Thursday, 18 September 2014

Good Friday in Cuncolim

-Brian Mendonca

A feeble sun
Rises in the West
The hills pause.

Fowls forage
Among coconut saplings
as the green and red Taina
Heads for Margao.
On NH 17 bound for Karwar
The blue and yellow KSRTC bus
minces no words.

A bare-chested man
winds a pump for water
as a Portuguese bandstand
(now a memorial to Gomes)
Reflects NUSI's mirrored facade.

Gina Peters, 41, from Veroda, Cuncolim
Does a Miss Havisham
as Sandeep shuffles in with usal pav.
Mangalore tiles await the rains
as boughs of trees groan with raw mangoes.

A window from a hospital room . . .
'It's usually dull on Good Friday
-- specially between 12 and 3.'
says my father.

(Goa, 2003)*

I read this poem of mine this morning to my class. I was speaking to them how Lorraine from Parra burnt herself last week. She was suffering from depression. My mind went back to Gina Peters who also burnt herself more than a decade ago in Cuncolim. Lorraine had two grown-up children. So why did she do it? Is this a trend in Goa?
*Self-published in Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (New Delhi, 2006). Photo of NUSI hospital by goaphotoblog.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Dal Tadka

A rainy evening and bhindi-fry for dinner. No way it could go with sorpotel.  I prefer veg at nights and the thought wafted before me - 'Why don't I cook some dal?' The dish has always been a favourite for me ever since I gorged on it on lonely nights in wintry Delhi. I used to even make it on Sundays in my one room barsati in Sheikh Sarai. I love a home-cooked meal. And when I cooked it myself the joy was even greater. It was nothing less than a creative act. The sustenance it provided cast a halo around my day.

I haven't cooked for years. So when I did the dal tadka for dinner today I was jubilant. It was a totally different experience with my 3 year old son helping out dashing this way and that in the kitchen to proffer me the ingredients. As I watched all take a second helping I thanked my stars I had not lost my touch. At a pinch I could save the day with dal.

Ever since my articles began appearing in the Weekender I used to file the 'A la Carte' page of recipes hoping to cook those dishes sometime -- only to languish for years. Till a few hours back. The confidence it has instilled in me is terrific and I am raring to go for my next dish! With freshly-made rotis I was in seventh heaven.

Here's the recipe that inspired me:                          

Dal Tadka

Preparation time 45 mins; 7.15 p.m.-8 p.m.

1 cup toor dal
1 tomato chopped
Pinch of turmeric powder
Pinch of asafoetida
Pinch of sugar / jaggery
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves chopped

For tempering / tadka
1/4 cup onions finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp jeera
3-4 dry red chillies halved
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp oil

-Cook dal tomatoes and turmeric powder with 3 cups of water in a vessel.
-Heat oil in a pan and add ingredients for tempering. Once the mustard seeds start to pop and the onions turn transparent add the cooked dal.
-Add salt, asafoetida, and sugar and mix well. If dal too thick add water, if watery let it simmer.
-Garnish with coriander leaves.
Recipe featured in Gomantak Times Weekender, Panjim, 4 May 2014; pix source foodviva(dot)com

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Happy Birthday Uncle Edgar

Today is uncle Edgar's birthday. But he missed it by a month. Uncle passed away in August 2014 alone in a care centre in Mumbai.

We always used to remember his birthday today as it was a day before my dad's birthday on 14 September. They were good friends who used to work together in Bharat Petroleum, then Burmah Shell.

We knew uncle was sinking. We did not know when. And every time we visited Bombay we made it a point to go and see him in his eyrie on the 7th floor at Eucress Building, Antop Hill, Wadala. We used to bring fruit for him. Often it was time for baba's feed and we used the time to give him something to eat or to change him. By all accounts it was home for us. I even called Queenie first from his place in the morning to set up a meeting. We would later choose to live our lives together. However squalid the flat retained memories of the time when aunty Yoma and uncle Edgar waited on me when I used to spend the weekends off from Don Bosco High School, Matunga close by where I studied and was a boarder.

On the eve of Dad's 85th birthday I think Uncle Edgar has gone before him to prepare a place for him in the happy hunting grounds. When I play 'Home on the Range' on my guitar I always hear Uncle Edgar's rich baritone voice singing in the background when the day was young.

A few months before uncle passed away aunty Aina, his sister-in-law who lived next door, passed away as well. She used to care for uncle and send him meals. In a short space of a month or so two stalwarts were felled at Eucress.

Reproduced below is what I wrote on Uncle Edgar in an earlier blogpost on the Maximum City in 2010. May his soul rest in peace.

