Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 18

Chillin at the Vihar after another Old Goa trekking day (Photo by Romain)

Week 18

(1st July)

The good old Indian disregard for verifying historical facts:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Week 17

Encounters of the 1st degree...

"The natives, who first saw them, went to Cotta and informed the king that a new people had arrived, white and beautifully made, who wore iron coats and iron caps, and drank blood and ate stones; who gave a gold coin for a fish or even a lime; and who had a kind of instrument that could produce thunder and lightning, and balls which, put into these instruments, would fly for a great distance, break ramparts, and destroy forts."

[from a description when the Portuguese first arrived in Sri-lanka, 1505]

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Week 16

Towards the marvels of Dona Paula (21st June)

Shifting to my new temporary refuge, I feel my (self-imposed ?) exile to be sweeter than ever.

Home is, indeed, always somwhere else.

Are these holidays or working days or...just days?

"Igreja de Socorro.
- Trono sexteado com nichos em cada aresta para relíquias, no altar-mor. Proveniência: Convento da Cruz dos Milagres de Velha Goa."

Ricardo Michael Telles, Inventário dos objectos dos conventos e igrejas e palácios e fortalezas de Goa, Separata do "Oriente Português", 1935.

Week 15

Again, I don't know where this week went...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Orientalism last epic moment the way, it's true and I had them all.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Week 14

(2nd June)

Returning to my bearings in this land of goans and non-goans...the monsoon looms.

(3rd June)

The retro-Indiana Jones at the Inox and the delicious pizza at Edu's...the monsoon looms.

(4th June)

Another day at the University library with Pissurlencar's collection...the monsoon looms omniously.

(5th June)

Another day at the University Library...the monsoon omniously looms.

(6th June)

With LCO at the Old Goa museum...closed for visitors, somehow open for scholars.
Trekking with LV the Old Goa wall, we got drenched in rain, got lost, had to avoid suspicious buffalos and took rest near a cross. Later, dinner at the Venite with PVG and company...the mosnoon is so close.

(7th June)

LCO left.
The Monsoon arrived.
Portugal won.

(8th June)

Dinner with PVG and PV.
Who is coming down during the monsoon? only the fools.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Week 13

From the Coast of Coromandel
Did that Lady never go;
On that heap of stones she mourns
For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

Three trains to Chennai (23rd May)

I boarded the Goa Express at Vasco da Gama heading for Londa at around 15:30, having a 2nd AC ticket. Sitting on my berth was the ticket taker and other staff, so I made myself comfortable at the steps of the coach door, enjoying the mid-afternoon scenery.
At a place called Kulem, a couple of engines joined our train from the rear to help push it up the Ghats. After the Dudh Sagar falls, I went looking for a berth to take a nap and found one in the corridor, just opposite my compartment. After a short while, I was woken up by one of the train staff, who said “This is my seat, I’m sleeping here”. I found this quite rude and was about to ask him: “Yeah? Really? Show me your ticket! How dare you wake up a passenger?!” But I just pointed to my berth, where the ticket taker happily snored and said “That is my seat…”
We arrived at Londa on time and the Rannichena express was also punctual, arriving within one hour. On board, I had an egg biriany for dinner while the train hurriedly pulled east, towards the ominous monsoon.
My compartment had a couple of undistinguished and tired passengers.

Three trains to Chennai II (24th May)

After midnight, a party arrived to occupy the remaining berths and my sleep was thus troubled. Morning came as the train slowly pulled into Bangalore, finally arriving at City Junction around 9:00. The train to Chennai was two and a half hours late, so I just hung around the station and checked my mail. When the train did come, my compartment was bustling with a family of four from Patna. During the trip, the older of their two kids made it a point to torment me once in while, but without his parents noticing him: he pinched my legs, stepped on my toes, launched me vicious stares, etc.
Arriving finally at Chennai at around 18:00, I called up Arima and arranged to meet him in the City Centre mall in Mylapor. Taking it from there, we talked into the night, catching up after seven years. We mostly talked about our common friends, some married, some with children, a few others like us, still trying to square out the equation.
I then proceeded to breakdown at his place, falling a sleep to the nocturnal sounds emerging from that busy side lane of Chennai.

