Bernadette Gomes, Willy Goes, Daegal Godinho at work and play
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ tells of choices that we make as we walk through the woods, the road we choose and the one we leave untrodden. But are the turns, right ones and wrong ones, part of a road of irrevocably no return? Or maybe we can return, not with a song of ‘innocence’ on our lips any more, rather with a song of ‘experience’, to a new simplicity, a new kind of travel that distrusts clutter, a race not run by us before, but a walk that the feet recognize nonetheless?
Such persons who re-turn to a road of choice I see as trail blazers in our midst: they tell of what it took to leave behind, and what it takes to move in new directions. Here I look at a few whose journeys I have had the privilege to watch from not too far a vantage point.
I met Bernadette Gomes when she was a young student at a local college. She was a sharp-witted young woman, whose academic record left little to be desired. Born in Bahrain, Bernadette came to Goa as a child, and grew up in a village that still had no electricity. But it had many riches to offer: “Our house was located near the river. It was all wooded around, so I got a lot of exposure to the wild. Playing in the fields, on bales of hay, trying to catch mud skippers at the river banks, jumping in the river at will, seeing snakes and centipedes almost everyday, foxes sounding their dusk salvo almost every evening, these were my reality. We were always climbing trees. We were chased by buffaloes so often!”
There were story-tellers to help make sense of life. “Besides the close interaction with nature, there were also stories told by the old grandmothers in the neighbourhood: stories about how kings and queens had defended lands and the forests; how trees came to the rescue of people; and stories about the character of trees. In short I did get a good dose of plant-lore from the old folks around the village.” Equally exciting were the skies she gazed up at: “The dark starry nights were a whole new dimension by themselves. I had the good fortune to see comet Bennet as a child. It was so spectacular in those days when we did not have electricity, to behold this flaming broom in the sky. I saw two other comets subsequently. These occurrences fired my curiosity about where were we. Where did these strange objects come from? Was the sky a shell?”
The people Bernadette met opened her ears and eyes to hitherto unknown realities: “The close interaction with nature was coupled with interactions with various service communities, that were clearly at a disadvantage. The basket weavers from the Mahar community, who came to the village annually, the fish sellers, the bangle seller, the old man who came selling rolls of elastic and lace and safety pins, the copper smith blacksmith. I eavesdropped eagerly to listen to their stories, when they took a break and sat near our house for a while. They seemed to count their money in paise, simply because they never made too many rupees.”
In College, Bernadette entered the Science stream. But she also began to be interested in literature and politics. She mentions Ned Ludd as a strong influence in these formative years. This quasi-mythical figure, later associated with the Luddite movement, was convinced that the machinery of what would be termed the Industrial Revolution, would undermine the hand work of people in their own homes, upon which the personal, reasonable and honest manufacturing world had been previously based. Robert Calvert ‘s song ‘Ned Ludd’ includes the lyrics:
They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy
That all he could do was wreck and destroy, and
He turned to his workmates and said: Death to Machines
They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams.
“Here was someone who thought like me. So what I had all along believed to be my personal dreams and fantasies, became executable ideas. Yes, I now felt we could start a movement and many of my dreams could be turned into reality. College became the ground where fantasies of childhood got tempered into political ideas. I made new friends, exchanged ideas, read both science literature and philosophy. I was introduced to the ideas of Marx, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Fritjof Capra, besides organic chemistry and taxonomy which were important to secure a good grade in the exams. Chemistry and botany resonated with my childhood. Growing up with trees, I was now coming to understand them and their role better through science, in college. Something similar took place about my angst as to where we are and what the meaning of the cosmos is, and the sky being a shell or not. The three comets that I saw! These fascinations too became more tempered and then matured into a search for understanding about who we are and how the universe functions, and finally how we are dependent on nature and the cosmic forces for our survival.”
