The night when Goa’s port went up in flames


Some of us might remember it because of the ‘Sea Wolves’ movie, the 1980 war film starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore and David Niven and shot in Goa. This film, as a quick Google search would remind us, is based on the book ‘Boarding Party’ by James Leason, which, in turn, is based in a real-life incident that took place is “neutral” Goa during World War II.

Dr Shirodkar’s book is called ‘Blazing Midnight’ Its longish subtitle reads: “World War II: German Remote Control at Marmagoa Silenced”. Continue reading The night when Goa’s port went up in flames

They came, they found, they imagined


Goa: Found and Imagined

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By Frederick Noronha

Young Swedish professionals and researchers who visited Goa recently came not as mere tourists, but to attempt to understand the place and imagine where this tiny region’s strengths could take it.

Students of a post-Master’s inter-disciplinary course in Urbanism from the Royal Institute of Art at Stockholm looked at how Goa was coping with its challenges of participation, its water-economy, and tourism. Their work has just been published as a book titled ‘Goa — Found and Imagined: Possibilities, Potentials, Tips and Tools‘.

“Although their richness was far too deep and complex for us to embrace and to claim that we had become more than just acquainted with, we were struck by the Goans’ love for and engagement with their land,” say the co-authors of this 100-page book.

The book itself looks at the planning process in Goa and its far-from-easy recent attempts to involve the citizen, the potential of Goa’s water resources, a possible kind of tourism “that does not destroy Goa’s unique landscape”, and how Goa’s infrastructure systems could perform to meet citizens’ needs.

Says the Swedish Professor of Architecture Herietta Palmer in the introduction: “Each story points towards something already present but not yet working to its full potential. Each story is trying to say — listen up, there is another possible route, which doesn’t necessarily follow 8 Introduction mainstream ideas of modernization and development.” Continue reading “They came, they found, they imagined”

The General Is Up, again


Last week, the third edition of his novel ‘The General Is Up’ was released at Des Moines, Iowa, US. This Goan writer with strong links to Africa, North America and ancestral links to Far East Asia, gives FREDERICK NORONHA an insight into his writing, his perspectives and the responses this book drew. Incidentally, The General Is Up is set in an imaginary African country, where a General comes to power and decides to expel Asians from that country…. Not surprisingly, the setting is the Goan community there. Continue reading The General Is Up, again

From brick and mortar to pages and ink


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By Frederick Noronha

THIS IS such an unusual, optimistic, upbeat story that it almost sounds too good to be true. But when Gerard da Cunha, the Godhra-born architect of Goan origin, sheds his inhibitions and tells you the story of his forays into publishing, the candour of his tale hits you hard. You had better believe it!

The other day, Cunha did the same at the PublishingNext 2013 conference in Goa. He’s a man who has achieved a lot in the field of architecture nationwide, and therefore it comes as a surprise that he’s covered so much ground in publishing too.

“Being an architect, practising in Goa, about 12-14 years ago, I felt it was my duty to come out with a book on Goan architecture. So very idealistically, I started writing the book. I got co-authors in place, and a photographer. Then I tried to look for a publisher. I had spent a lot of money already, a lot of effort. Others said it was not feasible. It would take two years to do, and if we could find some sponsors, then it might work out.”

Gerard came back to Goa, completely disappointed, as he puts it, and started contacting the printers. Gerard points to his slick coffee-table book ‘Houses of Goa’ that resulted from all this effort. But, we’re moving ahead of ourselves in the story.

Some 4000 copies would cost Rs 18 lakh, he was told by the printers. Co-incidentally, he got sponsorship for an exhibition on the same topic. He says he offered the book — “I didn’t even have a dummy at that time” — at the exhibition. While its price would be Rs 1400 after publication, his pre-print offer was a sharply discounted Rs 875 (or even less, for bulk orders). “With no book around, I sold about 300 copies of this book,” recalls Gerard, with a mild chuckle. Continue reading “From brick and mortar to pages and ink”

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”

BOOK EXTRACT: How Much Gold Does a Goan Need?


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By FATIMA M NORONHA

smbTHE GUN, if that is what it was, was held to my third thoracic vertebra. I did not have the curiosity to look round into the gunman’s face. He may have noticed my heirloom earrings swinging rhythmically as I walked briskly ahead of him, but he made no attempt to snatch them. His attention was elsewhere.

That is how you may yet see me, on very special occasions, sporting my grandmother Luisa’s filigree earrings. Exquisitely worked gold chrysanthemum petals surround a tiny sapphire in the open flower which dangles an inch below the delicate bud on the lobe.

Nowadays even my middle class friends and relations go in for diamonds and platinum and bank lockers, but a few decades ago we all believed in gold: gold with pearls, gold with cameos, gold with corals, gold with the ubiquitous green stone, gold toned down with silver and revved up with marcasite chips. Goans have always been particular about their jewellery. Workmanship counts for much more than the material. It is not as elsewhere in India, “The dowry was three kilograms of gold.” Thanks to the brilliant Marquis of Pombal, women in Goa inherit a share of family land, so gold is almost only decorative.

In those days I was so fond of the metal that I carried my entire hoard of it on my fatimanoronhaonly visit to my brother in California. Two delicate bracelets, the harp-shaped studs my musical Aunty Ninette gave me, my parents’ gift of thick gypsy rings, Avòzinha’s sapphire-punctuated danglers, all accompanied me around the Wild West.

“Twenty-two carat, wow!” raved our American friends. “Here it’s all fourteen carat.” Many of the women wanted to know more about my gypsy earrings with the embossed money plant round the edges. They asked about the traditions that produced such ornaments. They wanted to know how much such jewellery cost. How would I know? Gold was always a gift, its price unknown. Like a jet black dress, it was always classy, regardless of price.

On weekends my brother drove me around the magical countryside or to a musical performance in San Francisco. During the week our lifestyle was austere. Since Des worked late at the lab, I used the Santa Clara County transit system and got to know Palo Alto and Stanford on my own. I admired the efficiency of the bus drivers who could count the fare as each passenger dropped coins into the transparent box, and hand out a ticket and a greeting without missing a beat.

It was cold and sometimes scary walking home from the bus stop those winter evenings. My way led down a bright street lined with pretty houses and gardens, then over a humped bridge across a creek and suddenly along a darkened lane. Struggling students and petty criminals could afford the rents in those apartment blocks on our side of the creek. Continue reading “BOOK EXTRACT: How Much Gold Does a Goan Need?”