Lazy Sunday (25th May)

A lazy morning was followed by late lunch cooked by Arima’s cousin, who is working in the kitchen of a hotel. Arima then went about some private calls while I rested some more, getting acquainted with the muggy Chennai weather.
Later on, I inquired about the painter, but there were still no news.

Getting started (26th May)

Early morning we left for Arima’s office, where I met his German associate and saw the crew busy at work. The painter called Arima shortly after and a meeting was set for 13:00 at his studio, on the other side of town. Unfortunately, Arima was held up by meetings, so we only managed to arrive at the studio at 15:00. The painter was not there. Anyway, a couple of his assistants hopped on a bike in order to show us the three possible walls for the forthcoming project. First, however, we had to pay a visit to the local gunda of K.K. Nagar (within whose area the three sites were located).
After some negotiation between the assistants and the goonda, he deputed a young boy of his kin to guide us to the sites. I found the third site most favourable but this particular compound wall was pertaining to the Electricity Department of Chennai and the kid told us it would be the most delicate one to paint upon. However, I insisted, and after some more negotiation with the assistants, we headed back home to Mylapor, where Arima’s mother prepared some masala dosas.

Meeting the painter (27th May)

At 9:45, Arima called me up saying that I could meet the painter, briefing me about his contacts and whereabouts. There had not yet been any discussion about costs but things looked quite set on their tracks. Shortly afterwards, I took a rik to the studio on western Chennai (3rd main road, C.I.T. Nagar) to meet the painter. When I arrived there, I was pleasantly surprised to find them already working on the picture, tracing the photograph to a larger paper. I proceeded to discuss the conditions and time frame of the operation with Vijay and inquired him about his price. He told me that he would send the budget later that day by mail.
We then went to the selected site in K.K. Nagar, in order to examine it better. On the wall, we tentatively delineated the boundaries of the painting. After, we made it to the gunda’s house, where Vijay showed him the photograph and also some digital pictures of the site that I had taken with my camera. A few minutes later, the gunda mumbled some words of approval and we started back to Vijay’s studio.
From there, I returned to Mylapor and had lunch at the mall. At around 18:00, I went to Arima’s office where he had already received Vijay’s budget. We discussed the sum and I took the decision not to bargain if Vijay would agree to my conditions, time frame, and payment instalments. I asked Arima to call up Vijay and convey this to him while I headed to another part of Chennai to buy slide films – which was not at all easy. Returning back to Mylapor, I allowed myself some butterscotch ice-cream at the mall and withdrew plenty of cash at the Overseas bank’s atm.
Late dinner ensued at Arima’s place.

Day 1 of the operation (28th May)

