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Vignettes from Goa

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

Song Sung Blue’, by author Savia Viegas, with graphic detailing is a story of fiction, but, it paints a realistic picture. Viegas’ speciality has always been that of using social undercurrents and issues that are generally hidden, to form the basis of a story in Goa, a Goa which has undergone change and continues to be changing – showing the impact of change through modernisation, of the mindset et al.

In 2011, after her book ‘Let me tell you about Quinta’ was published she had nothing to work on. Being the 50th year of Goa’s liberation, she toyed briefly with the idea of working on a life sketch of a woman who was as old as the liberated state.

“Slowly the character of Divina began to take shape- a character divested of all paraphernalia of the past and seeking to live in a modernising state. Then began the process of dredging memories of what had happened in the time frame of the novel,” says Viegas, who then began taking a look at young people growing up, issues of teenage love and its consequences within a state that still lives by the hierarchies of the past.

The book also draws inspiration from the memories etched in Viegas’ mind from her younger years. She recalls how at the age of 10, her mother took her on a condolence visit to a friend’s place, who had just lost her teenage daughter. “It was late evening and the darkness was all around the house. The mother kept crying and saying “her daughter should have told her”,” recollects Viegas. While this scene made sense to Viegas much later, she describes incidents like these as society’s dark secrets. “There were a number of questions I had to ask myself and seek answers to in our immediate society.  Are we an open society or are we still bound by the strictures of the past?” she asks.

The book has interactive sketches in blue. Viegas tells us that she assumed that printing in a single colour would be cheaper than printing in all colours and since the shades were haunting, she began painting with a blue palette, splashing prussian, indigo, cerulean, royal, peacock, cobalt, slate, teal, sky and winter blues.

“I have been working on illustrated books after my novel ‘Quinta’. It was a continuation of that trend that I worked with interactive images,” says Viegas’ who doesn’t deny the strong influence of Christian art in her paintings, all done in gouache. “I have been raised as a Roman Catholic and the influence of Christian art is very strong in the way I paint. Images of the Madonna, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, and the suffering of Christ, get reinvented in the book when depicting Divina’s life.”

The use of local lingo, characters, situations, etc, paints a very realistic story. Viegas says: “A fiction writer has to make his reader believe that his story actually happened. It calls for the strictest attention to the real whether the writer is writing a naturalistic story or a fantasy. The meaning of fiction is not an abstract meaning but a meaning that is experienced.”

As you flip through the pages, and experience the undercurrents, as a reader, you realise that through the various happenings and issues highlighted subtly – it is a dark story. Speaking further Viegas explains more about the overriding issues that she dealt with through the course of writing the tale.

“What happens when we stray out of the boundaries that society sets for us and how we cope with ‘guilt’, ‘change’ and ‘loss’ in our own social surroundings, is what I probed,” she says.

Viegas has adopted the usage of using words from languages used in Goa Konkani, Portuguese and Marathi without italicising, as part of the flow of everyday speech. The editors at Penguin, she says, allowed her to retain this style due to the context and its usage in the narrative.

“This was driven by the simple idea to use the language as we speak and because we are exposed to a plethora of languages and loan-words we use them in our everyday communication. The idea here was to absorb words from locally used languages in use and expect the reader to gauge their meaning in the flow of the narrative,” she says. A glossary for the words has been provided.

The story is set in her village of Carmona, the landscape, she says, that she knows and understands best. She reveals that when things are moving on smoothly in the village ‘you do feel that special love for it like you would for a parent’, but at other times, when there are changes, that aren’t in the right direction ‘you want to estrange yourself from it with anguish’.

She further says that the recent trend for families from the village to migrate to Europe is also a reflection that the state is not able to provide services that people with certain levels of income may require in their surroundings. “Most of these families rent out their back rooms to migrant workers and it is seriously changing the demography of the place. So, the village which earlier had a population of doctors, lawyers, teachers and office-goers is now being peopled by migrant workers,” says Viegas.

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