— JASMEEN DUGAL
Drawing from stories told by his mother, others from neighbours, friends and the overseas Goan diaspora — Wendell Rodricks dedicates 'Poskem: Goans in the Shadows' to the poskims of Goa — ''people whom destiny ordained to live largely in the shadows of Goan life. This is also an apology for the sorrows they suffered, the indignity they endured and the challenges they faced in a society that left them on the edge of an unknown abyss, yet within the families that took them in…'' The author's dedication sets the tone of the narrative with beautiful illustrations by Mario Miranda. Focussing on the tradition of Poskem — Konkani for 'adopted children' i.e. poor children taken in by wealthy families, mostly as servants, without inheritance rights — Rodricks has taken real events, real people and shared their stories through a fast- paced narrative revolving around four people: Alda, Liana, Nascimento, Sita. 'This is their story.'
Reading the book, I was mesmerised by the abrupt change in tone. One page is lighthearted and the next, riddled with despair — quite like the lives of poskim. The first chapter begins with the love affair of ALDA and Mauricio, laced with hope, longing and passion, and the next pages describe his mother sending him off when she observed Alda's pregnancy and cold-bloodedly murders Alda's newborn. ''That was the day Alda entered the wonderful world of insanity. They began to call her Pishem Poskim.'' Later, Alda is molested by her adoptive father and revenges the man who raped her good friend. While her story is tragic, Liana, Nascimento and Sita found good homes. '''One wonderful morning, I stepped out for my morning walk and was curious to see a basket near the gate. I summoned Marceline, thinking we had a fruit basket delivered… and there, wrapped in a white sheet was a baby… We took you in, LIANA, as our own''... That night, the Trinidades prayed as a joyous family. Liana's marriage to Portuguese soldier Luis Miguel takes place during the Indian Army's liberation of Goa and they board the last flight to Lisbon.' NASCIMENTO imbibed the culinary arts from his adoptive father. 'One evening in May, Nascimento's family arrived to see the legendary Taj Mahal Hotel. The kind General Manager authorised a meal for the parents and two of seven siblings in the Sea Lounge… At the end of the meal, Nascimento left the steaming kitchen to greet his family. There was much applause, tears and hugs… His life, however, ends in tragedy when his wife kills their daughter and commits suicide. '''They say I threw Petula down as I did not want a girl child… I wonder how she is. My heart bleeds. My mind cannot work. I get depressed. I cannot sleep''… She sobbed as two angels of light lifted her body to the ledge of the verandah … passersby were shocked at the lady who jumped from the fifth floor.' The story of SITA and Shiva, at first seems incestuous even to the two, until Aunty Shanti reveals Sita is not family, she is poskim '''She is NOT your sister. The entire village of Bicholim knows that''… the next summer they married, in the temple of Bicholim. The villagers blessed them and asked for forgiveness…'
Interestingly, a significant part of the book weaves Goans' love of food and priceless recipes, into the narrative. I'm tempted to try a few, particularly Dark Chocolate Mousse, Pork Vindaloo and Cheese Soufflé Omelette. Overall, the book hints at the horror endured by Poskem through the lives of the four protagonists… real people whose names have been changed and stories softened with creative license to contain the horror rising from our very being. That said, I loved the fast narrative and the repetition of prologue as epilogue; set in Mapusa Friday bazaar, its brilliance, and relevance to the narrative, can be felt only when you read the book. Setting the book down, I feel 'Poskem: Goans in the Shadows' is a brilliant heartfelt effort by fashion designer and author Wendell Rodricks to showcase this now-extinct dark secret of Goa… far from the maddening crowd at beaches and reveries. A must- read!
Title: Poskem: Goans in the Shadows
Author: Wendell Rodricks
Publisher: Om Books International
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