, is deeply in love with Leon, a nationalist who escapes prison in Lisbon and who is hiding in the basement of the Souza-Soares residence. Erasmo realizes that Anna is pregnant, but not by him. The engagement is broken. Dr. Simon again offers marriage of Ruiz to Anna. Dona Maria in a final no says that their caste is not the same. Caste affiliations do run deep (even now).
            Finally, on 19th December, 1961 along with the Liberation of Goa, Anna too liberates herself by eloping to Lisbon with her lover and the father of her unborn child, Leon (strange, says the narrator, for a nationalist to return to Lisbon after the Liberation of Goa). Ruiz leaves for Bombay for further studies and Aurora joins a nunnery. One-by-one, everyone except Dona Maria and Milagrina, leave the palatial Souza-Soares residence. Dona Maria is at peace as she no longer invokes the spirit of her dead husband. She spends her time rocking in her armchair.
            Initially, I did state that Bollywood has been one-dimensional in its representation of the Goan Catholics. Trikal, however, looks through different eyes giving the perspective of a largely – though elite – Catholic family. Perhaps it was meant to be so. What was the Hindu’s (elite or otherwise) and Muslim’s reaction to the Indian Army’s conquest of Portuguese India? Time for Trikal II from Shyam Benegal?

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: April 23, 2011)

Monday, 18 April 2011

CANADA’S 55+ PUT PEN TO PAPER

In the recent years it seems that the Goan diaspora is speaking out. This is evident from the fact that a number of books have been published which deal with the history of Goan migration, the causes of such a migration and the experience(s) resulting from settling in a foreign land. These books have a decent ‘visibility’ in the various bookstores in Goa as well as on the internet. I would rate Selma Carvalho’s Into the Diaspora Wilderness as one which articulates migration-related issues in a succinct way (reviewed by me for GT: October 6, 2010).
            Goa Masala, an anthology of stories by Canada Goans, is one such voice of the diaspora. This book was conceived by the 55 Plus Goan Association (55PGA) of Canada. “Our vision was to capture for the future the many stories that resided in people’s minds, and which otherwise might not have seen the light of the day,” says Rudy Fernandes, the President of 55PGA in the foreword. The book, running into 260 pages contains 41 essays and stories by many prominent Canada Goans above the age of 55.
I am of the opinion that the Goa Masala project is a very ambitious one. What it aims to do is to safeguard for the future Canada Goan generations an ‘identity’, a form of Goaness if I may say so. A major achievement of the 55PGA – for which they must be lauded – was that they were able “to get reticent Goans to put pen to paper.” These writings, in a way, are expected to function as the Prehistoric cave paintings containing hunting, fishing and other scenes that were meant for the next generation.
At the outset, I should state that I do not intend to do a full-fledged book review. While reading the book, I realized that this was a text essentially dealing in personal histories. These personal histories do help the historians in understanding a larger historical process – in this case migration in general (or migration to Canada in particular). The importance of personal histories that would contribute to a better and nuanced understanding of a larger historical process is stressed by Pamila Gupta from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa when writing about the migration of Mozambique Goans living in Maputo (to which I shall later return). What I was really looking forward to, in this collection, was these ‘personal histories’ against the social, economic and political background of Canada. Let’s call this, the ‘Canada experience’.
 Most of the writers (including some who were coerced to write) in this anthology have immigrated to Canada from Africa and rather than their ‘Canada experience’, the nostalgic and adventurous reminisces of living in Africa and hunting trips in the African jungles as well as homecoming to or vacations in Goa find a greater print place. While there is certainly nothing wrong with it, the successive repetition of more-or-less the same plot-line renders a good portion of the book monotonous. Along with the ‘African Adventures’ and ‘homecoming’, wouldn’t it have been better if Canada too was featured in the narration? After all, Canada is the country that all the writers have adopted as their new home. The essay, The ‘canonization’ of Manny Sequeira! by Manuel Sequeira makes an earnest (and perhaps only) attempt at explaining his assimilation into Canadian society but falls a little short. Similarly, most of the essays do start promisingly but lack a good ending. Meriting special mention is one particular story that I immensely liked: The Chutney Mutiny by Alice Pinto.
The editor(s) of this book could have used their red pens with a greater flourish. One can’t help but notice that the narration is not free flowing in many cases. In the foreword, a disclaimer is added: “The stories featured in this publication have not been fact-checked for authenticity by the 55PGA, the publishers or the editors. Authors of the individual stories assume full responsibility of their own stories.” Maintaining authenticities as well as technicalities is the responsibility, I think, of the editors along with the authors. Consider this confusion: On p. 162, the author, Pliny X. Noronha, writes that, “…a member of our clergy informed that in fact St. Catherine of Alexandria…is the official patron saint of Goa” to which the editor introduces a footnote saying, “She was until recently; today the patron saint of Goa is the Blessed Jose Vaz.” Jose Vaz is only beatified and not canonized ergo; he can’t be a patron saint.
I shall now return to the case study of the Mozambique Goans. In 2009, Pamila Gupta wrote an essay, “The Disquieting of History: Portuguese (De)colonization and Goan Migration in the Indian Ocean”, in the Journal of Asian and African Studies (44[1]: 19-47). Due to the dearth of archival and reference material, Ms. Gupta had to rely on life histories of the Goans who had migrated to Mozambique. She uses a “biographical” approach to reveal “unwritten histories and ideologies of migration.”
Ms. Gupta takes her inspiration from the anthropologist Engseng Ho, who “productively and creatively turns to other source materials such as gravestones, textiles, biographies, genealogies, legal documents, poetry, novels, and prayers.” By taking the help of the personal narratives of the Mozambique Goans, Ms. Gupta was able to bring about a ‘disquiet’ of the history of Goans living in that country.
Like the Mozambique Goans, the Canada Goans too could have offered their ‘personal histories’ to the historians. A chance is missed at a potential ‘disquiet of history’.  Since my major complain was the inadequate representation of the ‘Canada experience’ in an anthology by Canada Goans, I sincerely hope that future endeavours – by 55PGA or any body else in Canada – would include the same.
Hats off to 55PGA and to Goa 1556 for publishing this anthology in association with A Plus Publishing, Canada.

