If Goans were merely reputable cooks and butlers, Goa, undoubtedly then, would have been looked upon as a scenic saucepan. Similarly, if Goa went by its ancestral name of Govapuri, Goans might perhaps never have been implicated with Goanism. The logic being, Goanismsounds psychologically more plausible than Govapurism.
What is Goanism? Goanism is a psycho-endemic-repulsion, brought on whenever two or more Goans, of known or unknown significance, converge on the same field of survival, revival, rivalry or connivery. Or, as Confucius might have put it were he asked to define Goanism:
If I no make
To Big Mountain
No good for you!
If I make
To Big Mountain
Better for you!
The Third Goan
It therefore appears to be an inevitable scenario, that whenever two or more Goans get together, it brings about a downfall of the third. The multifarious question becomes: Who is the proverbial Third Goan, and how did he or she come to deserve this acrimony? Is Goanism a contagion, and if so, what are the symptoms, and when does a bona fide Goan deteriorate into a Goanist? Finally, are non-Goans also at risk of contracting Goanism after being exposed to Goans, or upon living definitely or indefinitely in Goa?
The average Goan, might not even be able to comprehend the complex nature of these questions. The self-proclaimed Goan, might not even want to be bothered. The elite Goan, in a self-righteous tone of course, might vehemently profess that it's a virus typically found in the lower ranks of the Goan hierarchy. And the underprivileged Goan, is likely to point the finger at everything that moves -- from rising inflation to clouds in the sky -- as being the germinating cause of it all!
My first bout with Goanism began in kindergarten, when I didn't know the difference between playing at home and playing in a classroom. Or in what manner one had to fool around in front of others in order to graduate into the next class. The Goan class teacher, who knew better, chose to detain me on the premise that I only spoke Konkani.
My father lodged a protest. The principal, a non-Goan, scheduled a meeting to determine whether a miscarriage of justice had indeed occurred, or, if I just happened to be another classic Doidiro! On the appointed day, I was summoned to the principal's office. The principal submitted, that it didn't matter in what language I played, so long as I could speak and understand English. I was then told that I would be asked a question in English, and I would be required to answer it in English.
Fortunately, the question was one which my parents frequently put to us kids: What do you wish to become when you grow up? Since my brother decided to become a doctor, and my sister wanted to be a teacher, I answered: A lawyer!
There were no further questions. The principal held that I was unjustifiably detained, and escorted me to my new classroom. The reason for my detention, I was told years later, was because the class teacher had a daughter, of identical age, whom she deemed wasn't old enough to be in school at the time I already was. Therefore, by detaining me, she thought she would have the satisfaction of not seeing her daughter aced-out by someone who only spoke Konkani!
White Flag Revolution
Twenty years later, my bout with Goanism hadn't to do with being questioned in English, and having answered in Konkani or Telugu! It had to do with an exhibition of my paintings. The art critic of Times of India, instead of reviewing the paintings, went on to denounce me as a "palpable hoax" and a "fraud in the city's art world". Thus, began the legacy of the circumstantial First Goan, who, along with his bosses -- the editor-in-chief and the printer- publisher of Times of India, respectively -- were summoned to court for trial under Sections 500, 501, and 502 of the Indian Penal Code.
Two years later, a Second Goan, based in New York, dialled me up at a pre-dawn hour. I was at that time living on the West Coast (California). He was responding to a brainstorm he had just had, of deploying my case of criminal-libel against the First Goan as a salvo for his White Flag Revolution. Or in other words, the circumstances of my case would be the opening lines in his manifesto for the White Flag Revolution!
It sounded flattering indeed, but from my perspective, he might very well be asking me to be the flag-bearer for his White Flag Revolution, and subsequently, the recipient of the first counter-revolutionary bullet. No thanks! I heard nothing further of his White Flag Revolution, or of his own evolution in that regard. But a Fourth Goan, residing in Goa, did hear from him. (Note: As the Third Goan is the proverbial Fall Guy, he is omitted in the numeric sequence of the Goans herewithin referred).
In a letter to the Fourth Goan, the Second Goan:
a) admonished him for introducing me to him;
b) alleged that when I last visited him in New York, I had rifled through the file he had compiled on the Fourth Goan and me; and
c) I had swiped all my letters to him from said file save for one, containing incriminating evidence, penned by my own hand, against my very own awards and honors!
The Fourth Goan was thereupon instructed by the Second Goan, to serve me with a 10- day deadline, within which to return the allegedly swiped-letters, failing which, he would then have no other recourse but release to the First Goan my aforesaid letter, supposedly containing the incriminating evidence. The Fourth Goan, who did not appreciate being used as a bailiff -- much less as a pigeon-carrier -- gave the Second Goan a mouthful!
Were the Second Goan's outrageous allegations, perhaps, a conspired strategy to make me cough beans, if I had ingested any, or swallow the ones he was attempting to stuff into my mouth through the Fourth Goan? Or, was the Second Goan, under the auspices of the White Flag Revolution, maintaining Gestapo-like files in New York on fellow Goans? Or, was the Second Goan, under the auspices of the White Flag Revolution, maintaining Gestapo-like files in New York on fellow Goans? Or, was the whole episode a matter of unrelated coincidence, in that, just when the First Goan and his associates could come forth with no corroborating witnesses, or any controverting evidence to disprove the validity of my awards and honors, that a fellow Goan, based in New York, would so happen to have archived such incriminating evidence, and that too, self-incriminating evidence penned by my own hand!