Fascination with science
The works of John Gribbin, (British Science writer, astrophysicist and prolific writer on quantum physics, climate change and global warming) Jayant Narlikar,(who developed with Fred Hoyle the conformal gravity theory) Gary Zukav (American spiritual teacher) inspired Bernadette, “helped me to look at science itself outside the blinkers of the so-called ‘scientific’ method. I then began to wonder further: if the universe is so vast, we are just a dot and how small we are! This led me to question religious and cultural beliefs too. The science-is-everything-stage was also slowly being washed away. What scientists themselves were saying about science was very telling. Knowledge had to be constantly renewed, so what is the truth? If science was meant to give us a peaceful and prosperous society, why did we have so many wars? And why was much of science used to make destructive items? Were all people, rich and poor, not entitled to a life of peace? By the time I was graduating, the need to contribute something towards an egalitarian society was growing increasingly stronger.”
Questions about social revolution
That’s where Marx’s interpretation of the world and capitalism came to play a role, reveals Bernadette. “Still having Ned Ludd as support and a group of like-minded friends, and now armed with a philosophy and theory, came the next stage of my journey – that of an activist in a Left organization. We also had the Russian and Chinese revolutions as examples that change could be brought about non-voluntarily, for the greater good of the whole of society; working with students, common people, workers; a single mission in mind – to organize a grand revolution, in the Russian and Chinese style. Only then could we have a society run on a true scientific model and world peace would prevail. This was when I decided that a career in science could not make me happy. The need to understand people, cultures, survival systems, over-ruled other options. So I turned to new directions, studying sociology, researching communities, particularly tribal communities. Their toughness and spirit of survival in the face of minimum resources amazed me. Spending time with them was more than any premier institution could teach me or anyone else.” This was an important new direction, yet another step on the ever-amazing journey.
“In a few years it became obvious to me that I had to renew my own knowledge and understanding of the world and how it was developing. Reading Alvin Toffler, Theodore Adorno, also Ayn Rand, came to my rescue. It was as if all these western scholars had got to see it first, the signs of the changing times. I began my questioning sessions again. Was an extreme philosophy the right answer to any problem? I had developed a bias against most things ‘western’, specially their lifestyle and consumption pattern: the fact that they upheld capitalism as an ideal way of running the economy, the fact that they were so far removed from living an environment-friendly lifestyle. Now it was beginning to dawn on me that the first salvos of caution about the earth and the disparity in wealth between nations and within countries, was also coming from the same ‘west’.”
So Bernadette sets out courageously “to unlearn what I had learned, through what I had learned after I thought I had learned it all. This stage of the journey was one of introspection. There were sufficient miles covered to be able to look back and see where I myself was going. Yes, “where is the world going?” had to be dealt with. But, where was I going with this kind of philosophy? That had to be dealt with too. The world itself was shrinking, after going global, and it became clear that ‘east’ or ‘west’, we all had to be one team. Take the best from both worlds. This was a stage of a more holistic understanding of the world and its people.”
Bernadette’s childhood experiences remained a deep source of contemplation: “All along this journey through young adulthood, I carried the thread of those childhood memories. They influenced all the paths I took later. My anthropological research amongst the tribal communities helped me understand how little I myself knew about the earth and the universe, as compared to the same tribal people whom we considered ‘uneducated’. I realized I was as distant from the communities in our own state of Goa as from the other galaxies in the cosmos. Political activism taught me that change comes differently, but we have to work towards it; and to be prepared for change as it happens. Though I am no longer an activist today, the journey through rallies, dharnas, street plays, prisons, helped me to be a conscious citizen, aware of the changes happening around, aware of how the world around moves.”
Then Bernadette glimpses another gift on the road. “Throughout this expedition into new territories, from an insulated village life, to the formative college years to the research in tribal areas to the fiery period of political activism, I carried a passion to draw and capture what I saw. People, in particular. Their lives and what they did. What many other younger people had perhaps never seen.”
