What happens when you really like to read… but life conspires simply not to allow you to? You just live to regret it, and make much of it in public… like through this note. Anyway, I just confessed to myself that it has been years before I completed reading any single book cover to cover … and most of one’s reading has been magazine-related, tonnes of screen-based stuff or just flitting across pages that catch one’s interest. A colleague just thinks this is a problem wtih “you techies… missing out so much in life”!
So one was not terribly surprised to realise that I had quite missed earlier
noticing Derek O’Brien’s *The Mumbai Factfile* (Penguin ISBN 0-14-302947-9
Rs 250 pp 309, 2003) though it has been on the stands for two or three
For those not knowing him, O’Brien is being called “Asia’s best-known knowledge game show host” who started his career as a journalist. (So, there’s actually life after journalism, eh!) Like all high-quality quizzers in this part of the world, he lives in Kolkatta. Which makes us ask the question: what must we be doing to build up expertise in various fields that Goa *can* excel in? Other than being so hyper-efficient in simply indugling in infighting, that is?
This book is said to contain “over 1200 detailed factoids” and “a comprehensive and fascinating one-stop guide to everything that makes the city of dreams what it is”. City of dreams? Maybe it was… in the ‘sixties. Now, politics (and it’s no point blaming the “terrorists” alone) has conspired to make this a city of blasts, riots, floods, and intracine Shiv Sena clashes within that intolerant parivar (heard yesterday’s news from Dadar and Shivaji Park?)
O’Brien’s book covers a range of topics. “From history and heritage to food and nightlife, from business and commerce, communities, religions and customs to landmarks and local specialities, from Bollywood, cricket and theatre to dabbawalas, BEST and Parsis….”
One of O’Brien’s two assistants has this very Goan-sounding (could be wrong) name of Fiona Fernandez. Apart from that, Goa peppers the book. VM de Malar and me just can’t agree whether Goans have been “edited out” of their cultural contribution to Bombay (and Mumbai), or if it’s just a fate we deserve … for getting so complacent with our early achievements there. Anyway….
Some quick links to Goa:
* In the 18th century, the famous Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre ruled the seas between Mumbai and Goa. The Kennery Island off Mumbai’s coast was his stronghold. Angre and his successors built a strong naval force that spelt terror for the Siddis, Dutch, Portuguese and later the English between the waters of Mumbai and Goa for nearly fifty years. His father Tukaji served under Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Kanhoji carried his legacy of developing a powerful navy to keep these foreign forces at bay from 1698 to 1729. (page 3)
[Wikipedia identifies Angre [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanhoji_Angre] as a privateer [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privateers] and notes that his opponents called him a pirate. History is amazing: A privateer was a private ship (or its captain) authorized by a country’s government to attack and seize cargo from another country’s ships. So one man’s pirate is another flag’s privateer … or vice versa!]
* The early Roman Catholic converts from Bassein, Salsette, Daman and Goa settled in an area called Cavel in Girgaum, south-central Mumai. They were converted by the early Portuguese settlers. Cavel still has the highest Roman Catholic concentration within the city. (p 34)
* One of the oldest coastal communities typically found in Mumbai are the Konkanis. They are settlers from Ratnagiri, Sawantwadi and Goa in the Konkani region. They are settlers from Ratnagiri, Sawantwadi and Goa in the Konkan region. Some also live along the Karnataka and Kerala coast. Their history dates back to the Maratha rule in the 15th century, though sometimes it can be traced back to the movement of these tribes (sic!) to the region of present-day Goa in the 11th century. They speak a variation of the Marathi language that is written in the Devanagari script, first used in 1675. (So, Mr O’Brien, can we expect some controversy about language and script?) (p 37)
* The Gaud Saraswat Brahmins arrived in Mumbai from Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. These GSBs, as they are popularly called, belong to a regional caste of Brahmins. Their ancestors were said to have lived to the north of the Vindhyas and they gradually moved southwards into Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and the rest of India. There are five subdivisions within this caste. They usually speak the Konkani language. (p 40)
Other entries cover Goa Portuguesa (not the pre-1961 state, but the restaurant which “stocks meat and masalas from the markets of Mapusa and Margao. Four of Goa’s leading cooks — Ram Gaokar from the Mandovi’s Rio Rico, Salu Fernandes from the Taj’s Holiday Village, Shanker from Nova Goa and Piedad Gomes from Purvorim’s [sic] O’Coqueira — are in charge….”) page 80.)
There’s also another on Roce (the pre-wedding ceremony for East Indians and Goan Christians) on page 65 and Cavel or Matharpakady in Mazagaon.
“Cavel was formerly occupied by Koli fisherfolk who were converted to Christianity by the Portuguese. It is a corruption of the Portuguese word for chapel after the Cavel church called the Nossa Senhora de Saude (Our Lady of Health) was built as part of the family chapel in 1794. Besides, it could also be a Portuguese rendering of Kolwar, a Koli hamlet. Its native name is Gaowadi, from the the beef shops that once lined this area or from the cows, that once grazed in the locality. (p 93)
For obvious reasons — and their early involved with Bombay/Mumbai’s history — there are as many as nine references to the Portuguese, one to Franciscans, two to missionaries and one to the Portuguese language in Mumbai (the Barretto Charity School in Cavel and De Souza School at Gloria Church in Byculla were the “first centres of Portuguese education”).
The Jesuits once owned most of the northern parts of the island (Mahim, Worli, Dadar, Sewri, Byculla and Parel), Garcia da Orta and his 16th century Manor House jutting out into the Arabian Sea near present-day Colaba, and more… Hey, if you’re wondering what else is there… just buy the book. You may take this as an advert for it, but I’m just tired of typing in all this and need to get down to work.