Patagonia, where’s that?


Frederick Noronha takes a look at the growing number of memoirs by Goans, a compiliation of editorials, and a book on the monsoons. This weekly column on books in Goa also focuses on a photocopied, self-published model, and looks at a book that unravels what goes into creating a book!

Biblophile-friend Dr Nandkumar Kamat reminded me about the upcoming release of a new book ‘From Goa to Patagonia’ slated for August 24, 2007 at 4.15 pm at the Kala Academy’s meeting hall. This not only sent me scurring to my cluttered email in-box, but it also saw me go off in a hurry to the Wikipedia to understand what this was all about.


This was how that amazing online encyclopedia, the Wikipedia (, explained it: “Patagonia is the southernmost portion of South America. Mostly located in Argentina and partly in Chile, it comprises the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateaux and low plains to the east. The name Patagonia comes from the word patagon used by Magellan to describe the native people who his expedition thought to be giants. It is now believed the Patagons were actually Tehuelches and Aonikenk with an average height of 1.80 m compared to the 1.55 average for Spaniards of the time.”

This book is by Alfredo Bachmann de Mello, the Uruguay-based Goan-bon son of renowned doctor-scientist Dr. Froilano de Mello and his Swiss wife. Some years back, I ran into Alfredo “Fred” via cyberspace, and we had many an interesting exchange till (I think) we disagreed in our perspectives and lost touch. He had then also drawn my attention to a book he published, explaining who the ‘real Columbus’ was. (Frankly, history not being one of my favourite subjects, I found that text a bit too complex to adequately follow.  That book of his is called “El Verdadero Colón” in Spanish, and in English it’s “The Real Colon: Columbus is a misnomer”.)

Head of the Lisbon-based Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias history department Dr Teotonio R de Souza, while welcome the growing number of Goan memoirs and autobiographies, gives a preview of the book’s content. He also refers to De Mello’s father’s possibly misunderstood role in representing colonial Goa in Lisbon.

Of the book, de Souza writes: “Despite some unpleasant memories, Alfredo de Mello does not display any hangover of colonial past. He revealed very early in life his conviction that all empires had their end! This understanding of history and his joie de vivre pervade his memoirs, giving them a seriousness and without making them dull.

“In between some colourful descriptions of his deft control of a pony galloping downhill at Matheran while still a child; a confrontation which ended badly for a cobra in his home compound at Altinho in Panjim; a rub of the ring of the Archbishop-Patriarch that left him with bleeding nose; and his first experience of the pleasures of Eden with a young British eve while a boarder at Bishop Cotton’s in Bangalore, there is much we can learn about social life in the capital city of Goa as well as about the wild-life in rural Goa of those years.”


On his sixtieth birthday, Rajan Narayan’s wife Tara compiled some 60 editorials he wrote over the years. These are from his Stray Thoughts series, and go back right to the 1980s.  This column incidentally featured in the Herald for some two decades each Sunday, before shifting to a two-page spread in his ‘Goan Observer’ tabloid, started in 2003.

Some read strangely familiar. These are all related to events
that happened in Goa, or Narayan’s interpretation of them.

Stray Thoughts, as his readers know, is a gossipy mix of comment, interpretation, misinterpretation and typos. It also gives a different perspective on Goa, and is also usually bold in saying what the other sections of the press wouldn’t dare to.

This is a very personalised story of a changing Goa. It includes the travails of finding medicine on a Sunday. MGP politics of the 1980s. A dog-shaped tabletop mascot being stolen from the editor’s office. His ire at a non-Catholic not being able to become the god-father of a Catholic child. A complaint that Mario Miranda wasn’t taking him (the editor) on a “guided tour of Loutolim”. And much, much more.

’60 Stray Thoughts 1983-2007′ is a 400-page book, reasonably priced at Rs 200, and published by the Rajan Narayan Felicitation Committee of La Campala Colony. It’s available in major bookshops here, including Broadway’s. Whether one is a fan of Narayan’s writing or not, it’s an interesting read.

It’s not just trivia though. There’s a mix of tongue-in-cheek writing, ire directed at politicians, and a record of events in Goa from a particularly Rajanesque point of view.

Builder and chairman of the Rajan Narayan Felicitation Committee 2007, Anil Counto has this to write: “Rajan, though a non-Goan (“bhailo”, as he is called) has always fought throughout his life for social issues concerning Goans.”

Well, that’s a different debate. But this is an interesting book.


