Thursday, 13 February 2020

Surya Noketranche Porim Porzolleta

-Brian Mendonça

To aspire to sing as part of a mando group requires practice and perseverance. A mando performance is made up of singers, musicians, and dancers who fill the stage and mesmerize the audience. 

The male and female lead singers stand in front. Behind them are the backing vocals which repeat the lines of the lead singers. Musicians play the violin, the guitar and the ghumot while the dancers in couples dance to the lines that are sung.

When I was approached by my students to join them to sing for a competition I was both excited and afraid.  Would I make the cut? How would I memorize the words in Konkani? And there was so little time. I was not confident.

I spoke to the group leader and said I don’t want to ruin your chances at the competition. But the next day that gnawing feeling of wanting to sing came upon me again. I approached the leader furtively and asked if I could train with them. They welcomed me.

Whenever I sing my songs on the guitar, we get into medleys like ‘Down by the riverside’. It would be nice to add the mandos  and dulpods to my repertoire. There was a huge demand for it -- especially from the elderly. It was my duty to carry the tradition forward.

The first time we met for practice I was very self-conscious among my students. The immediate challenge was not about singing but about swaying. In the mando, for the backing vocals, the girls stand in the front line, the boys in the back. While the girls swayed to the right the boys swayed to the left. Side-centre-side. Side-centre-side. For the dulpods however, the boys and the girls sway the same side. Right side-left side-right side, or for some beats side-centre-side, side-centre-side.

Next I had to get the tunes right. The stately march of the mando had to have the right emotion. The man is pouring out his love for the woman. ‘My love, you shine like the sun and the stars. My gem, my beautiful flower, I adore you,’ he pleads.

I knew some of the dulpods.  The fast medley of 11 couplets began reassuringly enough with ‘Cecilia mhujem nanv.’  This was followed in quick succession by, ‘Fulu hanvu jardinia tulem,’ Ago fulam bai,’ ‘Ful ful ful re rompea,’ and ‘Sant anichea dongrar pakle apoitai.’  The next set was made up of ‘Voiri voiri voir katta koi / kattkoi katta pilam,’ ‘Amani gomani nach baba,’ ‘Lo, lo, lo re babu,’ and ‘Ya, ya, maya, ya’ reaching to a climax with the ever so popular ‘Lia lia lo.

Regular practices helped a lot. Each person was trying to do his/her best. We were there for the love of the mando.  We were there for Goa. 

On the final day I found my voice and sang most of the lines with confidence. Listening to the songs, in my car, as I travelled to college helped a lot. Thank you students!
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, Panaji, Goa on Sunday, 16 February 2020. Our team won the 2nd Runner-up trophy in the All Goa Traditional Mando Competition organized by Government College, Borda on 13 February 2020. Pix of students and staff of Carmel College, Goa at the event at Government College, Borda, Goa.

Sunday, 9 February 2020


-Brian Mendonça

When the traffic police waved me down on Sunday morning, I thought it was to wish me a good day. Instead, he handed me a challan saying I was doing 49.

I was cruising down the (old) Mandovi bridge on a Sunday morning with not a vehicle in sight. Having picked up my Sunday papers from Varsha Book stall in Panjim, I was rushing for a First Holy Communion lunch at Siolim. 

I know the speed limit on the bridge says 30 but then I had not taken it seriously. Until then.

Though it’s 30 on the bridge it is 40 as you meet the road at the end of the bridge on the Porvorim side. This fact is hardly appreciated as it is covered by trees which reach down and cover the sign.

I was more interested in knowing how the chaps knew I was doing exactly 49, than in paying the fine of Rs. 300.

My nemesis was the newly acquired Laser Speed Radar Gun (LSRG). It can assess the speed of a vehicle 300 metres away and is portable.

Chastened by the experience I began to actually read the road signs more carefully. I drive 60 kms. from North Goa to South Goa and back almost every day.

I noticed, for example, that as I head out on the highway at Porvorim the speed limit is 50. There are always the vehicles which cock a snook at these traffic signs. They are a menace to others and to themselves.

Things have become so bad that when we sit for lunch, Dwayne - who's so into cars - often pipes in with, 'Dada what accident you saw today.' Unfortunately I hardly disappoint him.

When a vehicle is moving within the advised speed limit it is easier to brake and slow down. Where road work is underway - which is most of the way, on NH 66 from Bambolim to Verna – speed limits are usually down to 40 and 30 kms. per hour. At the tortuous Verna climb with mud swirling round you, it grinds to 20. 

How can one forget the two-wheelers which hurtle towards you from the opposite side -- or dart across the highway from the villages on either side?

If one speeds on a kaccha road one risks developing a serious back ache or a pain in the neck. Add to that the wear and tear on the vehicle. Also when road work is going on, there are sudden diversions which require you to act fast and manoeuvre the vehicle into the right lane.

Observing road signs becomes critical at night when the lighting is poor.  Speeding vehicles in the opposite direction can set up the scene for a head-on collision.

