Friday, 20 May 2016

15 May 2016

Our wedding anniversary was celebrated at our new home at Devashri Garden, Porvorim. It was also the first birthday of our home. It was a Sunday, so Queenie and me went for the 8 a.m. Mass at Holy Family church, Porvorim, down the road. Lunch was a get-together of friends and family. Alten and Zach regales us with their singing and I pitched in playing my guitar for a medley. Irene, Vanessa and Queenie marshalled the kitchen and served up a sumptuous buffet. Dad prayed at the start of the meal and Duran clicked a family video. Brenda (Zach's wife) beamed throughout while Sally nursed her glass on the ledge overlooking the pool. Lunch began at 4 and wound up at 5.30. After the clearing up we could just barely make it to Copperleaf restaurant a stone's throw away -- Just the two of us -- just as they were downing the shutter at 11! Nevertheless they served us graciously and I did a repeat of the the cocktail Goan Salsa long after I drank it. :)

Dumb Charades

Brian Mendonca

One of the first things I learnt about ‘Dumb Charades’ is that you can’t be dumb if you are playing it! The game requires a lot of skill. Imagine trying to get your audience to figure out what you are so desperately trying to convey to them – through signs!

Usually there are two teams. They give each other names of films which have to be deciphered within a time limit by looking at their members mime the title. The team which manages to do so correctly most times is the winner.

The game is a lot of fun and hinges on how many films you have watched. This virtuosity is kept in mind when the teams are being chosen by the team captains when they chose their teams at the start of the game.

The last time I was part of the game, the group was discussing which languages should the movies be in. English of course was the strongest contender. Hindi came in a close second. ‘Konkani’ someone shouted. ‘There are hardly any films,’ someone countered. ‘OnlyNachom-ia-Kumpasar’ he muttered sounding defeated. ‘Nirmon’ I offered, under my breath. Why didn’t I think of Enemy’?

The Konkani Film Festival 2016 in Delhi featured the following films: Mortoo about a villager who cremates the dead; Digant  about the Dhangar community in Goa and Jagor about the son of the biggest landlord of the village. These films were not in the popular consciousness of the players of dumb charades I was with. Would they have fared better if one had to mime tiatrs instead?

The group settled with the staple for such games, which was English and Hindi. I was quite miffed at Konkani being thrown out of the reckoning. But though we were in Goa, these were not a group of families who spoke Konkani. They preferred English for conversation.

The film I got to mime for my group was Confessions of a Shopaholic.  So down I went on my knees in front of everybody. This was after showing four fingers to indicate the four words which made the title.  ‘Pray’ somebody said. ‘Kneeling’ said another. ‘Father’ said a third. ‘Confessions’ proclaimed the last. Now I wagged my fourth finger to indicate I was miming the fourth word. I set off on a buying spree showing actions of putting things frenetically in my bag. ‘Shopping’ said my savior. With ‘Confessions’ and ‘Shopping’ in the bag it was plain sailing to arrive at the title.

Sholay was the next word for the other team. The team member decided to divide the word into two syllables: ‘Show’ and ‘Lay.’  For ‘show’ he tried to mime showing something to another person. For ‘lay’ he sat down on his haunches as if to lay an egg. ‘Shitting’ someone said helpfully. They never got the title. They gave up. The Devil Wears Prada and Dilwale were the other titles which featured.Titanic was dropped as being too easy. Dumb Charades anyone?
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St.Inez, Goa on Sunday, 15 May 2016. 'Sounds like' Pix courtesy 

Friday, 13 May 2016

A Peace of India

by Brian Mendonca

My heart is roaming in the wild blue yonder
But where I lie will always be Goa.
Between the black soil of the plains
and the red mud of the coast.
There for me is India's peace.

(1999, Enroute Goa Express)

When we hosted lunch for our cousin Helga di Pascoale and her daughters Ciara and Cassiana yesterday, the colour red prompted me to recite my poem 'A Peace of India.'

Earlier, Helga was very appreciative of my books of poems. She bought both of them -- Last Bus to Vasco and A Peace of India -- and asked me to sign them.

Helga is my mum's brother Leo's daughter. We lost Guido, her husband, at the young age of 51. I picked up a gorgeous batik piece of cloth ochre in colour. It depicted a boatman /voddekara and his young wife? going to sell fish in the market. The girl's lips are in a pout. The man looks ahead, bare chested, impassive and with character. They loved it. Helga resides in London and works for BA.
Self-published in Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa by Brian Mendonca (New Delhi, 2006)  

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mothers' Day 2016

Today is Mother's Day or Mothers' Day -- whichever you prefer.  Today my sister Vanessa arrived along with her family and her sister-in-law Irene.