Name: Goa Masala: An Anthology of Stories by Canada Goans
Published by: Goa 1556, Saligão in association with A Plus Publishing, Canada
Price: Rs. 195/-
ISBN: 978-93-80739-04-5

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: April 18, 2011)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

UNTOLD GOAN MIGRATION STORIES


If one were to ask me about a history book that I had read, on Goa (or for that matter on any other subject) that was so interestingly well written, my answer, without batting an eye-lid, would be Selma Carvalho’s, Into the Diaspora Wilderness. I was expecting to find random biographical sketches of Goans who undertook long and arduous journeys to unknown and distant lands, but what I got was more than I had expected: a history book that I read like a thriller-novel!

Selma Carvalho has spent most of her life in the Diaspora and hence she is able to bring a personal touch to this volume on Goan migration to the African colonies (of the British primarily), the Gulf, Europe and America. Along with the numerous stories of persons of extra-ordinary courage that Selma deftly etches against the background of the history of the region concerned, she also weaves her own personal story with equal eloquence. By placing the seemingly insignificant history (of a Goan) against the history of a region, Selma might have very well ushered in a change in analyzing Goan history and the way we perceive it. This book tells us the stories of those men and women who were nearly forgotten by everyone, including history. The focal-point is the humble Goan who comes from an equally humble village.

In this book, Selma assesses the political climate and economic condition of each region in which her stories are based. The reader will surely be awed by the fact that many Goans had a major part to play (politically and economically) in each of these regions. Reading through the pages one finds that racism is also a major element. This is natural as Selma has intimately experienced being a ‘brown’ person in the Gulf, in America and in the UK. She has walked the precarious tightrope of racism. Selma has a rare gift of the sensitivity of a writer as well as the spirit-of-inquiry of a historian. No one has ever portrayed the pathos of the expats with such haunting and heart-wrenching detail.

