Friday, 26 September 2014

Mapusa Memories

-Brian Mendonca

Uncle Edwin
goes 'tap' 'tap' on his typewriter
in the porch by the door
as the road lurches downwards.
El Capitan is no more,
replaced by a shopping mall
as hotel Taj Mahal and
hotel Villena confer in mid-street.
Eyed by Tadeus, fortified by Bertsy's
-where I had my first rum with madcap Zeno.
Cafe Xavier disappoints,
with its jazzed-up interiors
Smells of amotik, tamarind, and red chillies
Peddem's cajus, ponos and ambo
Hanuman Soda still holds its own
though the nose of the blue Mercedes
is missing.


Uncle Edwin: the poet's mother's brother who used to stay in the ancestral house at Gauncavaddo, Mapusa; El Capitan:  along with Alankar were the 2 cinema houses the poet used to frequent in his college days in the 1980's in Mapusa; amotik: typical Goan fish dish, hot and sour with chilli and tamarind; Blue Mercedes: the blue college bus of St. Xavier's College, Mapusa; Poem published in Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (New Delhi, 2006)

Zeno and the Moving Arrow

-Brian Mendonça

When I first came across Zeno in college I was struck by his name. Zeno. Wasn't it the name of a Greek philosopher? And how could one have the temerity to call himself the same name? In the hostel, I grew to like Zeno -- after admittedly, keeping a safe distance in the initial months.

For, Zeno was full of life. He was always smiling. Looking at him, sticking around him, you couldn't help but sense that a joke was on its way.  Even if you did not understand his wisecracks, he would deliver them and guffaw loudly, often thumping you on the back. He was an easy-going personality, never harried by time. He was not an exceptional table-tennis player but when we played in the hostel on rainy days you realized midway that winning was not the point – it was the fun of playing the game.

The game ended last month when, as his elder brother Ricardo put it, ‘Zeno did not open his eyes this morning.’  Beside the family grave he said, ‘I like to think Zeno was carried away to heaven.’ He spoke of how he was amazed at how many friends Zeno had all over the world. ‘The phone is still ringing.’

Zeno was full of savoir faire. It was this confidence that he instilled in you which made me try my first rum and coke with him at Bertsy’s the newly opened joint in Mapusa in the 1980’s. That impish grin on his face just wouldn’t go away. He gave you that feeling of expansiveness that no one else did. He had all the time for you. It was a moment frozen in time --  commemorated in my poem ‘Mapusa Memories’ in 2004.

Zeno of Elea believed a flying arrow was not really flying, simply because the entire period of its motion was made up of only instants which contain an arrow at rest. Thus time was not some long continuum but a series of ‘now’ moments each with its own momentousness or significance. Zeno lived in the 5th century B.C. in the time of Socrates and was born around 490 B.C.

The flying arrow -- like Achilles and the tortoise, and the grain of millet -- is one of Zeno’s paradoxes of life.  Zeno (both) always questioned the ‘obvious’ and put a new spin on things.

So when the press of people for the first Friday Mass at the magnificent church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Navelim, became too much at Communion time, I stepped out and let the breezes caress my face. And I wept, for the rum we were supposed to have again, for the words we were to share again. 

The day of the Month’s Mind Mass was also Teachers’ Day. Zeno taught me so many things in his own informal way. He pointed you in directions you could not dream off. He set the arrow in motion.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez. Goa on Sunday 21 September 2014; Pix courtesy Mark Figueiredo.                                 

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.