Learning from Goan expat writing


Goan expat writing continues to help the
reader here to understand the local
reality. Two new books, one on Abbe Faria
and the other on print and politics in
Goa, have just made it to the stands.
Meanwhile, the Central Library at Panjim
has also put out an informative website,

Writers link the past with the future, and Luis S.R. Vas’ contribution is to the memory of Abbe Faria. Vas’ 117-page hard-bound book (ISBN 978-81-905716-0-9, Rs 295, www.bbcbooks.net) is soon to be out, and focuses on the 18th century hypnotist of Goan origin from Colvale and Candolim.

Abbe Faria

Readers might know the author to be the brother of the popular Dhempe College mentor-to-a-generation and prof Isabela Santa Rita Vas. Luis has “had a life-long interest in Abbe Faria and hypnosis”, the book tells us. And he has been for decades in feature writing, publishing, corporate communications and translating.

Like many non-residents settled outside Goa, he’s also contributing to the debate here.

His book starts interestingly: “Sometime in the early 1950s, British novelist and travel writer Norman Lewis arrived in Panjim, Goa’s capital, by steamboat.” And it goes on to quote the intrepid traveller as noting that the quay-side was “presided over” by a statue not of the colony’s founder Albuquerque, but rather the Goan who “discovered the doctrine of hypnotic suggestion”.

Vas begins by making us think: Who was this enigmatic Faria? Why is he not mentioned in some textbooks on hypnosis? Who is the lady in question? And he goes on to hint that Faria is a “most colourful if half-forgotten, 18th century character, perpetrator of amazing exploits, mainly in France, some of them still shrouded in mystery.”

This book is written in a simple yet catchy style. Its chapters would ring a bell to the reader in Goa to whom the Abbe is no stranger. Titles of the chapters, for instance, are: Candolim, Colvale, Trip to Lisbon, Propaganda Fide, Priest, Pope Pius VI, Cator Re Baji and so on….

Explains Vas: “As the 250th birth centenary of Abbe Faria loomed in 2006, I thought a new biography and assessment of the pioneer hypnotist would be an appropriate and worthwhile project for the occasion. This is that book.”

Rochelle Pinto was just one of those names I ran across in cyberspace. Sometime in March 2005, a blog entry of mine noted: “Incidentally, in an article titled A Time To Publish published in the Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai) issue of February 26, 2005, Rochelle Pinto makes some interesting points indeed.”

This week, Bangalore-based Pinto wrote in to inform that her new book “Between Empires: Print and Politics in Goa” (Oxford University Press, 2007 ISBN 9780195690477 Rs. 645, US$ 16.54) is just out.

Government Printing Press, Goa

Government Printing Press, Panjim… legacy from colonial times.

One google search told me: “Between Empires offers the first systematic analysis of the relationship between print culture and colonial rule in Goa. Rochelle Pinto discusses the development of print culture and its implications for larger questions of nationalism, modernity, and colonial politics.”

Sounds interesting.

Apparently, the book draws “succinctly from available literature on print, reading publics, and linguistic hierarchies elsewhere in India,” for the author to offer what the book calls “a persuasive account of the possibilities opened by print media and the manner in which it reordered social, cultural, or political ties within Goan society.”

Pinto looks at print produced in Portuguese, Konkani, and Marathi, and examines the contesting claims about Goa and the terrain of its politics.

“It shows how this highly contested public realm was deeply reflected in the novels, pamphlets, and newspapers produced by the Catholic elite, Goan migrants to Bombay, and litigants in the rural districts in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.” Pinto is credited with discussing questions of representation, genre, publicity, and literary history followed different trajectories among the non-elite and elite writers. One site said: “This work makes an important contribution to current discussions on the emergence of print spheres in colonial India.”

In her earlier, insightful EPW article, Pinto discussed two sets of pamphlets that appeared towards the end of the 19th century in colonial Goa, in an attempt to show how precedents and norms established by European print were not exactly reproduced in the colony.

The function of print and the genre of pamphlets, in particular, were altered by class difference, caste hierarchies and the context in which rural and urban politics functioned in Goa, she says.

Quote: “Increasingly, in the early decades of the 20th century, the monopolies and usurpation of land rights by nadkarnis, kulkarnis, and other dominant castes began to be challenged across villages in Goa. In the Old Conquests of Goa, the territories conquered from 1510 on, the institution of the communidade, which administered village land through councils whose membership was hereditary, male, and usually upper caste, was particularly strong.

“Rising literacy levels among sudras had, however, resulted in their growing visibility among groups of litigants in Goa. Salaried employment outside Goa had enabled sudras to use print to supplement litigation for land-rights. Within Goa, the form of the pamphlet was considerably altered when they adopted it to challenge the monopolies of kulkarnis, nadkarnis, and their own village comunidades.”


Carlos Fernandes is the (newish) curator of the Central Library, in Panjim. From Ponda, he was earlier (for a short spell) the librarian at the Goa University, and also at the Goa Engineering College.

Last week, we ran into each other when one went to collect some information sought under the Right to Information Act.

Fernandes mentioned that the Central Library had just put up its new website. A quick glance made it clear that this is an unglamourous site, but one filled with a whole lot of useful information.

See http://goacentrallibrary.gov.in/

nlike some government-run sites, contracted out to private parties to create, this is a website built by the GoI’s National Informatics Centre, Goa. While private parties are great at creating glitzy sites, the NIC stresses on functionality. Their sites often last and don’t simply vanish in some time into that cyber black-hole.

What’s more, the Central Library initiative is enriched with a whole lot of useful information.

Some of the links on the home page focus on their collection (of books), services offered, committees, lists of libraries (including rural) in Goa, schemes to promote libraries, the rare book sections, forms and rules for joining the library, a photo gallery, lists of staff, and useful links.

The ‘useful links’ section takes you to two dozen online links, dealing with books, careers, scientific information and more. The Central Library has done a good job in taking things beyond just their own work. After all, information is seamless in a networked world.

Let’s hope they keep updating their site often, and adding more links to it. And also that readers take an active stand in ensuring that the site itself remains active and useful.

About the site, send in your feedback to the Central Library via phone 2425730 or 2436327, or via email lib-cent.goa@nic.in And, regarding this column, your comments and brickbats are welcome at fred@bytesforall.org or 2409490 or 9970157402

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About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.

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