As I bustled about in town making purchases, it suddenly dawned on me that there were not one but three mothers in our home today!

Just before lunch as the family gathered around the table, I launched into my 'speech' : 'It is a pleasure and a privilege to celebrate Mothers' Day today at A2 Dramila. Without mothers we would not be who we are. There are three mothers present today and two "out there" viz. Mother Mary and mummy.' and so on.  After that I requested my sister to sing 'Mother of Mine', while I played the guitar. All joined in but not without getting emotional.

My sister remembered her doting mother-in-law aunty Josephine Mendonca (1931-2013) and our mother Alda Mendonca (1930-2004). I remembered aunty Virgin David (1935-2012) my  mother-in-law and her infinite patience.  I had bought mogra garlands for the altar at home, for the frame of the Jesus and Mary in our room; the black and white picture of Mother Mary in the last room and the last for the photo of our mother.

On a table laden with the goodness of home we basked in the warmth of the family. The pulao and the chicken curry was relished. There was salt fish for dad. Salad made by Sandhya for all. Justice was done to the sorpotel at breakfast. I savoured it with an egg after Mass. For dessert there was mango ice cream, the cake, of course, and lovely bread pudding made by my sister. Three mothers, three desserts. Since mum's photo remained on the table during the lunch, it was as though mum was sharing the meal with us.  She would have been very happy, I thought. After lunch the cousins got down to some serious reading on the sofa with Maegan reading aloud Enid Blyton's short story, 'The Toy Clown and the Radio.'* My son Dwayne was glued to her.

Mothers make us come home. A special choco-delight cake with the lettering 'HAPPY MOTHERS DAY IRENE, NESSA & QUEENIE' sat proudly on the  table. Next to it, a vase of three roses symbolized the fragrance spread by the three in all our lives.

It is said, 'God could not be everywhere -- so He created Mothers.' So true.  When they are gone, only the memories remain. Happy Mother's Day!
*From The Cuckoo in the Clock and Other Stories by Enid Blyton (London: Hachette, 2015). Photos taken by me today 8 May 2016.

Newshour with Razia Iqbal

Brian Mendonça

News can be seen as an acronym for the four directions i.e. North-East-West-South (NEWS). Newshour is broadcast by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on short wave (SW) radio Monday to Thursday 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. GMT.  One can tune in to Newshour in Goa between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. IST on the 25 metreband. The reception on my Philips RL 205 radio is good.

Since local newspapers are printed before the break of dawn they usually bring you yesterday’s news.  Given my aversion for TV news with its ads, and indifferent reception, I know that my current awareness would take a beating if I only relied on a diet of hard copy.  Newshour brings you the latest in current developments from around the globe at the end of the day.  Several stories are aired which are not even breathed about in the morning’s papers.  The content programming for BBC is for a global audience.

On the last Newshour I tuned in to, my host was the feisty Razia Iqbal who presented the programme with élan.  The first story was about the state inquest findings that the 96 Liverpool fans who perished in the FA cup semi-final between Liverpool (the home of the Beatles) and Nottingham Forest (the home of Robin Hood) at Hillsborough stadium in 1989 were innocent.  The police were held as grossly negligent in handling the crowd.

Next up was the anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986.  A reporter at Kiev spoke to one of the residents there and even recorded the lady’s singing dog! The radiation leak led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, with the toxic fumes crossing the border to Southern Belarus and being seen even as far as Sweden.

The repercussions of Britain’s moving out of the EU were discussed, as was the run-up to the US elections in Connecticut.  Einstein’s equivalence principle was sought to be tested by physicists. Finally Newshour reported how the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has declared the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island (‘the Guantanamo of the Pacific’)* in PNG as illegal and how Australia may be held liable. There was also a special focus on the idiom ‘one fell swoop’ in Shakespeare’s plays – this being the 400th anniversary of his death. An actor was brought into the studio to play Macduff from the play Macbeth.