If you are over-speeding, and the vehicle ahead brakes suddenly, you have no choice but to ram into the vehicle ahead. This is what happened to Shabana Azmi on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. The driver was over-speeding.

The incident on the bridge has changed my style of driving. I am more attentive to the road signs and the speed limits on the way. I am more relaxed and have a more comfortable ride. I try to keep at a steady 50. The icing on the cake is I save on fuel.

Petroleum Conservation Research Association ( advises that 45 kmph is the optimum speed for fuel efficiency. You can save up to 20%.

Curiously I end up arriving at almost the same time. Driving cautiously is a game changer. You owe it to yourself – and your family. 
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, Panjim, Goa on Sunday, 9th February 2020. Photo of a speed limit sign on NH 66 in Goa. courtesy Navhind Times, Goa (2018).

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Aranyer Din Ratri

Days and Nights in the Forest

-Brian Mendonça

For urban dwellers, to be in the forest is to be unsettled. The forest has its own rhythms, its sounds, its streams and its silences.

Days and Nights in the Forest / Aranyer Din Yatri (1969) directed by Satyajit Ray is a film which takes people on a trip -  from Kolkata to the Palamu forest, in Daltonganj, Jharkhand. (331 kms. on NH 19) It is based on an autobiographical novel by Bengali poet and novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay and is set in the 1960’s.

The iconic ambassador car becomes the vehicle for ruminations of the travellers. The dialogue during the journey gives the viewer a glimpse of the backstory of the friends. 

Ashim is the driver. He is the leader of the group. Shekhar is the comedian. He bears the brunt of all the jokes. But he also takes care of them and carries the injured Hari (Robi) away from the forest after he is attacked. At one point the book he is reading is thrown out of the car with a flourish. The bespectacled Sanjoy is the thinker. He doesn’t say much. At the crucial moment when he is faced by Jaya who needs him, he doesn’t act.

In the forest the men come upon a bungalow which is visited by an old gentleman who is accompanied by his daughter Aparna (affectionately called Rini) and her sister-in-law Jaya. Curiously, whenever the bungalow is shown, the scene is rendered ominous by the sound of a rattlesnake nearby. One learns later that the son of the house has committed suicide, leaving his wife a widow. However Jaya doesn’t seem to care for her son.

In their bouts of drinking Ashim repeats ‘What a life!’ in dejection. He is fed up like Aparna with the fake culture and parties of Kolkata.

As the men travel in the car in the opening scene there is a flashback of Hari when he remembers the last time he saw his lover. The argument they are having comes to a head and she slaps him. The scene cuts to the car again and Hari flinches in sleep as he shakes his head violently as though being slapped again. This disappointment in love makes Hari seek the friendship of the Santhal tribal girl Duli. After making love to her he asks her to come to Kolkata with him.

The memory game they play requires them to say the name of any personality and then repeat all the names in sequence. Tagore, Marx, Shakespeare, Kennedy, and Cleopatra are mentioned. 

Despite professing their feelings for each other, none of the couples make any commitment to each other. Matters seem unresolved in the last scene when the caretaker is seen closing the gate of the driveway of the forest guest house and the ambassador lumbers away.
Viewed at the Wednesday open-air film screening Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, Panjim at 6.30 p.m. Open to all. Rs. 59 per show. 

Pix of open-air screening of Aranyer Din Ratri at Sunaparanta, Goa on 22 January, 2020.  Article published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, Panjim, Goa on Sunday, 2 February, 2020.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Dwayne's First Holy Communion

-Brian Mendonça

It was finally our turn to host a First Holy Communion party for our son Dwayne. After attending so many, we were wishing we had paid more attention to the way they managed the show.

How does one accommodate around 50 people for a get-together? We managed to get a good deal with Casino Motels, Porvorim. They were booked for the afternoon of the day of the First Holy Communion so we settled for the evening. (The floor supervisor later confided that the trend is to have evening parties as the crowd is too tired after the church service in the morning.)

A small hall was ear-marked for the event and a booking advance was paid. I loved the Goan ambience of the place. The terracotta friezes in the central hall depicting rural Goa gave it an earthy feel.

We were looking at a reasonable budget. This meant that we had some tightening of the waistlines to be done. We decided to put on hold our dinners at restaurants.

So what does one do from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.? We need an M.C. or a compere, I thought. So we looked up some contacts and asked for their quote. Many wanted to know the location, regardless of the work. One texted, ‘Porvorim mure? 6 k.’ Others sent their portfolio suggesting how versatile they were. But none of them fitted the bill. With many experienced comperes in the family, Queenie suggested we leave it to them. We also asked DJ Edryl spin us some music for the evening.

The cake and the decorators arrived just before the party started. We got the centre piece from Divine Creations, Panjim. They also did the lettering for the backdrop. While confirming the menu and the snacks we paid the motel another advance. Drinks would be served by the motel which would be chargeable as per use.  Because of the advance payments we only had to pay a small sum in settlement of the final bill.

