By Malavika Neurekar
Every year on 29th October, early morning, a young Victor Gomes received a kiss on his forehead and a small amount of cash through a fixed deposit in his name. This had been his mother’s birthday gift to him for the better part of his childhood.
Diligently saving the cash for years, Victor finally broke the deposit when it was time for Goa Chitra to materialise from his imagination onto his private stretch of property. Victor and Aldina pooled together their savings – pounding all of their jewellery in the process – and invested it into the future of Goa Chitra. Victor even sold the properties he had previously bought in Pomburpa, Maina, Curtorim, and a flat in Benaulim. Whether it is because of the amount spent on acquiring different artefacts for the museum collection or the concern for expenditure on museum security, the couple has walked a tightrope when it comes to funding the project.
Victor has received extreme reactions for his choice of professions – from coming across as an individual with diverse interests and talents, to someone who jumps from job to job without any apparent direction. However one may choose to see it, it was because of the range of experience he had that he was able to reach out to people from different fields while setting up Goa Chitra. His previous experience in organising events came in handy, as he started to hold Great Music Revival concerts at Goa Chitra. Fifty percent of the revenue from the music festivals is retained as the corpus of Goa Chitra to be employed for its maintenance, and the other fifty is used towards the expenses incurred to organize the concerts. The income of the museum comprises twenty percent of the gate fees. The Goa Chitra team also started the idea of Goa Chitra Club Membership. Members, who pay an annual fee of Rs. 5000 as privilege members and Rs. 2000 as individual members, are allowed a sixty percent discount on all music events organised by Goa Chitra, and are allowed free entry to the museum. The guests brought by the members also get a 40 percent discount on museum entry and concerts.
Victor often likes to remind people: “Goa Chitra is my passion, but restoring houses is my profession.” Having completed a restoration course from INATCH in Lucknow, Victor restores old houses to retain their Indo-Portuguese ethos. Dr. Aldina Gomes, who teaches Psychology at Carmel College and pens editorials for The Everyday Goan, explains that the two use their collective salary towards the Goa Chitra cause rather than splurge on extravagant indulgences.
The personality that is Victor Hugo Gomes is part visionary, part tragic hero – having borne the brunt of empty promises and false hopes. A host of well-known companies, corporate bodies/industry associations and even the state government have promised support to Goa Chitra numerous times, but to no avail. Goa Chitra was left to survive off the self-sponsorship and the individual donation of some generous souls. It was a former editor of a then-popular newspaper and a close friend of Victor who advised him to bring in well-known names. A well-known name in the mining industry sought to acquire and undertake the funding of Goa Chitra at Rs. 50 lakh, on the condition of renaming it to reflect the interests of the benefactor. Victor refused. Under no condition would he allow the name of the museum to be attributed to an individual. “It may technically be a private museum,” he explains passionately. “But the collection belongs to the people.” Neither would he compromise on his principles, nor would he allow his lifetime’s toil to be assigned a monetary value. This is not to say that he is against the involvement of corporate entities altogether. He accepts, in fact encourages, all forms of constructive participation. However, he believes that – as is the common practice in the West – grants should be an extension of recognition, not a means to establish a quid pro quo situation.
There have been positives too. During his tenure as the Director of Tourism, Mr. Swapnil Naik facilitated the printing of the Goa Chitra brochures and Goa Chitra was offered a payment to set up a stall at Goa’s annual International Travel Mart. On the initiative of Mr. Prasad Lolyencar, the director of Art and Culture, the state Government provided a part funding for Goa Chitra’s initiative Goan Quest – a weekly programme showcasing the intangible heritage of Goa to the World.
Update: Read the second part of the series here.