Sunday, 18 March 2018

Jeje seals it for FC Goa

-Brian Mendonça

One of the takeaways from the 2nd leg semi-final of the Indian Super League 2018 was Abhishek Bachchan in a mundu exhorting the fans in the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai to cheer the Chennai team on. Abhishek as co-owner of Chennaiyin FC  felt propelled to rise from his seat to amble across in his summer wear to remind the crowd that they were there for a purpose.

He needn’t have worried. By halftime Chennai were two goals ahead and Goa was already gaping at defeat. True there were the whole of 45 minutes plus extra time to go but the body language of the Goa squad showed it all. They had given up. It was written all over their faces.

So it was only an academic exercise for Jeje to tap the ball into the left hand corner of the goal in the 90th minute to seal Goa’s fate.  This was Jeje’s second goal of the match (the first in the 25th minute), the other goal being a scorcher from Dhanpal in the 27th.

Goa goalkeeper Naveen never looked comfortable from the word ‘go.’ Kattimani his predecessor had the distinction of letting the ball go into the goal through his legs in the first leg semi-final. Compared to that Chennai’s goalkeeper, Karanjit Singh had a body that arched incredibly to make no less than six huge saves. He was my choice, hands down, for the player of the match. Goalkeepers seldom get recognized for their daredevilry.

Jeje with his easy going style and almost-sleepy eyes belied the fire within. His mercurial sprints up the flanks right to the mouth of the opposing goal were a coach’s nightmare. But Jeje Lalpekhlua is not Tamilian by any stretch of the imagination.  The striker from Mizoram is an invaluable addition to any side he plays for.

The Chennai side looked younger, more sprightly, and definitely more determined. It took them just 7 minutes to equalize against Goa in the first-leg semi-final at Fatorda Stadium  -- that too besieged by a crowd of around 18,000, most of whom were rooting for the home team.

I wonder why when Goa is losing, the game begins to get ugly. It is a sad comment on a side that sometimes only manages to cobble together a raid on the opposing goal but which peters out at the crucial moment. When you are angry you can’t play the game. It’s simple. Righteous indignation does not always garner sympathy. In fact the Goa team were booed for their behaviour in Chennai.

Pressure hung heavy on Coro. Lack of passing and displaying one’s own virtuosity at the expense of the team’s goals undid the side. They failed to combine after reaching this far.

I personally feel that it was the colour that made the difference. Playing in white they performed like ghosts, spiritless and often aimlessly. Their traditional colours are blue.  The dash and verve that signified blue was missing. Now the colours will help them nurse their blues.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 18th March 2018. (Top) Jeje exults after scoring for Mohun Bagan in the AFC cup qualifier in March 2017. Pix courtesy Deccan Chronicle. (Below) Mizoram fans at the Santosh trophy finals at Siliguri in March 2014. Pix courtesy

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Holy Anger

 -Brian Mendonça

How many times have we been angry? How many times have we said things that hurt – when it could have been said in a different way? You don’t have to shout when you are angry. Sometimes it is too late to say sorry, because the person goes away . . . ’

The laity was listening with rapt attention to Fr. Nevel Gracias, parish priest of St. Diogo’s Church, Guirim-Sangolda.* This was the homily for the 10.15 a.m. English Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.  The silent verdant fields around it, as far as the eye could see, enclasped the church in the embrace of nature. Only recently the relics of St. Anthony of Padua were displayed in the Alverno friary nearby for public veneration.  The main altar is dedicated to St. Diogo. He is flanked by St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi.

We were wonderstruck that St. Anthony beckoned to us, for we did not initially intend to hear Sunday Mass at St. Diogo’s church. On the way we discussed what we should wish for - this being our maiden visit to the church. Opinion was divided whether we could wish for one thing or three. Queenie settled the issue saying that you can ask for three but God gives you the one that is best for you. 

St. Diogo’s church rises majestically from the flat green plains and can be seen from afar. Founded in 1604, it has stood the vicissitudes of time and has been administering to its flock for over four centuries.

