Wednesday , 19 December 2018

Links that can connect

Frederick Noronha

Every once in a while, someone will send you a mail, SMS or message, repeating that very same question: do you know so-and-so’s phone number or email address? It’s understandable that someone will need some help at some time or the other. But when this becomes a routine feature, it turns irritating.

Blame it on the BSNL, which till not long back was the only telephone service provider that everyone had to depend on in Goa. It stopped the practice of upgrading its telephone directories, making everyone helpless. Its online directories are also difficult to access or not adequately updated. Added to that, the boom in mobile telephony in India today means many people have multiple phone numbers, and these also keep changing all the time.

Occasionally, one tries to oblige. But then, playing the role of a telephone enquiry service can be tiring. It is also an endless game, a bottomless pit.

To make the pain less, I request friends that they share their own numbers online. The best way to do so might be to add it at the bottom of your signature (.sig) files, which get attached to each email you send out. This way, at least you are more accessible to those who are trying to locate you.

But then, there are those ‘privacy-conscious’ few of a strange kind. They want access to everyone else’s phone and email contacts, but don’t want to share their own. So, we can only expect that the ‘what is so-and-so’s phone number’ question will continue to pop up ever so repeatedly.

In this context, the role of a mini ‘directory’ can play an important role. These directories list the persons connected with a profession, institution or trade. It helps you to navigate your way around the field in a helpful manner.

Recently, the postman brought over a neatly-packed copy of Goa Saunskrutik 2018, a cultural directory brought out each year by the Rajhauns publishing house of Panjim. This 244-page large sized directory, priced at barely a hundred rupees, is a useful compilation of anyone who’s anyone in the world of writing, literature, translations, desk-top publishing, publishing and more.

Years back, I recall coming across a very slender, pocket-sized directory – from the same publishers, and on the same topic. It sits somewhere in my collection of Goa books. Today, it has grown into a large publication. This reflects the work put in by the Bhidye family that is involved in this enterprise. It also echoes the growth of the field in recent years, which is a welcome addition. It could also be said though that some of the inclusions here might be part-time or self-publishers who get listed because they have only occasionally indulged in this work. For instance, I’m not sure if the government-run Bal Bhavan has a significant enough publishing programme to justify its inclusion, even if writing for children is badly lacking in today’s Goa and does need to be encouraged in viable ways.

The utility of this book though is because of its comprehensiveness, and the fact that it casts a fairly wide net. In some cases, its publishers admit that they don’t have the contacts for persons they’re on the lookout for. The names of those with missing contacts are also listed. But I wonder if Goa continues to be too sleepy to even respond to such direct appeals. Do we have a society where enough people read?

A lot of pain has been taken to include authors of books, and somehow trace their contacts. In all cases, this is obviously not possible. But then, let us at least acknowledge the work that has already been put into this. Personally, one found this directory very useful, yet it’s always frustrating to see how few respect a good product when it emerges. It can always be made better, of course, but the first step would obviously lie in recognising its potential.

The first section of this book offers background information about various aspects of art and literature – art galleries in Goa, periodicals, literary fests, lecture series, honours offered, Konkani in Goa, about the ISBN, schemes to promote literature, and so on. About two-thirds of the book lists litterateurs – translators, DTP operators, writers and authors, litterateurs who passed away recently, even entrepreneurs in the literary world (read: publishers). There are details about the costs of postal services, et cetera. The multilingual approach of this book (writers in all languages are included) makes for a useful publication.

There are other directories that one can find useful around our State. The Goa government has for many years had an official directory, which lists all the senior government officials. It is updated fairly regularly by the Department of Information and Publicity. In recent times, the same is also available online, meaning that the citizen can keep track of who rules the State, and how to get in touch with him or her. Whether the official (or politician) replies or not, at least one has a way of getting in touch.

The Catholic Church in Goa comes out, with religious regularity, with an official directory. It lists churches, schools, other church institutions, the people functioning at each, and this useful publication is brought out at around the start of the monsoons. If you’d like to know details of any church across the state, you can find it here. Such a publication could be even more useful if, say, each church had listed the mass timings and slots for other services offered in brief.

Likewise, somewhere online, the Goa University also has a very elaborate listing of the people working at that institution, and how to get in touch with them. A lot of care obviously goes into each of these directories, but such publications are only as useful as how much use they are put to. Now it’s over to the citizen to make the most of the same.

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