By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
One Sunday morning, may be four years back, I got a call from Victor Hugo Gomes, whom I had never met but only heard about. He was the first Curator of the Museum of Christian Art which was originally at the Rachol Seminary in Salcete. He wanted to know a few things about Goa, traditions and customs. And lo… the conversation went on for more than an hour!
Though we were talking over the phone it was easy for me to guess how emotional and attached he was to his pet project, and I confirmed this when I personally met him at the house. Victor had invited me to have lunch on any day of my choice, but preferably on a day when his wife would be at home. Leonel, my husband and I drove to Benaulim and decided to go through the interior roads of Salcete villages to appreciate the beauty of nature. Well, our host was keeping track of us during the journey and guiding us how to reach the house. It was a pleasant surprise when he introduced Aldina, his lovely wife, whom I had met once at the Central Library in Panjim. She had impressed me the very first time, as an excellent professional. She is a clinical psychologist and head of department at the Carmel College’s Psychology department. And I would like to add that Victor got the right companion in her. She has encouraged him in all his endeavors and has bonded so well to achieve, along with him, something that everybody had thought to be difficult if not impossible to create – an ethnographic museum that reflects about Goan culture and ethos. (I can still visualise the day of the official inaugural of the museum. How Aldina got emotional while delivering the vote of thanks and rushed to the house to hide her tears!)
The Lady of the house went all out to impress with quite a few tasty dishes at the table. Victor took us around to show the artifacts he had collected through purchase and some as gifts. He explained how he had put together the house, with material he bought from old houses which were demolished to rebuild new ones. He also explained how he intended to set up the museum where he would place his artifacts and the general organization. Frankly, a few of the pieces he had on show were seen by us for the first time. But, Victor was there to explain its use. At that point of time he had collected the artifacts and was still in the process of organizing the display.
We discussed several books on Goa, and many travellers who left good accounts of the experiences. He bought a couple of those for his library. All the while there were many questions from Victor, who was eager to learn and know about facts. I wondered from where he got the inspiration to set up such a museum and who helped him? Divine Providence? Or his personal acumen coupled with his wife’s unstinted support? Whatever may be the answer, Victor has built the unthinkable to give us the past in the present!