By Alvaro (Goanna) Gomes
Alvaro Gomes has been Victor’s accomplice in childhood shenanigans as well as a first-hand witness to the early years of his fascination with material culture. In the following story, he reminisces about the early memories of growing up with the curator of Goa Chitra.
One thorough look inside Goa Chitra, Goa Chakra, and Goa Cruti, and one can sum up the type of multi-talented personality Victor Hugo Gomes is. Though I know Victor for several years, it is very difficult to sum up his character and capability in short.
Being 1st cousins and both staying in different parts of Benaulim, I was lucky to understand Victor right from his early days. He had a keen eye for everything. And the type of inquisitive questions he would ask are What is this? Why is it that way? Couldn’t this thing be the other way round? This keenness in him to learn and understand things even beyond the permissible limit and the attitude helped him to build himself up, step by step and create a heritage heaven in shape of Goa Chitra.
When young he looked like a Scientist with thick eye glassed spectacles, always ready to experiment with whatever comes his way. He was a person who loved to face challenges and adventure. Right from a young age, he had the intelligence of a grown up man. We, having come from a land lord community, had some properties and fields. My job was to supervise the property work. Sometimes, during vacations, Victor would come to my place to stay for a few days, and that is when I came across his other rather unique trait. When all were sleeping or relaxing, Victor would suddenly disappear and lo there he would be on the loft or in the kitchen store looking out for old wine and medicines bottles and injection vials. He would also gather discarded valve amplifiers, radios, discarded speakers, finished powder tins, cigarette packets and match boxes. At the end of the holidays, he would be ready with a bag full of assorted collection. I feel that his childhood interest for collecting disposed items and making wealth out of waste led him to where he is today, having an unassuming and important collection of items of ethnography. On one of the properties which was land locked and washed out, neglected and uncultivated for years, Victor took on the challenge of restoring it with the blessings of his father, on part of which Goa Chitra stands tall.
Moreover, being adventurous he would insist that we should go out at night to the fields and see whether the labourer were irrigating the fields properly and the yield of paddy corns was intact. Then we would end up at the field all night long, singing and listening to the chirping of birds and the croaking of the frogs.
All Souls Day was all the more interesting for us, as on that night Victor insisted to me that we go hunting for the human ghosts, who would loiter in our property and rob tender coconuts and damage other crops in the name of “Almas De Oltro Mundo”, souls of the other world, as per a centuries-old traditions. It so happened that, one such night his efforts paid dividends, as right outside our house, on the steps we saw a man trying to take away our flower pots. Victor raised an alarm and the man being our neighbour was so petrified, that he came down on his knees and asked for pardon.
As teenagers and in youth, Victor and I tried out our hand at performing one act plays, whereby I would write the plays and Victor would direct them. He was a perfectionist to the core and left nothing unturned to make the play perfect and presentable. Due to his constant focus on perfection, we managed to get several 1st prizes in Benaulim and around Goa. As we grew up and I got a steady job, the distance between us grew wider. But Victor made it a point to take me into confidence about every new step he would take.
At this juncture Victor tried his hand at advertising and Event Management. Towards the end of monsoon he would organise a dance called “Bye Bye Barish” besides conceptualising and annually organising the much sort after, “Arlem Festival” which he organised till he left Goa on a National Art scholarship in the early 90s. Then he came up with the bright idea of presenting the Great Music Revival shows, much before the movie Nachomia Kumpasar could hit the screen. In fact it was Victor who brought the almost defunct brass bands of Goa and the musicians on stage for the first time along with other famous musicians. These concerts for that matter were reasonably successful and well accepted by Jazz aficionados and music lovers. Even while organising these Music events, Victor took great pains to choose and select the right and bright veteran Jazz talents from across India or abroad, some of whom were great Goan musicians who had never ever performed in Goa. When the great Goan trumpet Legend Chris Perry passed away, it was none other than Victor, the great event coordinator, who brought Chris Perry’s family together on stage. After Chris’s demise Victor was even successful in convincing Lorna to participate in a tribute Concert dedicated to Chris Perry, and from then on Lorna did not have to look back in singing for musical shows.
And as it is said “time is the changer of seasons”. So did Victor’s life change for the better. He might have come across many young beautiful girls, but love for him was not lust, or obsession. Nor did he believe in variety, but he believed in eternal love that would last for ever. This type of love he finally found in Aldina, now his partner for life. Dwelling on the concept of four generations despite of all odds, Victor has given his mind and soul, in fact his all, to get Goa Chitra into existence. He has well past “the first generation that creates a culture out of love and need; the second that reaps the benefits; the third that embraces modernity and abandons the indigenous culture”; and now here fits in Victor who has attempted “to reassemble the dismembered pieces of our heritage and salvage the remains of a lost culture”, through his life’s love, the Goa Chitra museum. And in this he has come out victorious true to his name which is Victor. With the capable, loving and understanding assistance of Aldina. Surely they will go a long way by adding several attractive feathers in their already bright cap.
Alvaro Gomes is a hotel manager associated with Colva Residency, a unit of Goa Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. He writes short stories, articles, poems, one-act plays, and songs in English and Konkani.