Friday, December 19, 2008

Where are Goans headed?

Where are Goans headed?
Directionless at the mukhar crossroads

By Cecil Pinto

Sossegado is a word that non-Goans will never truly comprehend or
appreciate. Simlarly there is a Konkani word 'mukhar', used largely in
South Goa, the nuances of which North Goans have difficulty in fully

Let me explain. My wife Beatrice runs a Goa-only flower delivery
service and I help out in confirming e-mail orders, and occasionally
even delivering flowers myself on busy days. Our clients are mostly
overseas Goans who are an eclectic lot as far as giving directions are

Some of them are totally advanced and send a Google Map image which
makes locating an address so very easy. Some give a postal address
which isn't always a great help because other than the postman nobody
really knows House Numbers. Many people in Goa don't know their own
house numbers.

But the classic Goan direction is Ask Anyone. "Ask anyone for Filsu's
house". Let's pause and analyse the situation. Here I am in my
delivery van in Almeida Vaddo, Parra, looking out for the elusive
'anyone'. I pass a bus-stop where a few people are standing. All
migrant labourers. No point even pausing. I spot a young man walking
at the side of the road. He's not from the area, and yes, doesn't
speak Konkani or English. I stop at a bar where the barman directs me
to the local provision store which seems the right place to ask. I
learn there are three Filsu's in the vaddo of which two have sons in
Dubai. Ok, at least that narrows things down a bit. The point I am
trying to make is not everybody has heard of you or your family
members. Learn to accept that!

And by chance if Filsu's family is not on talking terms with the next
door neighbors then we've had it. The neighbours will steadfastly
refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Filsu, although every
instinct tells me that it is the house next door.

Of course us Goans being the way we are, after my departure there will
be a discussion at the bar whether or not it is true that Filsu's
eldest son migrated to Canada after selling off communidade property
illegally, and also whether or not it is true that the other Filsu's
youngest son has a Fillipino girlfriend.
"Martha Teacher's son-in-law told me".

Then there's the problem of vaddos within vaddos (and not waddas as
the non-Goans pronounce it). There's a Grande Coimavaddo and a Pequin
Coimavaddo in Aldona which are also called Sokoilo and Voilo
Coimavaddo respectively. With loaded words like this - loosely
transalated as big, small, upper and lower - there's bound to be
inter-vaddo rivalry and hence lack of proper directions.
Both these vaddos incidentally are saturated with Lobos and common
enough names like Anthony, Francis, Thomas and Mary. Try finding
Thomas Lobo, Coimavaddo, Aldona. "Ask anyone for Martha Teacher's

Near the … is another common address. Near the School, Near the
Church, Near the Market. I am standing here 'near' Holy Cross School
There are three clumps of six to seven houses each and one apartment
building, all equidistant from the school. Where do I begin? And a
kilometer back I had passed a large Government balwadi school. Was
that the one? Whatever happened to opposite, behind, in front of,
south of etc.

Of course some courteous clients do give phone numbers so that we can
call and ask for directions. This is a nominal advantage though.

"Hello ma'am, I'm calling on behalf of EXPRESSIONS. We have a flower
delivery for you. Can you give me directions to your house in Arpora?"


"Hanv Konkani uloum?"

"Naka! I am understanding English! You come straight…"

"Ma'am, don't you want to know where I am? Currently I am at the
Calangute Market T-junction."

"You come straight."

"Ma'am. I am facing a signboard saying Anand Restaurant, Meals is
Ready. If I come straight I will bang the board. I presume you mean I
should turn left."

"Yes. You come straight to Arpora Church and then ask anyone for…"
Of course we eventually find the place but a lot of petrol and phone
calls would have been saved with specific directions. And if you think
this is a Goan/Indian thing, think again. Foreigners particularly
can't differentiate between a Church and a Chapel. "Turn right at the
Sangloda Church", "But ma'am Sangolda does not have a church.", "Of
course it does!" And for sure they can't distinguish between a banyan
tree and a peepul tree. So much for landmarks.

The situation gets compounded when asking for directions in South Goa
where we have to deal with the omni-present, omni-directional 'mukhar'.

Basically speaking 'mukhar' means in front of, facing, or forward. But
depending on the context, and accompanying facial expression and
gestures, it could be construed as well - almost anywhere.

A prime example is in a public bus. A Salcete 'cleander' will tell the
standing passengers "Mukhar ye" and "Mukhar voch" (depending on the
hand indication only, will you understand which way to move in the
passage) while in North Goa the 'cleander' will say "Fudddem ye" or
"Fatim voch".

In North Goa we have specific words in Konkani for in front of,
before, under, over, after, behind, opposite, this side, that side etc
etc. Fuddlean, fatlean, samkara, ikdem, tikdem, ponnack, voilean.
Ask a South Goan for directions, "Hello! Where is St. Thomas Church?"
He will wave in the general direction of Constantinople and say
'Mukhar asa". Ask him, "And where is Baretto Garage?" He will reply
"Churchi mukhar" which when translated could variously mean - near the
Church, or behind the Church, or in the Church, or in the general
vicinity of the Church, or in the same Parish or in the same Taluka!
To add to all this we now have a large influx of non-Goans and
foreigners residing here. Imagine the consequences for direction
seekers. "Near the Kekdevelim Chapel ask anyone for the tall white
woman with the short Kashmiri husband and then go straight past the
peepul tree to the Keralite's STD booth from where you can phone

We Goans truly need some direction.

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 25th September 2008.

I heart Aparanta

I heart Aparanta
Been there, bought the Goan T-shirt

By Cecil Pinto

Once again I met up with my entrepreneur friend Michael D'Costa who
insisted that I accompany him to his workshop and warehouse in Moira.
The signboard said - APARANTA T-SHIRTS. The slogan below read 'For
Goans, with love'

"You see Cecil I looked around and saw only two types of T-shirts.
One is the type sold to tourists, which basically says 'I love Goa'.
The other has the name of some sports team or maybe something cryptic
like 'Just do it' or 'Kerosene' or…

"Michael, surely you mean 'Diesel'?

"Whatever, my point being that why should we Goans be doing free
advertising for some alien brand or even celebrating somebody like Che
Guevara? We have our own Goan heroes and slogans and art and folklore.
Why don't we celebrate ourselves?"

By this time we were inside Michael's gigantic warehouse which had row
after row of racks with folded t-shirts. Through a glass partition we
could see the workshop where uniformed women were busy manually screen
printing T-shirts. Beyond that were closeted cubicles with lots of
energetic smart people huddled around computer screens.

"Basically", explained Michael, "all orders are received online
through our website. Our Chintop Department creates images and slogans
for our T-shirts."

"Wow! You have the silhouette of the Abbe Faria statue on these T-shirts!"

"Yes. That's our very popular Hip-No-Tic range, with kaleidoscopic
backgrounds. In the Amcho Munis range we have caricatures of T B
Cunha, Jack Sequeira, Bandodkar, Kosambi, Loyola, Gaitonde, De Mello

"Don't you have any contemporary politicians featured on T-shirts?"

"Come Cecil, we celebrate greatness – not greed. But we do have a 'On
what grounds?' slogan printed on a backdrop of the Fatorda Stadium
with a church on a hill in the background."

Walking down another well stocked passage Micheal gestures, "Our
extensive Kala Sutra range of T-shirts has works by, and line drawing
of, Mario Miranda, Fonseca, Souza, Pai, Theodore Mesquita, Kambli,
Qureozito & Liesl, Rajan, Nirupa, Sonia, Chaitali, Morajkar, Antonio,
Usapkar, Yolanda, Subodh, Harshada, Viraj, Alexyz… just everyone who
matters in Goan art – even Vivek Menezes."

"In the Konn-Temporary range we have living legends like Mashelkar,
Oscar Rebello, Isabel Vas, Nandakumar, Tomazinho, Teotonio, Percival,

"Who is this spectacled guy with a large beard checking his mail on a
Blackberry while riding his motorcycle?

"That's Frederick Noronha, the Che Guevara of the Goan Internet
generation. Speaking of which we have cryptic bi-lingual slogans for
the younger generation."


"Like take this one, 'Voir Tujem!' which translates as 'Up yours!'.
Only Goans get it. We also have 'Ton munshya, kitem ek jodd dekhavo!'
which is 'Hay man, what a heavy scene!' Here's the latest one, 'Tond
Pustok Fator!'"


"Facebook rocks! Ha! Our E-Sport range celebrates Goans like Leander
Paes, Ivana Furtado, Brahmanand, Bruno etc. For some reason the
T-shirt with Climax Lawrence's name printed bold is very popular among

"Give me two, small size, of Ivana for my sons. Hope she inspires them
to greatness."

"And for you, Cecil? We have the Boroi-Now range featuring caricatures
of Maria Aurora, Margaret, Damodar Mauzo, Lambert, Uday Bhembre,
Victor Rangel, Pundalik Naik, Peter Nazareth…"

"Naaah! Those people write literature. I identify with entertainers.
Don't you have a tiatrists range?"

"Of course we do!", says Michael as he leads me down yet another
passage. "In fact one of our t-shirts has 'Hanv Goenkar' in the front
and 'Tu Konn?' at the back and is popular for all the wrong reasons.
It was actually from our Ti-Artiste range that celebrated popular
tiartists and tiatr lore. Another popular one had Prince Jacob's face
with 'Padre mia!' below it. Here's a selection which just has classic
tiatr posters printed on T-shirts. This particular one 'Cun Head' is
also very popular with foreigners for some reason. Look at this!"

I instantly fell in love with and bought the T-shirt with a line
drawing of Charlie Chaplin with my hero Jacinto Vaz's face
superimposed. Michel tells me that M Boyer, Chris Perry, Lata, Alfred
Rose, August Braganza, Roberto Alvares etc will feature in the
'entertainment' section which is still being developed.

"The T-shirts in this section have slogans that were initially printed
with overseas Goans in mind. Take this one for example. Imagine
walking down a busy street in Toronto with 'Paad Poddom!' on your
t-shirt. Only a fellow Goenkar would understand and acknowledge your
presence. Here we have 'Dukra, mhojea bhava', 'Dukni, mhoje bhoine',
'Kitem poitai, modem?'… We also printed some in Devnagri script hoping
to get some Government grants but nobody is buying those T-shirts."

"The funny thing is now Goans in Goa are buying these same T-shirts to
identify each other from the influx of non-Goans. Isn't it curious
that you will find migrant labourers wearing T-shirts saying 'Babush'
or 'Narvekar', and Goans wear T-shirts saying Dubai and USA?"

