Monday, 13 November 2017

‘I’m scared to post on the group’

-Brian Mendonça

The other day I decided to leave seven WhatsApp groups in one fell swoop. That’s right. Seven.

I thought it would be a nice number as I have always had a fondness for the number seven. Besides its Biblical significance, it is also my birth date. Significant things have happened in my life in years which have had the number seven -- this year for instance.

Only a year back had I braved my finances and both of us migrated to Android phones. We were ‘with it.’ Or so I thought.

Later I realized huge chunks of my time were being consumed by an amorphous entity called the ‘group.’ I was expected to respond to usually inane forwards and say how delighted I was – at least by a smiley. For fear of offending the sentiments of the group, one was reduced to being a passive spectator and acquiescing to almost everything.  If you did otherwise you were served a show cause or vilified on the group. The group called the shots.

Things that mattered to me – like my article on Gauri Lankesh – did not cut any ice on the group. My personal bereavement became just a statistic. Anyway, a WhatsApp group may not be the right forum to publicize grief.

Add to that the inappropriate content in terms of explicit adult images, misogyny, and pious platitudes -- and you have a scenario where you don’t know if you are coming or going. In a culture of compromise, my identity was being eroded.

A WhatsApp group is not without its bullies. Bullies are those who stymie any expression on the group – often diffident – and steam roll it with their own version, which of course, is the ultimate truth. Unless other members of the group rise to the defence of the member who was shouted out, the affected person recedes into the background, humiliated and hurt. It is out of such a sharing that one person recently confided, ‘I'm scared to post on the group.’

The other aspect of being on multiple groups is that the same forward appears, in my case, on an average of five times! The groups I am still on, have a strict ‘No forwards’ protocol.

Groups are nowadays made at a drop of a hat. They are usually made with the intention of facilitating a common agenda. However, being dynamic and hopefully evolving beings, that agenda is always subject to change or even dismissal. Not everyone appreciates that. After the event is over, or the objective accomplished the group should be dissolved. There are umpteen other ways to contact people apart from doing so through a group.

Agreeing to be on a WhatsApp group merits careful thought. I realized I was not growing, and neither were many others on the group. To keep abreast of the various messages I used to frenetically flick my phone, much to my little son’s disdain and impatience. Now I have all the time to play with him.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 12 November 2017. Photo courtesy digitaledge(dot)org.  

‘Tuvem ghovak garbage kelia’

-Brian Mendonça

 Disha revolves around a man who is determined to use his land to set up a waste disposal plant in Goa. His son-in-law, who is a builder, has other plans. He marries the landowner’s sister Shenaya. When his black money is rendered useless after demonetization, the builder pleads with his father-in-law to transfer the land to his name so he can repay his debts.

The son-in-law stoops to the extent of threatening to kill Shenaya. The ‘doll scene,’ with echoes of Annabelle, had a few little children wailing in the audience. In this scene, the son-in-law/ husband suspends a rope from a beam in the roof. One end he ties to the neck of a doll. Then he strings the hapless doll up.  The backlights come on and only the grotesque dangling silhouette of the dangling doll is seen as the curtain falls. Faced with third degree, the brother relents. But there is a slight hitch. The document will only be valid if it is signed by the sister.

The brother’s descent into madness, and his subsequent death are vividly portrayed on stage. He chastizes himself for not living up to his dead parents’ dreams of doing something for society. Following her brother’s death, Shenaya is resolute about not giving her brother’s land to her husband. She castigates him of not being around when her brother dies. In exasperation, her husband says, ‘Tuvem ghovak garbage kelia.
In a memorable scene the entire stage is just lit up by a pontio (tongue of  flame) with the rest in darkness. This signifies the depth of depravity and utter hopelessness of the situation.

The subplot between the sidekick and the flower-seller, Shakuntala  --endearingly called Shakuntale by her lover -- is a burst of relief in an otherwise sordid tale. They come across as very human, their exaggerated courtship and asides drawing chuckles from the audience. In her quest for a good husband, Shakuntala prays at the khuris complaining to God that He is taking too much time to do the needful.

