Friday 01 December 2023

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Heart Talk

Portuguese legacy in Goa


It is imperative therefore that we exorcise ourselves, first and foremost, from the demons of hatred and unforgiveness that hang within us. As grown-ups it is also high time we squarely accept the blame that rests on us for the present chaos in Goa. Moreover, a healthy society doesn’t regale in the opening up of past wounds.

Until his death two years ago, at least twice a week, I would spend my evenings with an elderly friend of mine, the departed Fabião da Costa, from Seraulim, Salcete. To chat with him was such an edifying experience! Though Fabião vouched he was an agnostic, he held a religious outlook on life that could put many of us to shame. A gentleman wizened with age and wisdom, he always stood by his principles and values.  Love and respect for one’s neighbour was always uppermost in his mind.

Fabião was a hero of the fight for Goa’s freedom and spent four long years in prison. He turned down a comfortable home life of luxury to live in a prison cell - to free Goa from the repressive Portuguese regime. He never claimed any goodies for himself or his children. But, he often confessed, he was a disillusioned man.

Once he even confided: “You know doctor, I sometimes feel ashamed of calling myself a freedom-fighter seeing what is happening today. Never did we think we were making such sacrifices for the present-day greedy politicians to turn Goa into a stable”.

Portuguese Legacy                       

Many like Fabião fought bravely against the despotic Portuguese regime. And with good reason. But were the Portuguese uniformly bad? “Give the dog a bad name before you hang him”, goes the saying. And that’s precisely what is being done today to the Portuguese Legacy in our Bhangarachem Goem.

Eventually, I know, Portuguese lore here is going to be a thing of the past. Misunderstood and unsung, Portuguese culture will eventually die from an inflicted, unnatural death. Not that the gravediggers will never try to revive its dead body.

Tomorrow, with the economy collapsing and the tourist influx dwindling, many will regret having killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. But then it will be too late!  Goa will have lost its identity forever. We will no more be seen as “the pluralistic society”, or, as “the confluence of three millenary cultures, the Indian, the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon”.

And, on that day, many will shed crocodile tears.

What is Legacy? It may be pertinent to ask. It is obviously something that is handed down to us by our predecessors. And that clearly includes the good and the bad. It is a fact of life that there’s nothing that is so bad that does not have a “good” side to it, and vice versa. And if that is so, could Portuguese Legacy lag far behind? Or is it that the legacy under consideration is the only abhorrent monster that there is?  

It is not uncommon to see strong criticism being meted out to the Portuguese from various quarters. But what pains me the most is that such unwarranted barrage, more often than not, comes from people who until yesterday were dancing the vira with the Portuguese.

Why is bitter criticism often being leveled against the Portuguese?  It is not difficult to understand that such an attitude is born of the reality that the Portuguese came here as conquerors. Not only did they thrust upon us a colonial political regime but, what is more, they forced upon us their customs, their culture, their lore and much more. And regrettably, our genuine freedom fighters, during the liberation struggle, were made to suffer a lot at the hands of a repressive regime.

The Plus Side

But, to be fair, the Portuguese also brought in a lot of good things: their manners, their art, their architecture, their beautiful language, the civil code, their romantic songs and a lot more.  Even at the height of the liberation struggle there was a saying “Hate Portugal, not the Portuguese”. Unlike the British who were haughty and isolated themselves in ivory towers, the Portuguese were courteous, friendly and mingled easily with the locals.