"Aha! This is my favorite section where we experiment with culture.
See this T-shirt with 'Kshatriya!' printed bold? It's a top seller.
Even Brahmins buy it. We tried printing 'Brahmin', 'Chardo', 'Kunbi',
'Bahujan Samaj'… nothing sold. But 'Kshatriya!' is flying off the

"Maybe because it has a macho militant feel to it?"

"Maybe. But most of the buyers are young females."

"Speaking of which, do you have sizing problems?"

"Since I am catering primarily to Goans, as an ethnic group, sizes are
pretty standard. Only I notice that the Goan females born and bred
abroad seem to have bigger breasts, or at least bigger bustlines"

"Maybe that is a sign of prosperity? Like a paunch for an Indian man?"

"Maybe. Here's another hit slogan. 'Tu Konnalo?' Top seller among
aristocratic Goans in Salcete. Other best selling slogans are 'I'm a
Bhatkar. This is a very old T-shirt', 'Patrao', 'As seen in tiatr' and
'I'm with ghoyo!'. The most popular back of T-shirt slogan is 'Stop
staring at my Feni!'.

"Speaking of which Micheal, how come you set up base in Moira?"

"Moira inspires me. In addition to the Charles Correa T-shirts we have
quite a few others specially designed for Moidekars by our resident
creative consultant Augusto Pinto. Here check, 'We put the Banana in
Republic', 'Length matters, choose Moira', 'Moidekars have the
biggest…', 'Moidekars don't suffer from insanity, they enjoy it!', and
this classic, 'We don't get mad; we are mad!'

1) The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 9th October 2008.

2) If you wish to share your T-shirt ideas please write in to

Mamma Mia, here I go again

Mamma Mia, here I go again
Politicians, activists and the language of song

By Cecil Pinto

"Bamboos, bamboos, bamboos!", sings Irene at one end of the stage
while at the other end Tomazinho translates into Roman Konkani,
"Maani, maani, maani!". With a crash of cymbals Prince Jacob emerges
from the smoke, mike in hand crooning, "Money, money, money. Must be
funny, in a rich man's world!". I'm hallucinating!

It's the sequence of events that did it. Monday is not my favourite
day of the week but going for the morning show of the movie "Mamma
Mia" did help me forget the hangover. A fun-filled romantic story
interspersed with popular ABBA songs. Sitting next to me was a lively
woman who seemed to know all the lyrics and was belting them out
enthusiastically. If she wasn't already my wife I would have asked her
to marry me!

'Try once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita'

Well just four hours later I find myself in a packed auditorium
awaiting the commencement of a debate on whether Goans have really
become eco-sensitive or whether we are just anti-development. I found
a seat next to Public Relations professional Skitter Faia, who knows
everyone that matters, and everything there is to know about hair

A lovely audience of concerned Goans complemented by a well chosen
panel of intelligent articulate Goans – Prof. Nandakumar, Fr.
Maverick, CM Kamat, Parrikar, Dr. Oscar and another 'undaised' panel
of Nitin Industry Kuncolienkar, Nilesh Builder Salkar, Subodh
Installation Kerkar, Ramesh Anti-Mine Gawas and Patricia Environment

'Where is the spring and the summer
That once was yours and mine?'

The moderator was Sandesh Prabhudesai - as always eloquent,
provocative, fair handed, firm and prudent. While they spent
absolutely ages adjusting the mikes it was but natural that my mind
wandered. To the morning's movie…and back to the present.

ABBA was famous for outlandish glitzy costumes. Nandakumar and Oscar
had on folded long sleeve shirts. Sandesh and Maverick were in ethnic
kurtas, while Parrikar had his trademark short sleeve shirt. Kamat was
looking uncomfortable with long shirt sleeves fully buttoned.

I couldn't see the 'undaised' panel, as they were sitting in the front
row with their back to the audience, but I noticed Nitin was wearing
his patented 1970 polyester styled fine checked suit jacket. Somebody
should give him and our CM, both wearing the same style spectacle
frames, a fashion makeover.

'People everywhere
A sense of expectation hanging in the air…
Voulez-vous (ah-ha)'

The language used in the mega-debate was an eclectic mix of Konkani,
English and propaganda. Sandesh loudly shouted a theatrical
introduction to each segment. This shouting must be a technical thing
to do with checking sound.

Parrikar said Goans have always been eco-sensitive and would make good
diary farmers and security guards. Maverick said locals wanted
participation in governance to improve the quality of their lives, and
not have misleading first-names. Oscar quoted, "The arrogance of the
rich will be met by a low intensity civil war in Turkey", or something
to that effect.

'Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more'

Nandakumar insisted that Government policy has to address the poorest
of the poor who had no e-mail address. Kamat said his Government was
open to consensus as long as it was top to bottom, and not bottom to
top as Oscar insisted.

'Knowing me, knowing you (ah-haa)
It's the best I can do'

In the second round of the debate the undaised panelists joined in.
Nitin claimed that an Agitation Industry has replaced the Agriculture
Industry, which everyone agreed had to be revived. Nilesh showed the
connection between housing and infrastructure, "If there were no
roads, why would we build houses?", or maybe he said that the
Government must provide roads for builders.

'Don't go sharing your devotion
Lay all your love on me'

Ramesh said, "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – or join a student
union and ask for re-evaluation". Patricia said everyone was
rubbishing the garbage problem, as did Subodh, with a Biblical quote,
"Let he who throws plastic in the harvest cast the first stone."

'What about Livingstone?
What about Livingstone?'

Kamat said he threw out SEZ because it was all about land. Despite not
having a copy of the Regional Plan Parrikar said, and everyone
naturally agreed, that we should encourage industries that employed
Goans and froze the non-Goan population. Maverick refuted Subodh's
remark at the Church's involvement by saying that Goan Catholics had
agitated for Ramponkars, Konkani, Statehood and against Du Pont, Meta
Strips, mega–projects and the Konkan Railway.

'Just another town, another train
Nothing lost and nothing gained'

Conflicting statistics were used by all concerned, including an
audience member, to make their point. 800 engineers pass out every
year and 73% of them have to move out of state for jobs as there are
none here. Yet 56% of job vacancies here are filled by non-Goans. 60%
of Goa's rainfall is in Sanguem. Environmental damage from mining was
99% ignored in the discussion.

A suggestion was made that all luxury mega–projects should compulsory
have an affordable housing project side by side. This met with
uproarious agreement from the Goan audience, and will certainly
feature as a populist election promise soon. Speaking of which one
very vocal gentleman from the audience thought he was at a Panchayat
Gram Sabha and kept interrupting with slogans. Fortunately he was

At one point Oscar asked CM Kamat for a public guarantee that he would
step down if Amendment 16 of RPG 21 was misused. Kamat instantly
agreed, "Yes, yes, I will step down!" His body language seemed to
suggest, "What am I doing here defending my corrupt colleagues when I
could make much more money in my building business?" Parrikar's body
language changed in the course of the debate, from merely confident to
commanding and dominative.

'I can't conceal it, don't you see, can't you feel it? Don't you too?
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do'

Watch the telecast at 7 pm on 2nd October. To Prudent Media and
Sandesh I say Thank you for the Music - and the lively debate.

'Darling, our love for Goa's much too strong to die,
We'll find a way to face a new tomorrow.
Hasta Manana till we meet again.
Hasta Manana until then!'

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 2nd October 2008

We shall overcome

We shall overcome
Beyond T-shirts, celebrating real-life heroes

By Cecil Pinto

My friend Michael D'Costa continues showing me around his T-shirt
printing unit. We move from the warehouse section to the Chintop
Department where the creative ideas are generated, and designs drawn
up using sophisticated graphic software.

"After the Moira T-shirts became so popular we decided to have village
and town specific images and slogans. I have hired Alister Miranda and
Joel D'Souza to generate these. Let's see what we have here. 'In
Aldona they do it with chillies!' Hmmm. Rather risqué, Alister. Retain
the chillies but tone it down. What's this? 'Tuzoch Tambdo!' with a
fat chilly in the background. Well done Joel! Try 'Tuzoch Moto' also!
And speed up that foxy series for Saligao. Try and integrate some
watermelon graphics so we can sell it to the Parra people too. 'Thank
God it's Sunkrar!' for Mapusa. Nice! Put a cup measure holding some
baked grams in the background."

"Here's Anil Rodrigues, a man of many talents whose forte is bilingual
wordplay. What do you have for us Anil? 'Paicho Fath!' Brilliant!
Reduce the font size to very small and promote it to be worn under a
suit jacket. Aha! 'Akhano voir!' Cool! And that thumbs up graphic is
just the trick. Use a red, blue and white combination."

"Tell me Michael, how come you have ignored some major artistes in
your entertainment section?"

"Like who?"

"Well Remo and Lorna for example."

"Remo has his own line of branded T-shirts so we decided it would not
be ethical on our part. As for Lorna we have an entire section devoted
to her. Check this out. 'Bebdo', 'Pisso', 'Heaven in Your Eyes?', 'Why
you making fuss?"


"Sorg Tujea Dolleanim and Kiteak Kortai Nokre!"

"Hold on Micheal. Kiteak Kortai Nokre was in the film Bhuyarantlo
Munis and definitely not sung by Lorna!"

"Oops! Anyway Cecil, we've also started this T-Ornato section
celebrating the new generation of Goans who are working for heritage
and environment with a passion. Look here we have Prajal Sakhardande,
Jason Fernandes, Clinton Vaz, Praveen Sabnis, Nirmal Kulkarni, Jolene

"Well done Michael. These young people will keep the Goan flag flying high."

"Well Goa doesn't have a flag but we do have these series of T-shirts
with the Goa State Animal, the gaur, and the State Bird, the ruby
throated yellow bulbul. Unfortunately most Goans don't know that the
State Tree is the asna, or terminalia elliptica, and so T-shirts with
coconut trees are more popular."

"Here's where we experiment with basic background colours and patterns
for our T-shirts. We tried the classic kashti checks in red and white.
Total flop. As was this striped brown material we named 'bebinca'.
This yellow and black celebrating Goa's unique motorcycle pilots sells
well, as does the indigo blue associated with whitewash borders. Goan
red mud is also popular as a background colour. Surprisingly when we
printed 'Tambdi Matti' on them they did not sell. Wonder why?"

"Micheal, I'm Louvta Jomnir Hasun."


