By Damodar Mauzo
The word ‘victor’ has many synonyms. Winner, champion, vanquisher, defeater. But Victor Hugo Gomes has no parallels, though each of the synonyms can be befittingly attributed to his persona. It is not that I have known Victor for decades. I must have met him sometime during the second half of the last decade. I am a bit absentminded and inclined to forget names. However, I vividly remembered Victor Hugo mainly because of his ‘literary’ name and also because of the distinct feature of his outward appearance, marked by his ponytail. Incidentally, though I had occasionally met Victor earlier at social evenings, it was Aldina who brought us closer. My daughter who taught at Carmel College introduced her to me as the Head of the Department of Psychology. Later, we met again at a family event where I came closer to Victor and then there was no end to our camaraderie. The strongest common bond that brought us closer was our love for our heritage, be it our Konkani language, our culture, or our traditions.
I was very impressed by the passion with which Victor put in so much hard work to realize his dream project – the ethnographic museum. When I visited the place for the first time, I could not believe that it was an accomplishment of a one-man mission. How can one man raise resources for such a huge project? I was told that all the savings of Aldina and Victor had gone into the venture. What a gamble! Sheer madness, I thought. Yes, only passionate madness can drive a dedicated man to achieve a dream of this kind.
Victor has many friends and many more admirers. But he barely found any supporters to finance his dream project. The Government that boasts of preserving our heritage had turned a Nelson’s eye to his relentless efforts. They all praised and admired him for the wonderful work, but that did not translate into supportive action. Nevertheless, Victor’s zeal to go ahead never diminished. He kept on thinking bigger and bigger. Goa Chitra extended to add on Goa Chakra. And I am sure more is in the offing.
Victor is full of ideas. Novel and ground-breaking. The book launches, panel discussions on relevant topics, literary events, and above all the musical evenings. His organic farm is worth emulating. I have once attended the Harvesting Day that he organized. I did some threshing and enjoyed doing it, like a child. Perhaps I was bitten by the same bug that bit Victor. Every time I meet Victor, I notice the child in him. His child-like enthusiasm often makes me wonder if all that he does is childish. It may be true. But frankly, I admire the child in him. He cannot conceal his joy and cheer, nor can he suppress his anguish and anxieties. He is, more often than not, at the risk of giving away his painful secrets when he downs more pegs than he can stand. Of course, he knows his limits, and then Aldina is always by his side to bring him to his senses and whisk him away if need be. Here, I notice Aldina playing mother to this child.
Whenever any writers, artists or nationally famous personalities are in Goa, I make it a point to take them to Goa Chitra. Very little is known to the outsiders about the ethnic agrarian past of Goa. With great satisfaction I notice them going back with high regards for Goa, and especially Victor. When Gulzar, the famous film maker and poet, was in town along with my actor friend Kishor Kadam, I drove them to Benaulim to visit Goa Chitra. Impressed by the show put up by the passionate couple Victor and Aldina, Gulzar there and then decided to donate all the fees and honorarium he received for his show in Goa to the founder of Goa Chitra. I felt proud of this kind gesture of the veteran lyricist whose generosity recognized the worthy cause.
Goa Chitra is growing, both, in eminence and in popularity. Now, I am waiting to see an Art Gallery coming up. As Victor himself is a painter and curator, that day may not be far off.
Damodar Mauzo is a short fiction writer and novelist writing in Konkani. The most widely translated writer, he is also a columnist, critic and an award winning script writer. Among his many awards are the Sahitya Akademi award, Katha Award, Goa State Cultural Award and World Konkani Centre’s Sahitya Puraskar. In 2015, his book was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Award. He was part of a delegation of Indian writers at the World Book Fair in Frankfurt and also that toured China. He is a co-founder and co-curator of Goa Art & Literary Festival.