Iris C F Gomes
A pharmacist, national level Scrabble champion, ex-football player and now a tiatr writer and director – Irineu Gonsalves has donned many hats and done it with tremendous success too. His drama, Gõy Gõykarachem, is evidence to this fact. Running houseful wherever it has been staged in Goa, the tiatr is hard hitting and unearths realities that most Goans are unwilling to confront owing to their reticent approach to issues affecting society.
The crux of the drama focuses on land banks besides various problems related to Goa. ‘This is an issue that is close to my heart,’ says Mr Gonsalves, ‘and I have been writing letters to the newspapers for years. Besides I have written columns covering social issues and about football too.’ Clearly, he is a man driven to make a difference and he minces no words in condemning the usual suspects. ‘I got this idea of land bank development and that is what has made me come out with this drama because through this medium you can reach out to the people,’ he asserts.
He laments the influx of non Goans into the state, purchasing acres of land, thus usurping the position of the native Goan. Some Goans have willingly displaced themselves owing to their short sightedness and greed while others have had their rights trampled upon by forces that be. ‘Today the land prices are such that the ordinary Goan cannot afford to buy land for himself,’ says Mr Gonsalves quite rightly. The solution he puts forward is that land belonging to the Comunidades can be used as capital for this land bank for Goans. He proposes a land bank for each district of Goa and suggests they be called Land Bank Corporations. The land would be available exclusively to natives of Goa. ‘When I say Goans I do not mean people who have domicile certificates because the Government gives certificates to anyone. They can very well purchase a domicile certificate,’ says Mr Gonsalves. Instead, the requirements would be much narrower, involving birth certificates of parents and grandparents, proving they were born in Goa.
Village Advisory Committees could be formed in the Comunidades of various villages. These would make decisions as to the allocation of land in terms of size and price. The price would always be fifty per cent less than the market rate and if the purchaser wishes to pay in instalments, the interest should not go beyond five per cent. If within a particular time period no construction takes place on the land, the plot could be claimed by the Land Bank after refunding only the price of purchase. The cost of setting up and administrating the Land Banks would be borne equally by the Comunidades of Goa and the Government of Goa. An amendment of the Code of the Comunidades would allow for a law to establish land banks in Goa.
This proposal is delivered astutely, through the lips of Professor Sergio, a non-resident Goan, who epitomises the tiatr’s slogan ‘You can take a Goan out of Goa… but you can’t take Goa out of the Goan’. Sylvester Vaz leads as the sagacious Professor Sergio and Brenser. The drama has a slew of famous tiatr actors, namely, Wilmix, Sharon, Michael Gracias, Felcy, Aplon, John D’Silva, Anita, Nato, Xavier Gomes, Willie Silveira and others. Among the singers are Anthony San, Marcus Vaz, Francis de Tuem and Lawry Travasso. With a stellar cast enacting a powerful script, the drama is laden with attacks against those raping this golden land of Goa.
The tiatr covers extensive ground, addressing the multitude of problems faced and caused by Goans themselves. It lambasts the so called guardians of society, the police. The media is not spared either and is linked with the police and the politicians in a nexus of corruption. John D’Silva’s constant refrain that nobody informed him about whatever it is they are discussing, is a telling reflection of Goan apathy and ignorance of the consequences of their own actions.
The Mopa airport is one of the first issues to be addressed, emphasising the detrimental effect on Goan economy and the viability of having just one airport at Dabolim. Next is the manner in which justice is subverted due to political pressure. The police and media carefully attempt to sweep the case of a carpenter’s daughter being molested under the rug. Professor Sergio appears on the scene midway, with his advice regarding land banks. The inanity of court cases dealing with property disputes, which take eons to resolve, is brought to the public. The blow of injustice dealt to the people of Tiracol in having their land taken away from them for a pittance, and in some cases without any payment, is another issue raised.
The songs elucidate the loss of values among Goan youth; the lack of appreciation of the Konkani language, Goa’s mother tongue; tiatr artistes being cold shouldered at IFFI and the Government’s disregard of Catholic sentiments in having the film festival at the same time as the exposition of St Francis Xavier’s sacred remains. Gender discrimination and the lure of Portuguese passports emptying Goa of her wealth of populace are discussed too. The song sung by Francis de Tuem is bold in its condemnation of the antics of the present Central Government as well as the State Government. It dismisses the ideology of Hindutva and reviles those ‘Christian’ politicians who have in effect apostatised by joining the BJP for vested interests.
Special mention must be made of the comedic performance of John D’Silva, Nato and Anita, marked with rejoinders reminiscent of Shakepeare’s fools and their buffoonery, which reveals the truth under the guise of humour.
The drama becomes embroiled in conflict with the threat of Brenser’s parents splitting up. Resolution is arrived at in the end, with the message that it is principled youth who will battle adversity and the foes that bring it on and that Goans need to awaken from their slumber before the damage done to the land is irreversible. The question remains, however, will we rise up and confront the concerns brought to light or will we go back to our sussegad ways? The ball is in our court!