With our outstation guests staying with us, we had fun the previous night sitting around the table trying to think up games to keep the crowd going. Housie was one suggestion. Dividing the people in groups and giving them activities was another. 

My sister Vanessa reminded me of the formalities like the cutting of the cake and the raising of the toast. Being the godmother, she delivered the toast with aplomb. Dwayne surprised us by sweetly saying a few lines by way of thanks. He was coached by my niece Melanie. Ravi said a prayerful grace before meals. My cousin Fr. Sunder came all the way from Bombay to con-celebrate the Mass. I even had my best man for my wedding, Dr. Rajan Barrett who waltzed in from Baroda especially for the occasion.

Lyn and Gus, the husband-wife duo from my sister’s side in Pune did an excellent job compering. As I told the group with pride, they also compered our wedding in Bombay. There were many prizes for the innovative games which had the crowd squealing with laughter. These included a tiffin box, pencil boxes and sketch-pen sets for the children.  For the adults we picked up wine glasses, glass serving plates, and coffee mugs. Eco-friendly items like bags, show-pieces of jute, a dream-catcher, paper flowers and handmade vases made by my students served as spot prizes for the lucky ones.

Though we didn’t get a photographer, Felix, my brother-in-law took the bulk of the photos on his phone camera. We plan to get selected photos developed at our own pace. 
Published with the title ‘Porvorim mure? 6 k.’ in Gomantak Times Weekender, Panjim,Goa on Sunday, 19th January 2020. Pix (top) Dwayne is blessed by his mother, Queenie Mendonca and dad Brian Mendonca in their home at Porvorim on Sunday, 12th January 2020 - the day of his First Holy Communion. Pix (middle) Dwayne shakes a leg at the reception, on the evening of Sunday 12th January 2020. Photo courtesy Felix Mendonca. Pix (bottom) Family pose with Dwayne after the First Holy Communion Mass at Holy Family Church, Porvorim, Goa on Sunday, 12th January 2020.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Tarrega Unplugged

-Brian Mendonça

Lately I have been doing some serious practice on my classical guitar. The sudden enthusiasm has its genesis in a visit by my friend Dr. Rajan Barrett to our place in Goa. Everytime I used to phone him he used to excitedly tell me which piece he was practising on his classical guitar. I left it at that. Until he came over.

Before the crack of dawn, he was up to practise his pieces while the world slumbered. Lost in playing a piece, he somewhat reluctantly would come for the breakfast laid out for him. He relished the feijoada the last time before he returned to Baroda. But not before he played a number of pieces on classical guitar.

I invited him to play for the students in college. He agreed. We held the mini-performance during recess in the foyer where curious passers-by stopped to listen. It was unplugged – without any mikes or amplifiers. It was just the sweet tones of the classical guitar.

This was a new way of promoting classical music. It was not ticketed; it was away from the high-brow; and it was accessible to all. In some way I felt it epitomized the heroic lives of the composers that were featured.

Rajan started with ‘Por Una Cabeza’ (1935) by Carlos  Gardel.  He introduced each piece before playing. ‘Por Una Cabeza’ is a tango inspired by the machismo of Argentina. It is about laying claim to a woman. There are many videos which interpret this piece.

The next two pieces were by Francisco Tárrega, viz. ‘Lagrima’ and ‘Adelita.’ ‘Lagrima’ (Teardrop) is said to have been written when Tárrega visited London in 1881 and was homesick for Spain. ‘Adelita’ is one of Tárrega’s most famous works leading him to be called the Chopin of the classical guitar. Rajan ended with J.S. Bach’s ‘Minuet in G’ composed in 1725 for Anna Magdalena Bach.

I was impressed at the way Rajan had come this far in his practice. It shows what perseverance can do. He had practised classical guitar over a period of 10 years. To cultivate this practice was deeply satisfying. One did not need anyone else to play. Finding time to play amidst the demands of being a University professor was very creditable.

Rajan and I come a long way. I met him during my M.Phil. days at Pune. He was the best man at our wedding in Bombay. We also spent time together in Delhi. My first reading of my book of poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa was at his behest at M.S. University, Baroda where he is part of the faculty of the department of English. I visited him before that at Patan, North Gujarat University. We also landed up in the South for a conference which both of us were attending in Coimbatore.

The beauty is we stay in touch. We may not chat everyday but when we do meet we pick up where we left off. 
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, Panjim, Goa on Sunday, 26th January 2020. Photo: Dr. Rajan Barrett, faculty, Department of English, M.S. University, Baroda, plays Latin American music on classical guitar during the recess in the foyer of Carmel College, Nuvem, Goa on 14th January 2020. Photo courtesy Jolainne De Souza. 

Friday, 10 January 2020

Mankio Vor

Photo (top) of vendor at Panjim fish market taken by Brian Mendonca on 10 January 2020; photo (below) of ruined house opposite the Panjim fish market on General Costa Alvares road taken by Brian Mendonca on 10 January 2020. Article forthcoming.