At the present moment, Bernadette is passionate to share with others what she has seen and learnt. “It is also the stage where the fire and passion for colours and drawing never dies down. So I decided to ignite it. This is the reverse of the other stages, where I took what was there on the outside and acted accordingly. Now is the stage where I am bringing out whatever I carried with me inside, what was within me, what I never learned or studied formally, and giving it to the outside, to the society that, in a way, moulded me. This appears to be a lifetime project, a hunger that was not satisfied for a long time. But we never know. What is our true self? What is my true self? Was it me as child? Or the political activist, or the researcher and academic? Or the much sobered, wiser, thinking person in the aftermath? Or was it always the painter, who kept getting lost at every stage of the journey? Who kept putting it off because other things were more pressing at that time?”
Dr. Bernadette Gomes is today a confident and respected painter: her subject of choice is the tribal communities whose culture she researched as a student of Sociology. After gaining her Ph. D., she continues to study, as she continues to paint the people she now knows and admires. In October 2012 Dr. Gomes held one of her painting exhibitions at the Kala Academy Art Gallery, entitled:
GOULY, GHADAR, MOLLAR, MHALCHI PANDER
Mountains & Meadows
the land and the people of Goddess Mhalchi Pander
composed in paint, an ode to the Goulys of Goa
The Formal inauguration was at the hands of
98 year old Smt. Bhomi Kanu Humane of Kopardem
most senior member of the Goulys of Sattari.
In October 2013, the local newspapers had this to report: “The Dhangar-Gouly – the State’s only ancient pastoral community, even today have to cross streams and walk long distances to reach bus stops, shops and health centres and schools. As today Dhangar settlements found in reserve forests and wildlife sanctuaries lack basic amenities like water and electricity and tarred roads, the study commissioned by the government in April 2013 and conducted by Dr. Bernadette Gomes says.” (Herald, Oct. 24, 2013, p2). Bernadette herself reflects, “My journey reminds me of Maya Angelou, who said – “I did then what I knew how to do, now that I know better, I do better.” The journey is far from over.
Wilfred Goes was born within a well known photographers’ family, and the Goes Studio is a landmark in Panjim. That’s perhaps part of the reason why Willy joined the Goa College of Art and specialized in photography. His photographs carry the imprint of Willy’s artistry. When the Portuguese Government wanted to honour the Goan pioneer Abbé Faria, it was Willy Goes’ photograph of the iconographic statue in Panjim that provided the image for the First Day Cover issued on the 250th anniversary of this great hypnotist’s birth. Willy has received State Art Awards for photography and graphic design in 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990.
Willy remembers that he was a rather timid youngster, with a slight stammer that plagued him. But the energy that burned within him was not to be reduced to ashes; much to the contrary, Willy took small steps that opened gates to new areas of action and art. Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, author and music director, organized a writing workshop, and Willy Goes attended: he often relates how the end of the workshop marked the beginning of his writing career. Shyly he asked Rangel-Ribeiro how he could be a writer: “Pointing his index finger to me, firmly but lovingly, he said to me, “Go home and start writing.” I did exactly what he told me, and that very night when I reached home, I began writing what eventually shaped as my first novel. It was titled Altoddi ani Poltoddi (2003).” Willy enjoys writing in Roman script Konkani.
A Matter of confidence
When Willy felt the urge to draw, his father, who worked as a photo engraver for The Navhind Times, suggested Willy meet the editor, K.S.K. Menon. The man was reputed to be stern, one who would “shoot at sight,” and the youngster quaked in his shoes, but go he did, and the welcome was so warm that Willy was encouraged to continue drawing. He relates at the launch of his book Cobo’s Sofa, “I was talking to him, and after a while, I realized I was not stammering. That was a turning point, it was the last day I stammered.”
A local theatre group, The Mustard Seed Art Company offered Willy a small role in a play, of a bird with a wounded wing, and Willy took the offer with zest, and with it, the opportunity to grow further in confidence.
