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Wise tales from Moira

Frederick Noronha

This has been called the village of eccentrics; its residents have been dismissed as the Mad Moidekars or, a bit more diplomatically, termed the ‘Wise Fools of Moira’.  Prominent writer Jerry Pinto makes this point in his essay here. But then, are the villagers of Moira just the subject of so much envy? 

Quite possibly. This is something one has long suspected, even if smarter people can indeed be more complicated to deal with.

Anyone from these parts, meaning Bardez especially, has grown up listening to ‘Moidekar’ (or, Moira-related) stories and jokes. There’s the tale of local villagers trying to use fertilizer on their church, to make it grow bigger. Or another one about trying to re-align the church by pushing it in a group. Or even funny errors over Latin words once used at Mass, like O’Salutaris and Allelujah (which sounds something very different in Konkani!).

Or take the tale of using a bed to sit on, and plant rice, carried by four persons, to avoid trampling over the field. And the tale of Moidekars sending a gift of choice mangoes to the ‘Rajah of Goa’ after tasting each one.  All these, originally recounted by Professor Lucio Rodrigues (who was part of the Dhempe College around the 1960s), are well illustrated by probably the world’s only air vice-marshal cartoonist Giles Gomes.

‘Moira’, as this publication is simply called, is a `300 priced, well-illustrated (with many classy colour photos) souvenir of the oldest village club in Goa. More than just being a souvenir, it also attempts to be a book on a village which should have had one devoted to it. At least.

So, the formula here is to weave in memories about the century-old Assoçiação Académica de Moira (always a tough task, faced by a lack of written records); photographs of senior citizens who are a decade or two younger (centurions were unavailable); and a few articles related to the village lying between Mapusa and Aldona.

The name of the institution – Assoçiação Académica de Moira – stresses on its academic orientation. It translates to Academic Association of Moira (though the editor suggests it means “Academy”).

Glenis Maria Mendonça and Jeffrey D’Souza have a detailed and useful feature about the musicians of Moira. Lots of colourful details from an outline of Micky Correa (1913-2011) to lesser-known but significant contributors to the musical versatility of Moira. Could Moira be called the Curtorim of Bardez; maybe, if its denizens don’t feel offended by a comparison with the richly talented musical village of Salcete.

Leroy Marvel Veloso gives an insight into the functioning of a comunidade. This is a challenge; as it involves at least three languages, wading across many scripts, and diverse legal systems dating to pre-Portuguese times.

These days, Moira gets mentioned in the context of risks of sea-level rise, Nazar de Silva does well to explain how the talent of past generations helps them understand high and low tides to make parts of Goa inhabitable. This is an important debate for a village with rivers on many sides.

Pio Sequeira on sportspersons is very detailed, while the ex-Africander Betsy Pinto-Nunes has a charming story of her encounter with Moira way back in 1939 (during World War II) and today.  This spirited woman and her spouse Richard have been keeping busy in various ways.

David de Souza’s photographs grab the reader’s attention, being striking and sharp. These images focus on amazing themes, are well-conceived, and fairly well printed too.

Souza, whose talent is yet to be adequately understood across Goa itself, has an amazing series on local biodiversity. Those who have seen these images of his on Facebook would probably agree that they seem like almost human-crafted modern art rather than insects from the real world!

Another set of his images feature senior citizens of Moira, some of whom recall the ‘club’ over its past century, at different points of time. Needless to say, these are artistic portraits in themselves. The lack of captions and page numbers makes identifying a bit complex though.

The publication has a mix of advertising support from the old elite and new settlers, sarpanchas and legislators, builders and villagers, caterers and lawyers, plus others. At some points, one felt some of the contents could have been better attributed – it makes it verifiable, and also gives credit where credit is due.

Personally, a publication of this kind would have been better if packaged as a book, rather than a souvenir; not only would it have had a longer shelf-life, but it could have been taken more seriously too. But that’s a personal view.

By now, ‘Moira stories’ have gone down in legend and lore. Villagers often themselves take these in their stride, and join you in laughing over the same. Two more just surfaced after reading this book.

One is the story of how the village’s generously pigmented popular drummer came to be called Paklo (a term normally used in colour-conscious Goa to describe a light-skinned European type). Yet, this can happen. In Moira. Without having any tinge of racism or slight attached to it too. Teh Moidekkar, reh! (They are indeed the denizens of Moira.)

An even better one which struck me is the naming a small vaddo (hamlet) after the former empire which ruled us for centuries, and once controlled global trade. But hang-on, a tiny Novo Portugal en route to Aldona might today seem like an intended joke on the real nation. In earlier times, who knows, the wise Moidekar might have even convinced the then ruler that it was a tribute!

There is a sense of loss that sometimes pervades a publication of this sort. Veloso’s piece on the comunidades wonders whether the comunidade will survive at all. He goes on to stress that it’s important to anyway “know what our ancestors handed down to us”.

Mendonca and D’Souza regret that some musicians have gone forgotten. Karl Pinto Souza and Jeffrey D’Souza – rightly – highlight the loss of local biodiversity. Editor Augusto Pinto wonders whether the village club could sustain itself, what with outmigration of its traditional members and arrival of new residents. True, it’s easy to get bogged down with needless misunderstandings.

One could add one more to this list of worries and concerns. It is possible as, or more, important. Do talented and privileged villages do enough to understand and document their past?

Some articles here are reproductions from earlier publications, which suggests a hurry at getting the job done, or a lack of time. Which is understandable, of course, because anniversaries happen when everyone is busy leading life. But surely, the next generation of writers, including young ones still in school, has to be built early. Else, our local histories will be little more than a distant

memory.

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