Sudhir Kakar lives here. So does Amitav Ghosh, at least for some part of the year. They live on opposite sides of Goa, in the North and the South –a complete face off, as different as chalk and cheese. Wendell Rodrick’s heritage den is located midway between theirs. But then he belongs here, both ethnically and biologically. So does Maria Couto, who hails from down South but is now securely anchored at her in-laws heritage dwelling in the North. Savia Viegas, Margaret Mascarenhas (an American of Goan heritage) and Vivek Menezes are also rooted in the soil here. They had their stints abroad and then homed in here like bees. Lambert Mascarenhas completed a century wielding his penmanship. The others are following in his shadow. Yes, Sudeep Chakravarti (of the fame of Red Sun) dwells here too and before it skips my mind, Siddharth Sanghavi, is also here on and off. Aniruddha Sen Gupta and Salil Chaturvedi too moved here lock, stock and barrel. Damodar Mauzo and Manohar Shetty are others with lairs in villages of Goa.
Living in Goa has become a rite of passage for many writers. There is a thriving scene of creativity in eclectic Goa, often said to be the most diverse urban area in the country. Goans write in 13 different languages – a testament of the fecund, hybrid and multicultural society here. For the other Indians here, the affection is more personal than business-oriented. The Goa Art Lit Festival, in its seventh year now, is an addendum to the frame.
The slow pace of life, the pervasive ease and freedom in everyday living keeps bringing artists back, such that there is a creative explosion of a kind here - an amazing and inspiring mix of people from films, music, architecture, photography, food and culture. It is hard to miss the scent of an escapist dream possessing those who have come to call Goa their second home, mixing their intoxication with feni, toddy and palms - a mellifluous heady mix.
The syncretism, sussegado and salubrious surroundings make people spend their creative life in Goa. Candace Rose Rardon, an American writer and sketch artist staying in Goa, waxes eloquently in her blog, “It hits me, every day: This is my life in Goa. I’m like Drew Barrymore at the end of 50 First Dates, having to be reminded of her story every day before she can actually get up and live it. The fact that I live five minutes from the sea and can submerge myself in it every day, that I can walk its shore, letting the saltwater dry on my skin – all of it hits me, every day, as profoundly as it did the day before, and it’s all I can do not to throw my hands up to the sky and say thank you. Nothing short of a gift: one I would say is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. But it’s exactly what I hope for my family and friends, and what I hope for you, too – that we would each be able to give ourselves this gift of a retreat in Goa where everyone wants the same thing: to be reminded of what it feels like to be pulled towards his or her work, and unable to resist it.” They got their dream destination, but we are interested in the churning of creative output and the appetite of these settlers for writing and language to weave myriad stories.
Amitav launched his third book ‘Flood of Fire’ last year, which completed the Ibis trilogy. His esoteric writing has taken historical fiction writing to a level par excellence. Big fat book launches were slotted through major cities of the world (but then he is an international writer whose books fly off the shelves). His suave publisher is in the knowhow that nothing less will do (no arty launch with just chai). Like big advances, Jamboree launches translate into big sales. Goan fans too were treated to a home launch with a presentation by the writer. Mr. Khalil at ‘Broadway’ book store in Panjim sold multiple copies. The city was abuzz with the release. Readers wanted to know whether the narrative in the book, like its predecessors, ‘Sea of Poppies’ and ‘River of Smoke’, is driven by narcotics frenzy, opium-¬induced hallucinations, the jargon of free trade and moments of epiphany. The book is a bestseller on international book selling charts.
Maria Couto wrote about western writers for a quarter of a century before she gravitated to the Goan story. A Daughter’s Story’ and ‘Filomena’s Journeys’ are two of her recent works. She is a compelling writer with an austere and unsentimental style. She chronicles the story of Goa under Portuguese rule to present times in the garb of people’s narratives - namely, through the unveiling of family portraits, ruthless yet poignant. If readers want to peel the layers and unearth Goa beyond the beaches and toddy palms and discern the whispers of heritage homes and vaulted churches, they must read these definitive Goan books.
Sudhir Kakar’s studies on psychoanalysis arise from an eastern socio-cultural construct, which opposes the western Freudian theory particularly the Oedipal Complex. His works on mysticism, sexuality and the divine connect open new channels of thought.
Manohar Shetty is the poetic voice from Goa since the 70s. He is an imagist poet who paints colourful word pictures with concision and exactitude. The gaze is hard and precise. Everyday objects and creatures acquire uncanny connotations and morph into metaphors of life. His books of poems include - A Guarded Space, Borrowed Time, Domestic Creatures, Personal Effects, Body Language and others.
Wendell Rodricks, known for his haute couture, recently parlayed into the avatar of a writer (spurred on by a challenge in the Goa Writers Forum which said “one who can write 1000 words a day, is a writer”). He gifted his fans with words and visuals of the history of sartorial tastes in Goa. The coffee table book is titled ‘Moda Goa’. The superb photographs in the book have been done by Mark Sequiera (I mentored him, not in photography as his father, but during his Cambridge study for the AS & A levels). Publishing in India with lavish launches (wine and hors d’ouvres served galore), new power reading elite and commercial book festivals, has led to an interesting potpourri of literary mouthings, fashion statements and classical settings. Literary gems were somehow being lost in the glittering showbiz haze, but they still exist and Wendell’s writing is a testimony to it.
Margaret’s ‘Skin’ and the ‘Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos’ are narratives of dramatic adventure and great migrations in colonial Goa and Venezuela, respectively. ‘Skin’ is not completely factual and contains many mythical and legendary stories. Peter Nazareth writes in World Literature Today, “a brilliant first novel that gets under the skin”. An anthropological gem, its uniqueness lies in historical narrative of Luso-African Indians. Families of Goa who owned Luso-African Indians are more often hybridized and interracial, a lineage which is kept under wraps and not often dwelt upon by writers in Goa. If the reader is intrigued by the cultural curry of Goa, they have arrived at the right destination.
Another new wave enshrined in the Goan landscape is that of emerging English translations of vernacular works. Damodar Mauzo (with his dwelling in cool, soft, South Goa), a veteran of the Konkani language, has reached the international arena, and more readers are whetting their appetite through his translated short story collections. His book ‘Teresa’s Man and other Short Stories from Goa’ was long-listed for the prestigious Frank O’ Connor 2015 Award. Translation, though steeped in dialectics at literary festivals, has made local flavor go global. It is said that when globalization peaks is when regionalism is born in its interstices. Likewise, there is a perceptible shift in Vivek Menezes’ columns towards Goa (penned for a mix of national/international magazines).
Every new coterie shifts the culturography of Goa. The writers’ league is slated to alter much more. Goa’s appetite for multiculturalism and creativity and the writers’ penchant for Goa has created a symbiosis. Goa is richer of both its unions - the arranged marriage with the Portuguese crafted five centuries ago, and the rather more recent and unsteady affair with creative fellow Indians which started 55 years back. We wish the ménage‘a trois to continue unbridled!