Razia split after 13 years of marriage with George Arney also with the BBC and former host of ‘The World Today.’  The confident and now single Razia born in a Pakistani Punjabi family in Uganda in 1962, is a far cry from contemporary portrayals of immigrant experience in the U.K. Take for example Nazneen, the demure Muslim lady from Bangladesh who moves to London at the age of 18 and is portrayed in Brick Lane (2003) by British novelist, Monica Ali. It is interesting that Razia also anchors the Identity Debate on BBC -- How our identities are changing in a globalized world.
*; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 8 May 2016.  Pix courtesy Razia Iqbal @ twitter 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

'Balle Balle' in Ballia

-Brian Mendonca

Jaguar down in Jaisalmer
Methi ki Pudiya in Barabanki
A sten gun bodyguard pleads no confidence
Lucknowi biryani laced with kebabs.

Rawa ke pakode at Ghazipur
Mukhtar Ansari - 'Locals fear to whisper his name.'
Hazaron Khwaishein -- 'Oo sakat nahin'
On NH 19 silence marks the roads
Petromax lanterns light up the dark.
Shutters firmly down in fear of brigands.

Our Lady's grotto near Brahma's shrine
Ballia's badlands skirt the Ganges
Kashi--Benaras-- Varanasi
Which is the name I must invoke?
At Mughalsarai station a cow on platform 5
As the Chambal Express wheezes into 1.

Come midnight the Eastern Rajdhanis
all meet up at Mughalsarai
From Calcutta, Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Patna
Hop on any one if your destination is Delhi
It's balle balle all the way -- especially here in Ballia!

Hazaron Khwaishein: (Urdu) Ghazal by Mirza Ghalib; 2176 Howrah-Gwalior Chambal Express

This poem written in 2007 was read by Brian to Raja Gupta, ex-colleague at Calangute Residency, Goa today afternoon. Self-Published in A Peace of India: Poems in Transit by Brian Mendonca (New Delhi, 2011)

Plan B

-Brian Mendonça

I was delighted to hear Thermal and a Quarter (Taaq) playing as we stepped in for the Food and Culture festival at the spacious Bandodkar grounds, Campal last month. Thermal and a Quarter is a Bangalore-based Indie-rock band which make their own music. By that I mean they compose their own songs with the help of song writers, set the song to music and sing them – regardless whether the audience warms to them or not. I like that. It’s very poetic.

I had met Bruce Lee Mani, the lead vocalist of Taaq, in Delhi where they had performed about a decade ago. Bruce formed Taaq with Rajeev Rajagopal (Drums) and Leslie Charles (Bass guitarist and backing vocals) 20 years back in 1996. Just five years later they ‘opened’ at Brigade Road for Deep Purple in 2001.

The Bangaloreans had a nice easy twang about them when I first met them and I came away after buying their CD Plan B (2005). Bruce was singing ‘Chainese Item’ at Campal—it was from the same album and was about eating Chinese food in Bangalore. How would that gel with Goan audiences, I wondered. ‘Was that music!?’ was one of the discussion points on the way home. Why are we set in our own time warp of wanting to hear the same old songs over and over again? This cripples creativity. Perhaps that is why we have so few song-writers in Goa.

In a recent interview Bruce spoke about how their tour Fringe 2013, gave them a perspective about ‘how artistes around the world engage in work that is non-mainstream or non-commercial, find a way, find meaning, and continue to grow and better themselves at every turn—while being confounded by ill-educated audiences, unfeeling sponsors, passing fads and suchlike.’ (As told to Kingshuk Niyogy, LiveMint, 2015). Bemoaning the lack of appreciation for original music, Rajeev in the same interview says, ‘Our first album had the hit song (smiles) Potatoe Junkie, urging audiences to get over their soap-opera addictions and get their asses down to live gigs.’

Listening to live gigs was something I did very seriously in Delhi, at Café Morrison, at South Extension, Part II. Named after rock legend Jim Morrison, the pub used to feature upcoming bands live amid youth swirling smoke and ordering their drinks. The more staid Turquoise Cottage (now at Saket) used to feature Goan bands like Black Slade and the long-haired Anthony Braganza for the more mature crowd. At the Kingfisher Pub rock fests we saw Soulmate, the blues rock band from Shillong, Meghalaya. Arijit Sen took me to Pecos pub on Rest House Road, off Brigade Road, when I was in Bangalore in 2005 which had some great house music (rock and reggae) and great food – and of course the chilled mugs of beer! 

When the work got to you, and you needed a break, you turned to your Plan B i.e. an alternative plan of action. After all, there was always music to rock you!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------; published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St.Inez, Goa on Sunday, 1 May 2016. Pix courtesy taaq website.