As I sat in my pew I was intrigued by the coinage ‘holy anger.’ How could anger be holy? But after reflecting on the gospel from John 2: 13-25 it became clearer as Jesus refers to the temple to signify his own body.

We are all prone to anger. Jesus, being God made man, also got angry with the merchants in the temple. Taking a whip with cords he chases them out admonishing them saying, ‘You have made the house of God a house of trade.’ 

The scene immortalized in the paintings of Giotto in the late middle ages (14th century), Giordano (17th century) and El Greco (16th century), accentuates our reverence for holy anger, where it is justified to show anger where it is due.

Anger or wrath was seen as one of the seven deadly sins. They were compiled by Pope Gregory of the early church in the year 600.  The others are lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, envy and pride. Fr. Gracias prayed on behalf of all of us for patience and the grace to control our anger.

In front of me a flaxen-haired child was tugging at the lady on the seat, hoping to pull her away into the outdoors, whilst the Mass was on. The woman never lost her temper even once. She tried to humour him, hold him in her arms, but he slid from her grasp. The devout lady was an example of virtue in practice. She triumphed over anger.
* Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 11 March 2018. Pix of congregation at St. Diogo's church and of Fr. Nevel Gracias taken by Brian Mendonca on 11 March 2018. Pix of El Greco painting of Christ driving moneychangers from the temple, courtesy leninimports

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Service-Oriented Cadre of Unreplaceable Migrants (SCUM) of Goa

-Brian Mendonça

The service-oriented cadre of unreplaceable migrants viz. the SCUM of Goa have done yeoman service to the people of Goa and have not really got due credit for anything.
Let me spell out the word for some of our worthy readers who can commiserate with the lot of these despised and disparaged, but who nevertheless extract the most labour from them for the smallest price.

Service-oriented. The SCUM are service-oriented. Their altruistic bent of mind keeps them looking for odd jobs. They may be labourers at a construction site, mixing asphalt on a road-widening project, or unloading goods from trucks.

I came across Bhima from Ilkal (near Belgaum) and his men looking for work. I gratefully recruited them to carry my father down the steps from the second floor whenever he needed to be rushed to hospital. They never failed us. Even on the day of the funeral five of them sorrowfully carried my dad down to the waiting hearse for his final journey.

Cadre. Like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) the SCUM are a cadre of their own. They have a fierce loyalty to each other and those like them who try to make a living in hostile conditions. They do their often blue-collar jobs with pride and are thankful for the menial wages they get.

Dipankar and his mates are from Guwahati. He and his bunch are security guards at a housing complex. Early morning around 6 a.m. he bounces up four floors switching off the night lights of the common areas. Dipankar is one of a horde of security staff who get shunted across the country at the whims of the agency they work for. 

Unreplaceable. The SCUM are unreplaceable. Because Goans will not touch their jobs by a barge pole. So however much misguided voices may rant and rave about their provenance, the fact is that if they were to be recalled, there would be no one to take out the garbage.

Jara satak-ke laga doh Sir,’ says Behera as I am grateful to him for watching my back as I reverse into a parking slot.  Behera has come all the way from the East coast of India, viz. Odisha to make a living in Goa.  His eyes soften when I speak about Konark but he hurries away to guide an incoming car.

Migrants. The SCUM move from place to place in search of work. They are always on the run, sometimes with their families, sometimes alone. Toddlers with faces full of snot play gaily on the side of the road as their mothers break their backs carrying stones. Having nowhere to stay they cook their frugal meals by the side of the heavy machinery and huddle together under the night sky.

Rehan is a barber from Haryana. When I went for my summer crop he greeted me with a big smile. ‘Jannat ka phool  he offers, when I ask the meaning of his name. It translates as ‘Fragrant flower of Paradise.’
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 4 March 2018

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Love is for giving

-Brian Mendonça

What I need to live
Has been given to me by the earth
Why I need to live has been given by you.

The handwritten words on a card signify the total immersion of a person into the spirit of the other. This obsession can nurture a relationship – or go horribly wrong.