As a journalist Willy has contributed regularly to Gulab, The Goan Review, Goa Today and Sunaprant, Jivit and Vavraddeancho Ixtt. He teaches Applied Art at the Goa College of Art, is a photo-journalist, he writes scripts for tiatr, and has authored a number of books (novels and short stories in Konkani, and one in English, entitled Cobo’s Sofa and Other Short Stories from Goa. Broadway Publishing House, 2013, ISBN: 9789380837635). Willy also loves to sing. He has to his credit an audio book in Konkani entitled Khand: a novelette. Today it is available for free download on Archives.com. (See http://bit.ly/Khand ) Willy Goes has received Dalgado Konknni Akademi Awards for manuscripts of his novels Kantto and Kotrin. The Konknni Bhasha Mandal conferred their prestigious Sahitya Puraskar (Literary Award) for his novella Khand. Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendra, the Konknni research institution in Porvorim, awarded Willy the Jack Sequeira Konknni Puroskar 2012 for his contribution to Konkani language through literature. Willy has served as a member of the Konkani Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi from 2008 to 2012.
Tiatr, a great love
Tiatr is a big love in Willy Goes’ life. He writes about the yearly Tiatr Competitions and see hope in the journey of the Tiatr as an evolving genre today: He muses, ‘ “Every time I come to watch a competition tiatr I feel I waste my time and money.” This was a statement I overheard during the interval of one of the tiatrs during Kala Academy’s 38th Tiatr Competition. I despised this cynical comment instantly. I felt I had the right to confront such a statement because I have watched at least thirty five of the thirty eight competitions held so far. In this contest one can get to see a spectrum of very good, good and bad tiatrs, but you cannot generalise and say that it is a waste of time and money.
Tiatr in the contemporary world
“The annual Tiatr Competition is an excellent opportunity for hundreds of tiatr enthusiasts and aspirants to show case their theatrical talents. An average of three to four hundred of them take part in the Tiatr Competition annually in the capacity of acting, singing, playing music, designing sets, directing, writing the script etc. Quite a few professional tiatrists began their theatrical journey from this platform. Many youngsters too look upon this competition as a platform to get a foothold into the professional arena. They give their best performance so that they are noticed and picked up by professional tiatrsists who scout for talent. I have seen Tomazinho Cardozo’s classic tiatrs ‘Kantech Kantte’, and ‘Ontoskorn ani Kaido’ among his other tiatrs, and veteran tiatrist Cezar D’Mello’s (of Mil-Mel-Nel trio fame) ‘Kal ani Aiz’, ‘Konn Kirmidor’ and others way back in the late nineteen seventies when the Tiatr Competition was young. Today tiatr has become a lucrative and respected profession. A tiatrist is looked upon with admiration and enjoys a lot of attention.
“Apart from providing high class entertainment in our own language, today tiatr is also looked upon as a potent medium of giving social messages and creating awareness regarding many social issues. Given the fact that tiatr has a huge following, it acts as an agent to awaken the masses to many issues and realities of life. The professional tiatrs sometimes tend to remain within the circumference of conventional plots, but the participants of tiatr competition venture into showcasing new styles in script writing and they try to explore plots which ventures outside the convention. This is gladly welcome and appreciated by the audience. In this year’s competition Fr. Doel Dias, a fresher in this arena, has staged a tiatr titled ‘Hello’. This tiatr had an interesting plot that emphasised the ill effects of the mobile phone technology, a new theme explored in the competition. The issue was well researched and scripted by Fr. Doel who also directed the tiatr and played the comic role. The set too was innovatively designed. This tiatr had the participation of a dozen diocesan priests too. This is one example of a tiatr which saw the competition as a platform to experiment with new and different themes, at the same time remaining within the frame of the form and rules of the competition.
“Many tiatrs in the Tiatr competition also encourage very young children to get on the stage. Some of them are as young as five year old. It is very heartening to see them perform with confidence. When we see these children on the stage, we can see a bright future for the tiatr.