At around 8:45, I rang up Vijay asking him if he was already on site. He answered negatively and said we could meet there soon. So I told him at 10:00 and made my way to K.K. Nagar. At 9:50, I had breakfast at the Saravana Bhavan restaurant, just opposite the street from the designated wall. I waited until 10:50, when Vijay showed up smiling, making it a point to offer me a slice. I was eager to see him start working but there were still some things to be settled and Vijay was, as expected, very relaxed about the time fame. Finally, at around 11:30, Vijay and his crew started to leisurely remove the posters that littered the wall. At 11:40, they took a long break and at around 12:15 they resumed at the same rate, so I decided to take a walk to cool down. Some progress had been made when I returned and by 13:30, things were ready for the whitewash. This did in fact began at 13:50, when I headed to the Saravana for lunch.
From my table, in the terrace, I had quite an excellent view of the wall and the whitewash operation lasted exactly as long as my paneer biriany and butterscotch ice-cream. As I sipped my tea, Vijay and his crew left the site and a couple of labourers hired by him started to work on a small platform in front of the wall, in order to level the uneven terrain. This work lasted until 15:00. By this time, I was already down taking pictures and feeling the sting of Chennai’s heat. Vijay had informed me he’d be back at 16:00 to start sketching. I waited until 16:30 and then rang him up.
Vijay pleaded another half-hour but only arrived at 17:45, bringing with him a crude sketch of the image composed of 8 A3 pages stuck together with tape. On the back side of the patchwork, he sprayed some blue powder after which he hung up the papers on the wall and began to trace out the sketch on the whitewash surface. This was a fast operation and the result looked promising…but it was slightly out of proportion, Vijay having miscalculated somewhat the dimensions of the sketch, leaving some margins of whitewash below and on the sides. He thus wanted to repeat the whole operation, starting from the whitewash, but I told him sternly not to and also that he was perfectly capable of “inventing” the missing parts. Indeed I quite liked the sketch. He agreed to that and we left the site amidst a cheerful mood.
At 19:20 I took a rik back to Mylapor, completely exhausted and anxious for the chicken I heard Arima’s mom was preparing.

Day 2 of the operation (29th May)

Morning dialogue with a rikshaw driver

- "K. K. Nagar, Saravana Bhavan..."
- "Ha...yes..."
- "How much?"
- "150 sir..."
- "That's too much...I'll pay 130"
- "140"
- "Ok..." (five minutes of ride)
- "First time Chennai?"
- "Yes..." (first qualified lie...I had been twice before...but never on that particular route, not to K.K. Nagar; five minutes of ride)
- "Your name sir?"
- "Daniel"
- "Oh, Christian, sir?" (I noticed the virgin Mary upon his windshield...second qualified lie...)
- "Yes..." (ten minutes of ride)
- "You like here in India sir?"
- "If I like India?...Hmm, I like the traffic..." (just then we were passing through a little mayhem on that sideroad created by a religious function involving an elephant, loudspeakers and a lot of Tamilians...the driver smiled. Five minutes of ride)
- "Your country sir?"
- "Portugal"
- "...?..."
- "Porlala ??"
- "Near Spain..."
- "...You from Africa sir?" (I realised now how much my beard had grown)
- "No...Europe" (five minutes of ride)
"Ok...stop here...take"
- "Here? Ok coming back afterwards?"
- "No, I'm staying here, thankyou"

At 10:00 I reached the site but there was no sign of Vijay. This made me very anxious. At 10:30, I rang up one of his assistants, who told me Vijay was on his way. Twenty minutes later he did appear and started painting right away. He applied a toxic green to some background areas of the image and then proceeded to the central area.
Work went well, with the occasional pauses due to the inclement Chennai sun. At around noon, someone from the Electricity Department, on whose wall we were painting, came down to inquire and demand satisfaction. The local gunda, who – sure enough – had been on site since the painting began, discreetly nodded to everything the civil service person said and then told me there was no problem. But one of Vijay’s assistants informed me that a big shot from the Department would soon come down to demand some money. “Well”, I said “I won’t pay”.
At about 13:00, a police jeep stopped by and again the gunda went to listen to what they had to say. Vijay stopped painting and showed them the photograph. The police acquiesced and went about there business. Again I asked the gunda what had happened. Again he said no problem and that the police officer had in fact praised the likeness of the painting…but I sensed that Vijay started working faster after that particular juncture.
Taking a break, I had lunch and checked my mail and returned to the site at 15:30, when I gave Vijay some instructions regarding some tricky areas of the painting and some colour improvements.
By 16:00, I headed back to Mylapor, where I purchased some shaving utensils and then home. After a nap, dinner was uttapams and sauce…well, you can’t have chicken everyday. I retired to a more tranquil sleep that night, as I began to contemplate the operation’s success.