"I'm Rolling on the Floor with Laughter. But let it be…"

"This commercial section translates popular slogans of famous brands.
Fortunato Pinto from Aldona heads this section. For example here we
have the swoosh logo and 'Beshtemch kor!'"

"Ok - Just do it! Let me see how many more I can identify. It's too
easy with the logo. Just read out each slogan to me."

"Dubav koslo naka, Haig zai mhaka"

"Don't be vague, ask for Haig?"

"Burkacho pippirmit!"

"The mint with the hole?"

"Borench pois ailaim, Bai!"

"You've Come a Long Way, Baby?"

"Shezariachem dukh, dhonyachem sukh'

"Neighbour's envy, owner's pride?"

"Bhuk laglya?"

"Hungry kya?"

"Aiz khuim vochia?"

"No I can't get that."

"Where do you want to go today? It's Microsoft's slogan."

"Oh! The old one."

"This piece here is targeted at the non-Goan settled in Goa who can
laugh at himself. It has 'Voilo' and 'Sokoilo' printed with one arrow
pointing up and another pointing down. Then here we have 'Fuloi!
Fuloi!', 'Sheboy!' etc. Just generic exclamations and..."

"Hold on Micheal. My phone is ringing. It's my wife, Beatrice. Hello?
Yes darling. Here, in Moira. Michael's showing me his T-shirt designs.
What am I doing regarding the attack on Aires and Prajal? What you
want me to do? We went for the candle light vigil in Taleigao no?
Isn't that enough? Sure! I will go for any meetings and morchas that
are organised. What more can I do? But? What you mean I'm not a man?
Sure I agree that Prajal and Aires are very brave men. Darpok? Did you
just call me a darpok? You watch it Bitu! Enough is enough. So? What
you want me to do? Make a noise? How? Ok! Ok! I will send out SMS
when I get home, and e-mails too. Now what? Write about it in my
column? Tell people to come at 4 p.m. at Azad Maidan for the 'We
Shall Overcome!' rally organised by concerned NGOs on 16th. Ok! I will
do just that. What? Show Aires and Prajal they are not alone. Sure!
Their pain was not in vain? Sure! They have our support? Sure! We are
not afraid. Sure! Anything else? Bring friends? Sure! Families?
Children? Are you sure Beatrice? Sure we will take our children, but
some people might not want to. Heroes? Sure Aires and Prajal are true
heroes. So? Mmmm? Yes, you have a point. True. Yes! We have to show
our children that we celebrate our heroes. That we stand by our
heroes. Yes indeed. Our children should know who are heroes, and who
are the cowards, and who are the crooks. Sure! What? Tell Michael to
what? Hold on I will ask him. Michael…"

"Hold on Cecil, I'm on the phone with my wife. Yes.Yes, dear. I
understand. What?! You want me to close my workshop half-day and tell
my employees to go to Panjim today for the rally? Are you out of your
mind sweetie? You know how much money I will lose in half a day's
production? Miser? Me? You are calling me a miser? Bamto? What? Take
the kids for the rally? Why on earth? Heroes? Sure, but they got
tuitions and music classes no? I know they won't die without one day
of tuitions and music but… Sure honey! Aha! Now that's a good
incentive. Oooohhh!! Yes, just the way I like it. Tonight? Oooh! I'm
excited already. Done! We're all going for the rally today! We shall
overcuuuuuuuuum! We shall overcuuuuuuuuuum!"

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 16th October 2008

Name dropping for beginners

Name dropping for beginners
In accepting this non-award I would like to mention…

By Cecil Pinto

This week marks three years of writing this column. Of course I did
take a three month break earlier this year, but then who's really
bothered. There was no drop in circulation, nor letters to the editor
insisting I come back. Bah! As I pass this milestone with no award,
or raise, in sight I might as well use this opportunity to introduce
you, dear dedicated readers, to my team.

"Team?", you ask. "What team? I thought you wrote this column alone."
Fat chance! Google, Wikipaedia and can give you only that
amount of information. When you need specialized knowledge and
insightful opinions on call, specially when you don't have access to
the Net, you need to cultivate a team. That's exactly what I've done.
Here they are in no particular order.

Frankie Alvares, Aldona - "Remember in school we ate ice-cruts? What
did we call the white milky ones which were more expensive?" Isabel
Vas, Dona Paula - "Who said, 'I may not agree with you but will defend
your right to speak…' or something like that?" Apurva Kulkarni, Vasco
- "You know this illustration of an old woman's face which can also be
seen as a young woman looking away – who drew it?" Eric D'Souza,
Aldona, "How much was a Maruti 800 priced at when it was first
launched in the 1980s?"

Jose Lourenco, Margao, "Give me two more names of Goans of the caliber
of DD Kossambi and Charles Correa." Alisha Colaco, Dona Paula, "Is it
considered bad form to drop a 'friend' you have never met from
Facebook because she keeps inviting you to join weird groups?" Vinayak
Naik, Taleigao - "How many women MLAs has Goa had?" Alito Sequeira,
Dona Paula - "Would it be incorrect to say that what is happening at
Gram Sabhas is a sign of civil society breaking up?" Edwin D'Souza,
Aldona - "Other than Solan No.1 were there any IMFL single malt
whiskeys in the 1980s?"

Fatima Gracias, Altinho - "What was there before in the place where
the Mermaid Garden now is?" Joel D'Souza, Assagao - "What would be the
Konkani equivalent of village-idiot?" Alex Braganza, Panjim - "Did
Symphony and Sky ever jam up for a show?" Wendell Rodricks, Colvale -
"If colour from a new garment runs into another garment in the washing
machine, how come it doesn't run away from that other garment too?"
Alister Miranda, Siolim - "When was the Boat Festival re-introduced in
Siolim, and by who?"

Prajal Sankhwalkar, Caranzalem - "Were there Portuguese torture houses
in Sanquelim?" Gordon Lobo, Aldona - "What was Inspector Bahadur's
dogs name in the Indrajal Comics?" Agnelo De Sa, Panjim - "Are there
USB hubs available with their own power supply inbuilt?" Augusto
Pinto, Moira - "Into how many languages have Manoharrai Sardessai's
poems been translated?" Miguel Braganza, "Which tree most closely
resembles the banyan tree, and what is its exact botanical name?"
Edson Dias, Panjim - "Do you know anyone personally who makes a living
from Google AdWords only?"

Frederick Noronha, Saligao - "Is there a reason why there are so many
non-Goan editors for local English dailies?" Sachin Chatte, Porvorim -
"Is Gabbar Singh's father's name mentioned in Sholay?" Tony DeSa,
Moira - "Are there any compulsory hours of teaching that a school
principal has to put in?" Victor Rangel Ribeiro, "Does Goa really have
a Symphonic Orchestra, and how does it differ from a normal

Frankie D'Cruz, Borda, "What's the best place in Margao for a mutton
biryani?" Gene Lobo, Aldona - "Any disadvantages in using cloning
software to transfer an operating system?" Vivek Menezes, Miramar -
"Is it true that the Cricket Club of India was co-founded by a Goan?"
John Raj, Aldona - "Does the wind at night blow from sea to land or
vice versa?" Willy Goes, Taleigao, "What is the thumb rule for depth
of field in relation to aperture and focal length?" Tony Fernandes,
Aldona - "What is the life expectancy of an RCC structure?"

Helene Menezes, Saligao - "What specific advantages does a co-ed
schooling system have?" Shelton Afonso, Caranzalem - "Other than Assis
who does lighting for major stage shows?" Skitter Fia, Vasco - "Who
are the major sponsors of the Sunburn Music Festival this year?"
Heston Sequeira, Aldona - "How much would it cost, and does it make
sense, to put in an auto-start system for a 1984 Enfield Bullet?

Rahul Srivastava, Ribandar - "Give me a male North Indian first name
with no caste connotations." Monica Mendes, Aldona - "What sort of
bank employees benefit the most from VRS offers?" Patricia Alvares,
Panjim - "How many kilometers from Amboli to Kholapur?" Sucheta
Potnis, Calangute - "Is it really cheaper to fly from Goa to Singapore
than to Delhi?" Noel D'Cruz, Margao - "Can a Person of Indian Origin
by marriage be the 'local' partner in a company owned by foreigners?"

Saba Sayed, Vasco - "During which years did Subodh Kerkar draw
cartoons regularly?" Sandesh Prabhudesai, Panjim - "What is the
percentage increase in Goa's migrant labour population since 1988?"
Savio Figueiredo, Aldona - "Do the Indian equivalents of Viagra have
the same chemical composition or are they based on ayurvedic

Sylvester D'Souza, Dona Paula - "Can an urban area marked of as
'green' in the ODP be privately owned by an individual – and walled
off?" Tomazinho Cardozo, Candolim - "Was there ever an audience
restricted adult Konkani tiatr?" Nandita de Souza, Porvorim, "Is
Aspergers a subset of Autism or a completely different disability?"

What you mean I'm running out of space. It's my 3rd Anniversary for
heaven's sake. Surely I can go beyond 1000 words? I've not finished
with my on-call team, after which I've got to start on my e-mail
consultants and my friends at Goa Writers and then…

Hello? No? Not even an extra 300 words? What a bloody spoilsport! Ok!
Ok! As they say in cheap speeches 'last but not least' I have to
mention my family. Fortunato Pinto, Aldona - "Daddy, what was the
church seating arrangement like for the Latin mass?" Lira Pinto,
Aldona - "Mummy, since which year have we been subscribing to Reader's

What? Already crossed 1000 words? Ok! Hold on! Beatrice Pinto, Miramar
- "Bitu darling, could you read this through and see who I can

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 6th November 2008

Blood, sweat, tears - and celluloid

Blood, sweat, tears - and celluloid
We are the movies we watched, and how

By Cecil Pinto

'We are what we read' is a phrase often enough bandied around to
ensure that young children read the correct books that will result in
proper character formation. In this day and age, when small kids read
precious little other than their school text books, it would be more
appropriate to say 'We are what we watch' - on television. For a
generation of Goans in Goa, like myself, whose early formative early
years were bereft of TV, it would be more appropriate to say 'We are
the movies we watched'.

Let's run through my movie watching experiences as a child, to
understand why I became such a warped adult.

The earliest memories I have of moving images are of religious movies
screened in the village square in Aldona. I'm not talking about
Biblical classics like 'The Ten Commandments' but rather mediocre
amateurishly made movies about the birth, life, death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ.

