It’s been a while since I turned the last page of Reena Martins’ Bomoicar. I read the book, smiled as I flipped pages and then passed it on to some of my hostel girls. Even though a few are not Goans, they expressed liking towards the stories, towards the writing and towards Goa and its people. While Bomoicar is a compilation of short stories written by various people, Reena Martins ensures that it doesn’t read like it’s written by different people. Even though there were some overlaps here and there, I didn’t mind reading bits and pieces over and over again. That’s how beautifully the book is complied, edited and presented to us.
The stories: Not all stories were related to love. There were stories within stories. There were stories of separation, stories of a person loved dearly by all, memories. And each of these stories found ways to be tied back to this city. There was romance, there was mischief. But it was all related to Bombay. Some stories were left incomplete in reality, but in the book, there was an ending even if it wasn’t a happy one.
Konkani words: Recently, my warden called me to her office and asked me to stop speaking in Konkani. It’s rude, she said. Bomoicar, on the other hand, encouraged the usage of Konkani words. For instance, words such as dumpel, copachem, kapod – these words took me back to Goa. There were these moments of nostalgia. I think I also paused my reading at one point and started telling my roommates stories about our house in Goa, our neighbours, stories about my grandmother.
The Goan Aunty: She was everyone’s aunty. If there was anything running common across the book, it was this aunty. It was around the time Morarji Desai was elected as the Chief Minister of Bombay State in 1952. This aunty saved the parched throats who longed for alcohol. I started liking this aunty, and so will you, once you read about her. Quite a saviour she was, I must admit.
Beyond singers and musicians: Bomoicar introduced us to Goans who played various other roles – Julio Riberio the supercop, renowned architect Charles Correa, a national name in urban planning Edgar Riberio, other merchant navy officers. The Goans we know are usually connected to the music industry. Bomoicar introduced us to the other successful and inspiring lot.
Devotion: There were times, when I was transported to Goa because of this aspect. Aunties took their daughters to church, first dates were at Sunday mass, and attending Sunday mass was mandatory. It was just so-catholic at times. But that’s how Goans are, aren’t they? Everyone believes strongly in some saint or the other. I liked it much.
A walk through old Bombay: These stories had a good amount of Bombay history attached to each of these tales. There was politics, there was architecture, there were words that described Bombay in its early years. There were stories about the bifurcation. So it was not just people, it was more than that. It was the story of Bombay through the eyes of Goans.
Goan culture in Bombay: These stories will resonate with every Goan who reads Bomoicar. It narrates stories of Goan aunties, the floral dresses they wore, the houses Goans lived in, the food – especially choris pao, the drinks (booze), etcetera. And how can we forget the ‘wat men?’ and the likes? Our bastardized version of English is still what defines the Goan community in Bombay. Sad, but true.