This book has certain lines and passages that are sure to stay with anybody who reads them for a long, long time. Selma is at her literary best when narrating her own migration story. After living in the Gulf for twenty-eight odd years, she had to leave that place – a place to which, she never belonged. And when she felt homeless and lost, this is what she said, “I bowed my head to hide the tears. Would I ever be back? I didn’t know. With a thud on my passport, the young immigration officer stamped me out of the country, my place of abode for 28 odd years. I was a stranger just passing through.” Sure, all of us who have left our home and family behind and are based elsewhere can empathize with the predicament of Selma.

A new look and perspective is seen in the pages of this book regarding the much mocked as well as envied tarvotti (one who works on a ship) and the Gulfie (one who works in the Gulf). This book records the chronicles of such Goans likes the ayahs, butlers and cooks and people engaged in other odd jobs in distant lands, and trying to plug their experiences and contributions to the mainstream history. Though all these stories begin in Portuguese India, one is startled to find the extent to which the British colonizers have shaped them. The English-speaking and meat-eating Goan Catholic was so indispensable for the British administration, particularly in Africa. In fact, the Portuguese appear only fleetingly which goes in to underpin the much neglected and overlooked influence of the British in the Goan Diaspora. Most of the records that Selma has utilized to write this book are lodged in various libraries across England and this should come as no surprise in the light of the abovementioned facts.

The most surprising of stories in this book are the ones of Goans in Kenya. Pio Gama Pinto, very much politically active before and after the independence of Kenya, became that country’s first martyr. Needless to say, he was from a Goan extraction. Kenya’s second vice-president, Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi, belonged to a Goan-Maasai ancestry. His father hailed from Guirim, a village in Goa.

Selma’s voice and prose flows like music and she has the words to keep the reader hooked-on to the book. But when Selma moves to the UK with her husband and daughter, her story ends abruptly and the last few chapters seem to be loosely strung together. This book could have also done with a better cover rather than a collage of nautical maps which gives it an appearance of a geography text-book. But these complaints dwarf in front of the immensity and magnitude of the work put in by Selma.

In one of the chapter titled, The Exiled Intellectual, Selma talks about the Goans who having an intellectual bent of mind, sought success in other lands, yet who were always longing to come back home. This longing, Selma says, is advantageous as, “Goa at least will never be bankrupt for its artistic sons of the soil, whether in Goa or in the Diaspora, refuse to abandon her.” Comforting lines not only about sons but daughters as well (like you Selma) who refuse to abandon dear Goa. With her voice and intellect, Selma shouldn’t stop at just one book. Into the Diaspora Wilderness is a must-read!

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: October 6, 2010)

RAISING THE CURTAINS ON SCHOLASTIC WORK ON TIATR

The brass band (accompanied by a few electronic instruments today) strikes up for the third time. The auditorium fills with the vibrations of wind and percussion instruments. The curtains rise to reveal a suited man, wielding a mike, he paces the stage. The backdrop painted to resemble a garden or a park. Thus begins a tiatr, familiar and cherished by many Goans. Most of us are acquainted with this scenario, but what about the history of tiatr? Many of us don’t know much. As for me, I vaguely remember a Konknni textbook chapter in the VII standard highlighting a (brief) history of the tiatr.

