By Pantaleao Fernandes
Though victor and I shared the same village, parish and school and bumped into one another often, the acquaintance ended there. The only time our paths crossed was when he designed my visiting card as the proprietor of a design and advertising firm. However, one fine day, my good friend Advocate Radharao Gracias told me that my ‘gaum bhav’ was setting up something interesting in the village and advised me to pay him a visit. But that did not ignite any interest in me until Victor called me up one day and invited me on a ‘tour guided by him around his museum’. Victor had been following my ethnographic articles in the Gomantak Times, covering rare and dying occupations of Goa. He knew therefore that I would lend him a keen ear and eye. When I landed at his place, I greeted him with a pinch of salt. I knew of his flamboyant ways and didn’t know what to expect. But then as I stepped into his premises I was dumbfounded. His passion as he narrated his story had my attention one hundred percent. As my host guided me around the exhibition area that was designed around the exhibits, contrasting emotions began surfacing from my being. Feelings of happiness and sadness tried to emerge simultaneously. Anger and a sense of peace fought each other. Outrage and satisfaction tried to reign within.
The ethnographic pieces which I encountered in the field, captured on my camera, wrote about and dumped unceremoniously were all here – picked carefully, loved affectionately and displayed tenderly. Where my quest ended, Victor’s began! As I explored the next section and encountered household grinders and other utility items, I was glad to have preserved mine, in spite of having demolished the house. But then I was also filled with deep regret for having discarded endless budkule and bhana, lamps and other treasures…either for want of space or lacking the passion and resources to restore. The tramps that roamed the villages of Goa with glittering plastics and ferreted out rare antique treasures of Goa filled me with rage! Fortunately here was an antidote, someone who bought, borrowed or humbly begged to be given a chance to restore dignity and honour to bits and pieces of history that were shredded and torn. And rescue some priceless treasures like the door of the baptismal font of the church of St. John the Baptist, which witnessed the baptism of St Joseph Vas, and fix it at the museum chapel door. The tellacho ghano, as narrated by victor was restored from complete incomprehensible scrap. I had never before seen a ghano before though later I stumbled upon some working ones in a remote hamlet of Agonda. The sugarcane juicer was another contraption that excited me and search as I might; I have not found one in Goa. In the neighbouring states, I am told, they are still in operation.
As we savoured the collection Victor suddenly commented that he simply collected firewood. Though I did not pay much attention to that phrase then, that these treasures were indeed considered as firewood by the vast majority of Goans and discarded with complete indifference, struck me later. But then firewood is also sacred to Goa – as it helps escort the departed to their heavenly abode. And in a sense Victor did just that. Escorted the dead or dying treasures of Goa and placed them in a temple with dignity and honour. And that temple he called Goa Chitra!
Pantaleão Fernandes is a Goa-based writer, photographer, and ethnographer. Passionate about Goa and her vibrant culture, he spends most of his time exploring villages in the deep hinterlands, to experience firsthand the warm spirit and culture of the villagers and document these experiences. These excursions brought about his earlier books, “100 Goan Experiences”, “Goa Remembered” and a children’s book “Once Upon a Time in Goa”. His latest ethnographic book, “Traditional Occupations of Goa” is a rich documentation of the ancient crafts of Goa — a significant part of her intangible culture and heritage. Currently he scours the Goan villages, for hidden cultural stories which he tells with his documentary films entitled “Untold stories from Goa”.