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.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Rind Posh Maal

-          Brian Mendonça

Last week, I was invited to witness a Republic Day parade in Goa. The gesture came from Mr. Chandrappa M.T., Head Constable, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Unit, Mormugoa Port Trust (MPT), Goa. The parade was to be held on the grounds adjacent to Deepvihar school, Sada, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa.

As the men in uniform marched flawlessly in the crisp morning air, a feeling of patriotism pervaded the air. The national flag beckoned all to merge within the folds of its colours as pageants of its history were recalled. The formal events over, the cultural programme commenced. The arrangements were good with the invitees seated under a covered pandal overlooking the ground. A snack packet was thoughtfully distributed.

One skit portrayed how a soldier leaves his family and loses his life fighting for the country. Rather than being demoralized, his daughter decides to join the armed forces. She is blessed by her mother in an emotional scene.

The first item on the cultural programme was the tiny tots of Deepvihar school performing  to Goan music swaying to the strumming of the guitar. Dressed smartly in their red and black costumes they sashayed to the beat as the crowd gleefully cheered them.  

Then came a dance choreographed to the Kashmiri song ‘Rind Posh Maal’ originally sung by Shankar Mahadevan. The song (available on Youtube) composed by the late-eighteenth century Kashmiri poet Rasul Mir, looks forward to peace in Kashmir. As the children danced to the steps of Hrithik Roshan in Mission Kashmir (2000) my mind went back to the terrible beauty of the land.

The cultural programme ended with a captivating Goan Fugdi performed by girl students. With absolutely no accompaniment, except clapping their hands, alternating the beat, the women mesmerized the audience as they danced for the Lord, while another group of girls chanted the songs. After the scintillating performances the CISF team showed their fighting prowess, in a simulated combat situation with the enemy. 

After that Priyanka, Mr. Chandrappa’s daughter, said that she and her brother would like to show me the Japanese garden, and the Mormugao fort built by the Portuguese in 1624. Priyanka had welcomed us when we reached the venue and stayed with us till the end of the programme. The awesome view from the ramparts of the fort made the precarious path up to it, worth it. Mrs. Chandrappa then called requesting us to visit their place. My son and myself gladly went over and met the family over jalebis and farsan.

Till to date I have not seen Mr. Chandrappa. (He was assigned duties elsewhere on R-Day.) But in him, I witnessed the generosity of India. Here was a man willing to die for the nation, yet having the gentleness to make a stranger like me feel welcome. Like the magical red Manjadikuru seeds which my son picked up from the fort precincts, the allure of India and its unity in diversity, comes in the form of small gems like this. Jai Bharat. Jai Hind.

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 4 February 2018. Family pix courtesy Mr. Chandrappa. Lead pix above from celebrations wallpapers.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Music is in the air

Brian Mendonça

On the 24th of January All India Radio commemorated twenty-four years of FM Rainbow service in India. AIR announcers in Goa have been regaling listeners in English, Hindi,  Marathi, Konkani and Portuguese languages. Ever since Marconi discovered the radio, it has been a constant companion for its faithful fold.

This year the anniversary was observed in style with an evening programme hosted by staff and announcers of AIR, Panaji, at the Menezes Braganza hall, Panjim. In a rare opportunity the public had a glimpse of their favourite announcers  in front of them – rather than concealed behind the mike in the secrecy of the studio.

Steered by the dynamic Savio Noronha, Channel Head and Anchor, AIR and Doordarshan, who compered the show, AIR announcers came up two by two to interact with their audience face to face – and to introduce the artistes of the next item on the variety programme.  A troupe of young girls presented a Kathak dance. One extremely talented young duo of a girl and a boy left us on the edge of our seats with a rendition of Raga Hamsadhwani, she on the flute and he on the tabla. Another boy from Daddy’s Home, presented a puppet dance.  A soulful mando followed . . . AIR had an amazing format showcasing their strengths as well as providing a platform for budding artistes.

