Biblophile-friend Dr Nandkumar Kamat reminded me about the upcoming release of a new book ‘From Goa to Patagonia’ slated for August 24, 2007 at 4.15 pm at the Kala Academy’s meeting hall. This not only sent me scurring to my cluttered email in-box, but it also saw me go off in a hurry to the Wikipedia to understand what this was all about.
This was how that amazing online encyclopedia, the Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org), explained it: “Patagonia is the southernmost portion of South America. Mostly located in Argentina and partly in Chile, it comprises the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateaux and low plains to the east. The name Patagonia comes from the word patagon used by Magellan to describe the native people who his expedition thought to be giants. It is now believed the Patagons were actually Tehuelches and Aonikenk with an average height of 1.80 m compared to the 1.55 average for Spaniards of the time.”
This book is by Alfredo Bachmann de Mello, the Uruguay-based Goan-bon son of renowned doctor-scientist Dr. Froilano de Mello and his Swiss wife. Some years back, I ran into Alfredo “Fred” via cyberspace, and we had many an interesting exchange till (I think) we disagreed in our perspectives and lost touch. He had then also drawn my attention to a book he published, explaining who the ‘real Columbus’ was. (Frankly, history not being one of my favourite subjects, I found that text a bit too complex to adequately follow. That book of his is called “El Verdadero Colón” in Spanish, and in English it’s “The Real Colon: Columbus is a misnomer”.)
Head of the Lisbon-based Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias history department Dr Teotonio R de Souza, while welcome the growing number of Goan memoirs and autobiographies, gives a preview of the book’s content. He also refers to De Mello’s father’s possibly misunderstood role in representing colonial Goa in Lisbon.
Of the book, de Souza writes: “Despite some unpleasant memories, Alfredo de Mello does not display any hangover of colonial past. He revealed very early in life his conviction that all empires had their end! This understanding of history and his joie de vivre pervade his memoirs, giving them a seriousness and without making them dull.
“In between some colourful descriptions of his deft control of a pony galloping downhill at Matheran while still a child; a confrontation which ended badly for a cobra in his home compound at Altinho in Panjim; a rub of the ring of the Archbishop-Patriarch that left him with bleeding nose; and his first experience of the pleasures of Eden with a young British eve while a boarder at Bishop Cotton’s in Bangalore, there is much we can learn about social life in the capital city of Goa as well as about the wild-life in rural Goa of those years.”
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