The opening song (‘Sakor’) lists the pitfalls of eating sugar. Excessive eating could lead to triglycerides going over the top. In extreme cases limbs also needed to be amputated. ‘Xezari’ was between two young ladies, each distinguished by their distinctive attire. One was dressed in Western wear, the other in Indian wear. Each was listing the foibles of the other in a humorous way.  In ‘Film Actress’ a young girl presents her case for making a career singing Hindi songs. The huge payouts, wider audience, and hip lifestyle of Bollywood actors are presented as prime allurements. However in this duet, the other singer is a wizened uncle who counsels her to stay in Goa to make her living. He distrusts the industry abroad, and says she will have to make many compromises though she will earn well. These were tracts for the times presenting to the audience the reality of living in Goa.
Disha, written by Carlos Fernandes and directed by Shirish Naik, was staged by Merxechim Porzolith Kirnam, Merces for the 43rd Kala Academy ‘A’ group Tiatr Competition 2017-18, at Kala Academy, Panaji, Goa on 19 October 2017. 

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 5 November 2017.

All Souls Day

I am sitting on the bed that dad spent his last days. Not the hospital bed we brought for him at home, but the regular double bed in 'his' room at our place in Porvorim.

As I gaze upon the photo on the left, it is so difficult to believe that he is six feet below.  Where are the happy times we shared? Where are the sounds of laughter which made us joyous in the company of each other? And where is the quiet presence which filled the home.

Those moments are just a memory now. Though it is a little over three months when you slipped away in this room, we remember you everyday. I cannot forget the gentle smile on your face when you left this room  for your eternal journey. You did not want to disturb our sleep. Before daybreak, minutes past 4 a.m. you took your leave. Before that happened, in the final days, you took Queenie's hand and mine and forced out the words 'Thank you.' The death rattle would not allow you to speak coherently.

Yet we still could not believe this was the end. All life comes to an end one day. It simply could not be true.

So when we gathered as a family around your grave on All Souls Day we remembered the precious hours with you. You gave so much of yourself, seeking little in return. You bore all your pain without a word. In fact you used to joke about it.

Gathered together in prayer with the moon overhead there seemed to be a destiny we were deemed to fulfill. As every family grieved their loss, we felt comforted in our grief. In losing you we returned you to the Lord.

Every priest on the altar in the open air Mass in the St. Andrew's cemetery, Vasco had a deep connection with our family. Fr. Januario from Delhi had said the Mass when mum died in 2004.  It seems like yesterday. Fr. Gabriel, the parish priest was always in touch with dad with his encouraging word. Fr. Camillo gave dad the anointing of the sick at SMRC hospital, Chicalim, and Fr. Jovito said his funeral Mass. The entire community was praying for dad with the priests leading from the front. A profound peace came over me. It is not what you do at the last minute, when a person is dead that matters. What matters is what you do when the person is alive.

After the Mass I invited the family for snacks and tea at Goodyland, Vasco, the place we often visited with dad. We ordered what he liked to eat and joined two tables to talk about life.

As we drove back to Porvorim we remembered the times when we would often bring him from Vasco to enjoy the amenities of our new flat. I am glad we did that when we could. We knew the clock was ticking.

All Souls Day helped me to come to terms with dad's passing. I was brave enough to don a blue shirt the next day with lines of red over it. For me the lines of red symbolized the network of blood in dad's body which finally finished him. The shirt was a cryptic reminder of what dad once said when he was complimented on his good health. He said, 'You don't know what is happening inside.'

As I migrated from black to grey to blue with a combination of colour, I felt I needed to get past grieving and live a fuller life. The sunlight and the green in the background beckoned.
Pix taken by the author. Above at St. Andrew's church cemetery, Vasco on 2nd November 2017; below at college, Nuvem on 3rd November 2017.

Shamayel Interviews Brian


-Brian Mendonca

da cidade
para o mar
O mar
para a cidade


(Enroute Goa Express train

Translated from the Protuguese as:


On the run
From the city
To the sea
From the sea
To the city


Shamayel Amin from the Goa University came to interview Brian Mendonca. Some of the questions fielded were:

How did you get into writing?
I think the poems wrote themselves. My first poem 'Requiem to a Sal' was written when a tree was being hacked in our backyard. I felt I need to express myself. I felt this urgent desire to document a Goa which was changing rapidly.