“Kantaram (Konkani songs) are an integral part of tiatr. The tiatr form has two to four kantaram in between two scenes. The scene is called podd’ddo. A traditional tiatr has seven podd’dde and as many as eighteen kantaram in addition to the four or five Kants. The content of the kantar has no reference or relevance to the main story of the tiatr, but a kant has relevance to that particular scene or the theme. The kantar is yet another arena in the tiatr competition where many young lyricists and kantorists experiment with new subjects and styles. Within kantaram there are sub categories of solos, duos, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets and so on. These are kantaram sung by individuals, in pairs or in threes, fours, fives, sixes and sevens, and sometimes even more. One tiatr in this competition had a choral kantar of twenty singers on the stage. Every tiatr competition generates a treasure of between three to five hundred kantaram. As per my experience and judgement of over the last thirty plus years of following the competition goes, more than eighty percent of these kantaram have a good standard. Many of them are very good. Unfortunately, most of these kantaram remain unrecorded and are shelved as soon the competition is over. For the last few years the competition is officially video recorded and has remained in the archives of Kala Academy and the Tiatr Akademi –Goa, that supports the competition with monetary assistance to the participating groups.
“For the past few years, since its inception, the Tiatr Akademi is striving to take tiatr to greater heights by conducting seminars, discussions, ‘meet the artist’ programmes etc. The Akademi is also recording an oral history through programmes like ‘Somplelea Tiatristancho Ugddas’ and through other research activities. Tiatr lovers must appreciate Kala Academy’s role of keeping the art alive by starting this competition thirty-eight ago, and Tiatr Akademi-Goa for initiating the scheme of financial assistance to the participants.
“The role of the audience cannot be ignored as this mass remains crucial to the competition. Their applause is the biggest award each of these tiatrists receives after every performance. I am glad to say that in my thirty-plus years of being witness to the competition, I have not come across a hostile audience who has booed any participant in the competition. On the contrary, they have always been supportive even if the performer errs, and this is the reason why many young tiatr enthusiasts perform fearlessly, knowing well that their efforts are appreciated.”
Willy Goes is today a multi-faceted artist, though he retains his endearing simplicity and authenticity. He belongs to the race of people that the Arts have claimed as their own.
Explorer of many worlds
The arts sometimes pursue their own tenaciously before the pursued notice the dogged intensity of the chase. Daegal Godinho originally opted to study the Sciences, and majored in Microbiolgy. Academically, he did well, because that is how Daegal does anything he touches. But when he went to University, it was Sociology that he picked as the next route to take. His love for all things technical led him to absorb the intricacies of the world of IT, even as he studied other disciplines. And when it came to finding a profession, it was IT that offered him attractive opportunities in Dubai. Daegal had by that time acquired experience of working with an IT company in Goa and also with an NGO. Here, one of the directors said to him when he completed an assignment, “You couldn’t have done better. There’s nothing better than perfect.” That’s Daegal Godinho for you.
Dubai provided a challenging work environment and a chance to make a beginning as a full-fledged, full-time professional. But the dream of the arts had already insinuated itself into his brain or his funny-bone. Daegal had already gained wide experience of theatre, as actor, director and informal producer. I remember Daegal’s first acting role in a theatre workshop, and was duly impressed: he acted as a puppy, and the bark, tail-wagging and allied details of canine behavior were executed with unbounded skill. From a rather timid youngster with the most charming smile, Daegal Godinho graduated to a consummate actor. He has acted with enormous versatility, a variety of roles in a score of the Mustard Seed Art Company productions ranging from Mahesh Dattani’s Tara to Playing with the Eye of the Dragon. Never one to limit oneself, he worked with a number of directors; he acted in Athol Fugard’s A Place with the Pigs, Manjula Padmanabhan’s Lights Out, and Neil Simon’s Seduction and Living Next Door to Alice, all directed by Dnyanesh Moghe, and Chekhov’s The Anniversary, directed by Aftab Khan Farooqui. Daegal quickly tried his hand at direction himself: he co-directed T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, directed Joe Corrie’s When the Roses Bloom Again, as well as one of the plays in 4-Play. Daegal was the director of “Prophets and Losses”, based on an adaptation of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, Suppressed Desires by Susan Glaspell, also Rabindrababu at the Post Office by Isabel S.R. Vas. But that was only the beginning of the road.
