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.