Quite frankly despite being a devoutly guilty Catholic as a child I
did find 'Mahabharata' and the Hindu Gods much more colourful and
fascinating. Their many hands, heads, animal-body forms and
supernatural powers were far more enticing than our charismatic, but
pacific, Jesus. Even a spectacular Moses-parting-the-seas couldn't
begin to match the bewilderment caused by Draupadi's never ending
saree, as Krishna made an utter fool of Dushasana.

Someday sociologists will maybe discover that a whole generation was
disillusioned with their religion just because the other side made
better movies. For a country that, every year, probably makes more
movies than the rest of the world combined, this is a study worth

These makeshift open-air auditoriums were also the venue for screening
of the few Konkani movies of that time, 'Nirmon' and 'Amchem
being particularly memorable. One song from 'Nirmon' was particularly
prophetic as a rainshower disrupted the screening at that very moment
the song started, 'Cloudier, cloudier…"

I studied upto Std 3 at the St. Thomas Girl High School, Aldona, which
used to allow boys in the primary section back then. Approximately
once every two months a Hindi movie would be screened in the school
hall. We younger kids had to watch from a couple of large padded mats
thrown on the floor just below the screen. We couldn't quite
understand the plot or the dialogue of the B/W Hindi films but would
cheer when the good guys (mostly led by Rajesh Khanna) beat up the bad
guys (characterized by a swarthy bald mean villain named Shetty), or
when the good guy's dog (usually named Moti) rushed to the rescue of
his master - or his girlfriend.

In between screen fights, to relieve ourselves of the tedium of the
intervening story-romance-songs, we boys would hammer each other up in
imitation of the onscreen fights. The large padded mats were conducive
to exaggerated jumping, falling and dramatic dying. Accompanying
mandatory fight sounds, of 'dishum' for punches and kicks and
"dishtyanv' for gunfight ricochets, had to be muted so as not to come
to the attention of the nun designated to keep watch over us.
Sometimes the abrupt silence of a reel change necessitated a
mid-action abandoning of a fight – especially if the lights were put
on during this break.

Although it was a co-ed situation us ruffian boys were sequestered
from the girls while watching movies, not so much because of the
intriguing possibilities in the dark, but because of our violent

Sir John Shadrak, the Physical Education teacher from the Boys School,
was the only person in the village qualified to run the projector and
handle the complicated and huge celluloid reels. He was much in demand
for these services.

I was the second born of three brothers. My Mom, with us three brats
in tow, and accompanied by assorted neighbours and relatives
occasionally made a Sunday trip to Mapusa to catch an English movie.
The choice was El Capitan, now an office building, and the currently
still existent Cine Alankar. As far as I know at that time theatres in
Goa were either suffixed with a 'Cine' (Cine National, Cine Lata, Cine
Vishant) or with an El (El Dorado, El Monte).

As a kid I have watched, amazed, as the 'Sound of Music' unfolded in
glorious colour. Everybody in the theatre fell in love with Julie
Andrews but my fascination was more for the song of the Lonely
Goatherd as he went 'Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!' We rafted
down the Mississippi River with Huckleberry Finn and Jim the slave.
Tevye the milkman and his delightful family kept us enchanted with
'tradition' in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. And we cheered for the
'Lady and
the Tramp' but mostly for Tramp!

There were two very good movies I distinctly remember seeing around
this time which for some odd reason are not considered classics today
and have virtually disappeared. One was 'The Champ' about an ex boxing
champ, his son and his ex-wife. The champ is making a difficult
comeback to give his boy a better future. At the risk of sounding
clichéd there was not a dry eye in the theatre at the tragic end of
the movie. We kids were sad for the next few days not understanding
why the champ, our hero, had to die.

The other memorable, but now forgotten, movie from my childhood was
'Melody' where the cute young Melody and her 'boyfriend' decide
to get
married immediately, despite being all of ten years old at most. It
was about finding true friendship, I think, but all us young boys just
wanted to marry the absolutely charming Melody!

In 1973 we were on a family holiday in Bangalore when we saw the then
just released and much acclaimed 'Bobby'. Two chubby teenagers from
different income groups pitted against a world that does not quite
understand that true love conquers all. The Rajdoot motorcycle
speeding, and the Goa connection, was what we kids found more

Many years later when I worked for a short while as a tourist guide I
realized that the Goa-Bollywood connection was much stronger than I
thought. There I was, everyday, taking a busload of middle-class
Indian tourists on the popular North-Goa tour. Invariably I would be
pointing out the geographical and historical significance of the name
and the place, at lets say Dona Paula, when some boorish lout would
ask me, "Arre bhai saab, voh sab chod de! Ek Duje ke Liye ka shooting
kahan hua?" I would then be obliged to point out to a random spot on
the jetty and take a photo with his camera, of him and his wife, as
proof to show the people back home. Just as I returned to my well
studied and rehearsed narration of the legend of Dona Paula someone
would interrupt, "Bhai saab, Ram Balram ka shooting kahan hua?"


Speaking of 'Ram Balram' one of my earliest memories of a Bollywood
movie was 'Yaadon ki Baarat' which also had Dharmendra and introduced
us to the concept of brothers separated when young who grow up in
totally disparate circumstances and then re-unite while/after
defeating the bad guys. 'Amar Akbar Anthony' was the penultimate film
of that brothers-reuniting genre. It spoke of Hindu-Muslim-Catholic
unity among trying circumstances and unlikely coincidences, including
miraculous recovery of sight by a blind mother. Keep in mind that I
was the middle of three brothers and so returning from a
brothers-reunited movie would mean not only the traditional
re-enactments of fights at home but also singing of the theme song in
voices. I was automatically relegated to the Akbar position while
Conrad got the much coveted Anthony 'Amitabh' Gonsalves role.

From my earlier childhood though 'Haati mera Saathi' vaguely comes to
mind with Rajesh Khanna, a whole lot of animals, and a possessive
elephant named Ramoo. I also recall 'Seeta aur Geeta' with our Dream
Girl, Hema Malini, acting a double role which was absolutely confusing
to us kids.

Then in 1975 'Sholay' came along and eclipsed everything. Jai, Veeru,
Gabbar, Thakur Baldev, Basanti, Radha… all of these and the dialogues,
songs, relationships, situations and locales got under our skin and
formed a part of our collective consciousness as Indians. We kids
naturally were no different from the adults in being totally awestruck
by the greatest Hindi movie ever made.

Of course these were path breaking times. We saw 'Enter the Dragon'
which starred the legendary Bruce Lee in the first ever mainstream
Hollywood movie about martial arts. All of us young boys, and I
suppose men too of that era, suddenly wanted to learn karate and
become Bruce Lee. We bought books on martial arts and took courses
from absolutely incompetent self-certified instructors. We made
nan-chakus out of bamboo pieces and dog chains. We attempted breaking
bricks, wooden planks and thermacol packaging material with our bare
fists. All this as you can imagine was not entirely injury free –
except for the lightweight thermacol practitioners.

It used to be quite fascinating watching people coming out of a
theatre after watching 'Enter the Dragon'. Every male tried to
cultivate a slightly jaunty Lee-esque style gait, simultaneously alert
and relaxed, and looked around aggressively. A lot of fist fights did
occur outside of theatres due to this testosterone laden atmosphere.

Towards the late Seventies, approaching my teens, I teamed up with my
elder brother Charles to watch movies. Our target used to be Rs. 4/-.
We needed Rs. 2/- each. One rupee each for the to-and-fro bus ticket
to Mapusa. 95 paise each for the Lower Stall tickets. 5 paise each for
the peppermints - pronounced 'pipirmit'. Now naturally the question
arises - Why couldn't I go myself? Well I was a bit of a sissy then
and Charles was two years older than me and much tougher. The Lower
Stall booking counter at Cine Alankar is a cylindrical cemented
structure quite distant from the Upper Stall and Balcony counters. It
is populated by the dregs of society – alcoholics, whores and
toughies. Queuing was unheard of. Booking a ticket involved a mixture
of gymnastic aptitude as well as brute strength - and an ability to
bear dreadful body odours. Charles would manage the actual ticket
buying while I provided cover from backside attacks.

Tickets finally in hand after a lot of bruising, we would then find
seats in the unnumbered Lower Stall section which consisted of two
rows of seats just below the screen. A truly wide-screen experience
that involved a lot of horizontal and vertical neck action if one was
to catch all the movements. It was also the dirtiest filthiest section
of an already soiled theatre that smelled of sweat, urine and rat
droppings. But all was forgotten and forgiven as we watched Clint
Eastwood make our day, blowing away the bad guys with his .44 magnum
in 'Dirty Harry'.

This pain-in-the neck perspective at Cine Alankar is also from where I
saw an interesting science fiction movie named 'Rollerball' about a
violent inter-country sport involving athletic looking men on roller
skates hanging onto high speed motorbikes while chasing a metal ball
in a circular velodrome. This inspired me to bully friends into riding
their cycles on tarred roads while I tagged along on my roller skates.
It was quite hard on the cyclist and I lost a lot of friends - and at
least one pair of roller skates to the potholes on the Aldona-Mapusa
road. Charles and me did experiment with cycling to Mapusa, to save on
the bus fare, but the consequent risk of fatigue and punctures made us
soon abandon this route.

Somewhere in the mid-Seventies a Konkani movie 'Boglant' was released
to a starved Konkani movie audience. It was running at El Capitan and
our whole family went for it, especially because all the songs were
composed by our fellow Aldonkar - the prolific Alfred Rose. There was
a huge crowd outside the theatre and fortunately we had purchased
tickets in advance. I saw a slight commotion and pushed my way through
the crowd to find two well built men viciously beating a scrawny young
boy. One held him by his hair while another had twisted his arm at an
odd angle at the back. He was screaming in pain as they kept on
punching and kicking him. Nobody moved a finger to stop them. Seeing
that I was visibly agitated, and upset at this injustice, my father
called me aside and explained that the young boy had been selling
tickets in the 'black' and had been caught by the police.

I protested that the punishment was far too cruel for what was
basically an act of desperation - and entrepreneurship. Nobody else
seemed to see it that way. I decided two things then and there (1) I
would never sell tickets in the black-market (2) I would never become
a policeman.

In the next mega installment, about how cinema influenced my life,
allow me to walk you through the movies, and movie watching
experiences, of my teenage years and young adulthood. Observe how the
focus gradually shifted from Luke Skywalker's laser light saber in
'Star Wars' to Zeenat Aman's cleavage in 'Qurbani'.