The card was made by a group of college students. The idea mooted by their mentor Ms. Elsa Da Costa, was to prepare hand-made knick- knacks for sale in the college on the run-up to V-Day and donate the proceeds to charity, e.g. an orphanage.  The girls came up with a variety of creative ideas. They were made with love and celebrated love.  Tanya D’Souza and Antrima Coutinho worked in tandem to make attractive cards of various styles. They used various materials like foam paper, beads, floppy paper and velvet paper.

Most of the cards were on a background of black chart paper. ‘I like black, because anything looks good on it,’ said Tanya. Emerging from mourning, I realized that the bright red on black imbued the colours with new meaning. Red need not always stand for blood and transfusions. It could also proclaim love – that was what the heart was for anyway.

Cheryl Duarte made a Valentine motif out of three kebab sticks. She twirled red woollen thread at the four corners of the tripod-shape to soften the edges. At each of the four corners she delicately placed a tiny red and white rose and a sprig of green leaf.  From the pointed pinnacle she dropped a golden wire beneath which she attached a heart made out of red crepe paper. She finished off with a slender jute thread which rose from the pinnacle point with an adjustable sailor’s knot to hang the motif as a centrepiece. ‘I like to make things in 3-D,’ she said. It looks perfect under our chandelier in the salon.

Franzia D’costa offered handmade flowers.  In hues of red and mauve her lovely roses were made out of crepe cloth, cloth leaves, bending wire and glitter.

Adele’s  ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ and ‘Hallelujah’ by Tori Kelly are all the rage now. But while love is often celebrated, it is also undermined at times. 14 February is the day Reeva was shot by her boyfriend Oscar five years back.  Reeva Steenkamp  became a model at 24 for Avon products in South Africa. She had been dating Oscar Pistorius for three months. Oscar is a South African runner who participated in the Paralympics with prosthetic limbs. He was 27 when he fired on Reeva four times through the closed door of a washroom cubicle in his home in Pretoria thinking she was an intruder. She was 29. Her mother June Steenkamp is now a full-time activist to stop domestic violence against women. ‘She was so beautiful, so fun-loving. I think he was jealous of the attention she was getting. . . Five years on, Valentine’s Day is still full of pain and suffering,’ says June.
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 25 February 2018. Pix of 3-D, Valentine motif by Cheryl Duarte, taken by Brian Mendonca.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Parrots, pirates and prostitutes

-Brian Mendonça

I was saved by a parrot today.  My friend had given me detailed directions to his house which I was going to visit for the first time. After describing to me all the relevant landmarks along the way, including the temple, the sign board, the pathway that branched to the left, he ended with a flourish, ‘I have a parrot.’

This innocuous detail, after my patient listening rankled. Why should I bother if my friend possessed or did not possess a parrot? Surely he was wasting my time!

As I made my way to my friend’s place I took the correct lane as it meandered to the left. But I was bewildered as a sea of houses confronted me.  I had no idea what to do -- stranded as I was in the middle of a narrow pathway up the incline. At any moment a car could come my way and berate me for blocking the road.

That is when the parrot, perhaps sensing my discomfiture screeched loudly. The unmistakeable sound in an otherwise bucolic surrounding gave me the cue I was looking for. I glanced upward in the direction of the sound and seemed to make out a bird in a cage that was swaying inordinately. Not only did the parrot propel me out of my misery, s/he also alerted my friend, its owner.

It was with interest I chanced upon the restaurant O Papagaio on the road to Sodiem, Siolim. Papagaio means ‘parrot’ in Portuguese. I still cannot make the connection.
Of late, parrots have been looking demure in cartoons. They sport just the right semi-serious expression. In fact, sometimes they even elbow out the cock or cockerel for newsprint space.

Little children are introduced to Mittu the parrot at class I. Marigold, the NCERT textbook for this level portrays Mittu as an intelligent bird who outwits the gross black crow to lay claim to the yellow mango on the tree. Mittu picks up a red balloon and bursts it near the crow causing him to fall off the tree.