Day 3 of the operation (30th May)

At 10:15, Vijay called me up, informing that the painting was ready.
At 11:00, I arrived on site and took notice of some inferior areas of the painting. I pointed them out to Vijay and then waited at the Saravana, where I had breakfast. After the retouching, I declared the work finished and told him to remove the tape from the painting’s margins. I then proceeded to take some photos and after a while, authorized Vijay to put his signature upon the painting. This came out to be rather small and humble for my liking, but I couldn’t insist on a more spectacular signature, him having said that it would draw too much attention from the painting itself.
I paid Vijay the 2nd instalment and took some more photos. At 12:50, Vijay invited me for lunch at the Saravana. During the meal, one of his assistants asked me the regular questions regarding travelling to Portugal: Visa procedures, currency rates, accommodation costs and diet specifications.
After lunch, I was quite relieved about the overall positive results and decided to pay Vijay his 3rd instalment that same day. We proceeded to our goodbyes and best wishes and his crew and the gunda left the scene. Sylvia’s portrait shone brighter then. I admired it for a while and then went to check my mail. From 15:00 to 17:00, I photographed the painting and then took a rik to Chennai Central to take care of my tickets back to Goa. I also bought Arima and his mom a couple of gifts after which I retired home, to some more uttapams.
That night, Tamilian soap operas lulled me to sleep.

Finding my way back I (31st May)

At around 10:30, I returned to K.K. Nagar to photograph the painting for the last time. I wondered how long it would remain upon the wall…Vijay had told me he would whitewash it later that same day. Seeing it now, it looked like something easy to do. But how much anxiety it had caused me because of my tight time schedule...The image stood now quite beautifully as the backdrop for this otherwise anonymous street of western Chennai. I also wondered what the local people thought of the whole affair, especially the ones who had witnessed it from the beginning. Another story to tell…both ways.
I returned to Arima’s place at around lunch time, packed up my bag and had a south Indian thali with his cousin near the spot where I was to board the State bus to Pondy. The bus arrived at 15:00 but was helplessly full, meaning a three hour journey standing up.
Arriving at Pondy, Arima’s cousin picked me up on his bike and we made it to the family house, on the western side of the city. Chennai was playing the semi-finals of the I.P.L. that night so we abandoned the original plan of having dinner at the Dupleix house and Arima’s mom cooked some more south Indian food.
At 22:00, I bid Arima farewell and thanked him for everything and boarded the night bus to Bangalore. The trip began smooth and comfortable and the odd monsoon shower struck our path now and the then.

Finding my way back II (1st June)

We arrived in Bangalore at 5:30 a.m. and I wondered what to do next. I had almost ten hours of waiting until the departure of the train to Goa. Being overcome by sleepiness, I decided to take a pre-paid rik from the Central station to Yesvantpur. During that ride, I almost froze over, having nothing but a t-shirt to face the early morning chill.
At Yesvantpur, I just hung around the station, occasionally changing places and finally taking a nap in one of the benches…Eventually, I was woken up by one of the railway police, asking me about my business. I replied that I was heading towards Goa. He told me that the train was only due in three hours time and at a different platform. To which I replied: “I know that”. And he walked on.
The last hours were a bit agonizing so I decided to board the train one hour and a half before its departure, wandering with whom I would have to share my compartment. Well, in my compartment were already about 8 females, ranging from the ages of 80 to 8 months, all from the same family and originating from a small village near Margão. The younger ones, 4 girls in their early adolescence, were damn excited about the trip. My arrival on the compartment was an occasion of overall amusement and delight, and I greeted the elderly lady courteously, winning thus the favour of the lot. However, they didn’t speak English and kept talking to me and about me in Konkani and some of the young girls, being very sassy, kept touching my knees and brushing their skirts on my face whenever they came in and out of the compartment, which was basically all the time.
Fortunately, a few minutes before departure, an Irish girl joined our compartment.
Since she was much more dazzled by all her surroundings than me, I took it upon me to chat with her, somehow reassuring her that the trip wouldn’t be so bad; also, I indeed wanted to chat to someone in order to shorten the 15 hour journey.
As usual, the dialogue touched a wide variety of subjects without prying on things personal. Still, our compartment was always too loud and excited for my taste, so I often chilled at the coach door.
On one occasion, a Tamilian, who had been observing our compartment from his corridor berth opposite to ours, came up to me as I smoked a cigarette at the coach door while casually surveying the Carnatic landscape. He started asking me all the questions that the Irish girl hadn’t. Rudely, I mumbled half answers and induced him to leave me alone.
I later realised he was being an altruist in his own way: rather than asking those questions to satisfy him own curiosity, he was in fact trying to make my travelling less boring and thinking probably that I was feeling lonely, he thus proffered some man-to-man sympathy and fraternity. And the only way he knew how to do that was by asking the civil questions “Where are you from; why did you come to India; how do you like Goa; why did you come to Chennai, etc”.

