Portuguese language could help build bridges: Goan author


Panaji : Goa, the popular tourist hub on the Indian west coast, could build global bridges, both linguistic and cultural, a new book just out suggests.

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The book in Portuguese, titled “Oriente e Ocidente na Literatura Goesa” (East and West in Goan Literature), looks at the works of 19th and 20th century Indo-Portuguese writers. It covers local writers who expressed themselves in Portuguese.

Portuguese was the dominant language in Goa till 1961 when it was liberated from Portuguese rule by Indian forces.

Author Eufemiano de Jesus Miranda, whose book is being released Wednesday, suggests that the Goan writer of yesteryears was ethnically Indian but often imbibed with Western, Christian and Latin traits, and also strongly influenced by the “Vedic-Upanishadic Hindu substratum”. This caused a painful search for “self-identity and self-definition”.

Goan poets had written so much on Mother India, a concept in which they shared pride. Despite mastering the Portuguese language, Goans of the time did not lose their Indian roots, the author argues.

“The appeal of millenary and ancestral India was strong on them. They were proud of their Catholic faith too. But you can’t forget your roots,” he notes.

He believes these contributions could be a “small beginning” to even now help countries like Portugal to understand Indian philiosophy, mythology and its way of being. For that matter, Indian thought and philosophy is also popular in Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil.

The book is in Portuguese, one of the few to be published here over the past five decades in that language. Miranda sees Indo-Portuguese writer as “a small part of the big tradition of Portuguese literature. It is a literature written by Goans with typical features of India, but perfectly integrated in the Portuguese tradition”.

What does he see as the future of the Portuguese language in Goa where it was once dominant, now hardly visible?

“Some years ago I would say that Portuguese is a languague only the researcher in history would need. Now we know we need it even in industry. For instance, IT needs Indians with Portuguese skills to work in Angola or Brazil.”

He agrees with the view that we need not see Portuguese merely as just a colonial language but as one more tongue with a potential in our future.

“The book is about Goans who mastered the Portuguese language and lead to the birth of a creative literature. It covers poetry, novels and short stories from the 19th and 20th century,” says Miranda, who currently is the parish priest at Chicalim, a village close to the riverfront leading to Vasco da Gama town, 28 km from here.

Goan writing in Portuguese is almost invisible today, he agrees, and sees that as “a pity”. Yet, this is a reality that cannot be forgotten. “It was created by Goans, both Catholics and Hindus too who wrote very elegantly (in Portuguese),” he says.