Five books to discover Goa through

As the Portuguese marched into the Goan hinterlands, Catholicism emerged as a religion and the churches that were erected then prevail as mighty religious structures.

In keeping with this issue’s theme, let me focus on five books, not necessarily new ones, which give an excellent insight into understanding Goa. One is from the world of literature, two are anthologies, one is the work of an insightful anthropologist and the last is a set of dictionaries. So, how does one go about encountering a small yet complex culture through the printed page? Of course, it’s not as much fun as visiting the place, but the understanding can be far deeper. Check out this list and let me know if it works for you. Coming up first is a book I’m pretty much biased about. That’s because it was a text which one came across during my university days, and which fascinated me since.

Prof Peter Nazareth’s Modern Goan Literature (2010, reprint) is a collection of Goan writing — mainly in English, and also translated from Konkani and Portuguese. For the first time perhaps, it made the point that Goan writing not only exists, but is a viable category of writing. It convinced then young students like me to go deeper into the field. This meant first collating all Goa-related works I could find; there were only a few available then. It later lead to reviewing Goa books and even publishing some of them. The selection of texts in this anthology gives a nice hint about the diversity of Goan writing, and the mix that goes into making up Goa. After getting to know its editor, Peter Nazareth (who’s based at Iowa) in the post-Internet era, we got permission to republish this work in Goa. One of my regrets is that so few people have been able even today to recognise the worth of this far too underrated book. It was in college itself that one chanced upon a journal article — not a book — written by Robert S Newman. At that time, ‘Bob’ Newman was at the Australian National University, but this American Jewish anthropologist had already seriously studying Goa. His essay in Pacific Affairs (1983) was an eyeopener, and something that offered new perspectives on Goa.

Lastly, and this might seem a strange recommendation, check out some of the old (and reprinted) dictionaries in Konkani. Some of these date back to the 1930s, and are copyright-expired. They thus have a new not-to-miss 98 Planet-Goa Anniversary Issue lease of life. You can get them at bookshops, including the Golden Heart Emporium, near the Margao General Post Office, at a rather inexpensive price (a little over a hundred rupees each). They are a mixed bag. Because the dictionaries are of such vintage, the language they use might not be the latest form of preferred Konkani. But, they are in the Roman (or Romi) script, which means they are easy for even a foreign tourist to use! Of course, more recent dictionaries are quite easily in Devanagari Konkani, particularly suitable if you are from a part of India which shares the same script. Happy travels through these modest pages filled with rich ideas, imagery and loads of experiences.

The paper went against the then dominant Portuguese understanding of things Goan. At the same time, it didn’t swing to simplistically take the ‘other side’, as if to justify post-1961 rule as making a paradise of Goa. Instead, it saw things through ‘Goan’ eyes, warts and all. Newman has since come out with a book Of Umbrellas, Godesses and Dreams (OIP), but it is now out of print. Search for his writing wherever you can find it. But that would mostly be in scattered academic journals, and, if you’re lucky, online. But Goan writing is not from the world of English alone. Far from it. Till the 1960s, Goan writing in English was restricted to the diaspora. In recent decades, unlike earlier, Devanagari Konkani has become a prominent channel for expressing local ideas. Unfortunately, not much of it has been translated.

A Photographic Guide to Birds of Goa
Besides the writing of Damodar Mauzo, Mahableshwar Sail and a few others more recently, one of the first Konkani books to make it big time nationwide was Pundalik Narayan Naik’s Acchev. The 1952 born playwright, short-story writer, novelist, poet and screenwriter had his 1977 novel Acchev become the first Konkani novel to be translated into English. It got translated only in 2002, by the Kolkata-based Konkani translator Vidya Pai. Its theme is an issue hot on everyone’s mind even today, mining in Goa. Reflected in Water is yet another anthology, this done by the Mumbai-based Goan writer Jerry Pinto. Again, a nice mix of what Goa is made up of.

Although primarily known for its beaches and vibrant nightlife, its waterways, hinterland and even skies hold hidden mysteries waiting to be unravelled. Although its vast natural environment create canvasses of bliss, preserving its lands from the fate of a concrete zoo seem like the cry of the hour. With over 400 species of birds, Goa is increasingly gaining recognition for its avifauna, and is steering toward becoming a preferred bird watching destination. A love for nature and a passion for the environment led the ecstatic mother-son duo, Rina and Naitik Jain to release the second edition of their book, ‘A Photographic Guide to Birds of Goa’. This revised edition is an attractive concoction of a passionate artist and author Rina Jain, and a photographer, her 18 year old son, Naitik Jain. It entails a 176 page illustrious collation of around 150 species of birds found in Goa, along with a description of each of their scientific names, bird calls, perching habits, mating habits as well as eating habits. It covers birds across different terrains – aquatic birds, forest birds, field birds, etc. Each of the photographs are captured by the 18 year old photographer, Naitik Jain and every description painstakingly penned by artist and author Rina Jain. The description also includes general information, along with personal experiences that occurred while photographing the birds. The first edition of the book was released in 2012; its overwhelming response inspired the release of its second edition just 3 years later. The first edition had a documentation of 85 species of birds and was sold in Goa and Dubai. With over 1500 copies sold it persuaded Rina and Naitik Jain to come out with the revised second edition. The revised edition is currently placed in over 90 book stores around Goa and can also be easily purchased on leading e-commerce websites that include Flipkart and Amazon.

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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