Thursday, 19 October 2017

The body remembers more than the mind

-Brian Mendonça

As I twirled my bright yellow balloon, I was thinking, I could not be happier. The balloon bounced gaily with not a care in the world. The menacing fans which were whirring frenetically seemed poised to burst my bubble.

Nothing of that sort happened. On the first occasion my balloon soared upwards and was gently kissed and pushed away by the rim of the blades. On the second occasion the balloon found itself above the rotating blades. But lo and behold the balloon was actually bouncing on the blades! They were having a fine time. That’s when I realized how unfounded my fears were.

We were at a dance therapy workshop. Dance as therapy?! The equation was interesting. I thought I’d tag along.

We opened with a relaxation technique. As we stood in a circle, we were made aware of each part of the body from the head downwards.  Next came free-style dancing to the instrumental music. There was sharing by the group after each dance exercise. I shared my insight that I was doing certain moves repeatedly for no reason. My body was trying to tell me something.

Dance Instructor Ms. Cliszma DaCosta was saying that dance brings out the unconscious. Co-trainer Dr. Sujata Samant elaborated by saying that the body remembers more than the mind.

Imagine each pore of your skin, having a sensation, a hard disk of memory of the years you have lived. The body became a textbook which required reading to interpret and understand the way you felt. Dance movement therapy did not insist on dancing in a particular way. There was no perfect way.

Mirroring was the next activity. Each person in a pair held the balloon and moved it in a particular way. The other partner had to ‘mirror’ the movement by moving his/her body in the same manner. Frustrated by my limited repertoire Cliszma -- who has studied Dance Movement Therapy at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai -- suggested that I improve my dance vocabulary. She asked us to explore space and distance between partners. Also to be kept in mind, were the three levels of movement i.e. head, waist and feet.

The brief 2-hour workshop from 11-1 p.m. made us aware of our bodies and the potential locked within.

The climax was the syncronized group dance to the moves of Remo’s Maria Pitache and the Konkani medley of ‘Goan Masala.’

As the workshop drew to a close we were asked to ‘melt down’ like an ice cream. The hall was darkened. Only the music played. Feel each part of your body relaxing. As you work from the head downwards let your body move to the floor. Lie down flat on the ground legs spread in total surrender.

As I lay down, I felt I was sleeping peacefully next to my dad as he lay in the ground. He too was sleeping peacefully. Dance helped me to accept his passing three months ago.
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 22 October 2017. Instagram photo courtesy, Cliszma DaCosta, 17 October 2017.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Malvan masala

-Brian Mendonça

Almost every morning as I travel to work, I cross the Kadamba bus with the broad signage proclaiming MARGAO-MALVAN.

Why not? I said to myself. With three days in hand, we set off on a Saturday at 12 midday. The Goa section of the road till Banda is fine but getting to Kudal could be rock and roll. As you get nearer to Malvan the quality of roads is colour-coded on Google GPS. Blue is good, grey is bad and red is pathetic.

After doing 100 kms. we found ourselves in Malvan, Sindhudurg district by 2.20 p.m. At Hotel Shirgaonkar a prawns thali was Rs.320. I opted for the mutton thali. After the delicious Malvani food, we set about finding a place to stay. The meagre 20 huts at MTDC, Tarkali, 7 kms. away from Malvan city were full.

We chanced upon Blue Water resort which looked clean and inviting.  We opted for a 2nd floor room which afforded a gorgeous view of the beach, a stone’s throw away. The host was kind enough to give it to us for Rs. 3500 per night (breakfast included).

I was determined to see dawn rising from the sea from my bamboo chair on the balcony. In the dead of night the roar of the sea sounded terrifying. An unseen force was pulling me, pulling me into its watery locks. Grieving over loss, the darkness signified death itself. One act could end it all.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the quality of darkness began to change.  Shades of grey revealed forms where earlier there was a wall of black. Dawn was breaking. I had survived kalaratri  - the dark night of the soul.

The next day we went for the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass in Konkani at St. Peter’s church. It was a little distance away from our resort and on the way back we pressed on to the boating point, sangam­ – where the sea meets the river.

After breakfast we set off for Sindhudurg fort. The fort was commissioned by Shivaji in 1664. You approach it by boat for it is built in the sea. Sadly the sprawling ruins have no historical information or signages to guide the tourist. As we neared the docking point we saw scuba diving enthusiasts dipping over the boats which were anchored midstream. Against a deposit of Rs. 100 visitors to the fort are given a jute bag to put their waste. This UNDP initiative was however met with scant regard by the visitors. We bought six.

The rock garden was not enjoyed very much since it was well past 3 p.m. and we were hot and hungry.  After lunch at Shirgaonkar we called it a day and returned to Blue Water. Onion and potato pakodas waited for us with hot tea. After a restful night we returned to Goa on Monday at 12 midday – but not before Queenie picked up her masalas from Deulkar Kirana stores in Malvan. Dwayne also had his pockets full of shells from Tarkali beach.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday,15 October 2017. Pix taken by the author from Blue Water resort, Tarkali beach, Malvan at 8.21 a.m. on 2 October 2017. 

eX Factor -2017

Brian performs 'Vincent' for eX Factor at St. Xavier's College, Mapusa, Goa on Saturday, 14 October 2017.

