(Under discussion: The play No Flowers, No Wreaths by Orlando da Costa). That a Portuguese Prime Minister of Goan origin should come to the land of his father’s origin to release a play about the Indian annexation of once Portuguese Goa reverberates in No Flowers, No Wreaths’ concerns about Goa’s future in the decolonial era. That Goa traded one colonialism for another, making it a colony of a postcolony, is a matter that bears recognition
(Under discussion: Preia-Mar by Epitacio Pais). This new Goa that Pais illustrates contains traces of the discourses of both worlds not in isolation but deeply intertwined. Leo and Amy reach out to each other across, what seems like insurmountable differences of class, caste and languages at a moment in time when Goan society is trying to accommodate itself to the new social scenario marked by the coming of the hippies and mass tourism
(Under Discussion: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M. G. Vassanji). For Vikram Lall’s next encounter with the Goan community, Vassanji chooses Nairobi railway station where a Mr. Eddie Carvalho receives “a couple of slaps” from an African politician for asking his African assistant to wipe the engine in what Vassanji calls “a rather rude and foolish mannerism, reminiscent of arrogant colonial attitudes”. Is there any significance in the choice of ethnicity for this character?
(Under discussion: A Village Dies by Ivan Arthur). Arthur himself is a Mangalorean, a community he describes as less Portuguese than the Goans and East Indians, the ‘Lusitanian hue of their pre-Tullu days painted over with Tippu's sword and the dark Dravidian tongue’. Mangaloreans and Goans were the ‘outsiders’ in this world dominated by East Indians, existing on the fringes of acceptability, the ‘junglees who come here to spoil our village, to distil liquor and spoil our husbands…more and more are coming…like cockroaches.’
(Under discussion: A Passage to Kenya by Lawrence Nazareth). This notion of Asian racial superiority never subsided and it manifested most malignantly in the work place to ensure African grades were at the bottom tier. Any suggestion that Africans could be on par with Asian clerks in the civil service was met with vociferous letters of protest. Perhaps, it wasn’t so much a history of purposeful collusion but it certainly was one of imperial symbiosis
These descriptions of Yvonne Gonsalves as the devoted wife, disregarding her status as an accomplished musician, exemplify what Fátima da Silva Gracias wrote in the introduction to her book, The Many Faces of Sundorem (2007): “Generally, whenever women are mentioned in the Indo-Portuguese Historical literature it is usually in the traditional and subordinate role
The decision to marinate my characters in the brine of a Bombay Goan Catholicism was in part inevitable, because that’s the culture I know best. But more than that, it was a very deliberate decision, one that I hoped would counter, in a small way, the conflation of Indianness with upper caste North Indian Hinduism. Goan history has often been relegated to the footnotes of Indian history, in the main.
The declining fortunes of Portugal and the stagnant Goan economy, made an East African Goan groom a prized catch even amongst the landed gentry. So keen was the demand that girls were often affianced to men they had never met. If they were lucky they might have seen a faded photograph or encountered a close relative on whose character reference the alliance would be secured. Yet these arrangements were not loveless marriages.
Image of Ezalda Albuquerque and husband, courtesy Yvonne Dias
The recurrent question that current instances of engaged research present may compel us to ask once again: can we be simply be content with mediating the testimony of subaltern, silenced or suppressed cultural others, or must such work necessarily be accompanied with some long-term concrete commitment of time, resources and energy to improve the lives of those whose testimonies and experiences are often at the heart of our research?
Such barbarity barely made a dent in the Goan consciousness. Never did a protest or condemnation ensue from them on such matters. The fear of reprisals against the businesses they operated for their European clientele and their jobs in the civil administration would have muted any dissenting opinions but more at stake was their reputation as ‘peaceful and law-abiding’.