This compilation of essays, poems, stories and extracts from published works brings to life the natural beauty and the changing social and political ethos of India'ssmallest state called Goa. Jerry Pinto, the poet-journalist eulogises his state to say, ?Goa established itself in my consciousness?Goa sneaked up on me?Goa reflects endlessly, in the glint of sudden lakes, in the eyes of thousands of visitors, in the memories of the exiles who leave every year, in the dream of a house in Goa that many city-dwellers seem to nurture?Goa reflects in fiction, in poetry, in narratives of every kind. For the rest of India, for the world even, the central narrative has always been one of sun-sand-surf-socegado?Goa reflects in this anthology as the pieces reflect each other, offering views that are often mirror images of each other.?
Described variously as the Kashi of the south, the Rome of the east and the pearl of the orient, Goa, located on the western coast of India, is renowned for its scenic charm, its beaches and architectural splendour of its temples, churches and old houses. Apart from being a favourite holiday destination, its unique history, shaped by the various dynasties that ruled it?the Reashtrakutas, the Hadambas and the Brahmani Muslims, before its 450-year-long occupation by the Portuguese from 1510?have given it a distinctive identity.
The first piece by William Dalrymple is about a Portuguese woman called Donna Georgina who hates India, which, according to her, did not provide liberation but ?botheration more like?! She says, ?When the Indians came to Goa in 1961, it was hundred per cent an invasion. From what were they supposed to be liberating us? Not the Portuguese, because the Portuguese never oppressed us. Let me tell you exactly what it was the Indians were freeing us from. They were kindly liberating us from peace and from security.?
According to the author, Dalrymple is of the view that most Goans still consider their state a place apart??cultured Mediterranean island, quite distinct from the rest of India!? On reading this article we feel tempted to ask, why didn'tpeople like Donna Georgina leave for Portugal in 1961, instead of staying behind.
In his write-up, Graham Greene tells amusing stories about both Goanese Christians and Hindus who believe in evil spirits residing on trees, etc. and who live in old Goa. Nisha da Cunha writes about a young girl Virginia who is married off to a man old enough to be her father and how she detests it; Naresh Fernandes says Saint Xavier'sfractured corpse is a metaphor for the diasporic nature of the Goan country as becomes evident when the protagonist Fatima says, ?You know, we celebrate Francis Xavier'sfeast every year. All the Goan families in Macau gather in St. Joseph'sseminary for Mass on 3 December?? before explaining that a seminary is a place ?where they store one of the relics of the saint! Did you know that there was piece of Xavier'sarm right here in Macau??; Richard Lannoy reveals through his article that ??Goa is a centre for Hindu pilgrimage with its ancestral shrines drawing people from many parts of India. In fact, one other sole remaining temple in India still dedicated to the worship of Brahma is in Goa, and possesses, moreover, one of the finest murtis, idols, of the south. Is it not a significant irony that the one voice which millions throughout India love as the very voice of Mother India belongs to a woman who hails from Goa? How many of her admirers know that Lata Mangeshkar, greatest of the movie playback singers, bears the name of Sri Mangesa, most revered deity of Goa, in whose famous temple near Ponda, her family had given service for unnumbered generations??
Gita Mehta describes the hippies of Calingute Beach. Alexander Frater'sgives a captivating account of Goa in the monsoon when in a downpour of five inches coming down torrentially makes everyone get together to do ?a rain dance?; Naresh Malgonkar, in an ode to the Mangeshi temple, says that during Portuguese rule, Goan Hindus had to ?slip across the borders to have their marriages and other ceremonies performed in the temples? and so the Mangeshi temple now provides accommodation and a place to hold the marriage ceremonies and so on.
Most of the write-ups present the changing scenario following the departure of the Portuguese and the entry of the Indians into Goa. The collection contains a few interesting essays, some moving poetry, many alluring stories but a common thread that runs through most of the pieces is a longing for erstwhile Portuguese rule. Essentially of interest to Goans, the collection might raise the hackles of some Indian nationalists.
(Penguin Books, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)