ABOUT THE BOOK
But I encountered a welcome light on this vibrant and most loved Konknni drama in the form of Dr. André Rafael Fernandes’ researched book When the curtains rise…Understanding Goa’s Vibrant Konkani theatre. Dr. Fernandes reveals the history of tiatr: its birth and maturity, the challenges it faces and the numerous personalities (past and present) who have contributed to enriching this uniquely Goan art form. An interesting feature of this book is the exhaustive list of present day tiatrists given at the end of the book. Although the tiatr is 118 years strong and though roughly ten shows of tiatr are held every day in Goa, Dr. Fernandes cautions us about the onslaught of more glittering multimedia like cable and television making serious dents.
This book is important because it has given tiatr some (much needed?) legitimacy in the scholarly word. Dr. Fernandes traces the development of theatre in Goa. Theatre in the medieval times in Goa was mainly in the Portuguese language and themed on enacting the biblical scenes. The College of St. Paul’s took the lead in organizing plays in vernacular language in Goa.
Dr. Fernandes traces the origin of tiatr to the traditional khells/phells/fells and zagors performed in Goa from time immemorial. This khells traveled to Bombay with the immigrants and it is here that the tiatr was born. Exactly how the tiatr was born, I leave it up to you to find out (in the book)! Tiatr took birth due to the efforts of Lucasinho Rebeiro and João Agostinho Fernandes, who were disgusted by the vulgarity and ‘washing-the-dirty-linen-in-public’ attitude of the zagors. A history of theatre of Bombay is also traced to buttress the point as to why Konknni tiatr had to begin in that cosmopolitan city.

THE MUSIC AND TIATR
How can any Goan activity or festivity be complete without music? This reality comes forcefully to the fore, as the Goans’ love and mastery for music had a major role to play. A large part of tiatr (past and present) contains music and song. Tiatr (and Goan musicians) did benefit from the parochial music schools set up by the Portuguese as well as the more traditional forms of ovis.
Dr. Fernandes tells us about the various famous musicians of Goan extraction, who were sought out by the many bollywood producers and starred hotels in Bombay. Although the Goan musicians had a large part to play in Bollywood and the jazz scene of Bombay, they were sidetracked as mere ‘arrangers’, lements Dr. Ferrnandes. More terse and blunt words in the context of this injustice would have been welcome.

WOMEN AND TIATR
The single greatest contribution of tiatr, in my opinion, is the admittance of women on the stage. Regina Fernandes (wife of João Agostinho Fernandes) became the first woman in modern history to appear on stage, preceding Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati theatre by twenty-seven years. This means that Konknni tiatr was far ahead of its time. It had brought in social reforms, which were easily accepted by the conservative masses.  Batcara I was the play in which Mrs. Regina Fernandes made her historic appearance.
Dr. Fernandes does not dwell on this subject for much long, mentioning it only cursorily. What I was hoping for was a rigorous assessment of this situation, perhaps even a full chapter, was called for. If Mrs. Regina is the first woman to appear on stage at a time when women appearing on stage were frowned upon then isn’t she a role-model deserving recognition not only from Goans but also from the whole country? We should also not forget that in the same play, two other women had accompanied Mrs. Regina on stage: Mrs. N. Gomes and Mrs. Carmelina Fernandes.

CRITIQUE ON JOÃO AGOSTINHO’S PLAYS
Dr. Fernandes analyses the plays of João Agostinho with keen understanding and finesse. João Agostinho is important in tracing the history of tiatr as he has been rightfully called Pai Tiatrist (Father of the Konknni tiatr). In plays like The Belle of Cavel, Batcara I & II and Kunbi Jaki, Dr. Fernandes paints a mental picture of João Agostinho. Pai Tiatrist had vociferously opposed casteism and alcoholism. His plays always ended with a moral or homily (a hallmark of tiatrs in those times).
Dr. Fernandes informs us about the deeply sensitive and honest personality of João Agostinho. He showed empathy to the sufferings of the poor. He can rightfully be also called as a social reformer. João Agostinho published some of his plays, something that most of the tiatrists have not done. In fact Dr. Fernandes complains about the lack of documentation of tiatr. So tiatrists heed the advice of Dr. Fernandes and start publishing your work!

AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK
Dr. Fernandes divides the tiatr into three phases of development: 1. The Early Phase (1892-1930s); 2. The Golden Phase: a. 1930s-1961, b. 1961-1970; 3. The Contemporary and Non-Stop Tiatr Phase. This is a novel idea as a simple taxonomy puts the development of tiatr into proper perspective.
The chapter about the challenges of today that the tiatr faces, it seems, is hastily written. Dr. Fernandes has also kept out the perceptions of Hindus regarding tiatr as well as the Catholic view or perception about the nattok. It is an open secret that one community does not view the art form of the other community favourably. The thesis is confined to a few present tiatrists’ views and opinions, an extensive survey (through questionnaires or interviews) would have enriched the same.
Nonetheless, this book will be an enlightening read to all tiatrists and tiatr enthusiasts. One only hopes that this book will raise the curtains on further scholarly works on this dynamic and vibrant art form of Konknni theatre.

Name: When the curtain rise… Understanding Goa’s vibrant Konkani theatre
Author: Dr. André Rafael Fernandes
Published by: Goa 1556, Saligão with support from the Tiatr Academy of Goa
Price: Rs. 195/- (in India)
ISBN: 978-93-80739-01-4

Note: First published in Gomantak Times, dt. 13 August, 2010. In the article published in GT, there was an error in the title of the book. Instead of When the curtains rise… it read As the curtains rise… The error is regretted.

A THINKER TRANSLATED


Writings on Goa – in any language English, Konknni or Portuguese – are seldom popular and discussed or debated. They are published, they adorn the bookshelves of Goa’s scant bookstores for a while and eventually they are forgotten and if Goa’s history is recorded in Portuguese then we should consider it lost owing to the meager translations and the lack of command of Goans in that language. The reasons for such misfortune are many and varied; this however, is not the place for their enumeration or discussion. The fact that I am reviewing a book published in 2007 should be a case in point.

ON FANCHU LOYOLA’S WRITINGS
It was a few months ago that while in Panjim, I picked up a copy of José Inácio Candido de Loyola alias Fanchu Loyola’s essays titled Passionate and Unrestrained translated by journalist Alexandre Moniz Barbosa. Personally, I had heard of Fanchu Loyola as someone associated with Goa’s freedom struggle but anything more; I was blissfully unaware. Fanchu Loyola wrote in Portuguese – a language in which he had mastery and fluency. He was an outspoken and fierce critic of the Portuguese government – the one under Salazar especially. He was arrested and incarcerated in Fort Peniche jail in Portugal for fifteen years.

The writings of Loyola reflect problems society faced such as alcoholism, casteism and corruption. Reading through his essays, one gets the impression that what really bothered Fanchu Loyola – apart from the corruption in the administration – was alcoholism and casteism: evils that still plague the Goan society.

The essays are divided in two parts: Socio-Religious and Socio-Political. In the former section, Fanchu Loyola’s essays are deeply rooted in Catholic teaching. However, he was not communal but rather advocated the universal principles of love and brotherhood (enshrined in Christianity as well as other religions). It was also interesting to read his musings about the Universe – its origin and purpose. I should particularly mention one of his essays on the New Year’s Eve where he personifies the “Old Year” as an old man who walks into his office and when the clock strikes twelve (the New Year) the old year vanishes into thin air. The old man is a gentleman (of British temperament, to borrow Fanchu Loyola’s words) and cordial; he makes Loyola realize the importance of Time. In this essay Loyola displays innovation and imagination.

He also shows a deep understanding of such abstract concepts like happiness and renunciation, humility and charity and the like. He was a seeker of truth; he wanted to know the mysteries of the universe. He had a deep love and compassion for the poor. More than anything, Fanchu Loyola has to be singled out as a social reformer.

In the Socio-Political section Loyola is as eloquent as in the Socio-Religious one. He never hesitated to take sides in the elections of October 1926, as he asked the people to elect Mr. Mariano Martins over Mr. Prazeres da Costa. Fanchu Loyola also expresses some terse and stern views on the Press Laws and the colonial politics. He minces no words in pointing out the flaws and short-comings of the Portuguese administration.

