Edila Gaitonde made news as a young Portuguese woman -- in her twenties then -- who married a Goan, and came to settle in the society of those times.
Her husband Dr Pundalik ("Lica") Gaitonde subsequently uttered two powerful words -- Eu protesto, or I protest -- when an official identified Goa as being an integral part of Portugal
Today in her nineties, Edila talks with Frederick Noronha about her reminiscences of the Goa of those days. She visited Goa recently and wrote back to say: "I am still far too tired. I enjoyed my visit to Goa but it was far too hot and humid. At the end I was so tired I could not do much"
n her husband’s campaigns in Delhi:
‘Lica’ was busy fighting for Liberation, and having his arguments with Nehru, who did *not* want to bring the troops in. We kept telling him (that it was necessary). Nehru was reluctant to get into a war, and said "I’m a man of peace".
You’re a man of peace which is okay. But you won’t get anywhere with Salazar. You may not use force, but show force. But you have to show your power. ‘Lica’ kept on saying that Salazar would never sit on the table; and of course he never did. Finally it came to the point where Nehru had to decide; either being the man of peace for the world, or looking after his own country. He showed force, but didn’t use it.
On the freedom fighters, All India Radio and Goans:
On the one hand, Nehru would say there was to be no language abuse of Portugal. Then some came along, and wrote in Portuguese, which Nehru did not understand. And some wrote all kinds of things.
[There were all kinds of politics.] Some wrote things about me in the Press, as if I was a spy for Salazar, and working my way by remote control. Some of them made my life hell.
On her first memories of Goa:
They were very confused. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said when I was taken to meet relatives.
I came 1948 for the first time, and would have been around 27 years old. I liked the place, but I didn’t understand the people. I didn’t see a single Christian or European (in parts of Goa), and to me everything was quite a confusion. People lived in their old times. It was men everywhere. The women were mostly just looking out from behind the curtains.
On her part of Portugal:
I come from the Azores, which was a town, the capital of the district. Things were very different here. The way people ate, the things they ate. What they offered me. There were things I liked, and others I wasn’t very fond of.
On language and perceptions of Goa in today’s Portugal:
Portugal still thinks that in Goa everybody speaks Portuguese. I keep telling them it’s not true. After Independence , Portugal put a blanket on everything India. It was a bad memory and they wanted to cover it up.
[But it makes sense to keep in touch] instead of going somewhere else, and learning Portuguese from the Brazilians... they don’t speak real Portuguese.
In Portugal, for the first time now, there’s a little fight. The director of the Centro Cultural de Belém, which is a cultural centre in Belem, has forbidden a change in the computers.
Portugal is getting too soft. In some ways in the past, they were far too strong and stupid. Now, they are getting too soft and stupid again. This is incredible.
On the Goans she remembers:
My good friends Alvito Miranda of Mapusa, all the Mirandas in fact. Dr Olavo Ribeiro. I liked Lucio Miranda very much, and he was my very good pupil. Elsa Miranda too. "Pandit" Luis Miranda (who is a doctor in New York). Margarida I just missed, as she had just gone to Sophia’s in Bombay.
Rama Hegde, Loyola, Purshottam Kakodkar, and Tristao Braganza Cunha were (in imprisonment) in Portugal too when I came. I knew Tristao’s brother in Paris, what a fine man.
On what she sees as the positives in today’s Goa:
Goa is much better definitely. It’s a living place. There is some industry. Things are growing. Economically it is f-a-r better. You can see the growth of the city. I don’t mean to say it’s all nice.
There are many buildings, very big and very pompous. Some are neo-riche, not very much to my liking. It’s all a mixture. But that’s life.
Quite honestly, the only thing I dislike about Goans now, I think they should have been a little bit stronger in the building up of the place. They should maybe have been a little bit careful -- I don’t like to offend anyone -- to avoid corruption, to avoid things which are not correct. The beaches are in neglect. The tourists have been allowed to spoil everything.
Look how beautiful Palolem was, and what a horrible place it is now. It’s just junk... this should have never been allowed.