Saturday 15 Jun 2024

Goa is different

Damodar Mauzo | OCTOBER 20, 2012, 08:13 PM IST

Goa is different’, we oft en hear. And we take pride in itsince by ‘different’ it invariably means that we are a cut above. For some itmeans economically, for some it is environmentally while for the most it isculturally. They all are right in their perspectives.

This is precisely why the hordes of tourists throng to visitGoa and a number of artists have opted to live here simply to experience thelife that they find ‘different’.

The distinctiveness of Goa is not without reason. In all ofAsia, Goa was the first to be subjected to the East-West confluence, the factorthat contributes to our distinct identity.

While in Delhi, a friend showed interest in buying a Portuguesehouse in Goa. He referred to the inserts that surface in the national paperswhere such ‘Portuguese’ houses are advertised.

It is amusing to see how people attribute the term‘Portuguese architecture’ to our large, airy and spacious houses. I wonder ifsuch houses exist in Portugal! Our tourist guides often refer to the SeCathedral of Old Goa as Portuguese architecture.

Many of the churches in Old Goa were designed by architectsof Italian and French origin. The principal architect of the Se Cathedral wasJulio Simão (Jules Simon) and the architects of the Church of Divine Providence(St Cajetan Convent) were Carlo Ferrarini and Francisco Milazzo. Thearchitecture of the grand churches of Goa can be attributed to the EuropeanRenaissance. And since Portugal is part of Europe, the credit does partly go tothis country that ruled over us. Thus the strikingly different houses of Goahave come to be known as Indo-Portuguese. But the tendency to attribute everythingthat is Goan to the Portuguese is unreasonable. The presence of Crosses allover Goa arose out of the need to uphold the age old Goan tradition of havingsmall devlli or ghumtti close to you.

Portugal has no Holy Crosses erected so extensively. Yet we hearthat this is an impact of the Portuguese culture. Not everything that isbeautiful here has the influence of the Portuguese. The flora and fauna, thebeaches, the backwaters, the hospitality, all this is very much Goan.Nevertheless the infl uence of the Portuguese culture on our entire lifestylecannot be denied.

It is said that when a group of people lives away from othergroups, they develop different ways of doing things and approaching life. Fromthe Shilaharas, Rashtrakutas and Kadambas to Vijayanagar, Bijapur and Adil Shaheach of these rulers have left their stamp on our culture. Then how can 450years of colonial rule leave its subject without making any impact, whether itliked it or not? In Goa when the subject did not fall in line, the colonisers triedtheir best to change the society through various measures like conviction,assertion, imposition and legislation. But the Goan community was reluctant toblindly imbibe everything that was thrust upon them. They absorbed what theyliked the most and chose what they thought was the best for them.

For example, the 1684 decree banning the use of Konkani didnot yield the desired effect. Though Portuguese was the medium of instruction,Konkani continued to remain the lingua franca despite the total ban. But thelanguage did undergo a subtle change whereby it adopted many Portuguese wordsto enrich itself. Today zonel (janela), kodel (cadeira), mez (mesa), poder(padeira), etc. have become Konkani terms. This is how the confl uence happens.

We all know that dance and music is in our blood. ThePortuguese, at the instance of the missionaries, might have been unenthusiasticabout the folksongs and folk music. But during the latter half they certainlywent soft on this count and the Church became a centre of learning music, particularlythe western one. The folk songs and dances that were discouraged among the neo-convertswere mainly fugdi, dhalo, ghode-modni, morulem, divlyam-nach besides folkperformances like kaalo and zagor.

But then the Catholic Goans blended their traditions well toinvent mando, the basis of which, as Dr Jose Pereira claims, is in our honvyoand folk-dance. We find religiosity and modernity going hand in hand in this landwhere even Muslims embraced modernity. When the 

Catholics were not allowed to celebrate the traditionalShigmo, the villagers adjusted by opting for the intruz/carnival festivities. Todaywe see both the communities celebrating Novyam-fest to mark the beginning ofharvesting season.

Goan cuisine too has experienced the confluence of cultures.It is not just fish and feni: it’s much more. While you are in Goa there areumpteen dishes to tickle your taste buds and the incredible thing about it isthat it’s a combination of some of the Portuguese dishes and Indian spices.

A meeting of Konkani, Portuguese and Bahamani Nawabitraditions produced the Goan cuisine that is simple and spicy, sweet andsyrupy, aromatic and pungent. Bebinca (where cooking calls for plenty of muscleand time), dhodol, paro, solantulem, sorpatel, etc. can be called asIndo-Portuguese, though these are the products of Goan imagination.

While nevryo, kormolam, mugam- ganthi, mannganne, tikhshe fovor churmo continue to dominate, we, irrespective of religious affiliations,love reichado mackerels and sardines in oil that are typical of the Portuguesecuisine. And it seems we shall never cease to crave for the pão, though we haveimprovised with our own kakonn, the ring-bread. If the present day scenarioreveals some negative images of the Portuguese, it is due to the fact that theyrelate to the colonial past. But we cannot forget that any culture is an expressionof the historic identity of a people and it is a continuous process ofevolution.

I have always maintained that the culture of any territoryis best reflected in the literature of that region. As it universally happens,Goan culture today has evolved out of its past. Konkani literature flourishedonly after the end of the colonisation.

Naturally it refl ects both, the good and bad experiences ofthe past. Though very little is written about the history, it is true that ourwritings find repeated mention of those bygone days, mostly referred to as the‘goodold-days’. The low crime rate, the sushegad laid-back lifestyle, the afternoonsiesta, the sense of security that existed then… all these factors are oft encitedas the virtues of our Portuguese past. ‘Te Firangi Gele, Te Undde Gele’ (Goneare the Portuguese, Gone are the Pão-bread) is a proverb oft en used in thesame sense.