The Two Part column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 20th and
21st November 2008
Feedback welcome at

Anecdotes from a Film Festival

Anecdotes from a Film Festival
Fighting the forces of darkness – with Delegate Cards

By Cecil Pinto

My friend, movie critic Ervell E Menezes, recently wrote that the IFFI
campus should establish itself as "an oasis of movie buffs; a floating
population that eats, drinks, talks and regurgitates films like
zombies and that is, as it should be - 10 days of total film bliss!"
How very true. I unapologetically admit to being one of those zombies,
now recovering from three to four movies a day since the 23rd of November.

Of course some of the movies were brilliant and some absolute turkeys.
But despite everything at nearly midnight on the 2nd of December,
following the screening of the last movie Song of the Sparrows - from
Iran, the mood was despondent. The Film Festival was over and we
zombies would meet again only a year from now for another film feeding

Through the course of my young adulthood I used to go to Margao maybe
just once or twice in a year. While on these rare visits I noticed
that the Margao people seemed more attractive than those of Panjim or
Mapusa, towns I used to frequent. The girls prettier, the women
sexier, the men smarter, the vendors more colourful - what have you.
At one time I had reason to spend two weeks in Margao. At the end of
the two weeks I found the people less fascinating. Was it due to some
unfortunate encounters? Not at all.

I have a theory. Quite simply I feel that when one spends many days in
a particular place the mind unconsciously registers all the faces at
some subliminal level over a period of time. Even the faces of
hundreds of people in passing who you have not actually closely
encountered. They then become familiar faces in your unconscious - and
hence no longer fascinating.

After spending ten days relatively cloistered at a Film Festival, in
and out of dark auditoriums with a floating population of strangers, a
much closer bonding occurs. You are unconsciously part of a sort of
temporary community of a few thousands who share a common love for
movies. You have occupied the same physical spaces. The seat I occupy
on Day 10 has been previously and recently occupied by at least 30 odd
other people over the past few days. All delegates, and hence my
unconscious friends!

The fantastic movie 'Blindness' was in a class apart. The theme about
how unrelated humans, cloistered in a group with a common enemy and
circumstances, rewrite the rules of society is also explored quite
differently in 'Famly Rules'. To an extent all of us 3000 odd
dedicated delegates, the rest are just there to be seen, have gone
through a similar transition.

And when I say odd people and delegates I mean odd.

This one spectacled thirty-something woman was wearing a sleeveless
cotton nightie over blue denim jeans. I kid you not. And these two
decent ladies from Guwahati condemned the group rape scene in
'Blindness' but were ok with the gratuitous and excessive sex in
'Cumbia Connection'.

Speaking of which a story doing the rounds is that a young man had
this relatively harmless fat Swiss multi-blade penknife in his pocket.
Fearing he might be caught at the security check-point he slipped it
into his underpants. The security guard patting him down found a
rather abnormal protuberance in his groin. The young man explained in
Hindi, "I've just come from Cumbia Connection. What did you expect?"
He was let through with a knowing smile.

One elderly Goan Portuguese speaking woman had made 'gussao-ing' in
queues into an art form. She would pick up a conversation with just
anyone standing at the front of the line and manage to shove herself
in the queue without anyone complaining or even noticing. Another
woman, constantly wearing sports sneakers, used to converse loudly on
her mobile, in the silent theatre before the movie started, forcing
all of us to listen to the mundane details of her pedestrian
existence. Fortunately someone complained and the management piped in
sufficiently neutralizing music for subsequent screenings.

Cellphone behavior itself, in theatres, could make for a series of
columns. Some people have the most inappropriate and jarring ring
tones. But those at least can be overlooked if they are shut off fast
enough. It is the indignant 'shut-uppers' who cause even more of a
disturbance. 'PLEASE SHUT OFF THAT BLOODY CELLPHONE", a loud British
accented voice will boom from one end of the auditorium, antagonizing
the whole audience, 96% of who had not even heard the initial ring
tone that attracted that disproportionate response.

And what is it about women, mostly, that they can have an SMS text
conversation throughout a film? Why can't they just walk out the
theatre, go the whole hog and talk to their friend? Agreed SMS texting
is not as irritating as someone who speaks on a cellphone while a
movie is going on. but a bright LCD glowing a few feet away from you
can be quite difficult to ignore in a darkened theatre.

Seating at the Kala Academy is the worst. It is an auditorium designed
for stage performances and not film screenings and hence the gradient
of the rows is much too gradual. Let one tall person in front move his
head slightly and a zig-zag effect extends to four or five rows back.
Of course the Kala Academy's auditorium being so vast, sleepers can
choose unoccupied areas for a snooze. Which I have no problem with,
but what irritates me are the folks who sleep in the seat next to me
and then start snoring.

Why come for a movie if you're going to snore right through it? Go and
sleep somewhere else. Actually I don't have a problem with the light
and rhythmic snorers. The human mind accommodates and can soon filter
away the regular snores. It's the loud and un-rhythmic snorers who
cause irritation. One well endowed woman was always carrying a huge
bag that appeared designed for sleeping. Half way into the movie you
could look in her direction and see that she had used the gigantic bag
as a pillow cum sleeping bag and was fast asleep. Fortunately she did
not snore, but did open her mouth extremely wide when asleep.

Whereas from a movie viewer's point of view the back seats at the Inox
theatre would seem more desirable, half way through the festival
delegates starting avoiding them because of slight odours. Many
theories are doing the rounds to explain this (1) Since these seats
are much in demand they have a higher turnover and hence more human
residual odour is natural (2) These prime seats are reserved for Press
and Special Delegates who can watch more movies than normal delegates.
Naturally they try to use this advantage to see maximum number of
films. The running between theatre to theatre, with no time to freshen
up, causes them and consequentially the seats to smell more (3) Hot
air rises, hence smelly air will naturally move upwards in the
direction of the higher seats.

As expected the only Konkani movie at the festival, Rajendra Talak's
'' was house-full well in advance. Apparently tickets for
the movie had been given to hundreds of non-delegate friends and
relatives of the producers. The queue for the movie at Kala Academy
interestingly was formed on the red carpet instead of snaking in the
direction of the Art Gallery like usual. There were security concerns
as the many silk sarees in contact with the carpet were causing static
electricity sparks.

One delegate, a rather short chap, had this 'kit bag' from which an
astonishing array of items would appear before the movie started. One
small and one big mineral water bottle which both he would plunk into
his and the neighbour's armrest glass holders. Then would emerge his
Film Guide, Film Schedule, pen, anti-acid tablets, mobile, tickets and
what not. Following this started a running discussion over the phone
with his friend about what movies to watch in the next few days.
Fortunately he shuts up when the movie starts, and removes his bottle
from my armrest glass holder when asked.

I of course meet my good friend, movie reviewer Sachin Chatte, every
day for his recommendations on what to watch and what not to.

Then there are the folks who laugh too loud. Which by itself is
tolerable, but rather irritating when the laughter is at the wrong
time or not in keeping with the mood and moment in the film. Maybe
these folks are a subset of the sleepers, and are laughing in their
dreams at some incident which has no connection with the movie the
rest of us are watching.

While we are discussing reactions I must say that sexual content
evokes the most and strongest reactions from both ends of the
spectrum. I was present for the repeat showing of 'Cumbia Connection'
at Kala Academy. More shocking than the blatant sex on the screen,
with accompanying frenzied music, were the reactions from the
audience. While many 'decent' people walked out in disgust, many
others were struck immobile and pretended they didn't see what they
just saw. Many males arrived in groups, slightly drunk, and all in
anticipation of the sex scenes they had heard about. Their loud bawdy
remarks could be quite unnerving to a single female sitting nearby.

On the other hand I wonder if I am being prudish in my criticism of
their remarks. They are after all reacting to what they see on screen.
Some scenes may evoke laughter, some tears and well some, bawdy
remarks! Who is to decide where a line has been crossed in a response?
Are we delegates taking ourselves and the Film Festival too seriously?

There was this delightful pair of sexy European women dressed in tight
fitting semi-opaque sheaths that masqueraded as dresses. From all
externally visible appearance their undergarments had been lost in
transit at the airport. Somebody told me they were lesbians. I think
he labeled them thus because they didn't return his smile!

There are three types of quitters, those who walk out halfway through
a movie, because (1) it does not meet their expectations or (2) they
have foolishly booked their next movie for a time before the current
one ends or (3) because they feel the need for urination as the Air
Conditioning is too cold.

I always do justice to a movie by waiting till the end, however bad it
may be. The only movie I desperately wanted to walk out from was
'Autistic Disco' because it was going nowhere but then I was seated
next to the young German director, who I had previously conversed
with, and it would be rather impolite.

There are also the dumbfounding Film Festival moments that everyone
encounters. You will be discussing with a fellow delegate about how
great a movie was, for example 'Lust Caution', and another delegate
will walk up and make a blatant statement like "Lust Caution sucked
and dragged on forever!" Or a movie you considered an absolute turkey
is the toast of the town. While many people were angry with 'Cumbia
Connection' nobody was angry with Ang Lee! Ha! Just had to get that
horrible pun out of my head!

At the end of the festival though, one feels quite sad. Not just that
the great movies have ended but also that your fellow zombies will go
back to being absolute strangers. The sleepers and snorers, the
queuers and quitters, the talkers and laughers – all of them, the
floating population that made up your community for a while, are gone.
We shall congregate again in a year to fight the forces of darkness –
with light and shadows. And Delegate Passes!

The column above appeared in two parts on 4th and 5th Dec 2008 in Gomantak Times.

Customary first haircuts

Customary first haircuts
Bad hair days like no other

By Cecil Pinto

Many cultures place a lot of significance on a child's first haircut, treating it as a sort of rite of passage. Some Native American Indians commemorate it with a ritualistic song and dance. The Goan Catholic tradition actually is not vastly dissimilar.

A determined young mother, an embarrassed looking father, and the child enter the barber shop where they are subjected to collective frowns from the barbers, all from Andhra Pradesh, and the clients. While awaiting his turn the child will appear perfectly calm, and in fact be quite amused by the multiple reflections in the parallel mirrors and by the mist spraying bottle.

The designated barber, normally the shortest, places a small padded platform on the chair and the child will sit down there and start displaying signs of wariness as a large white cloth is wrapped around his neck.