The same evening I took in the performance of the German National Youth Orchestra at Kala Academy, Panjim. The programme had the elements of Nature for its theme. It began with John Leif's ‘Geysir’ – a paen to the power of the Icelandic geysers. As the programme notes state, ‘Jon Leifs was . . . . aware of the vulnerability of human beings when confronted by such powerful forces . This is a reality with which all Icelanders live daily.’ The piece which lasted ten minutes started with the barely discernible discordant sounds of foghorns by ships at sea. You could visualize the geyser forming and frothing as it assumed its terrible proportions. This was the first time I heard the Icelandic composer Leifs though the piece is as old as 1961.

The Youth Orchestra continued with the Fantasia Overture from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Tempest.’ Inspired by Shakespeare’s Tempest  the piece displayed the voluptuousness and tumult of the sea. I should think Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides Overture’ would have been a good candidate for the programme but the Orchestra opted for Robert  Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ which is described as ‘a piece of life by the Rhine[ river].’

I was sorry to miss Antonin Dvorak, the Czech composer who was featured the next day at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao. The haunting strains of his New World symphony, and the Slavonic dances are a measure of his virtuosity. I also missed the American composer Aaron Copland with his ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.’ (1942)

In both these events it was the young children and youth who led the way. Through their discipline and dedication to their music and dance, they pointed the way to a better tomorrow.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 28 January 2018. Pix courtesy theindigoxp.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Fine is Fine

-        Brian Mendonça

When my nieces Melanie (22) and Michelle (18) declared they were coming down from Bombay for my son’s birthday we were very happy. One had a confirmed ticket to Goa by train, the other didn’t.

Rather than make her rough it out at night in the general compartment, Melanie asked Michelle to travel with her on the same berth. They boarded the moving train at CST at 10.03 p.m. in true Bollywood style, after buying last minute gifts for Dwayne (7).

The Ticket Collector came around and asked for the ticket. After trying to bargain for a cheaper fine, the TC relented and levied around Rs. 400 – which was the difference of the fare of the confirmed ticket and the general class ticket which Michelle was carrying.

When I picked them up from the Margao station, the joy of having them home was palpable. I marvelled at their resolve to make it to Goa, given the circumstances. They had got away cheaply, I felt. ‘Fine is fine’ I told them and said I would pay the amount. Because a birthday is a special occasion and they had made the effort to make my son smile.

This was the first time we were hosting my son’s birthday in Porvorim. We had envisaged it as a lunch affair, his birthday falling on a Sunday. But since relatives were passing by on Saturday we had a pre-event lunch on Saturday too. (It all began, actually, on Friday night with a wedding reception at Perpetual Gardens, Majorda.)

We called friends and family. Some came, some didn’t. But we cruised along with the energy of our house guests, Michelle and Melanie.  Having just arrived Melanie gave a talk to college students on ‘Forex and the Indian Economy.’ Her experience in Paterson and Company, Forex brokers, Mumbai has made her a more self-assured person. She ended her interaction with the students with a bold poem on body shaming called ‘Brown Girl.’:

Twenty-two years it all went unnoticed . . .
And now, they rise up from graves of judgement
and misogyny
And criticize us, measure us and tame us
Based on their judgement on us
Of how happy we should be.

Michelle put up the decorations and helped Queenie in the kitchen, while I took Dwayne and the guests poolside before Sunday lunch. We had a lovely dinner as the river water lapped by the shore at Terry’s, Betim. After a Monday morning at Mapusa market, we met for fish thali at Ritz Classic, Mall de Goa, Porvorim.

Like the way he changed our lives, Dwayne’s birthday is on Makarsankranti, when winter begins to slip into summer. The reading for the season was, 'No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins.' (Mark 2: 22). Mark’s advice remains with us as we continue to ring in the freshness of 2018 with the nuptials of a friend’s wedding at St. Jacinto church, St. Jacinto island, Chicalim.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 21 January 2018. Pix courtesy Brian Mendonca.