Four villages, in two books


Frederick Noronha

Velsao, Pale, Issorxim. Cudnem. Some of these places we may vaguely recognise. Others we might have not even heard of. Yet, these are the villages which make up the diversity of Goa, each of which is unique in its own way, and definitely deserves to be written about.

Unlike some colleagues and acquaintances, I do not subscribe to the view that writing about a niche topic, a very narrow slice of the Goan life, is a waste of time. Publishing a book on it is not vanity publishing, either. People need not get bored reading such stories, even if they have no connection with the place.

It may be of no interest whatsoever to me if a book comes out on a next-door village, say even three kilometres away from mine. But that does not mean that the book has no place for itself, or doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

Some sections of the media have written profiles and articles about particular villages. Even a series about a number of villages. This can be a difficult task. There is little or no written documentation existing on many things Goan. (One exception is the huge writing left behind during the pre-1961 era, but that too is largely in a language by now mostly lost to us.)

A journalist friend told me how difficult it was to even tap oral sources. There is an element of selfishness in recording the story. Anyone contacted in the village would tend to overplay the role of his or her own family and friends, and ignore those they don’t like or aren’t connected with.

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Of late, two more books were added to my collection of Goa-related village titles. The first is ‘Velsao, Pale and Issorxim: A well-knit unit’ self-published by John D’Silva, a priest based in Saligao and earlier part of the Capuchines. The second is called ‘Reckoner of Cudnem Village’, edited by Angela Angelina Domitilia Dias, published by Broadway and supported by the Goa University.

One is a 220-page book while the second one is 92 pages thin. Both are illustrated with a number of photos, quite a few in colour in the latter case. Fr John’s book on the three villages of Mormugao taluka follows what one would expect of a book on Goan villages. It starts with Velsao’s etymology – a chronological account of the birth and growth of a particular word, in this case a name. (Velsao is derived from ‘Vel’, or shore, according to D’Silva. He quotes the late medico-politician and former CM, Luis Proto Barbosa as having referred to Velsao as “vellen revddailo ganv” – a village encircled by the sea shore.)

Its temples, old and new, the beach, the fishing trade, communities that peopled the area, are written on. So is the local church, obviously well documented as tends to be the case. Religious practices, festivals and hymns, altars, church bodies, and even chapels are described in quite some detail.

D’Silva also reminds us that Issorxim is a village which the railway passes through, one we might miss or overlook as we clamber onto the train at Vasco, or wait to disembark after a long

There is a section on convents, crosses, and the panchayat bodies since December 1962. Besides the existing wards, there have been two new ones – Queeny Nagar and Upas Nagar.

The first was named after a real estate project. Believe it or not, the second came about when villagers protested against industrial pollution in the area, and staged a fast there.

This book gets more interesting when its author describes the place and its people. There are stories about land holders, threats of attacks by Marathas or the Ranes, Jesuit properties in the area, settlers from other villages of Goa or even Mangalore (some possibly fleeing a plague or an epidemic), houses which are 136 years of age.

Given the author’s background, there are lists of priests who served in Velsao, and bishops, priests, and nuns from Velsao who served elsewhere. Stories of Portuguese coats of arms and titles pepper up the story.

Another interesting section takes us to ‘centres of earning’ and educators of the area. Like most other village descriptions, it has a section on the prominent people. Among these are Ivan Cardinal Dias, and many others who might have been forgotten or overlooked by their own villagers and fellow Goans. One remembers Brother Antonio Philip Neri De Souza, who played a crucial role in raising issues of the deprived in places like Quepem, but died too early.

Entrepreneurs, heritage and stately homes, even a section on the charming windows of the village… all add to the reading pleasure. Like a typical Catholic Goan party, the book doesn’t end without a mando! The book has a listing of some 46 other bibliographical references it dipped into, and where one can get further information.

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Cudnem (or Cudne), in case you were wondering (as was I), is part of the “rural set up in Bicholim taluka”. As its editor notes: “It is seen that there are not many books writing on the Goan

Dias e de Souza explains her task as an “attempt to collect and analyse primary data from the field… carried out by research including teaching staff of the Government College Sanquelim and Goa University’’. Its basic purpose, she says, is to give a thorough understanding of the village to readers, help the government in understanding the prospects for cultural and heritage tourism there, and help comprehend the unemployment and other problems in the area.

Krishna Badiger and Arati Panshekar offer an insight into Cudnem’s geographic setting. This covers location, physiography, drainage, geology, climate, soils, vegetation, economic activities, settlement and transport – all in brief.

Evereth Fernandes offers a ‘Chronicle of Cudne Village’. One interesting section here is the role of water bodies in Cudne’s prosperity. There are also small sections on traces of Jainism in the region, its religious traditions, sati stones and even the
Islamic link.

Editor Dias e de Souza offers an economic study and employment generation avenues for the area. This is a topic which can be even more needed in these times of 2020. She finds that a majority of the villagers are below the poverty line, there is low female literacy, and the dependent population is above 50 per cent – sad figures in one of India’s highest per capita income states.

Mukund Narvenkar has a chapter on the panchayat raj institutions while Shraddha Naik writes on the cultural kaleidoscope of Cudnem.

Interesting books both worth it even if you’re miles away from these villages. It helps us understand another face (or other faces) of challenging Goa.