Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Friends for Life / Amigos para siempre

-Brian Mendonça


Vice Chancellor, Goa University, Professor Varun Sahni (seated centre), Director of UGC HRDC Professor I.K. Pai, (seated centre right) and Course Coordinator Professor K. S. Bhat (seated centre left) with participants of the Refresher Course in English held at HRDC, GU, Taleigao, Goa from 9 August 2016- 29 August 2016.

‘We need to rouse ourselves from the cult of mediocrity - “I’m good enough.” We should try to become better not the best. Because if you think you are the best, there is no room for improvement. Each day you can do a little to become better. It’s do-able.’ These were the thoughts of Professor Varun Sahni, Vice Chancellor of Goa University. 

The VC was speaking at the Valedictory function of the Refresher Course (RC) in English conducted by the Human Resource Development Centre (HRDC) Goa University campus, Taleigao, Goa. In all there were 32 of us participants for the course – all teachers of English at various colleges across India.

The theme of the course was Culture Studies.  Introducing the theme, Sripad Bhat, Professor of English and course coordinator said that English literature could no longer be studied in isolation of the context in which the texts were produced. ‘Texts’ itself, as we used to know them, had given way to a diversity of  popular cultural expressions like film, TV serials,  reality shows and pulp novels which could then yield a plurality of meanings. There was no single way or right way to read a work.

The course, spread across 3 weeks in August was ably anchored by Professor I.K. Pai, Course Director. It took us through a fascinating gamut of disciplines ranging from political science, film studies, feminism, philosophy, nationalism, diasporas and world theatre. In the process we became virtual globe trotters tasting of the intellectual currents in France, the United States, China, Canada, United Kingdom, East Africa and of course India.

Interestingly, as we were taking in the cultural currents across the globe, we were also reaching out among ourselves to the diversity of cultures within the  group.  There emerged a sense of bonding when life was on ‘pause’ in the idyllic Elysium of the sprawling Goa University campus. The out-station participants sipped the experience of Goa (some took very large sips) and were seen sallying off to the nearest bus stop once the sessions wound up at 5 p.m. Of course they created a WhatsApp group which included pix of the fun they had and the lectures they slept through.

Each participant was required to make a presentation. I was amazed at the diversity and coherence of the presentations which ranged from tribal verse, standard language in the Marathi movie Time Pass, Mirabai and Akka Mahadevi, Yeats and even one on my own book of poems A Peace of India: Poems in Transit. My own presentation was titled ‘Configuring Desire: The Goan Mando and the Portuguese Fado’ where I compared the mando  ‘Tujea Utrar re Patienum’ to the Portuguese fado ‘La Porque Tens Cinco Pedras’ by Amalia Rodrigues. I played the mando on my guitar and finished off with the dulpod medley starting with ‘Undra Mhojea Mama.' 

I was privileged to have some of the participants visit me. When I dropped off Ramesh to the airport at 2 a.m., I knew the R.C. had made us friends for life.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 11 September 2016. 

1 comment:

naveen said...

Hi, Brian.

The writing is wonderful. It revived my memories of Refresher course once again. I was of the opinion that you are only a poet besides being a wonderful singer and teacher. You seem to have that journalistic skill as well. Thanks for the report and the picture..