In any event, the Second Goan's aforesaid deadline went dead. In the silence that ensued, my advocate alerted me that perhaps, the stage is being set for the Second Goan to take the stand in defense of the First Goan. Instead, the First Goan gave the Second Goan a standing ovation in the columns of the Times of India. Finally, on August 31, 1988, the First Goan and his boss -- in the absence of any corroborating witnesses, or any controverting evidence, or a substantial showing of having acted in good faith and with due care and diligence -- were found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt and accordingly convicted.
Palette vs. Saucepan
As for the Second Goan's White Flag Revolution, I sincerely hope, it is on a productive run if still in existence. Otherwise, it would seem that for the first time we have a pacific- sounding revolution where shots are fired from within, and it is any one's wild guess as to who gets taken on a stretcher, and who ends up getting wrapped in linen, myrrh, and other funereal- preservatives!
In retrospect, it more than appears that my troubles began from the time I dropped the cassock and picked the palette. Had I picked a saucepan instead, it might have been an altogether different sequence of fates. For one, I would probably have been flipping authentic eggs, sunnyside up, as opposed to ending up like a stubborn-egg in the hands of the First Goan's battalion of defense-advocates. For another, a London-based Fifth Goan would, more than likely, have been repulsed by the stench of bats and their droppings than by my paintings which displaced the bats in the belfry-area of the Bom Jesus Basilica.
Unlike the First Goan, who readily dismissed my paintings in two words, "bad art", this London-based Goan needed two paragraphs. The first paragraph was an opinionated round. In the second paragraph, he charged that my paintings are a "double insult to religious art", i.e., if according to what he was told is true that I had painted them on original masterpieces which had deteriorated! So much for gossip being given such credibility by a fellow Goan, hailing from the same neighborhood in Goa, and who was otherwise presented in a local daily as a "fascinating poet, writer, artist....".
Bats vs. Art
A Sixth Goan, of ecclesiastical disposition, kept buzzing around my paintings in the Bom Jesus Basilica art gallery like a disoriented bee. Despite overwhelming, written-expressions by visitors to the gallery endorsing the contrary, he took the stand that my paintings were the topic of public ridicule, and vowed to have them displaced.
Prior to the gallery, the place was a haven for bats, with bat droppings in some areas layered to as thick as four inches. What the noble-spirited Fr. George D'Sa and I had devoted ourselves to doing, was to transform that stinking haven -- situated directly above and overlooking the sacred tomb of St. Francis Xavier -- into a place of beauty.
But as almighty fate would have it for us, the Sixth Goan was himself displaced while my paintings remained in the gallery, albeit, the gallery itself -- following a dispute between the newly appointed Rector and me -- ended up getting closed. The gallery's closure. got the attention of the late Dr. K.S.K. Menon, former editor of the Navhind Times.
Dr. Menon and I were no strangers in the world of incorrigible odds. Ours was a battle of words rather than pictures. He didn't like what I wrote, and I didn't appreciate what he rejected. This 'You Write - I Reject' irreconcilable marriage, went on for eleven years, with no divorce in sight. At one point, in an attempt to resolve this unbearable impasse, I requested for a face-to- face meeting.
But each time his secretary presented him with the visitor's slip announcing my arrival, he would discharge her with my previously submitted articles and cartoons. After several unsuccessful attempts, his secretary advised that I would be better off if I arrived before he did, waited outside his office, and then personally request for a meeting. It was a brilliant proposition, one which I followed-up with the very next morning.
At the first face-to-face confrontation, his editorship asked to be excused for his inability to meet with me that morning, but to come the following day, same time. On the following day, much after 'same time', I was again told to come the following day, 'same time'. This went on for four days in a row. If it went any longer, I would risk being taken for an indigent!
At the fifth confrontation, I was allowed in. It was a fruitless meeting. Sensing that one of us obviously had to be Muhammed and the other a Mountain, neither wanted to be either. I was, nevertheless, complimented for my persistence, handed back another stack of unused cartoons, and told to have a good day. That compliment, coupled with publishing one of my letters every now and then, was about as successful as we got with each other.
Notwithstanding the above, and during the time the art gallery was closed following a dispute with the new Rector, Dr. Menon appeared to have undergone a change of heart. He took the occasion to make an informal visit to the Bom Jesus Basilica, asked that he be permitted into the art gallery in order to review the paintings and the dispute. And upon reviewing the whole matter, he put an editorial insert, requesting the Church to re-open the gallery, on the grounds that the paintings were commissioned by a former respected Rector. . . . that they were executed by the artist in good faith. . . . and that the paintings were seen and appreciated by the public for a long time.
Shortly after that editorial-plea, the gallery was re-opened to the public. Not too long after, Dr. Menon left The Navhind Times. Between us, it was the end of a long fought-out dual. One in which his obstinacy to deny me recognition in what I was good at, only gave me the persistence to do better. But in his parting editorial-gesture, he made up for the past in a dignified manner. So if you are still somewhere out there, Dr. Menon, looking in and listening: Thank you again!
And there are other incidents, involving more Goans and some non-Goans. But if I am to turn this article into an expose, I would very well defeat its purpose, which purpose is to hopefully enable Goans to become Ambassadors of Goodwill to their own kind rather than of ill-will.
In conclusion, there is no absolute way of knowing when an unsuspecting Goan becomes a practicing Goanist, or when about one characteristic begins to overlap the other. Therefore, when the roll call is made, and whosoever is without any sin is asked to pick stones, I'll surely take the precaution of picking the last stone. That way, I would not have to prematurely meet my Maker!
This article appeared in the issue of the HERALD, dated 30/4/93.