(1) Only one barber I know, opposite Café Bhonsle in Panjim, has a small independent child chair shaped like a small pony (pronounced 'horsie ghodda'). Why can't more barbers have such chairs? (2) A reasonably tall stool placed in the middle of the room makes much more sense, giving the barber and parents room to maneuver, specially since the child is not interested in watching, his hair being cut, in the mirror and is only interested in escaping (3) Is it unethical to use total anesthesia on a child for his first haircut? (4) Surely there's scope for haircutting shops specially designed for very young children. Is any entrepreneur listening?
The father looks around in advance offering unspoken apologies to the other barbers, clients and even bypassers. After all he has to return here someday while his wife has no such compulsion. The barber approaches and at the first snip of the scissors the child breaks out into a wail that could crack crystal glass at a hundred paces. What follows is an entertaining tableau worthy of Mario Miranda's keen pen.

The father tries to establish authority, rather inadequately, by holding the child's hands down. The mother is trying to keep the child's head steady with a firm grip on his jaw and scalp. She also says, "Don't worry baba. Nothing will happen. Uncle good. Baba good. Mama give chocolate, ok? Baba nice!" and such gibberish. The barber tries to weave in and out between these parents and get a jab at the child while trying to rein in his impulse to cut the shrieking, spitting child's ear off!

At this point some of the other clients waiting their turn, unable to bear the commotion, will discard their outdated and well worn Stardust or Men's Health magazine and go off for a drink to return later. The already seated clients have no escape and have to bear the ordeal as they hear their individual barbers getting nervous. They just pray for a steady hand – for their respective barber. And for a good view through the mirrors at what has now become a spectator sport.

The father has decided that next time around he's going to borrow a small straightjacket to keep the child immobile. The mother by now is alternating between singing lullabies and making threats of 'Budda-man will come!' to try and quiet down the child. The child starts crying even louder because more frightening than the Budda-man is the appearance and disappearance of the short barber as he darts between the bodies of his parents.

All semblance of decorum is now lost. The father and mother both blame each other for the fiasco and will be at loggerheads for days after this incident. The mother is cooing 'Almost finish baba, almost finish!' to the child who can clearly see in the mirror that the
haircut is far from finished. The short barber by now fancies himself a sort of struggling midget matador. He keeps yelping in Telegu and all the other barbers give him advice, which can be quite unnerving for the paranoid Goan father who does not know Telegu and wonders if they are encouraging Shorty to cop a feel from the Mrs., who is well positioned and in such a state of frenzy, for such activity to go unnoticed.

After a lot of weaving, ducking, jabbing, pleading and wailing the job is finally done with baby hair covering all participants. If this isn't a 'song and dance' to rival the Native American Indians then what is?

Considering the strain on the marital harmony that the first haircut causes a lock of hair is sometimes preserved and taken home, not so much as a souvenir but as proof of paternity, through DNA testing, in case the situation leads to a separation.

Following our first such traumatic experience for a few months Beatrice tried to cut Desmond's hair while he was sleeping but even the slightest trim would take many weeks and loads of patience and nocturnal disturbance. When groggy, the sight in a dimly lit bedroom, of one's wife approaching stealthily with a pair of scissors in hand can be misconstrued. Remember John Bobbit?

I came home from work one day to find Beatrice being very coy and extra nice to me. Walking past her I stopped shell shocked to see Desmond's hair resembling a war zone. Under the clumps and patches he was smiling, quite unaware of his appearance. Beatrice explained, while serving me my favourite masala tea with only milk and no water, that she had attempted giving him a proper haircut, not trim, with the kitchen scissors bereft of comb. We rushed him to the local barber who told us disdainfully that there was precious little he could do to salvage the situation and that Desmond would have to go under the 'machine' for a total tonsuring.

Seeing how easily head shaving could be done using the 'machine' I procured a cheap China-made set of electric clippers and a few months later proceeded to experiment on, who else but, Desmond. His hair had grown quite a lot since the last tonsuring and he now more resembled a hedgehog than Humpty Dumpty. I thought with deft use of the smallest blades of the clipper set I could give him a slight trim.

Anything to avoid the trauma of another barber shop visit. Beatrice had gone out shopping. Well I must have got carried away and, to put it politely, the results were lopsided. It was me who had to make masala tea with only milk and sheepishly open the door for Beatrice. Off we trooped again to the barber who, as expected, made some smart remarks in Telegu to his colleagues.

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 11th December 2008.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Park-ing in and around Panjim

Park-ing in and around Panjim

Even innocent people don't want the police comingBy Cecil Pinto Most weekday evenings my paternal duties consist of taking my two young brats for a ride to one of their favourite 'spots', all within a three kilometer radius of our Miramar residence. During this time their mother gets quality time at home to herself to listen to FM radio, catch up on her TV serials, and clean up the apartment. Just to clarify.

The main purpose of Beatrice cleaning up the apartment is so that the maid who comes every morning to clean up does not think we are a totally messy family, which in actuality we are. It is important to create a good impression on maids else (a) they will leave, or worse still, (b) they will tell the neighbours what a messy uncivilized family we are. So every evening around six o'clock I set out on my Yamaha with Fabian perched on the motorcycle tank and Desmond sitting pillion, and talking to me non-stop. His absurd questions, opinions and assumptions would bewilder and appall the most hardened anthropologist. But we will leave those musings for another day.

The closest 'spot' is the riverside near the Sports Authority swimming pools in Campal; a lovely place to watch a spectacular sunset. But more often than not the magic of the moment is shattered by one of those stupid noisy cruise boats passing by, blasting Bollywood music at volumes that would waken the dead. I hear that a big time cruise boat owner damaged his hearing during an
underwater salvage operation. The deafeningly loud volumes are for his benefit.

Another favourite spot is Kala Academy. Usually there's some art or book exhibition to keep me engrossed while the boys enjoy screaming, while mindlessly running up and down the steeply inclined passage to the outdoor auditorium. The lawns are off limit but the mini-outdoor auditorium also provides nice spaces for fun. A

nd of course the picturesque wooden jetty, built before the 2006 IFFI for two crore rupees but never used except for film shoots, also makes for lovely sunset viewing. "Dada why we can't walk on the jetty? Why is this sign saying - NO ENTRY?" "They are afraid that tourists might come here and commit suicide by jumping in the river." "But Dada they can jump from the bridge, or Dona Paula jetty, or the promp, promin…""Promenade. I know Desmond. There are a million places better places in Goa where tourists can jump into the river for a guaranteed death instead of the shallow water here." "So then why Dada? Why do they stop us from walking on the wooden jetty?" "You want to know the truth? Top Secret?" "Yes. Yes!" "You know what are xinnanio? The fried mussels your mama made yesterday?""Yes!" "Well xinnanio attach themselves to rocks and anything solid in the low tide area. They are particularly fond of metal poles like the ones that hold up this jetty. There is a man named Deshprabhu who climbs down the poles every night, harvests the xinnaneo, and shares them with another guy named Rane. Between them they make sure that the jetty is closed to the public so nobody can else can harvest and eat the xinanneo." "I see. Selfish greedy fellows, no Dada?""Yes!" Another 'spot' is the Church of Immaculate Conception. From up there you can have a crow's eye view of Panjim traffic. The boys of course enjoy screaming and mindlessly racing each other up and down the steps. Once the spotlights come on after sundown, one can also make nice huge shadow puppets on the walls of the church.

The Children's Park in Campal used to be a top favourite but now attracts a very ill-mannered touristy crowd. The Joggers' Park at Altinho is uncrowded but has no playground equipment. The once bustling Municipal Garden is in a state of being repaired for so many years now that probably my grandchildren might enjoy it someday. The beachside park in Caranzalem, often referred to as Babush's Park, has a splendid colourful Multi Play installation that incorporates slides, swings, see saws, climbers, spiral scramblers and a whole lot of such stuff that the kids enjoy.

Every evening it's populated by noisy mirthful kids having a grand time. The parents and guardians either walk on the jogging track, send SMS to their friends, screech at their kids to be careful, or do all of the above Regardless of the political and legal controversies surrounding it, Babush's Park is a hot favourite with any kid who has visited it, and a nice place to meet interesting people from all social classes. Carry Odomos for protection.

The other day at this park, seated alone a few meters from me, was this mother of a cute little girl who was throwing sand on my Fabian. I never interfere in kids' fights unless they get really lethal. But the mother was of a different mentality. Keralite I think."Priya, you stowp throwing seind rait now!""Mummee he first kicking for me…!""If you naut stowping rait now police will come!" I grabbed the opportunity to take some proactive steps in salvaging the reputation of our corrupt and inefficient police force from 'outsider' attacks. "Hello!", I said, "It's ok. The kids will resolve their own problems. Why are you giving your impressionable young daughter a negative stereotype of a policeman as an undesirable person? Children then grow up with such negative concepts and are uncooperative with the police. Crimes that could have been kept in check escalate and witnesses don't come forth..." I paused mid-sentence as the look she gave me was of one who has just encountered an alien being from Mars."Priya", she screamed in panic, "chalo beti we goes home!" as she practically ran away from me to grab her daughter and disappear.

So much for trying to change mindsets. Was she being a bad mother? Was this a clash of cultural values? Was I being a bad father for not insisting everyone on the motorbike wear helmets? Is it unethical to complain about noisy cruise boats and allow your kids to scream at Kala Academy? Who does the jetty really belong to? Can you build a permanent structure like a park within 200 meters of the high tide line? How come other families manage to retain maids for so many years? Does anyone really ever want the police to come?

-----The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 27th March 2008 =====

The measure of a man

The measure of a man
Still my 'causo' of Caju Feni overflows

By Cecil Pinto

Extracts from Chapter 12 of the bestselling book, "Elixir of the Gods: The definitive guide to purchasing, storage and consumption of Caju Feni", by Cecil Pinto.

"In the last chapter we saw the difference and relationship between'alcohol by volume', 'alcoholic proof' (using a standard Sykes hydrometer) and the traditional grao used to measure the strength of Caju Feni. Keep in mind also that grao measures strength and not purity or quality. In this chapter we shall look at retail and wholesale volume measures for this fascinating liquid."

"Long before 'What is the Goan Identity?' became the dominant debate in recent years, there was the far more important question that fascinated Goan males since 1622 or thereabouts when Caju Feni was first commercially marketed, 'How many bottles are there in a causo of feni?'.
That query continues to fascinate us and till date has no specific answer. Keep in mind that what is called a causo by North-Goan Catholics is called kollso by a Goan Hindus and causo-u by South Goans - who make good Palm Feni but know diddlysquat about caju."

