Words, from the alumni networks
In the days we grew up, students of our school, St Britto’s in Mapusa, saw their institution as being a major rival of St Anthony’s at Guirim. Both have been prominent schools in Bardez, particularly in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies and later. Currently, there are a number of past-pupils scattered across the globe from institutions such as these. And there have been some alumni publications coming out too.
In part, one suspects, this might be driven by the expat interest in the ‘old boys networks’ from this region. You simply get more nostalgic about the region, the further away you are from Goa!
‘Yesterdays at Monte: Jogging Down Memory Lane’ (Aug 2006, pp 78, Rs 100, Vikram Publications Limavaddo, Porvorim, phone 241 3573) is Edward de Lima’s book on St Anthony’s at Monte Guirim. Many readers might know Lima from his long teaching association with what used to be the DMC College in Mapusa/Assagao. He was also a long-time NCC instructor, and has done has PhD not too long ago on the work of the Hubli-based intellectual, writer and educator Prof Armando Menezes.
As he puts it: “Life those days was simple and hard, but we enjoyed ourselves in different innocent ways.”
This book focuses on, among other things, lunch at school, annual concerts, Mocidade Portuguesa (there was recently an interesting debate in cyberspace over how one could interpret this organisation and its politics), corporal punishments, the school’s debating society, the “brown hair episode”, retreats, and the author’s teachers and classmates.
There are other ‘old boy’ initiatives that have come up too.
“Those Good Ol’ Days!” (pp 82, Rs 150, published by BMX, the Britto’s-St Mary’s-Xavier’s alumni network) is the 2006 compilation of tributes from ex-students of students from three of the best known institutions at Mapusa. It shares some articles in common with ‘Britto’s Retro’ (pp 208, Rs 50), which focuses almost entirely on St Britto’s.
Since this columnist has been involved with the latter two publications, it would be unfair to comment on their quality or lack of it. One can however say that it was great fun working on them; it was amazing to see how readily alumni from these institutions were ready and willing to share their memories. Cyberspace, and the internet, helped to bring them all together.
Publishing these as copylefted (free-to-copy) books also make sure that the content remains in the public domain, roughly speaking. That’s a very exciting idea, and gives hope that these thoughts and words can get life of their own, keep on getting quoted and even reproduced in toto when needed to.
Check out the same at Carvalho’s Petrol Pump at Mapusa (the Britto book) or Broadways at Sant Inez (the BMX book) if interested. They’re priced at Rs 50 and Rs 150 respectively, with some interesting photos of the yesteryears.
Maybe alumni networks could play a more active role in building links and encouraging the growth of institutions that gave generations a quality education at a pittance. It’s nice to see so many — occasionally or consistently — active alumni groups, including from institutions like the Goa Medical College, People’s High School, Don Bosco’s in Panjim, Loyola’s in Margao, the old Lyceum, and others.
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.
Prava Rai, the Chorao-based editor of Parmal, mentioned plans to publish the journal of the Goa Heritage Action Group twice (instead of once, at present) each year.
Parmal is an interesting and thought-provoking publication. It always comes up with some insights that help us better understand this complex place known as Goa. One might wish though that the definition of “heritage” could be more broad-based, to go beyond elite and middle-class concerns.
GOANS IN BURMA
Another interesting attempt that’s coming along is Yvonne Vaz-Ezdani’s proposed book that tells the story of Goan expats in Burma (now Myanmar). It is one more chapter — or should we say, book — about the lives of people from this emigration-prone region, just waiting to be told.
Yvonne can be contacted at 2409519 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know someone who has a story to tell from this period, do get in touch.
Reena Martins, The Telegraph’s feature writer in Mumbai and a journo who traces her own roots to Pune, Mumbai and Velim, is meanwhile working — still in an early stage — on the stories of Goans in Mumbai between the 1930s and 1970s. Reena is contactable via email@example.com and do share your ideas and suggestions with her.
So, keep reading Goa-related books… and think of writing some too. It’s increasingly becoming possible to do so, as entry barriers get lower.
LIST OF BOOKSHOPS
Check this online list of bookshops in Goa: http://goanairport.com/php/showContent.php?linkid=848
Feedback welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org, 2409490 or 9970157402