The olden day education in Portuguese had brought about easyaccess to the best of Western writings. The renowned poet B B Borkar recallshow he got an exposure to Western poetry because of his well read teacher andmentor Ms Propercia Correia Afonso who taught him at Escola Normal. PoetPandurang Bhangui was a great admirer of Fernando Pessoa whom he quoted freely.Shankar Ramani was influenced by the works of the Mexican poet Octavio Paz whomhe read in Portuguese.

The well read poet has quoted in the opening page of BrahmaKamall (The Cosmic Lotus) as, “Almost everyone is a poet at a certain stage oflife, but sometimes it’s a disease that remains right through and turns into a mania.”And here we have a poem by Shankar Ramani where the poet writes about thecharacteristics of a poet as mentioned in the above lines.

To eklo eksuro kovi

Tagelea mhoddkea ghorachea

Zonelantsun dista tea mollbak

Dis-rat polloit asta.

To samko maluk!

Tumi taka aponv nakat

Ulovunk vochum nakat;

Tacher nodorui ghalum nakat;

Pattlibhor shenkreancho shinvor

To tumchea angamathear

ken’na ghalit

Sangum nozo.

Punn chukun ken’na tori

Tagelem zonel zen’na

Nillem nillem mollob zal’lem


Ten’na digantechim pakhram

Taka nitoll uzvaddacho sad



He is a poet, solitary and lonely

Through the window of his ramshackle house

He watches the sky, day and night.

He is totally crazy

Don’t call him closer

Nor talk to him;

Don’t even look at him;

You never know when he would throw

On your body

A basketful of pebbles

But if and when his window

Turns into blue sky

The birds from across the horizon

Beckon him to the ethereal light.

At times, Ramani’s imagery takes you on a spiritual ride.

Metaphors in abundance are found in his poetry, like ‘the frighteningtickle of the lightning’

or ‘the night taking bath in the raining stars’ or ‘thecrescent moon watching his face admiringly in the distant lake’.

Obviously, he has imbibed a lot from Octavio Paz as alsofrom the contemporary Portuguese writers. Yet another example that comes to mymind is that of our satirist fiction writer of Konkani A N Mhambro who bringsforth the impact of the Portuguese in a mocking style. A N Mhambro has manybooks to his credit including the national award winning Ponnji Atam MhatariZalea (Panjim - also meaning great grand mother - Has Now Become Old).Mhambro’s stories are devoid of descriptions and invariably start abruptly.

The outwardly absurd dialogues make you laugh, but thereader inadvertently tries to locate the people next to him or even himself toidentify with the absurdity. An example can be cited in this regard wherein hebrings to the fore the typical frame of mind of a Goan of that period. In oneof his stories he writes:

“During the Portuguese regime a leading physician landed inGoa. When he performed brain surgery on a Goan, he found the following itemsinside him: Salazar’s photo, a passing certificate of Liceu, one football, oneMercedes car, one plan of a house, a pack of bank notes, one dozen bottles ofbeer, a pair of Rayban goggles, one Rolex watch, two fountain pens (one Sheafferand one Parker), one Gabardine suit, one hat, one guitar, some propertydocuments, a string of fish, two or five pieces of clothes, and onesophisticated machine that could comment on world affairs. When switched on itsaid, ‘I talk, You listen.”

Most of the writings in Konkani talk about the postPortuguese period. Sheela Naik Kolambkar came into the limelight after shewrote her story Guerra, meaning war. The story is set in theimmediate-post-Liberation situation. The protagonist’s lover, a Portuguesesoldier has just left the shores of Goa, leaving her behind pregnant. Sheelabuilds up the conflict of two minds with artistic precision. The issue involvedis felt in double context, one being psychological and the other sociological.Similar is a novella Paklo (white man) written by Tukaram Shet which exploresthe psychological turmoil of a young Goan boy, far too fair to be a Goan.Apparently an off spring of a Portuguese, a mestiço, he does not get the same normalplace in the society. The subject touches upon a problem which was prevalent inthat immediate post-colonial period.

In my stories too there is a frequent visit to the past. In‘Terezalo Ghov’ (Theresa’s Man) there is a subtle mention of the changingscenario after the Portuguese left . Peter does not like his wife Terezacontinuing to call him Pedro since Domingo had switched over to Domnic, Antonioto Anthony and Guilherme to William. ‘Sood’ is a novella wherein I haveportrayed a Portuguese police offi cer Viçente Figuereido who had committedatrocities (like Agente Monteiro). When during the exposition of St. FrancisXavier, Figuereido returns to free Goa for the feast and to visit his friends,the young doctor, whose parents were killed at the hands of Figuereido,resolves to kill him. But just as the time comes Figuereido meets with an accident.He is rushed to hospital and surgery is performed by the doctor himself thatsaves the ex-offi cer’s life. The doctor is keen to see Figuereido die at his handsnot before he is reminded of his past crime . But again, as the doctor, armedto kill him, arrives at the hospital he hears Figuereido tell the seniorsurgeon how he repents his cruel deeds of the past. Further he says that theFiguereido of the past is dead and the lease of life that is gifted to him bythis doctor will be used for noble work hereafter. The doctor then loses his desireto kill him. The message is that, though political enemies, the Portuguese areas bad or as good as others.

Our sensibility is best mirrored in our literature where welook at our past with objective approach. We are proud of our Goan Culture. Wehad to struggle hard to protect it. So far, we have preserved our distinctidentity, both political and cultural and shall strive to retain that title‘different’ for posterity.

Damodar Mauzo is a Konkani short fiction writer andnovelist. He is the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel ‘Karmelin’,which was translated into English and several other languages

Share this