The parrot is the constant character in Shyam Benegal’s art film Mandi (1983). It is through her dialogues with the parrot in the cage that Shabana Azmi as Rukminibai, the brothel owner and ageing prostitute, scripts her freedom. Smita Patil too, as the prized courtesan Zeenat, feels her trapped life is mirrored by the parrot in captivity. The parrot becomes the confidante of the down-trodden.

There was a special bonding between pirates and parrots, in the golden age of piracy pegged by Angus Konstam at 1714-1722. Dan Nosowitz  notes that parrots were preferred to other pets because they did not eat as much as dogs and monkeys, and what they did eat, i.e. seeds, fruits and nuts, could be stored on board during the long voyages. Besides, they were colourful, intelligent and funny – a great item to show off in port.

As I was leaving my friend’s place, he gestured up at the parrot. ‘He also talks,’ he said.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, Goa on Sunday, 11 February 2018. Pix of Indo-Persian dagger with parrot hewn on hilt of gold. Courtesy mughalart.

Kala Ghoda

-Brian Mendonça

The Kala Ghoda / ‘Black Horse’ Festival has become synonymous with Colaba and the ethos of Bombay. Conceptualized ten years back, the Festival, aims at ‘maintaining and preserving the art and heritage district of South Mumbai.’ Armed with Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda Poems, we set out for Bombay from Goa like Cervantes.

The festival attracts many corporate sponsors. This edition from 3-11 February 2018 saw The Hindustan Times, Jaslok Hospital, Bajaj Electricals, Nerolac paints and the flavour of the season – Valentine.

Here you will find heritage walks; myriad displays of installation art; theatre for the asking; music on the steps of the Asiatic library; dance at Cross Maidan and painting workshops for children on the museum lawns. All of this is free.

In the press of people who crowd around taking selfies and keep-sakes, there is a bonhomie which is contagious. Of course you may not get in for all the shows you may want to see, for seating capacity is limited and entry is on first come first served basis.

Organizers stuck to their guns and closed the gates for the children’s play, Snow White and the Naughty Elves when the theatre space was full at the National Gallery of Modern Art. This was unlike Kala Academy, Goa which welcomed droves of curious onlookers for the German Youth Orchestra which performed recently even after the hall was full.

What hooked me was a fascinating exhibition on the fringes of the festival at the CSMVS museum at Fort.* It was titled ‘India and the World: A History in Nine Stories.’ Artefacts from the earliest times to the present were packed into nine galleries viz. i) Shared Beginnings ii) First Cities iii) Empire iv) State and Faith v) Picturing the Divine vi) Indian Ocean Traders, vii) Court Cultures, viii) Quest for Freedom and ix) Time Unbound. The objects on display were culled from the collections of the British Museum, London; CSMVS, Mumbai; the National Museum, New Delhi as well as from twenty museums and private collections across India.

During the festival iconic restaurants like Leopold, Mondegar, Bagdadi and Bademiya, at Colaba are packed to capacity with crowds milling over till the wee hours.

Since we were travelling the next day we heard the 6.30 p.m. parish Mass on Saturday (with Sunday liturgy) at the lofty Cathedral of the Holy Name at Fort. Its beautiful choir in the choir-loft sounded like angels on high.  The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Bombay and the mother church of the Archdiocese. A magnificent testimony of colonial architecture, the church (whose foundation stone was laid in 1902) was declared as a heritage building in 1998.

Back in Goa, a friend spoke of Dabul, half an hour away (5.8 kms.) from Colaba by car. The Francis Xavier church at Chira Bazar, Dabul, was built in 1872 and predates the Cathedral of the Holy Name. The Goan Institute there in Dabul also deserves mention. It was here that Lorna Cordeiro and Chris Perry blazed their trail in jazz history in the sixties. Definitely worth visiting.
*See for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). 

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 18 February 2018. Pix taken at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai on the CSMVS museum lawns, and at the NGMA auditorium, Fort on 9-10 February 2018. Courtesy Brian Mendonca.

Poetry Writing for Students

Dr. Brian Mendonca conducts a session on 'Poetry Writing' for Class IX students at Fr. Agnel Multipurpose High School, Verna, Goa on 5 February 2018.