The arts call
The dream was calling to a greater involvement with the arts, not only as a participant himself, but as a facilitator, as someone who clears space for others to perform, whether in the field of painting, music, photography, theatre or other artistic pursuits that Daegal recognized as empowering and creative. So emerged Carpe Diem, a centre for learning and the arts. The ingredients were all there, within Daegal himself, and it was for him to assess resources and possibilities and take the plunge. Carpe Diem thus became perhaps the first hub of its kind in South Goa. It combines an art gallery with a performing space outdoors, and halls and corridors that are very hospitable to conducting workshops and holding discussions.
It could not have been a small job, to transform an old family home unused for long years into a colourful and tastefully designed art space. Respectful of the heritage that the home stands for, Daegal has been guided by the lines of the old architectural design, but has brought to imbue his new creation a whiff of beauty and freedom that only a free spirit can accomplish. On his website, Carpe Diem in Majorda is defined as “A space, where you can dare to explore the creative self that burns inside you; a place to discover what others are doing with their dreams. A launch-pad to embark on a new journey of your own… The name “Carpe Diem” as one may well know has been made popular by poets such as Horace and Ovid as well as through well known movies such as the 1989 Drama film “Dead Poets’ Society” and “Seize the Day” is just the message that our space would like to give!” If the original literal translation of the Latin phrase Carpe Diem might be Seize the Day, in Daegal’s book it translates, more freely and closer to his own heart and life, as “Take the Plunge”.
Carpe Diem is an Art and Learning Centre equipped with an Art Gallery as well as creative workshop and performance spaces located in an ancestral house in Majorda, South Goa, India. Throughout the year a variety of activities have been conducted for both children and adults who are young at heart! Some of these include Dance, Music, Theatre, Book Reading, Pottery, Photography, Personality Development Workshops, Sculpting, Writing, Yoga, Nutrition-related workshops and more.
The Godinho house stands tall, built on an elevated platform with a wide stairway leading up to the Balcão right at the centre of the house. With four balconies extending on either side of the entrance, the grandeur of its 18th century architecture has stood the test of time. Documents reveal that this single storied house was in existence as early as 1753, and its adjacent two-storied extension was built in 1878. The Art and Learning Centre – Carpe Diem – is located in the part that belongs to Daegal’s parents Luz and Lalita Godinho. The restoration work is over, the arts have now completed one year of happy existence frisking around at Carpe Diem and offering creative opportunities to very many to explore, encounter, empower.
When the arts are welcomed into one’s ancestral home, happy things can happen. Here’s one: a group of theatre met with a group of visual artists and a few persons from the village itself who command public respect, and the interaction was most exciting. Each person spoke about his/her own art and its significance to him/her, as well as the challenges artists faced to be true to their métier. The voices were diverse, young not so young people speaking freely because others listened freely. The Mustard Seed Art Company was in the process of starting work on their next production, ‘Those Ragamuffins’, a play about the significance of the arts within a community. When the play took shape, it was enriched in an unprecedented way by eighteen canvasses created by the participants at the workshop, now part of the set of the theatre piece. The paintings were later exhibited at Carpe Diem, the first art exhibition at this Art Gallery.
Since its inauguration in 2013, Daegal Godinho’s Carpe Diem has hosted numerous and diverse events What makes the place attractive is the ambience of relaxed arty energy. But perhaps not immediately visible to the careless eye, is the soul that nurtures the place: Daegal’s technical expertise, his high-level people skills, his aesthetic sense, and above all else, Daegal’s enormous belief in people and their essential goodness, and in the potential of the arts to unearth and set free the human power of creativity. All you need is to take the plunge.
The chosen race
Interestingly, Willy and Daegal share their passion for theatre. Daegal remembers his teacher Bernadette teaching him in his science class when he was a lil’ one, and he can quote specific tree names he heard her speak: “Hirda (terminalia chebula), beheda (terminalia belerica), babul (acacia nilotica var. indica), bahawa (cassia fistula) and tarwad (cassia auriculata)”. Wondrous love of nature. Who does the choosing? Who does the running? Is the race one that has to confront prejudice from the philistine and the cynic and the bigot? Taking to the skies, do the flyers at times dance wingtip to wingtip? Questions. Who cares? Persons like Bernadette, Willy, and Daegal do.0 comments so far — Join the discussion