How can Bombay be complete without Edgar De Mello or simply ‘Uncle Edgar’ for us. Now in his 80’s uncle Edgar sits in his house at Eucress Buliding, Wadala on the 7th floor. He and his wife aunty Yoma took care of me when I was a boarder in Don Bosco high school, Matunga. Aunty and uncle gave us our childhood. Aunty Yoma slipped away years and back – a void uncle Edgar has not been able to fill or come to terms with even now. Last night as I slept in the gone-to-seed house I heard echoes of happy days, days of joy and laughter. ‘Peep- peep pom-pom’-- uncle’s cheery voice used to boom around the corner as he was coming up the landing. Today TS Eliot’s lines from Hollow Men echo, ‘What is man?/ A tattered coat upon a stick.’ 
It is a joy to listen to uncle speak about the good old days, the days when he was young, when Bombay was young. He is remarkably cogent about every detail about the explosion on Bombay Dock with the blowing up of 2 loads of TNT on board the Fort Stikine in 1940. He was working as a dockyard hand in those days and India was sending ammunition to the front to assist Montgomery to put Rommel on the run. With a fierce sense of pride he threw his resignation letter at an Englishman who had wrongly accused him of spilling paint on the floor. ‘Don’t talk about Indians that way,’ Edgar told him. And again he was out of a job. He was then given a job in Burmah Shell where he worked till he retired, and where he met my dad who also worked there. They continue to be good friends, and uncle waits for dad’s calls.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Goan Theatre in English

                             Binding the Evanescent: Goan Theatre in English

                                                       Dr. Brian Mendonça                               


A serious study of Goan drama as a genre of literature in English is sadly lacking. Goa has made a name for itself in the tiatr in Konkani and the khell in Marathi but English is a poor cousin. This seems to be because of the paucity of Goan playwrights writing in English and secondly owing to the pathetic patronage given to it by the Goan English-speaking public. While this is a malaise which is not peculiar to Goa alone it is useful to dwell on this lacunae and whether the situation can be remedied.

I would like to look at the work of 3 Goan playwrights, viz. Isabel de Santa RitaVas, Savio Sequeira and Afsar Hussain. Isabel de Santa Rita Vas is founder-member of the Mustard Seed Art Company – an amateur theatre group in Goa– more than 25 years ago. Over the years the company has staged 55 plays with Ms.Vas having written more than 27.   Deftly staying away from the risqué which plagues much English theatre, hers is a refreshing take on contemporary Goa performed in a language simple and heart-warming. The fusion of Portuguese, Marathi and Konkani in her plays gives them a local idiom. Like her Frescoes in the Womb the plays tap a racial memory which is evanescent and almost mythic. Savio Sequeira who has staged Fires of Darkness is Nairobi-born and Dublin based. Afsar Hussain has collaborated with Savio Sequeira to stage Red Oleanders. It is interesting to examine these impulses which crisscross the globe with themes at once national (Tagore's Post Office) and local. Ghosts at Large by Vas for example, summons up the ghosts of 'Great Goans' like Mogubai Kurdikar, Gerson DaCunha, Angelo da Fonseca and Bakibab Borkar among others in a musty library being pulled down to make way for a mall.           
National Seminar on Goan Writing. ‘Celebrating Creativity, Commemorating Genius: Glimpses of Goan Writing in English and in Translation.’ Curtain Raiser in honour of Lambert Mascarenhas’ 100th birthday. 9-10 September 2014, Institute Menezes Braganza Hall, Panjim, Goa. Pix of Brian Mendonca presenting his views on 10 September 2014 at the venue.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Poem on Teachers' Day 2014

-Brian Mendonca

(on the practice of giving a rose)

What is a flower
without the rain?
What is a petal
without the pain?
What are the colours
without the black?
How perfection
when we are so slack?
A storm, a bud
A reed, a rose
Oh dash it all!
Just give me a pose!
I speak, I sing
I stand, I scold
All I want to do
is mould.
Learning for life
We are all in the game
In school, in college,
Just another name.
So come, live the vision
Your chance to be true
A flower means perfection
and so must you!
Read by the poet at programme for Teachers' Day at Carmel College, Goa on 6 September 2014; Pix taken by Dr. (Sr.) M Aradhana A.C.

Mirror Work

-Brian Mendonça

Among the myriad ethnic styles of clothing and furnishings some of the most fascinating are those with mirror work. Gujarat and Rajasthan are particularly outstanding in this respect. Intricate mirror work from these states on bedspreads and garments for ladies will greet you at any haat or outlet for selling traditional hand-made linen and apparel.

