Protect me from oil, water, insects and from loose binding. Above all, protect me, Lord, from falling into the hands of a fool.” Sometime in the 16th century, a scribe humorously put this down after inscribing a full-length epic in parched sheets of palm leaves. And now, this plea of this anonymous scribe is finally getting heard.
Manuscript preservation is suddenly being looked upon with renewed interest. They are tumbling down from dusty shelves in homes of collectors and temples, as surveyors under the government-backed National Mission for Manuscripts scour the countryside.
Since February 2003, around 1,200 men and women have been touring across the country to create a national database of surviving manuscripts, some so old that the written words sometimes ”crumble to dust” to touch.
Goa, in my mind, is particularly rich on this front. And, we’re losing it pretty fast. We have/had a lot of records. In part because of Goa’s early encounter with the West. And because the Portuguese (like other Europeans) were careful record-keepers who recognised the long-term value of this.
On Sunday evening, I got a call from Mrs Libia Lobo-Sardesai, who drew my attention to this very article. Over cups of tea at Cafe Prakash, or Riza’s favourite bhaji (when we ran into VM at Cafe Tato), Mrs Lobo-Sardesai and me have often discussed this issue, in particular the fact that she has the
records of broadcasts of the clandestine “Voz de Liberdade” radio station, run from the jungles outside Castle Rock in the run-up to the end of Portuguese rule in Goa… and she is keen to somehow get these documented for posterity.
For a complex set of reasons (which include a lack of suitable persons, and the mismatch between demand and supply of skills in Goa!), she just cannot find the right person to render these (Roman-script Konkani) documents into digitised form. For those who might not know, she is the widow of the late ambassador to Angola, Vaman Sardesai (also editor at Goa Today for awhile). The late Mr Sardesai and she ran the radio station, a chapter which is largely forgotten in today’s history.
Her number in Goa is 0832.2224996 … if you have any idea of how this
could be worked out!