Permit me now to recount a personal story as I remember Heitor with saudades. He was an officer in the Portuguese army and we became good friends. Full of life, he sang beautifully, and was at his best when our musical group “Tuna Académica” provided him the accompaniment. After the takeover of Goa by the Indian Army, Heitor was placed in a concentration camp, but sadly, for reasons I still can’t fathom, I failed to pay him a visit when he needed me the most. One day, two women of ill fame (the so-called prostitutes, “scum of the earth”), who ironically had remained loyal to Heitor unlike me, came knocking at my door. “Heitor wanted to see me urgently”, they said. “Could I please make it possible”? Ashamed and embarrassed, I rushed to Ponda, where Heitor was lodged. By then, it was too late. After going through a lot of humiliation at the hands of the Indian Army, he and his colleagues had at last been repatriated to Portugal. I hope and pray, even to this day, in my heart of hearts, that Heitor will have forgiven me (though I must confess I never heard from him again). Now, when I lay hands on my guitar, and strum the chords of his favorite song “Pepita”, tears come rolling down from my eyes. And I am reminded with nostalgia of him and the lovely Portuguese friends we had. And above all of the “lesson in forgiveness” a humble but loving Portuguese soldier chose to teach me.  And in the treasure trove of my memory I preserve Heitor’s sacrifice as a shining sample of “Portuguese legacy”. 

Portuguese bashing

Anti-Portuguese sentiments (I say this with a good deal of sadness) have been unfortunately worked up into frenzy for some time now, since the MG took over, to polarize Goans. After the advent of the BJP, a systematic campaign was unleashed to “demolish” the Portuguese. CM Parrikar’s oft-repeated statement “Our Heritage is only what we received from the pre-Portuguese period” contributed significantly to further whip up anti-Portuguese sentiments.

Surprisingly, people whom I know and who swore by “their Portuguese legacy” until yesterday, were now shouting from their rooftops demanding that the last vestiges of Portuguese culture in Goa must disappear. Whipping up communal sentiments, further, they chose to nickname Catholics as a group, with the “derogatory” words: “Portuguese People”, conveniently forgetting that, as far as patriotism and Indian-ness is concerned, Catholics are second to none.

Let’s move ahead

Could we make a resolve? Let the badmouthing cease henceforth. A line must be drawn before letting our emotions take off as far as Portuguese legacy is concerned.

Years ago, after liberation, I remember, disgruntled elements razed to the ground Afonso de Albuquerque’s statue in Goa. They rightly said that this despot, the most contemptible symbol of the Portuguese empire, had no right to be atop a pedestal.

But later, when the Camões statute was also destroyed it was more difficult to accept their reasoning. Camões, was the poet par excellence rated amongst the best in the world, his work transcending man-made barriers and all human frontiers as well. The acts of vandalism sometime ago in the city of Panjim, allegedly with the tacit approval of the higher-ups, were also abominable and reflect a deeper malaise. Having taken place on the Revolution Day, in an attempt to lend credibility to a group that must have contributed precious little toward the freedom struggle, it is a matter of shame and concern to all.

But what seems to border on the absurd is the present despicable act by a few worthies to “exorcise” the water bed under the Portuguese M/V Sagres that docked here in Goa for a few days. “Evil spirits had to be exorcised”, the zealots said. Miserably such worthies fail to realize that evil spirits (whether from Portugal or elsewhere) also travel by land and air; what is more, at supersonic speed.

It is imperative therefore that we exorcise ourselves, first and foremost, from the demons of hatred and unforgiveness that hang within us. As grown-ups it is also high time we squarely accept the blame that rests on us for the present chaos in Goa. Moreover, a healthy society doesn’t regale in the opening up of past wounds.

All said and done, it’s time to rejoice. Fifty years of freedom from the Portuguese rule are definitely a time to celebrate. But, side-by-side let’s admit, it’s also time for reflection, stock-taking and introspection.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Lets face it...Nehru and his cohorts simply saw Goa as a distraction..and a place where he could offer the exploding populations of neighbouring States...some free land, beaches, and whatever else came their way.

Colonials were renowned for raping, pillaging and leaving a Bible behind. This new Colonialism rapes, pillages and leaves a shamble behind. Goa USED to be a very distinct society, rich with a UNIQUE culture, music, temperature and more that would be the envy of Macao!. From what I hear its now the playground of the Nigerians, Russians and Israelis...we replaced one Colonial power with a multitude of rapists...Goa is GONE...forever....and the guys that called the shots back in '63..well....they can roll as much as they want...they crapped on a beautiful country and this generation is left to clean it up! So Sad!

Mario D'Cunha |

Kudos Doutor Colaco for such a sensible, rational yet heart wrenching piece.