ON BARBOSA AND THE TRANSLATION
I must confess that my first impulse in picking the book off the bookshelf was not so much due to the indomitable personality of Loyola but because it was a translation of a potential supplement to the history of Goa. As a person interested in Goa’s past (and a student of archaeology also), I regret for not being able to read the voluminous records left by Portuguese, who were arguably the best record keepers in this country. Many a time, a (present day) historian of Goa is left at the mercy of an English translation of a Portuguese record.

The reason why Alexandre Moniz Barbosa should deserve our praises and approval is because he has used his fluency in Portuguese and English to make available certain writings that otherwise would have gathered dust for posterity! Not many Goans know Portuguese and under such circumstances we just hope that the tribe of the likes of Barbosa grows and prospers. I too had the experience of finding a long lost writer and writings (in this case it was my uncle) and the joy is exhilarating when the task is completed! (See my article Destiny’s Book, GT dated 28.08.2008) May I suggest to you Mr. Barbosa, to take up translation as a full-time hobby with a book to your credit every year? I hope that it is not too much to ask!

Another thing that I liked about the book is the retention of the original essays in Portuguese along with their English translation. In my opinion it would reduce the lacunae caused due to arbitrary interpretations as very often happens unwittingly in translations. However, in the book the Portuguese text should have been distinguished from the English text by using a different font.

Since the book is published in a dual language (which is a very innovative approach in a translation having potential historical significance) I have a suggestion for Mr. Khalil Ahmed of Broadway Book Centre, under whose aegis this book is published, to market it in Portuguese speaking countries as well. Goa needs the audience which it rightfully deserves.

ON THE BOOK’S POTENTIAL FOR RAISING QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
Should we be content just by having the knowledge that Loyola was a nationalist or should this book serve as a stepping stone stimulating further research and to challenge conventionally held views? As informed by the blurb of the book, Loyola chose to settle in Lisbon following the Liberation of Goa. Can further research answer such questions as to why he chose to immigrate to Portugal leaving his dear Goa, for whose liberation he had so vehemently fought for?
 
Fanchu Loyola evidently had a good command on Portuguese and the translation done by Barbosa lives up to that level. Neatly printed and bound there is no doubt in my mind that a student (like me) as well as any enthusiast of Goan history would find this book at once interesting.

Passionate and Unrestrained
Author: José Inácio Candido de Loyola alias Fanchu Loyola
Traslated by: Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
Publisher: Broadway Book Centre, Panjim
Price: Rs. 225/- 

(A version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: July 21, 2010)

ADDING MEANING TO IFFI


It was indeed interesting to note the suggestions of Dr. Nandakumar Kamat (through Gulf-Goans e-newsletter) regarding the 2010 International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Dr. Kamat suggests that this year's IFFI be organized on the theme “Colonialism and peoples’ struggles / movements across the world”. Arundhati Roy, suggests Dr. Kamat, should inaugurate the festival as well and deliver a speech on colonialism in the last 500 years.

His suggestions are a refreshing change. In my opinion, the IFFI's organization over the years have done Goans and Goa little good. We have not been able to recognize the contributions done by Goan musicians to the Indian film industry (who were by the way discarded in the corner as mere "arrangers") and neither have our unique culture been showcased to this country and the world. It is tragic that whatever opinions and perceptions that others have about Goa are entirely parroted from a tourism brochure which glorifies a hedonistic lifestyle, something entirely unknown to Goan culture.

This year also marks the 500th anniversary of Portuguese conquest of Goa as well as the completion of 100 years since formal citizenship rights were extended and widely claimed by Goans. We (Goans) have expereinced colonialism differently than the rest of India hence it is imperative for us to understand our colonial experience and the struggles associated with it.

True, this is the INTERNATIONAL film festival of INDIA. So I suggest that the emphasis be also given to COLONIALISM EXPERIENCED BY THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT along with Dr. Kamat's theme mentioned above.

Sir, the people of Goa hope that this year's IFFI is a more meaningful event than the meaningless 'carnavals' organized in the past.

Dale Menezes,
Quepem.

(A version of this letter was published in Gomantak Times, dt: July 7, 2010 in the Letters to the Editor column)