With a long and formal-sounding name comes the book ‘Readings in Indo-Portuguese Literature: Episodio Oriental’, edited by Maria Ines Figueira and Oscar de Noronha. It was published recently (2007) by Fundacao Oriente and Third Millennium of Pato (Rs 225, ISBN 978-71-904389-1-9, pp176).
Between its covers, this book has some interesting essays — on Goan writers of colonial times, the Konkani flavour in Goa’s spoken Portuguese, and more. For those of us not adequately aware of the pre-1961 writing of Goa, in all its diversity and complexities, this is a nice place to start of.
This book’s jacket explains: “Four and a half centuries of the Portuguese presence in Goa were bound to percolate through to all walks of life, from politics to economics, from demographics to lifestyles, from religion to gender relations. Culture as a whole and literature in particular soon became productive fields for the exchanges that were taking place between Portugal and Goa. The present book reminds us of the ‘Oriental Episode’.”
Well, that’s all well said. On the one hand, we really need to do more to understand our past. Without any knee-jerk or defensive responses. On the other hand, the problem also starts the moment we try to define “our” past.
Much of Goa’s todays problems stem from the fact that we lack a common understanding of our history. As someone has pointed out, the “Goa” that underwent a Portuguese experience for four centuries or more is restricted to less than 600 kms of the current area (even if it encompassed a significant part of the overall population).
So when we fight about our language, our culture, our history, our religion, our geography and more, perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we are very different in our “similarities”. Such an approach might help us all better understand why tolerance, diversity and acknowledging the differences might work better.
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