A monsoon wedding, a few goals and history on the shelves

Dollops of paradise lay scattered as I drove through, on a quintessential Salcette Sunday. The fields of Raia, with rivulets doing a merry waltz through them, patches of pale sunshine lighting up a Manchester United t-shirt on the back of a furiously peddling boy, rushing for a football game somewhere. Then came a breathtakingly beautiful sight.

| JULY 28, 2012, 07:09 PM IST

Dollops of paradise lay scattered as I drove through,on a quintessential Salcette Sunday. The fields of Raia, with rivulets doing amerry waltz through them, patches of pale sunshine lighting up a ManchesterUnited t-shirt on the back of a furiously peddling boy, rushing for a footballgame somewhere. Then came a breathtakingly beautiful sight.  We had passed Maina and were angling throughSukdem with Curtorim over yonder. If you know those parts, then pause yourmemory button to that bend from Sukdem, towards the Curtorim lake and thechurch. If you are a so called ‘regular visitor,’ for whom Goa begins and endson the Baga –Anjuna, Calangute stretch and the river Zuari is crossed only onthe way to and from the airport, this could well be a different land. Well,here’s news. It is a different land. And here’s why.

As you make that turn towards Curtorim church, it’s afreeze frame of Goa. The lake goes and joins the fields. A Sunday football gameis reaching a crescendo. The field hugs the gorgeous Curtorim church, whoseshadow falls on the lake and travels through the ripples. A rare monsoonwedding is in progress. We saw the bride and the groom emerge and spend sometime in the outer courtyard of the church bordering the football field.

On the other side, the tinto moved into middle gearwith conversations moving from the lazy to the slightly more animated. The barswere opening even before the sun announced its daily closing. We drove past thetinto and into the village, down a steep incline into the cavernous and neverending home of a man with a never ending collection of the past – RafaelViegas. He is a priceless relic with contemporary significance. At times whenmemory is measured in GBs and MBs and storage space is linked to server size,Viegas has books, papers, documents, letters that should be the preserve ofGoa’s finest historical library. At a time when we have so forgotten the past, andwith it, the need to preserve it, Viegas lives the past and present in dailyharmony.

His father, Alvaro Viegas, was the ‘secretary’ of thepaper Ultramar, Goa’s firstly privately published newspaper owned (whenfounded) by Bernado Da Costa, a Portuguese MP. The senior Viegas, a fieryjournalist , wrote fearlessly and often criticised the Portuguese rule and theruler Salazar himself. In the 30s, the paper was shut down by the rulers forunpalatable writing and then it was opened again. Every room in the Viegas homeis enveloped with history. The newspapers of the time including A Vida, published from Margao by PedroCorreia Afonso, crowd his countless bookshelves in a joyful madness that onlyRafael can decipher. He reaches out for the precise cupboard and the very shelfto pick out an old weary note book of the 1930’s with notings of the beststories of each edition of the Ultramar. Every word, now fading, yet clingingonto soft decaying yellowish brown paper, is written in fine long hand. Thesummary of the main stories are arranged in order, a snapshot of history thatno modern day search engine can match. Try matching it by typing Ultramar andAlvaro Viegas and see if the stories in Ultramar show up on Google search.Viegas has most of what was published- yes the actual papers- neatly bound andlabeled. The romance of stories, in any language, in newspapers over eightyyears old, makes your hair stand on end.

There’ll be more on the newspapers in another columnbecause for now, let’s just see Rafael at his home, flooded by the past he haspreserved. Even now he just reads and reads, the whole morning, voraciouslyconsuming every word in every newspaper with an ability to switch from Salazarto Parrikar with effortless ease.

But, there’s more than newspapers that need to bepreserved. We need to preserve Rafael himself because we are losing folks likehim, every day. (And I don’t mean in just the mortal sense of a life cycle). Weare losing the spirit of our past that people like Rafael Viegas imbibe and passon. They are bridges between a decaying and a delightful Goa. They help usbridge the two and join us with a past which we must take to the future for thesake of the next generation.


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