How did you go forward with your publication?
No publisher cared for the poems I wrote. Even though the concept of writing a poem in every state of  India was never attempted before. So given my experience in publishing I self-published my poems in two volumes.

What was the response to the book?
Overwhelming. Everyone welcomed the poems. The poems resonated with the people specially when they were on the place they lived in or were familiar with. The first book of 500 copies -- Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (2006) -- was sold out and so was the reprint. The next A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (2011) is almost sold out.

How do you manage teaching and writing simultaneously?
One will find the time if one loves what one is doing.

What message would you give for today's youngsters?
Stay with the written word. Your rewards will be great.
Pix taken by Brian with interviewer Shamayel Amin in the college campus on 1 November 2017.

Karthik comes visiting

Karthik Davey and Nagaraj found the time to visit us for dinner. We had a great time catching up from the CIEFL days in Hyderabad when Karthik was doing his German and I was figuring out my PhD (1993-97).

Queenie cooked her signature prawn curry rice, had with generous slices of fried kingfish.

Karthik and Nagaraj flew in to Goa from Bangalore the same morning to collect seashells from Goa. (Courtesy architect Gerard Da Cunha). They drove back the next morning to Karthik's citadel in the Bandipur National Park, Karnataka.

Selfie of us taken by author on 31 October 2017.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Vision Boarding at the Chickoo Tree

Vision Board workshop conducted by Jessica Faleiro at Chickoo Tree, Margao, Goa on Saturday 28 October 2017. Pix by Brian Mendonca.

Dr. Brian Mendonca - Inspiring Journeys

by Monica Malik

Who is a poet? Is he someone who scribbles down random musings to make sense or is he someone who brings life to places and events with his words? Someone -who inspires millions in so many different ways, whose approach towards life gives you hope and opens new directions. A poet is someone who wouldn’t settle for monotony of life but rather will keep exploring life and certainties till his last breath and beyond. Being a poet is not just being someone who breaths but someone who lives in the moment. And when his journey ends- another soul inspired by him takes the course

Requiem to a Sal

They came
Armed with axes
And split its bark with gashes
In a frenzied madness
The glistening blade
Laying bare
The oozing gum, the ebbing life…
Stroke after stroke
They hack relentlessly,
With a mighty shudder
What was, ceases to be
‘New buildings coming up’—they said.
O hear my cry piteous Mankind!
As years roll by, and you multiply,
Will we be befert of Nature’s supply?
REST in Peace dismembered One,
Condemned to oblivion by thankless
Your sprightly shade, your laden boughs
The carefree twitter of morning birds.
We will miss you.
The world is too much with us!
Alas man! You exact too high a price
To fashion yourself shelters through
Ruthless device.

(Mangor Hill, Vasco

The above poem by Dr. Brian Mendonca portrays skyscrapers dotting Goa and what we miss out on while raising the structures. This book showcases geography, culture, ethos, myths and ways of life in seven different languages. From Delhi, Mumbai or Goa depending on where his base was he travelled from Kashmir to Trivandrum and from Kutch to Kohima to peel the skin of India. ‘Last Bus to Vasco’ is a journey to places, and the past coming to halt’.
Dr. Brian Mendonca is a travel-writer. His first book Last Bus to Vasco is a collection of poems on his journeys by trains, ships and airplanes across different place. This book was showcased in the India pavilion as an expression of contemporary Indian writing at the Frankfurt Book Fair (Oct 2006). It was lauded in the journal of Commonwealth Literature published by Sage, London (2007).
At present Dr. Brian teaches English literature at Carmel College for women in Goa. On weekends he would rush frantically across India to discover his adopted ‘family’, making India itself his canvas. In his second book A Peace of India: Poems in transit. He lets the places speak for themselves through his work. He doesn’t just observe the tradition and transformations in a place and its history in the blend of time but in fact lives it.

Yes I will go

To see my friends
The rivers, the birds
And the trees
Where the wind calls
And the forests wait
In the stories of India
Yet to be told

(New Delhi

His poems helps the reader take a virtual trip across India, diving in to the culture of various states, drinking in the delicacies of their favorite food: “Bujiya of Rajasthan..Rawa ke pakode..Methi ki pudiya..kulfi in delhi..
During the three decades of his journeys through the length and breadth of India, Dr. Brian discovers how despite the diverse strains of culture and regional variants, there is an inherent unity in the patchwork quilt. “Does a river pause when it crosses the state boundary?” He thinks as he makes his way through cities and villages on a window seat of train.

