Enter India’s crowded commercial capital of Mumbai (also known as Bombay), and the Goan footprint is writ large — if not-so-visible till you start looking for it.
From Goan “joints” at Dhobitalao (originally a washerman’s lake), to the quadrangles of Byculla, Mazagon, Grant Road or Colaba, and beyond.
Football at Cooperage and Goan food at Ballard Estate all exported the Goan way of life to that city, which today has a population of 20 million. A new book on the subject seeks to capture the essence of it all, as it played out in the 20th century.
Titled ‘Bomboicar: Stories of Bombay Goans, 1920-1980‘, the book is edited and compiled by journalist Reena Martins, originally from Velim but raised in Poona and currently working in Mumbai. It is available for sale at Golden Heart (Margao), Broadway (Panjim) and via mail order from firstname.lastname@example.org
It tells the story of the alpha world city and the wealthiest urban centre of India through the words of over two-and-half dozen Goans who lived there in this era.
We learn of the lives of prominent Goans such as police chief and ambassador Julio Ribeiro and urban planner Edgar Ribeiro, writer George Menezes, nightingale Lorna Cordeiro, and the author Victor Rangel-Ribeiro.
But from the words of the average ‘Bomoicar’ also emerge a fascinating story of the simpler life in the city and a depiction of its times. in past decades Martins narrates her own story of arriving in Mumbai in the thick of the 1992 communal violence, and then goes back to the Bombay Goan world of the 1940s in Bandra, the “aunties” and the kudds (village clubs where migrants from Goa resided).
Through the stories she took years to carefully collect, she zips through Goan theatre or tiatr in Bombay (as the city was then called), and musicians there. The book has two Goan musical greats — Lata Mangueshkar and Anthony Gonsalves — on its cover.
In the 31 pithy essays that follow, contributors talk about the “city of light”, summer holidays in Goa, living in the kudds, matchmaking, romance, fairs and festivals, and educational forays in the big city (from boyhood years at St Stanislaus to almost getting thrown out of a technical radio officers’ school as described by Floriano Lobo of Moira).
One of the most touching stories is by Canada-based Roland Francis, who describes an elderly impoverished Anglo-Indian lady known as “Cotton Mary”, her serenading and the changing times of the Anglo Indian world in Bombay, as it related to the Goan there. Cynthia Gomes-James talks about the profs at a prominent Catholic institution in Bombay, St Xavier’s College. Elsewhere in the book, she also describes the festivities around the arrival of Our Lady’s statue to Goan homes there.
Chef Masci, the Bombay steamer, cinemas, restaurants and moneylenders, bangdda-curry rice, the Bandra Fair, the Chris Perry-Lorna magic, and Goa-India economic blockade days are the other individuals, institutions and events remembered in this book.
Martins, who edited, compiled and conceptualised the book, calls herself a Bomoicar and the book she has just edited and compiled is titled similarly.
The editor can be contacted at email@example.com
DETAILS OF THE BOOK:
1 City of Light | Victor Rangel-Ribeiro 15
2 Summer Holidays | Sheela Jaywant 18
3 Lovely Lovelina | Reginald Massey 22
4 A Grand Trunk View | Veena Gomes-Patwardhan 25
5 Bombay to Goa on Full Steam | Cynthia Gomes-James 30
6 Cotton Mary | Roland Francis 38
7 Matchmaker Susan | Belinda Willard 45
8 Love Notes | Victor Rangel-Ribeiro 49
9 Our Lady is Coming | Cynthia Gomes-James 53
10 Bombay Dost | Bennet Paes 58
11 Looking for Chef Masci |Odette Mascarenhas 61
12 The Goan Aunty | Roland Francis 66
13 Bheja Masala and Blancmange | Reena Martins 71
14 Menino and the Silver Anklets | Belinda Willard 75
15 Bread and Wine | Reena Martins 82
16 Instant Chemistry | Cynthia Gomes-James 89
17 Anton’s Bangda Curry-Rice | Edgar Silveira 93
18 Bombay to Goa | Otilia Pinto née Figueiredo 96
19 By George! | George Menezes 101
20 Bandra Fair | Edwin Fernandes 106
21 Irene’s Bombay | Reena Martins 109
22 Champagne Baby | Reena Martins 112
23 Chris moulded me | Lorna Cordeiro 115
24 St Xavier’s and Back | George Menezes 118
25 Anthony | Belinda Willard 121
26 Yesterday’s Flavours | Eric Pinto 126
27 Ribeiro Ramblings | Reena Martins 130
28 New Talkies | Edwin Fernandes 136
29 Stanislaus Cool | Tony Noronha 138
30 Moidecho Pisso | Floriano Lobo 142
31 Passage to India |John Menezes 145
[To learn more, click on these links below]
Bomoicar on Facebook.