World Mental Health Day - October 10

Dr. Brian Mendonca speaks at the World Mental Health Day programme put up by students of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan School, Zuarinagar, Goa on 10 October 2017. Principal Elizabeth Valsan looks on.

The boys at Balli

The school boys of the 1981 batch got together to spend time at Balli, Quepem, Goa on Sunday, 8 October 2017.

John From

Brian Mendonça

‘From’ is a word that is part of a sentence which suggests a relationship between two things, viz. I took the milk from the fridge. So when the name of a film is John From you begin to wonder. The title of the film also does not give away which language it is in.

The character John From does not exist in the film as a living person.  He traces his provenance from a time when American airplanes dropped food packets over Melanesia in the Pacific ocean. When the natives asked who was the god from the sky, they were told ‘John from America.’ ‘America’ seemed to have got lost in translation and the saviour was simply christened ‘John From.’

The movie is about Rita, a bored teenage girl who is infatuated with a photographer, twice her age, who moves in to an apartment in the same complex where she lives. Rita’s parents don’t seem to have the time for her or her adolescent whims.  As Rita falls head over heels for him, she begins to be interested in the subject of his exhibition, viz. the peoples of Melanesia. She is enamoured by the exhibits  – some bizarre and fearful – of skulls, canoes, head gear and photos.

Uncanny circumstances bring them together, as though the spirits from the island have come to bring the two together. Suddenly the window bangs, announcing that her love-interest has returned from work. An eerie all-enveloping mist pervades the place as though a presence is at work.

With a little help from her friends, Rita steals his car. When she grandly returns it to him, he feels indebted to her and love blossoms.

The movie, though slow on the uptake, grows on you. The gradual immersion of a Portuguese girl into an otherwise alien culture, is gradually and convincingly done. The high point is when Rita paints her face and neck in the manner of the natives of Melanesia.

In the early part of the movie the girl and her confidante Sara listen to Western music with beat, swaying their bodies to the rhythm. But as mysterious things begin to happen, the background score is replaced by women’s voices from Melanesia.

The pristine beauty of the sandy beaches of Melanesia is contrasted with the block cubical apartments of Lisbon or ‘the monotonous microcosm of concrete’ as Alfonso Rivera, reviewer on, puts it.

The fascination of a young girl for an older man is a challenging  theme. Lolita, the classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov comes to mind, so also the film American Beauty starring Kevin Spacey. Youth is seen as rejuvenating and the elixir of life – or what’s left of it.

How will it end? the viewer wonders. The astounding conclusion is thought-provoking and beautiful.

John From (2015), the Portuguese film, directed by João Nicolau starring Julia Palha and Filipe Vargas was screened recently for the Semana da Cultura, Indo-Portuguesa, Goa as part of the IXth Lusophone Film Festival at the Maquinez Palace, Panjim.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 8 October 2017. Pix courtesy, imdb.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Weep India

-Brian Mendonça

Weep India
For thy daughter is slain
The grief, the horror
The sadness, the pain.

Were we not from a land of peace?
Of benevolence,
of Buddha
Of compassion, not caprice?

Scion of the Mahatma
What noble ideals do you invoke?
Will history forgive
What you now provoke?

Mowed down in cold blood
A woman unarmed
Save for her pen,
her panache, her poise.

Fie on thee,
Locusts of the night
Who do prey
Like the werewolves of evil.

The earth shudders
‘neath the weight of your deeds.
No face, no land
can hide you now.

Teacher’s Day
Is drenched in your blood
A country-made pistol
A blot on the country.

Many have fallen
In these dark days
The crimson tide
Flows unabated.

The silence of a billion
Behoves not its leader
To wage proxy war
Against scribes unfurling.

Weep India
Thy flag at half-mast
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.*

Words fail me as I write. To me this is an epitaph on India. Or rather, the India that I know. The cold-blooded murder of an activist and senior journalist leaves us speechless.  We do not know where to turn.

It is the duty of the Fourth Estate to be a watch dog for the public. But when freedom of speech is muzzled or so brutally suppressed, one wonders how one can continue to presume a mandate for governance.

Journalists have been on the front line to bring social change. Some have paid with their lives.

Much news, if not all, is manufactured.  Powerful lobbies sieve information to curate it for the public. Which is why there is no real news anymore. Soft journalism has made us a vegetative society, unable or unwanting to know the truth.

I look up the website  The Kannada website proudly proclaims the issue date in English as 6 September 2017 – the day after Gauri was shot. So the struggle will go on. The battles in the vernacular are not the battles in the English press. Which is why Gauri chose to be an independent journalist with her own website to speak out her mind.

Killing Gauri seems to be a pyrrhic victory. The goons who did her in have done her a favour. The groundswell of support for her has evinced a keen interest in her outspoken critique of government. More people are aware of her work through social media and through her website. Her championing for the cause of the minorities is well-known.

An assignment for undergraduate students showed how deeply the youth feel alienated by recent events. One queried the violence in India. Another called for ramping up security for women journalists, and a third decried the dictum of death for dissenters. Gauri’s greatness was that she could traverse the world yet chose to throw in her lot with the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless. From Bengaluru she could reach out to Dadri.

She lived a life of conviction. On her own terms.
*’From Darkness Lead Me to Light.' Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I. III.28. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on 1 October 2017.  Pix courtesy firstposthindi.