By Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
It was over two decades ago and it was at Rachol, within the hoary walls of the Patriarchal Seminary that I met Victor Hugo Gomes for the first time. He was setting up the Christian Art Museum and my colleague Joel D’Souza, who passed away in August 2015, and I had gone on a reporting mission for the magazine Goa Today. The chat with Victor moved from the seminary and continued at a roadside tea stall. While there, a coconut plucker passed by wearing the traditional kasthi. That’s when Victor exclaimed, “this is what we have to preserve.”
And he’s done it. Preserved that bit of Goa that only a person like him could notice; the richness that was in plain sight yet ignored. Suddenly the loincloth that so many had forgotten about, and many others would like to forget, had become a piece of our heritage. As did the jazz musicians of Goa. Long before Nachoia Kumpasar could grab the attention of Goans, Victor had organized the Great Goan Jazz Revival, a series of concerts that brought to the Goan stage those greats of Bombay jazz. For him heritage did not mean just architecture and buildings, which he also does restore.
We met on and off, friends sharing love for a Goa that was slowly disappearing, but it was when he started Goa Chitra that I really got to know him better and understand how committed he was to preserving Goan culture and heritage. Victor Hugo persevered, adding Goa Chakra to Goa Chitra, and has plans for a lot more museums, making Benaulim the address to go to for anyone seeking to learn more of the history and heritage of Goa.
I didn’t ask him, but in 2011 when I mentioned that I would be soon publishing my book Goa Rewound, Victor Hugo offered to host the release at Goa Chitra, and organized an event that many who were there still recall. Speaking at that function, Dr Francisco Colaco had described Victor Hugo as ‘um homengalhardo’ (a generous person), but was stingy that day because he had been given just a few minutes to talk. That’s Victor, generous to a fault, ready to give of his time and art to this beautiful state, that has so much but given him back perhaps so little.
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa is a journalist and a writer. He is currently Executive Editor of Herald. His first book was the novel ‘Touched by the Toe’ that was published in 2004 and was set in XVI century Goa. In 2008 he published a collection of the works of Goan journalist Fanchu Loyola translated from the Portuguese to English in the book ‘Passionate and Unrestrained. In 2011, Alexandre brought out ‘Goa Rewound’ a socio-political commentary on Goa 50 years after its liberation from Portuguese rule. In February 2016 he published the novel ‘Raw Earth’, a political fiction set in present day Goa.