Tears of Salt


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adas2Salt has been an important produce of coastal Goa for centuries, and has been exported from here to countries in Africa and the rest of Asia. But today, the traditional salt sector lies decimated and threatened by extinction, says a new book on the subject.

“Goa once was a hub of salt making. Salt was the currency that allowed Goans to import essential commodities. Today, the very same occupation lies derelict, its spine truly broken by a century and more of official polices, governmental apathy, low social status…,” says a book authored by Benaulim-based sociologist Dr. Reyna Sequeira.

Sequeira, who did her Ph.D. on the salt making communities of Goa and is an associate professor at Quepem, says in the book that traditional occupations must be remembered “not as a tapestry in a museum merely to be viewed, but as a living part of our society”.

Her field work, spread over a couple of decades involving both her Masters and doctorate on this often ignored subject, looks at salt makers in three villagers scattered across diverse pockets of coastal Goa — Agarvaddo (Pernem), Batim (Tisvadi) and Arpora (Bardez).

Besides focussing on the salt making communities, she highlights the “geography, history and politics” of salt in Goa. In the first two, one gets a hint of how the area of salt extraction has shrunk particularly over recent decades, but also since the late nineteenth century and the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty. Continue reading “Tears of Salt”

Ore, and more


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By Frederick Noronha

cover-anarchitectofmoderngoaIt’s always fascinating to read about the movers and shakers in any society. More so when these stories come from the otherwise little-discussed world of business. Not only do these narratives give an insight into the lives and times of the people that were, but they give deeper hints into how society works, what makes it tick.

Here we have the story of a doyen of Goan business, Vishwasrao Chowgule. In tiny Goa, along with other big names like the Dempos, Salgaocars, the Chowgules, the Menezeses, the Timblos (and a handful of others) have shaped the world of business. And, one could say, in some cases, even politics, economics, news, and education.

This book was first published nearly a generation ago, around 1975. But those were times when reviews of new titles hardly happened — probably less than even now. So, the recent second edition of this title is an excuse to look at it once over again.

Amidst Mario Miranda’s typical drawings — even the dusty port of Mormugao looks scenic when seen this way — we get an image of Goa that was, and how it was “built” up. Between a plethora of figures, and facts, an interesting picture emerges.

We see colonial Goa growing on iron-ore, in times when the world was itself recovering from the ravages of World War II. Strangely enough, it was the losers of the war — the Japanese and the Italians, through Sesa then — that depended more on Goan ore to reconstruct.

Interesting tidbits emerge from the many stories included in this compiled volune. Did you know, for instance, that the first Japanese ore-carrier ‘Shozen Maru’ sailed for its first consignment exported by the Chowgules way back in 1950. Ore was brought in country craft from the Sirigao mines! The Chowgule brothers supervised the loading operations personally.

We hear shades of the debate which still continue till this day: Was Goan ore being sold cheap to Japan? If so, why? How did Goan ore compared with Australian? Should Goa have its own steel plant?

In times where only a handful of books, if at all, were published on Goa each year, this one takes on wider strokes. For instance, it has an essay by author, journalist and art-critic Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, who talks of “the cultural heritage of Goa”.

In between the hard-bound covers, what we come across here are contributions from various persons who knew Vishwasrao Chowgule. They comment on his role in various spheres — the Goan (and Indian) economy, economic and capitalist growth in Goa, Goa-Japanese ties in the iron ore trade (from an era when Japan, not China, was Goa’s main buyer), and tributes from fellow industrialists, friends and admirers.

mscbThe last category includes individuals as diverse as former Lt. Governor S.K. Banerji, ex-chief minister (and mineowner herself) Shashikala Kakodkar, and ambassadors, judges, union leaders, ex-MPs and former editors. Few of our generation, for instance, would hear a bell in the name of V.H. Coelho — the Consul General in Goa between 1951-54, before the post-Independent Government of India imposed its economic blockade on this former Portuguese colony.

This is V.M. Salgaocar, the head of another business empire in Goa, talking about Vishwasrao Chowgule in 1975: “My association with Shri Vishwasrao has been both long and rewarding. We first chanced to meet on the train from Vasco to Mormugao, about forty years ago. He gave an impression of energy and enerstness. Later he built himself up into a leading industrialist and businessman. Since then several business and social occasions have brought us together. During such meetings I discovered that Shri Vishwasrao, who can be strong and firm, even tough, in business negotiations, can also relax and be full of human warmth.”

Beyond the kind words, it could be noted that here are two whose thoughts and preferences shaped the Goa that we know. Both played a key role, directly or otherwise, in shaping the language controvery of the 1980s, for instance.

One slightly confusing element is the inclusion of recent images and photographs in the generation-old book. So, it would appear, the picture of the now-plush Chowgule College (in Margao) and the Chowgule House, overlooking the waters, are more recent additions to the earlier book. Continue reading “Ore, and more”