But you see peoples, and my dear and innocent Tamilian, I don't have short and precise answers to those questions and since I usualy don't like to indulge on monologues about myself and my idendtity, I would rather be silent or lie.

And then came the time to open the berths and sleep.

Finding my way back III (2nd June)

Slowly, the train pulled into the Goan heartland and most people left at Margão. By 7:10 we arrived in Vasco and I made my way back to Pangim on the State bus. I then proceeded to the Vihar for a much needed breakfast of all my veg “treats”: tomato/cheese uttapam (no onions please), puri bhaji, fresh lime soda, chikoo shake, butterscotch ice-cream and chai.My last intra-indian tour was over; my return to the West drew closer.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Romance Indiático

"Tenho Três Pardaus"

Tenho três pardaus
E mais quatro tangas
Tenho cinco mangas
E quatro cajus;
Tenho dois baús
Lavrados de oiro;
Tenho um singidoiro
Que passa das marcas;
Tenho umas alparcas
Que ajustam nos pés.
Tenho uns sintonés
Tudo em bazarucos;
Tenho uns pantufos
Lavrados de tela,
Tenho uma sousela
De tirar ouções.
Tenho dois capões
Lá no meu quintal;
Tenho um didal
Feito em Mangalor,
Tenho um furador
De boa feição,
Tenho um quimão
De branco e vermelho;
Tenho um espelho
Feito em Portugal.
Tenho de cristal
Uma rica peça
Tenho de cabeça
Um prego galante,
Tenho um diamante
Lavrado nas pontas.
Tenho umas contas
De peixe-mulher,
Tenho uma colher
Feita em Angola.
Tenho uma viola
De tanger suave.
Tenho uma chave
Que abre e não fecha
Tenho uma flecha
Para os passarinhos;
Tenho cachorrinhos
Brancos de Manilha;
Tenho beatilha
Fina de Chaúl.
Tenho um baúl
De rico feitio;
Tenho um assobio
Que outro não há;
Tenho um alva
Que vem de Mascate;
Tenho um chiricate
De coser arecas;
Tenho de marrecas
Redes e armadilhas
Tenho umas pastilhas
De suave cheiro
Tenho um tabuleiro
De China dourado;
Tenho um cadeado
Que abre de pancada,
Tenho marmelada
Que vem de Ormuz;
Tenho um arcabuz
De matar pardais,
Tenho uns corais
De rica valia;
Tenho uma bacia
De assar pastéis.
Tenho uns anéis
De ouro stambaca;
Tenho de Malaca
Mui ricas atacas,
Tenho três patacas
Na minha gaveta,
Tenho uma boceta
Cheia de brinquinhos
Tudo para vós
Se quereis bem de mim.

in Romance Indiático, Fls. 125, Ms. 133 da Colecção Pombalina da BNL (ca. 1650)

Monday, June 02, 2008

O Contacto de Fevereiro 2007

(abrir "Arquivo" e escolher o video "2008.03.18 (1ª Parte)")