"Ask this question to any bar man and pat will come the reply, '18 bottles of 750 ml each' but ask an astute barman, like Edwin D'Souza of Bar Manuel in Aldona, and he will reveal that the actual figure is closer to 20 bottles. How it works is that the supplier, normally the kazkar (distiller) himself, carries a standard measure causo that
contains approximately 20 bottles of Caju Feni. The additional two bottles are to compensate for losses in transportation due to spillage, pilferage, tasting etc. Similar to a Baker's Dozen – as branded Caju Feni czar Mac Vaz would certainly say."

"All that is very well. From a commercial viewpoint we need standard measures but this book was written for the non-commercial minded enthusiast. Every Caju Feni drinker worth his half-quarter will have his own personal stock of a few causos, of his very own favourite feni from his trusted kazkar, in his storeroom. Unless of course his wife
is a nagging shrew, in which case he will store his stock at the storeroom of a friendly relative – preferably a non-drinker."

"Now this personal cache is not the standard commercially produced stock that most barmen purchase. This is usually an excellent, and hence expensive, reservoir. But here comes the quandary. Ask most any feni enthusiast, who stocks his own booze at home, how many bottles in a causo and you will get a range of replies, from 15 to 25 bottles!
All of them have the same trusted supplier for many years, and are happy with the quality and the quantity. And, here comes the stunner, all of them are absolutely right in their measure of a causo!"
"How is that possible? – is the question that comes to the mind of any non-feni drinker. The feni drinker himself is not perturbed. Such minor matters do not bother him. He is wiser than the average man and is also at peace with himself and the universe. Even at Rs. 1000/- a causo, and even if he gets only 15 bottles to the causo, he is still paying only Rs. 67/- for a bottle of the Nectar of the Gods, whereas even a regular non-premium whiskey will cost more than Rs. 100/- a bottle, even wholesale, and is nothing short of rot gut. If you see anyone in Goa drinking a whiskey costing less than Rs. 250/- a bottle please understand that (a) he knows nothing about booze and (b) he probably also has a damaged alimentary canal."

"To understand the inconsistency in causo measures let us take a step back and re-visit the earlier photo-enhanced Chapter #5 where Siolkars Alister Miranda and Nilesh Vaigankar (son of late Dina - the legendary kazkar) walked us through the actual Caju Feni making process. Approximately 14 kousuli (totaling approximately 90 litres) of fermented caju neera is poured into the bhann. This bhann (copper, or rarely earthen) which contains the liquid to be heated has a pretty standard size. Vapours get distilled in either a coil process or in an earthen pipe and container process, depending on which we get either standard Caju Feni or 'launecho caju' which is the Holy Grail for any Caju Feni enthusiast - and is almost impossible to source nowadays.
Please excuse my foaming (feno!) at the mouth when I speak of launecho caju."

"Now, as explained earlier the first distillation gets us a light urrack. Re-distillation of this with more neera gives us cazulo, and re-distillation again gives us Caju Feni. The grao for these three are 12, 18 and 22 approximately whereas the volumes of each are in inverse proportion – i.e. one bhann will produce 24, 18 and 15 bottles approximately of Urrack, Cazulo and Caju respectively. Viola!"

"Therefore a non-commercial causo is not an exact measure of volume but rather, say this loudly and memorise it, 'that amount which is distilled from one full bhann'. Depending on the grao of the resulting distillate the volume will vary. All other factors being equal lesser the volume of liquid in the causo, stronger the grao."

"Keep in mind though the factors that decide this grao. Besides the material used for the bhann a crucial component is the nature of the fire used to heat the liquid neera into vapour. It has to be a low wooden fire kept at a particular consistency throughout till the ubb (shimmering) appears. The fire is then totally extinguished and re-lit
to get a particular grao. Making the fire stronger will hasten the process but also lessen the grao - and hence increase the causo volume measure."

"In the next chapter we will move from measures of quantity and discuss factors effecting quality - such as ripeness of cashew apples, juice extracting process etc. but before we get there let's look at popular retail consumption measures. Conventional wisdom tells us that a half-quarter should be 90 ml, or one and a half peg, but in
actuality this is not so. Hark back to the days when Caju Feni was served in a coconut shell or cotti. Over a period of time…"

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 10th April 2008.


Three little pigs

Three little pigs
Contemporary Goan Fairy Tales

By Cecil Pinto

Once upon a time there lived on a farm a widow pig named Solloga, who
technically was a sow but was in a ward reserved for women and hence
fancied herself a pig. Solloga had three piglets named Dukullo, Dukona
and Barranv.

Dukullo, the youngest, liked to play in the mud and listen to Konkani
pop songs on FM radio. Throughout the day you could see him pigging
out in the mud with his headphones on, while simultaneously forwarding
witty SMS to his friends.

Dukona, the sister pig, was quite the hog and could eat and drink any
and every thing – and did. She was into Bollywood movies and music and
often heard voices in her head. Every evening as she drunkenly
approached the poured swill she could hear it singing to her, "Main
hoon donn, main hoon donn!"

"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!", on the other hand was Barranv's refrain. He was
the shrewdest little pig. When not taking matka bets Barranv was busy
devising Multi Level Marketing scams and also sending pigs to the Gulf
– without telling them that no pork is allowed there.

Solloga tried to bring up her three little pigs to be ethical. "Build
good character. Build strong houses", was her constant refrain. But
they just ignored her. In her own words it was like, "Throwing pearls
to swine!". "Stop being such a boar Mom", the three little pigs would
say to her.

One day while returning from the market Solloga said to her piglets.
"You have grown up and are now too big for our little house. It's
beginning to resemble a pigsty. Who's going to build their own houses
now?" The three pigs were happy to leave and shouted "We, we, we!",
all the way home.

As could be expected Dukullo built himself a mud house but did not
follow the sound technical expertise given by Eng. Jose Lourenco from
Velim. Dukona built herself a house of cabbages, with a cowdung floor,
and got it registered as an NGO for Garbage Management and made quite
a decent living on the subsidies and was in fact able to afford a huge
liquid plasma screen to watch Bollywood Song and Dance Competitions
all day.

Barranv forged papers and bribed a talathi to show he was a tenant, on
Form I and XIV, of a derelict 'Portuguese style' house, whose owners
were abroad for many generations and as could be expected were
clueless. He then indulged in 'acts of ownership' like painting the
house and doing up the compound wall. When nobody objected Barranv
just occupied the house and signed an affidavit saying he was in
possession of the house for many years. He then proceeded to refurbish
the old house.

In the backyard of the house Barranv built some of those horribly
pretentious un-Goan cottages, with exposed laterite walls and domed
RCC roofs, and sold them to retired Brits for huge sums through
taxi-driver-cum-brokers. Barranv did not laugh all the way to the
piggy bank, but rather invested his excess funds in real estate – and
not Mutual Funds.

One day a hungry jackal named Kolo, who loved to eat Goan sausages,
decided to taste pork directly. His theme song was "I'm too foxy for
my wolf!" Kolo chanced upon Dukullo's mud house and shouted, "Little
pig, little pig, let me come in." To which Dukullo answered, "No, no!
Not by the hair of my chiny chin chin." Kolo rightly figured Dukollo
hadn't heard right as his headphones were still on. So he bellowed,
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in." And he
did. The house collapsed and Dukullo went limping for protection to
his sister and her cabbage house.

Kolo approached Dukona's house and asked to be let in. "No, no! Not by
the hair of my chiny chin chin", said the obese and drunk Dukona. Kolo
discarded his normal response and shouted, "Use Fair & Lovely for
heaven's sake. It will bleach your facial hair and improve your skin
pigmentation!" Dukona didn't get the pun and shouted out, "How come
you're not offering to blow me and my house?" Since the TV was on full
blast Kolo didn't hear that and just blew the house down. Drunken
Dukona carried Dukullo piggyback as they ran to take refuge in
Barranv's huge estate.

When Kolo approached Barranv's residence the security guard, at what
was by now a gated complex, asked him to fill up a form - which
stumped Kolo as he was illiterate. But Barranv, who was just returning
in his Mercedes from some meetings at the Secretariat, welcomed Kolo
into his house. He appointed Kolo as his liaison agent for Government
offices and then proceeded to combine all three pigs properties and
start work on building and marketing a huge residential/holiday
complex with 60 bungalows and 220 luxury apartments (with swimming
pool, gymnasium, security, lifetime maintenance and rent-back
facilities) named 'Dukorville'.

When some neighbours protested the hill-cutting and other
environmentally destructive actions he convinced them by giving them
jobs as supervisors, pool attendants and security guards. They were
happy. The others he offered a fat brokerage and commissions, to get
him buyers for his properties. They were happy. The few who still
continued to protest he ignored as by now he had bribed the local
panch, the sarpanch and the local MLA to ensure inaction.

Continuing in this pig-headed manner he purchased prime property from
the corrupt and inept village Communidade and started work on Three
Pigs Resort which was marketed as a resort solely for foreigners and
other non-Goan pigs.

When we last caught up with them… Dukona had had 34 cosmetic surgeries
but was still unattractive – and a drunk. Dukullo was producing
Konkani pop-song VCDs. Kolo had finally stopped fantasizing about
eating Dukona, or any pig for that matter, and stuck to chouris-panv
and sorpatel. He had his eye on the Chairmanship of a Government
Corporation. Barranv was financing the re-election attempts of six

Konkani proverb: Dukran kedna kondd sodunk na.
(While some pigs just wallow, others succeed by being shallow).

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 17th April 2008.


A linguistic approach to un-Goans

A linguistic approach to un-Goans
New nomenclature to reflect modern migratory patterns

By Cecil Pinto

Dr. Oscar Rebello's bombastic statements during the NDTV, We The People, episode have drawn much flack. The TV feature examining the issues surrounding the ghastly Scarlett Keeling death, often veered of into the non-Goan v/s Goan debate that is an inevitable part of any conversation in or about Goa.

"Hello Sachin? Let's meet up in Panjim for an omlette panv."

"Sure Cecil. Near Cine National?"

"Why not walk along the promenade and enjoy the Mandovi river?"

"Are you crazy? The stink is unbearable. All these labourers crap at
the riverside. Bloody non-Goans!"

"But Sachin…"

"And do you know that along the riverfront, right from Ribandar through Panjim and Miramar to Dona Paula there's not a single cart selling omlette-panv? You can get varieties of bhel puri, chaat, panv bhaji, gola, paani puris, ragda pattis and what have you - but not a single Goan omlette-panv. Bloody non-Goans!"

