Noted author, critic, educationalist and Padma Shri awardee from Goa Dr Maria Aurora Couto, passed away on Friday leaving her admirers from all walks of life in a state of great shock and dismay. Her sudden demise has left a void in the literary world and for many, it’s a personal loss.
Best known for her book, Goa: A Daughter’s Story, Maria’s initiative kick-started DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas in Goa, a lecture series sponsored by the Department of Culture, government of Goa, apart from her being active at Goa University’s literary section. She was dignity personified in pharma professional Arun Naik’s words while veteran journalist Gurudas Singbal lamented that Goa has lost a fine writer.
“The passing away of Couto (Aurorabai to me) is a huge personal loss and a blow to Goa's literary and cultural arena. She was a Goan personified. She stood for everything that was beautiful and in the interest of Goa. She hit out with conviction and clarity at wrongs and evils in society. Well-read and well-travelled, the dignified Aurorabai carried herself intelligently with elegance,” said contemporary writer Sahitya Akademi awardee Damodar Mauzo.
Paying tribute to the late writer, Goan poet of international repute Rochelle Potkar agrees, “Her books, ‘Goa: A Daughter's Story’ and 'Filomena's Journeys' opened up worlds inside me of Goa’s dying Catholic feudal elite. An accurate spokesperson of Goa's culture, society, history, and heritage, Couto was an indefatigable force of imagination and implementation in human form. It feels like the passing of a huge time when iconic legends walk away.”
Senior Goan writer Hema Naik who has translated Maria’s book ‘Goa: A Daughter’s Story’ into Konkani stated that Maria was a towering personality in the modern intellectual discourse of Goa.
“We have lost a gentle, simple, beautiful and lovable soul. A democratic Indian, Maria was politically very sharp, stern and firm about her ideology of a secular and just India,” said Prashanti Talpankar, associate professor, Dnyanprasarak Mandal’s College & Research Centre.
Lokveda scholar Dr Jayanti Naik expressed that Maria’s love for Goa and Konkani was undoubtable. “A social scientist, an intellectually awakened teacher, she was a loving soul who respected all religions equally. Goan culture fascinated her. Her calm, composed demeanour and her assertive nature to stand up for women’s rights were inseparable parts of her personality,” recalls Jayanti.
For many, Maria’s passing away is a personal loss. Stating that Goa will cherish her memories forever, Anwesha Singbal, president, Konkani Bhasha Mandal said, “It is a loss not just to the literary and educational field of Goa but a loss of a commitment and pride towards the land and culture that she dearly held close to her heart and worked tirelessly for. Maria's contribution to the literary and educational field is immense and will continue to guide us forever.”
Calling her a fragrant flower, Konkani writer Nayana Adarkar deliberates that humble Maria always met up with much warmth, and spread smiles wherever she walked. “A writer of repute and an academic scholar, she never boasted of her greatness. One finds very few people like her in the literary world,” feels Adarkar.
Special presence on Goan cultural scene: Hoskote
While paying tribute to Maria Aurora Couto, poet, art critic and independent curator Ranjit Hoskote stated, "Maria Aurora Couto was a very special and inspiring presence on the Goan cultural scene. Nourished by her lifelong engagement with three languages - English, Konkani, and Portuguese - she had a deep understanding of Goa's complex and in many ways unique culture. She understood Goa's strengths, its emphasis on mutuality and conciliation, the syncretic and confluential traditions that held it together across the differences of religion, caste and class. An accomplished memoirist, she evoked vanished worlds in exquisite, elegant prose. A liberal at home in many worlds, she was a literary critic and translator, as well as a historian whose account of Goa encompassed both the large scale of political and economic events and the intimate detail of cultural life at the level of the village and the household. We shall greatly miss her wise, witty, sensitive and always constructive contributions to the public sphere."