Goa, The Army, and migration

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cover-bashonregardlessThis book comes from a prominent retired Armyman, “one of our Army’s foremost battlefield commanders”, and a soldier with his roots in Goa. It was for the last reason that I chose to borrow this book from the Central Library, when one happened to chance upon it.

We’re told on the back cover: “Lieutenant General W.A.G. Pinto’s experiences as a wartime divisional commander during the 1971 Indo-Pak war form the pivot of these memoirs….” Pune-based Pinto served the Indian Army during the not-so-peaceful times of 1943 to 1982, and retired as the General Officer Commanding in Chief, Central Command.

As one could expect, the story is often told in military (or militaristic) terms: “thrust into Pakistani terrotiry… the epic Battle of Basantar… decimated the opposition… knocked out one infantry and one armoured brigade…” (p. vii)

If you’re wondering where the title of the book comes from, we’re told early on, in the foreword itself, that Indian soldiers entering “captured Pakistani territory” were faced by “eye-catching signboards”. One said: “You are entering Pakistan. No passports required. Bash on Regardless.” Another read: “Pak Mines Only. Bash On Regardless.”

At the start of the book, Pinto talks about his Goan connect. His father was from the Gustavo Pinto branch of the Pintos of Santa Cruz, Goa. Like all Goan migration stories, Walter Anthony Gustavo’s sister was born in Pakistan, he had another brother (Major General Sydney Alexander) in the Army, and the loss of property back home forms a crucial part of the narrative.

He writes: “In the distant past, one of my early ancestors was a Hindu of the Nayak caste or class. All the property from Campal, Santa Inez, Mira Mir, Gaspar Dias, Caranzalem, Donna (sic) Paula, Vanganim, Taleigaon, Santa Cruz, Bambolim was all his, a mighty fortune and also a misfortune. What happened to it all and how did it happen?”

Pinto says says a receipt for Rs 20 shows his father sold his share of the Vanganim property to his brother. “The starred Hotel Cidade-de-Goa on the high ground overlooking the beautiful lagoon is now located on the property,” he writes.

It is tougher to believe that “the land on which the old Goa Medical College stands today was donated by one of my grand or great-grand parents”. (Didn’t the government simply acquire land of the politically uninfluential for such purposes?) But more amusing is the story his father’s lease of his share of the property called Mira Mar, where the estuary of the Mandovi River meets the Arabian Sea, “to a Portuguese gentleman, who put up a hotel called Hotel Mira Mar”. Continue reading “Goa, The Army, and migration”