Percival...the presents best link with the past

Team Goan | OCTOBER 20, 2012, 12:58 PM IST

From his home in the Latin quarter of Fontainhas, PercivalNoronha, historian and raconteur has watched Goa over eight decades from hisalcove. Looking down on a Goa that is changing but looking around at his ownhome, his books, his Chinoiserie to see a Goa of his time that still exists. Heis one of the finest connects between then and now, a seamless bind betweenpast and present, a timeless antique rooted in the contemporary.

After returning from Uganda in 1929 where his father tookhim, the seven year old Percival was sent to the Lyceum to complete hisschooling. When the Portuguese left Goa in 1961- commonly referred to asliberation - he was the Chief Information Officer, reporting to the GovernorGeneral of Goa Vassalo da Silva. Every Saturday he flew with the GovernorGeneral to Daman and Diu as he took stock of developmental projects there.

From governance to administration and heritage, a subjectwhich is closest to his heart, Percival is one of the strongest advocates ofpreserving, learning and getting educated by the Portuguese system ofgovernance and administration. These linkages have been documented by himlucidly. He presented a paper during an international symposium onIntercultural relations: Portugal and Goa, by the University of Cologne in1996. His paper “old Goa in the context of Indian Heritage” is seminal work onPortuguese heritage, which Goa provided lip service of preserving but doesn’t.  He was the first to raise the issue ofvaluable antique furniture and artifacts being sold from churches and the lossof equally valuable stuff from the Cabo Raj Nivas

This context is vital to understand that the only way tolive with the past and use it to maintain current linkages is to preserve it.He speaks of the grandeur of the raaj in its language , its minutedocumentation especially of land records, its libraries, the importance givento languages and its administrative system.

Sitting in his dining room with the red roofs of Fontainhas,a genteel reminder of the past and the present embracing each other, Percivalreminiscenced, “All our land records are thanks to the Portuguese. There was nodevelopment on this front after they went. Education went way beyond books. Theemphasis was on languages like Latin and of course Portuguese. The oldadministrative system was on the pattern of Portugal where the rules wereclear, just and applied to all. The quality of life too was excellent. Peopleloved their music and dances, everyone knew each other and close inter-personalrelationships led to complete harmony in society”. We let him go on. “There wasa sense of one’s surroundings, the encouragement to love and respect nature.Does any child have a sense of what is going on in our surroundings now? Theydid then”.

When you sit back and allow history to unfold and leap asPercival speaks , you realise that the focus always goes back to the way thePortuguese governed. ‘Vasallo Da Silva did extensive study tours to know groundrealities. Three airports were built in his territory. The government wasresponsible. Getting government posts were not easy. We had to give proper andextensive examinations, not like now when jobs are handed over as politicaldoles”.

As he stands in one of the windows in is main roomoverlooking the street, through which sunlight enters to light up the ancientsurroundings, he needs no cultural week to remind him of linkages. If Semana DaCultura is a weeklong celebration and remembrance of Indo Portuguese culture,Percival Noronha is a living example of a lifelong Indo Portuguesa link.

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