"But Sachin I'm not quite sure that omlette-panv is uniquely Goan."

"And Cecil how can you have a pleasant walk along the riverfront with those bloody tourist cruise boats blasting Bollywood music so loud?
Bloody non-Goans!"

"But Sachin the boat owners and operators are all Goans."


Anyway first let's clarify exactly what Oscar said on TV. I had watched the original episode but can't remember his exact words. So let me do what any sincere self-respecting investigative journalist would do under such circumstances - put words in other people's mouths. Just kidding. I read a recent article by Oscar, clarifying his
views on the non-Goan issue, and just worked from there backwards to deduce what he originally said on TV. For those of you in the Dark Ages, Dr. Oscar Rebello heads the Goa Bachao Abhiyan which generated a mass movement that exposed a dastardly Regional Plan that was poised
to totally destroy Goa. Or something like that. Let me clarify that, like most Goans, I have no reason to doubt Oscar's sincerity or integrity.

Barkha: "And the Oscar goes to Mike. Oops! The mike goes to Oscar!"

Oscar: "I will fight with the very last drop of my blood. We will save Goa with sweat, blood, tears and flamboyant sound bites. We will fight them on the roads and on the hills. And if they are widening the roads and cutting the hills for a project we will fight them in the new cement drains!"

Barkha: "Actually Oscar we were talking about the Scarlett death."

Oscar: "Exactly what I was saying. We are poised at the death of democracy which is etched in the deepest interval of my pulmonary aorta. There are no non-Goans. My aunt is not a Goan but..."

Barkha: "So there are Goan aunties and aunty-Goans?"

Oscar: "And the green eyed monster killed my great grandmother who came from blue blooded Portuguese stock without any…"

Barkha: "Without what? Bina kya?"

Oscar: "Without any Goan blood! As Goan as a lamani."

Barkha: "Bina Ramani!"

Oscar: "Whatever. Take Rajan Narayan…"

Barkha: "No sorry! You take Rajan, we don't want him!"

Oscar: "We are not like crabs in a basket."

Barkha: "More like fish in a tin?"

Oscar: "Sort of…"

Barkha: "So Sudeep Chakravarti is a Goan?"

Oscar: "Hanh?"

Which raises many interesting questions. Who is a Goan? Whose aunty is a Goan? Who is anti-Goan? Is Oscar qualified to confer Goanity on anyone? What is Goanity? Is it transferable? Is it encashable? Does it get one discounts at supermarkets? Are we mixing ethnicity with residence and loyalty? Is Loyal-T a cool name for a chain of branded chai shops that also serve omlette-panv? Most importantly, did any of
these non ethnic Goans ask to be referred to as Goans?

This I think is the crucial question. I have a few non-Goan friends who have lived here for many years but have never asked to be labeled as Goans. Why should they? If I lived for thirty years in Maharashtra would I want to be called a Maharashtrian? No way! I will always be a proud Goan and detest being labeled anything else! So what makes us think that the Maharashtrians and the Bongs and the Sindhis are waiting to be labeled Goans? Aren't they proud of their own culture?
Of course they are. They stick to their language and culture and lifestyle and aren't in any hurry to imbibe ours. They are not Goans.
If you want to be polite call them 'un-Goan', but for Goa's sake don't ever call them Goan.

On the other hand I see Oscar's reason for being inclusive. There are so many non-Goans who have done so much for Goa that we need to recognize and appreciate it and Goanise them to some extent – if they so desire of course. Perhaps a new nomenclature to reflect changing times and migratory patterns?

My suggestion is that we use the prefix of the state of origin and stick on a 'goan-esque' suffix to get a new description of ethnicity-residence. That will give us Karnagoans, Tamigoans, Uttar Pragoans, Bihagoans, Maharagoans - and of course Bengalis resident here become Bongoans! There isn't much of a problem coining these new words.

The problem arises when native Goans living overseas have to coin words that reflect their ethnicity-residence. Gonadians (Canada), Gomericans (USA), Goatish/Goats (UK), Gortuguese (Portugal), Guwaitis (Kuwait), Gostralians (Down Under), Gongladeshis (Bangladesh), Gormans (Germany), Gosraelis (Holy Land), Gopalese (Nepal), Gokistanis
(Pakistan) and Goruvians (Peru) are pretty straightforward. But are there really Goans in Peru? Where is Peru anyway?

Respected historian and linguist Teotonio D'Souza has been approached to head the committee to decide the exact rules of how these new words are to be coined. For example a Goan in Sri Lanka should be known as a Goalankan or a Goleynese? Goans in China are Goanese or Goenchins? Or is that a restaurant in Panjim? Goans in Burma are Goarmese or Gonyanmarites? Are Goans in Denmark Gonish, and Goans in Saudi Arabia

Once all that is in place we can attack the next problem - people of other nationalities permanently resident in Goa. We have to put in place a nomenclature for the Brits, Germans, Israelis, Russians, Portuguese, Tibetans and others living here. We will do it using linguistics. The tongue can reach where the sword cannot.

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 24th April 2008.


Grave matters: Done to death

Grave matters: Done to death
A guide to dealing with more than just grief

By Cecil Pinto

Recently the father of a friend of mine expired. My wife Beatrice and I dropped in for a pre-funeral condolence visit. The situation in the house was quite hectic with people dropping in to condole and to help.
We said the obligatory prayer near the corpse resting in the coffin in the hall. Next step is to wish close relatives. I was looking around for my friends' mother.

Beatrice, who does not know the family well, quite by instinct, went up to a woman sobbing bitterly near the coffin and hugged and sat next to her sympathetically with an air of extreme empathy, as would be expected. I on the other hand was, within the confines of the sober environment, trying to signal to Beatrice to come away immediately.
The woman she was mistaking for my friend's mother was actually a distant neighbour, Filsu Aunty, whose grief stricken countenance was a permanent feature and had nothing to do with the immediate death. It was an embarrassing moment for Beatrice as awareness dawned - but knowing neighbours and relatives did not snigger and just kept a straight face. This was a common occurrence.

Some three years back John D'Silva in one of his tiatrs, I forget the name, had this brilliant comedy skit. The local village newsmonger enters a house and announces to the housewife that so-and-so has died and hands over to her what appears to be an invitation in an envelope. On being questioned as to its contents he explains that all details of the death and funeral were there in the printed announcement. It was
like a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on a website, and had all the answers. How did he die? What time? Where? Who was with him?
What date and time is the funeral? Will the elder son from Kuwait be coming? And the daughter from Toronto? Will there be a bus from his native village? Etc etc.

At that time I thought to myself that it was nice idea and would soon be the done thing at Goan deaths. It has not yet happened but I am sure it eventually will, what with everyone now having computers and printers. In fact there are so many innovations that can be undertaken to make the whole death-funeral process a bit more organised and
'professional' as it were.

For example, similar to weddings we could have 'family flowers' that identify close family members so nobody makes embarrassing mistakes, like Beatrice did, by wishing someone not even distantly connected to the deceased. Miniature artificial wreaths maybe that family members could pin up on their clothing? We could take a step further with little name tags that not only identify the person but also establish his relationship with the deceased. Eg: "Fatima Lobo: Wife's eldest sister" or "Brandon Gonsalves: Son of second daughter Kathryn".

At any funeral you will see mourners siding up to one close neighbour, who with an air of authority will tell you all you wanted to know about the deceased and those present.

"Who is that woman with the short dark blue skirt with a slit?"

"That's Kathryn the second daughter. She's a divorcee and works in Mumbai."

"And that old man with the suit. He doesn't look Goan."

"That's Mr. Nayak, who used to be the manager at the bank where he worked."

"And why is the eldest daughter and her family keeping in the background?"

"Ever since she joined the Believers the family has sort of written her off and…"

Most of these semi-truths would be clarified with the advent of printed Death FAQs, Family Flowers and Name Tags.

Also how come nobody has a Handy Goan Death Guide similar to the half-dozen Goan Wedding Guides currently available? These guides have detailed chapters on how to prepare for your wedding, how to organize the reception and also a directory of wedding related service providers.

How does this sound? "Aiz Mhaka Falea Tuka" from Here Today Gone Tomorrow Enterprises. A handy guide for Goan Catholics on Announcement & Arrangements related to death (with a sub-section for Goan Hindus – "Urn While You Burn"). I hope some enterprising publishers and undertakers are reading this column.

Suggested chapters: Registering the Death, Catering without Celebrating, Newspaper Advertisement Conventions, Riding the Obituary Wave, Illustrated Coffin Layouts for Standard Living Rooms, Seating Protocol, Wishing Protocol, Transportation, D-Day Checklist, Lowering Standards for Graves, Post Funeral Conventions and Non-Alcoholic Alternatives etc.

A Customization Section could offer suggestions of themes, colours, music, flowers etc for a personalized effect.

Trivia sections could deal with mundane matters like the ethics of what can be put in the coffin to keep with the deceased wishes, Is there a protocol of priority for coffin pallbearers? Who carries Offertory items to the altar? Who delivers the eulogy?

Pros and cons could be presented by Subject Experts: Cremation v/s Burial, Formalin or Morgue, Why waste a good suit and shoes? Is it right to deny condolence visits? Requesting mourners to give donation to a favourite charity instead of bringing/sending floral tributes, Organ donation issues etc.

Post-funeral procedures could advice on whether it is really necessary to thank all doctors, priests and minor politicians by name in the Acknowledgement Advertisement. Procedures surrounding the Month's Mind Mass, Annual Anniversary Mass and Niche Marketing. Illustrated suggestions for designs on the marble slab covering the niche could also be one section - with a choice of lettering, typefaces, photo borders etc.

How does one reconcile the bank accounts, insurance policies, loans and email addresses of the deceased in the absence of a will? Is pre-payment for one's own funeral acceptable?

I'm not very familiar with Goan Hindu procedures regarding death but I'm sure there is a lot to be discussed regarding Scattering of Ashes, 12th Day Procedures, Eldest Son's Obligations, To Shave or Not, etc, etc.

Keep in mind that a man, or woman, in today's comparative and competitive world is remembered not only by how he lived his life, but also by the quantum and quality of mourners at his funeral.

Here is an example of how uninformed Goans are about matters regarding death.
In a recent instance an undertaker approached the family of the deceased and asked them, "Would you like a package?" They looked at each other nonplussed and then one member told him, "Actually we would prefer a coffin!"

The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 1st May 2008.

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