It is a well known fact that in reality the agents of Portuguese regime in Goa before the Goa conquest ( as the Honourable Supreme court of India defines it) in 1961 were main culprits to malign the colonial rulers. Unfortunately these same agents have become turncoats and now the hail the great 'Indian' culture as the original identity of Goans.

Doutor, the entire society is like a flock of sheep, It gets easily influenced and intoxicated by the cunning designs of those in the position of power.

Look at Pondichery and how people there have kept French culture alive. I envy them the way they speak and write French. And I do feel ashamed as a Goan for not knowing Portuguese. Those who took over the reins of power killed it due to their own massive inferiority complex.

We as the people are known for knee- jerk reaction. And this reaction is conveniently turned into the 'public opinion' by overzealous pseudo patriots.

It is a certain class that has always sought its own hegemony as the guardian of culture is bent upon destroying the unique identity of Goa and they are armed with several agents who are interested in plundering Goa purely for financial gains.

I wish more Goans like you stand up and make themselves heard.

Remove the the the element of Portuguese legacy from Goa and Goa won't be different from neighboring Karwar and Konkan where tourists dread to go. The composite culture is the USP of Goa that draws tourists from all over. You destroy it and kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

Once again tukam Dev Borem Korum for such a thought provoking write up.

Rupesh Jhalmi |

im portuguese and im really sad that indians feel this way about us, but lets look at another portuguese enclave and see the differences, portuguese macau colonized by the same time they instead of destroying our monuments and our heritage they embraced it, chinese and macanese and used what we left there to make money the casinos and other bussynesses, and macau is one of the highest gdp per capita places on the planet i think its nr 2. goa is nr 1 in india and yet you choose to destroy and erase the very thing that give goa its difference and become interesting and attractive to others, if goa becomes like rest india then you must complain against the english because if rest of india is poorer then goa it was the british who the indians seem to love that where there. By the way most of the so called oppression seems like lies and fairy tales to me, no way a portuguese soldier would rape a indian women thats bullshit, the fact is you let goa rott, the houses and churches everything that makes goa different more and more goa is becoming like rest of india as you turn away from its unique identity, not even portuguese is an official language, you deny anything portuguese witch is dumb because you could win not only lots economical advantages and the most important a place to call home witch many goans want back. and by the way nobody forces anybody to have a portuguese surname if goans have them its because they want to have them. i am really against bullshit, it gets one nowhere. I also wish goa a bright future like i wish macau.

portuguese guy |

I was 12 years old when the Portuguese were thrown out. I also knew, that,

1. thefts and robberies were few and far between,

2. that women were not safe in lonely places and at night from the Portuguese renegade soldiers,

3. unless one toiled and moiled there was no food to eat,

4. that poor people were oppressed by the "bhatkars", mind you, not by the Portuguese, including physical punishment if not obeyed,

5. that the freedom fighters did nothing to get freedom from within, from the stooges of the Portuguese,

6. none was guillotined like in the French Revolution, no heads rolled,

7. the privileged few under the Portuguese, again became privileged under the new regime, it was an easy transition,

8. we were horrified when we came face to face with the Indian soldier or the police,

9. even today I cannot enter a police station with a complaint to mmke without realizing that my heart rate, has increased, a fear psychosis,

10. in order to get a "favor" from our masters, all that was required was a present through the kitchen, such as, some big fish or "ganton" or fruit produce offered through the mistress.

And there are many other things that have skipped my memory.

The point is we suffered under that regime and yet there are good things that were ingrained in us, and the bad, which no ritual can erase, including the names given, like Pedro, Joao, Batista, Jose, Fernando, Agnelo, Patrocino, the whole array.

Let us take with us into the future, that, which is good to the one global village or else we get hurt, remembering those.

Ludovico |

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Dr Francisco Colaco

Dr Fracisco Colaco is a renowned cardiologist and nationally acclaimed eco-cardiographer. He is a pioneer in eco-cardiology in Goa. Also a social activist. He has passion for music and dance.


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