He mostly chooses to travel in sleeper class bogey of trains. In old days when he might miss the bus to college, he would happily hop into Vasco-Kulem express: He says,Travelling in ‘General Class’ across India hones one’s senses. Travelling unreserved helps me think on my feet, weigh the options and act, in challenging situations. You see life in an urgent and fresh new perspective; you reach out with in yourself and find your truth in the rhythm of rails”.  Sometimes he would get into a train for ticketless travel on purpose just to see how different ticket collectors would react giving him an inspiration to write about. He believes that “Travelling through India, especially by train savoring various sights and sounds, is a learning experience.
Dr. Brian apart from being passionate about poetry is fond of music, playing guitar and is a freelancer. Having travelled to so many places, experiencing the thrill, peace and warmth that all these places had to offer, Dr. Brian roots for Goa. His love for Goa has only grown stronger in the river of time. “I work in Delhi, but breathe in Goa” he said when he was based at Delhi for his work. One would often find him driving on the roads of Goa enjoying the changing seasons, the sunrise and the sunset. All one needs is a vision and an open heart and Dr. Brian has it all.

I remember seeing him once at the Vasco market where he came across three Chinese tourist and five minutes later he was enjoying with them playing guitar and communicating in what seemed to me hybrid of English and Mandarin. I wasn’t surprised either when I got to learn he had accepted a lift on a bicycle to the morning mass of St. Francis Xavier. Being dressed in suit and well-polished shoes he sat on the barrel of the cycle enjoying the breeze. “How well one can write depends highly on how close one is to the character and the place where the event takes place.”
It wouldn’t strike one as odd when would find him flying kite with his little kid on Baina beach. He says and I quote “Everything in life is worth trying at least once” enjoying and appreciating everything that comes across: “Lessons of Life may not be learned in many lifetimes. You just need to be open to these experiences. Life waits for you.” he continues.
His fondness of rains is evident in his poems and articles. People visit goa but he explores it. “Having worked elsewhere away from Goa before this, driving in the rains in Goa is a true return to paradise-- a return to the roots. Where does one get unfettered roads to ride on, with lush greenery on either-side and the rain gods in a belligerent mood?” Driving slowly and responsibly through the slate of grey surely bring utter pleasure says Dr. Brian.  Having being born and brought up in Goa he has seen a lot, experienced a lot and yet hasn’t had enough of it. “No matter how time you spend here, it’s just not enough to savor Goa. No matter if the vowels are out of sync, the heart is in the right place.”
Dr. Brian is a person who makes sure to appreciate, to be thankful, to be true. A person with the instinct of a journalist and the heart of a rain-gauge, a traveler by heart and a Goan by soul.
In the past two years I have got to learn a lot from him.  Being an avid reader, a persistent critic, a weekly columnist for Gomantak times, and a full time professor his schedule is hectic. He is on the verge of publishing his third book soon and yet he makes himself available to those who need his help and guidance. He often sits in the library with his laptop and a bag full of books, working through free hours. His poems and articles are varied and are yet bound with similar strings. I was introduced to the world of writing because of him and the very fact that I have been able to finish the first draft of my novel is because of him. I owe it to him for walking me through different styles of writing as I am discovering my own along the way.  

Who needs big shot role models to follow in the footsteps of, when you have teachers like Dr. Brian on the bank of your side of the river? He often says: “You can’t get it wrong if you are in Goa, the place and the people will ‘sea’ to it.”

Compiled from:
Mendonca Brian: Narrative of a nation, Tribune, Chandigarh, July 22, 2012.
------------ 'Unreserved India,' Navhind Times, Goa, October 14, 2011.
-------------'Enigmas ignored,' Indian Express, March 22, 1990
------------- 'Protest against destruction of humanity and nature, Tribune, Chandigarh May 5, 2002
------------- 'Only babies make sense,' Pioneer, New Delhi, October 1, 2000.

Source: Monica Malik, Rambling Thoughts. 1 March 2014.