Goa often invokes a spirit that incorporates the entire gamut of the east and the west. What is often highlighted or rather visible, is its recent Portuguese heritage, which became a way of life in that region and continues to be so in many ways.
In this book, Tino De Sa vertically dissects the Goan society, dramatically revealing its layers of heritage as they unfold amid the beauty of this land, which is blessed with both natural splendours and architectural wonders.
The bedrock of this book is the Goan poem “One for sorrow, two for Joy...” and from each of the stanzas branch out De Sa’s vivid imagination, which springs into myriad emotions and when the last page of the chapter is turned, one is left with a sense of belonging to the stories, making the Goan poem a motley of maxims. If one looks at life, it is summarised in the poem’s very words.
If Goa isn’t connected to one’s roots, De Sa’s stories make one feel as if Goa is a mirage that has turned out to be an oasis. The characters are raw, real and relatable. We have an Aunty Effie or know someone who is like Moogabai, have heard stories such as what happened to Rosita and been inspired by a person with Onjini’s charm.
These and other characters in the book seem to pop out from the real world and have found an appropriate place in the book whose simplicity and naive narration evokes not just laughter, but also makes one dwell deep into the layers within each of the characters who have been scanned by De Sa’s eyes and mapped appropriately for the reader to be entertained and think more about.
They are near to us and some are even dear. We know them and they have incarnated in De Sa’s book in a different form, gender, place etc. But the character of their soul persists and you have one name from your life that you can relate to each one of them.
A lot of the book reminds one of classics like Malgudi days — especially the naivete of the characters and the boldness in the truth of the story. It’s as if one is reading a script of a television show. This is particularly evident in the story of Moogabai and the ending is as dramatic — your brain can fill in the exit music as you turn to another gripping tale.
The book is also educational and pushes you to explore more about Goan culture and food. Little nuances like the favouring of certain kinds of education or the complexity of relations between individuals and existing societal norms reveal how Goa is no different from any other part of India.
What is more interesting about the book is the wordplay in certain stories. There is humour too, which makes the stories all the more riveting.
Ultimately, De Sa’s book offers universality that is evocative and awe-inspiring; it was as if the whole of Goa came alive as I looked at life from my balcao.