The mirror is a reflection of our self. It invites us to think of who we are. Of course, this train of thought has been mined excessively by writers and poets – and psychologists. Academicians do not lag far behind. In my college days I hung around at a seminar held by the Department of Spanish titled, El Espejo y la Mirada or ‘The Mirror and the Gaze’ – a retrospective of Spanish film directors showcasing Almodóvar and his ilk.

The use of a mirror when driving or riding cannot be overstated. In those precious micro-seconds you take your eyes off the road in front of you, to gaze in the mirror for traffic behind, you flirt with death. For, given the chaotic conditions of driving today a cow may choose just that moment to cross your path, or a vehicle cut in from the byway ahead.

Recently I found myself driving to Panjim to participate in the annual poetry reading organized at Institute Menezes Braganza, on the eve of Independence Day. It was early evening on a Thursday after a late lunch at Agassaim. The traffic ahead, as I beheld the Bambolim slope, was unusually heavy, being a long weekend – and frenetic. As I was passing Mi Casa, Shiridao I heard a sickening crash and the splintering of glass followed by a thud. I was stunned. The rear view mirror on my right had been smashed by an oncoming vehicle bearing down at great speed. Shards of glass filled the car, but I was unharmed. The brown scapular of Mary, Queen of Carmel was still tied to my steering wheel. Rather than get into a hostile situation I chose to press on to Panjim where I read my poetry, though somewhat shaken.

In a four-wheeler you need to look not at one mirror but three, sometimes four.  In an ever-changing, dynamic situation you need all these ‘friends’ to guide you on. Of course, like friends, they sometimes ditch you. Experienced drivers are familiar with the ‘blind spot’ which is now a general term to mean anything (usually hostile) which is very close to you but you cannot (or refuse to) see it. While driving this is an area which none of the mirrors covers and is usually present when a vehicle is overtaking on any side. With the penchant of drivers to overtake on the wrong side, i.e. on the left, it is critical to be able to, sometimes, drive safely sans mirrors.

Mirrors are part of our lives. We owe our lives to them. Vaibhav at the car service centre put it succinctly, ‘Mirror sambalyar gaddi samaita.’ [‘If you protect the mirror, you protect the car.’]

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa, on Sunday 7 September 2014; Pix of embroidered bag with mirror work, courtesy:  dollsofindia(dot)com

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Photo Finish

A recent report in the newspaper put a new spin to the idiom ‘photo finish.’ Rather than being notable for being used metaphorically, this word drew attention simply for its literal (actual) meaning!

‘Tourist drowns off Aguada’ sang the papers. The report was about not one but three tourists who drowned. Two had fallen into the sea after taking in the picturesque views and one had tipped off the rocks at Baga-Arpora. What were they doing? Taking pictures. Clicking photos they ended their lives. Photo finish.

All these lads were young. Jitendra and Rajat were both 23 years of age and Sunil was 42.  They were posing on slippery rocks when they lost their balance and fell into the water to be carried away by strong currents into the foaming sea. Perhaps they had also had a whisky ‘on the rocks’ prior to their misadventure. It served to become an epitaph for their lives.

I’ve seen youth dangle themselves precariously out of running trains simply to take a selfie. This needless endangering of one’s life is quite silly. The misplaced bravado of tourists who flock to Goa suggests they think they are rendered immortal for the period of their sojourn.

I have often wondered about taking photos. I was a great camera aficionado but after mum passed on, I simply lost interest. I felt the photos were traitors as they were now too painful to look at.  All the photos (with negatives) of my travels across India lie bereft in the cardboard box under the bed. A nifty digital Canon 4x zoom brought new meaning into my life birthing furtive attempts to capture my 2 year old for posterity.  (But catch me prancing on the rocks for that!) The transition from negatives to digital was not without travail. Agonizing over making the investment, I pestered the man at the camera shop whether it would be a good idea to shift to digital. He looked at me and said, ‘Think of a cycle and a motorbike. That’s the difference.’ I needed no further persuasion!

When a person’s life is finished the photo used for the funeral announcement is often of a far younger version of the deceased. Some are even in their wedding outfits.  Of course their loved ones want them to be remembered at their most lovable, but is it honest? Many are well past their prime when they kick the bucket but the snaps are joyous in the bloom of youth. Great grandfather Raymond Gabriel Alvares (1928-2014) beams at you from the cherubic face of  a 30-year-old in his death announcement in a recent local daily on 5 August. Shouldn’t we give thanks that he lived all of 86 years – rather than mislead the public that he was taken away early?!  The nearest of Mai Luiza (1932-2014) preferred to give her photo as the loving grandma she was when she died on 3 August.

When you are finished what would you want your photo to be?
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 24 August 2014. Pix courtesy F. a Tanin. 19 August is World Photography Day.