The Passing Away of an Obscure Sage

 by Dom Martin


             Recognition is a universal need and its occurrence in every life is a matter of fate.  But the irony of recognition is that it is a prescriptive drug, inducing instant mental wellbeing, and thereafter, leaving one subject to addiction or recurring bouts of dejection.  And no matter how well regulated or unregulated the dosage, it lacks the potential to extend life beyond one’s intended purpose.  In light of this paradoxical realization, Max Sequiera established his own stratosphere, orbited his own unostentatious aspirations, and on the night of August 27, 2004, at age 85, headed effortlessly for eternity.

             To the commoner, he appealed as a commoner.  To intellectuals and the elite, his insight and command of the aesthetic brought lasting admiration and affiliation. As manager of the Roopa Art Gallery (now the Taj Art Gallery), he mingled with the likes of J.R.D. Tata, Homi Bhabha. Frank Moraes, M.F. Hussein. F.N. Souza and a host of other accomplished artists and luminaries.  For them, revisiting the gallery was a pretext to assimilate even more of what Max had to offer from the galaxy of his stellar insight and allegorical wit.

             His passion for collecting art or reacting to what was seemingly divine in the creative form had few parallels.  He had no qualms going hungry or trading bread on the family table for a work of art he came across.  For him, the acquisition of art superceded the reality of survival and in its presence, his third-eye would become intoxicated with subliminal joy, in the hopes of finally unveiling the mystery between human creativity and the colluding hand of the supernatural.  And if the work happened to be a piece of sculpture small enough to handle, one would find him fondling it with timeless reverence.

             Of his stately collection, little is known other than for two significant pieces now in possession of the State Museum.  An 18th century wood sculpture depicting the Pieta which Max gifted to the Museum, and an abstract painting by V.S. Gaitonde, which I purchased from Max and then gifted to the Museum.  One will also find his footprints at a number of art events that he was called upon to assist, or served as a member of the judging panel.  And when the Bom Jesus Basilica art gallery was coming into being, he was graciously present.

          Over the decades, the accelerating neglect of Goan homes and other architectural edifices took their toll on his inability to be a mental force to reckon with.  I recall the time we stood in front of the Church of St. Anne in Talaulim, which edifice, despite its architectural grandeur, had been left to the ravages of time.  After a contemplative silence, Max turned to me and in a resigned tone, intoned: “You know Martin, this is a church where God failed . . .”.  His provocative intonation was subsequently adapted in the title of my article:  The St. Anne Church: ‘Where God has failed . . . .’, which appeared in the issue of the Herald dated January 13, 1985.

             Perhaps, Max’s monumental legacy is preserving the historical integrity of the Panjim Municipal Garden Square.  In the mid sixties, when the Municipality announced its approved plans to convert a sizeable portion of this square into a lot for the construction of its multi-level administrative office, Max erupted like a volcano.  Such a move, he vehemently contended in letters to the press, would not only be a stigma on the well-known architect whose design won the coveted First Prize, but would be an abomination of the very values that create an endearing ambience between the sacred elements of form, space and co-existence!

This article appeared in the issues of The Navhind Times and Herald in September, 2004

Pen sketch of Max Sequiera by author.