Physical oceanographer turned meteorologist Dr M J Varkey of the Goa-based NIO has authored and self-published his ‘Science of the Asian Monsoon’ (pp 162, Rs 150, May 2007). What’s interesting is that some 5000 copies of this book have been published.

It offers an introduction to the monsoons, looks at the Goa case, and then shifts to themes like monsoon clouds and mosoon rains and monsoon disturbances (cyclones and floods).

Did you know that the Asian monsoon covers 23 million sq. km. of land, or that almost all Asian countries can be included in the core Asian monsoon sector? And check this: Panjim gets about 277 cms rain each year. But near the foothills of Goa, it rains over 400 cms per year!

Don’t get intimidated by the diagrams this book contains; it has a lot of useful information too.


My one-time classmate Savio Herman D’Souza from Porvorim comes out with these interesting booklets, mainly focussed on comunidade issues. One he handed over to me is ‘The Charter of Demands of The Gaunkars of Goa’ (April 2007,

I’m not sure about the soundness of the attempt by the comunidade campaigners to compare gaunkars with the aboriginals of Australia. But these publications throw up interesting issues and concerns. Of course, comunidades need to be democratised and made more gender-sensitive. But their shortcoming is clearly no excuse for them to become victims of landgrabbers in a political or other garb.

Check out these books, actually booklets, or contact New Age Society, 1140 Maina Socorro, Porvorim phone 2416573.


Recently, I picked up a copy of Michael Oke’s “Writing Your Life Story” from Broadway’s at Sant Inez. This title (Jaico, Rs 150, 2006) explains “how to record and present your memories for friends and families to enjoy”.

It offers tips on how to plan your project, and get working on it; how to deploy writing techniques; and even the reasons for writing your life story. As the biographer-author says very encouragingly, “If you can write a letter, you really can write a book.” You might think this is an exaggeration; but after seeing the writing process for long, one can’t feel that it’s largely a confidence trick.

Why not check it out if you have your doubts?

Feedback welcome:, 2409490 or 9970157402

XCHR’s OLDEST BOOKS   ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Xavier Centre of Historical Research, the Alto Porvorim Jesuit-run institution headed by Dr Délio Mendonca sj, recently put together for the GOMANTAK TIMES this list of some of the oldest books available at their library.

Says the XCHR: “All books are in good condition. The Library is open from 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. On Saturdays, the library closes at 1 p.m.

Miranda, Jacintho Caetano Barrteo, Quadros históricos de Goa, Margao, Typographia do Ultramar, 1863-1865, vols.3. (Portuguese).

Gracias, J. A. Ismael, Apontamentos para a história da representação provincial no Esatdo da India, Nova Goa, Imprensa Nacional, 1891, 49p. (Portuguese)

Gracias, J. A. Ismael, Agulha fixa da invenção de Jeronymo Osóri da Fonseca no século XVII, Nova Goa, Imprensa Nacional, 1882, 135p. (Portuguese)

Gunjikar, Ramchandra Bhikaji, Sarasvati Mandala, or A Descripation of the Maratha Brahmans, Bombay, Nirnyasagar, 1884, 172p. (Marathi)

Xavier, Felippe Nery, Collecço de bandos, e outras differentes providencias que servem de leis regulamentares para o governo economica e judicial das provincias denominads das Novas Conquistas, Panjim, Imprensa Nacional, 1840-50, vols.2, 600p. (Portuguese)

Danaita, Yashavant Fondaba Naika & Wagle, Ramchandra Govinda, The history of Goa, ancient & modern, Bombay, Asiatic Printing Press, 1873, 111p. (Marathi)

Gomes, F.L., A liberdade da terra e a economia rural da India Portugueza, Lisboa, Typographia Universal, 1862, 102p.. (Portuguese)

Xavier, Felippe Nery, Defensa dos diretios das gaõcarias, e gaõcares, dos seus privilegios, contra a proposta de sua dissolucao, e diviso das sus terras, offerecide ao ex. Governo geral do Estado da India, Nova Goa, Imprensa Nacional, 1856, xvi, 104p. (Portuguese)

Pinto, Christovam, Politica Colonial Internacional Estados Unidos da India, Lisboa, Antiga Casa Bertrand Jose Bastos, 1898, 284p. (Portuguese)

Costa, Antonio Anastasio Bruto da, Goa sob a dominação portugeza, 2nd ed., Margao Typographia do Ultramar, 1897, 305p.. (Portuguese)

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