In the Mapuca Market in Goa, on a sultry Friday noon, at the famous Hanuman Soda fruit juice ice cream shop four elderly people namely Alda, Nascimento, Liano and Sita come and by chance all of them get seats next to each other in the crowded shop. Nascimento asks for a Gadbad Ice Cream, which is his favourite and by some act of providence all of them order the same as if inspired by what the gentleman is eating. Alda notices that all of them have same squarish nails and finger tips. After sometime they leave the place into some Goan villages, perhaps never to meet again.
Wendell Rodricks’ new book ‘Poskem- Goans in the Shadows’ starts with the description of these four people in an ice-cream parlour. Poskem in Goan means the people who have been adopted by wealthy families. When famine, war, arson and fights happened, poor people left their hapless children in front of the well off Portuguese and Naik families and such children were brought up in those households as a sibling with ‘equal rights’ but were often sexually exploited by the men folk in the house. That tradition is almost over now and very few Poskems are there in Goa today. Wendell Rodricks with his passion for fashion, culinary art, social justice movements and folklore, in this latest book, amply illustrated by an assortment of drawings from the Mario Miranda collections, tells the story of these Poskem people.
Alda has a tragic life. Her first born out of the eldest son of the Maurice family was killed at child birth and the boy was sent to foreign. Alda becomes a witch at least in her imaginations. She takes revenge using her body as a medium. Nascimento becomes a cook as his ‘father’ was a cook and becomes chief chef in the Taj Hotel Mumbai. Liana is single daughter and she finds her fulfilment as she joins Louis Miguel in Spain. Sita saves herself from a possible incest relationship with her brother Shiv but she comes to know that she could marry him for she is an adopted one in the family. All of them have different ups and downs in their life and finally all of them have come back to Goa. Alda is the only one who remains there but it is Sita who goes in search of her roots.
In a single chapter Wendell gives the story a quick twist and then we find the prologue also becomes the epilogue. Sita finds an old lady Indra in a village called Bicholim. Indra tells Sita that there was one lady called Shanta who was married to one Vinayak Halankar. In the fifth part of the small book Rodricks goes back to 1932 where Shanta’s story unfolds. Shanta once fallen to bad times leaves her elder daughter Sita in the Naik’s house and places one girl before the Mauricio house hold and one before the Trinidads. The boy child was left at a church. They grew to become Sita, Alda, Liana and Nascimento respectively. Rodricks says that there have been many stories like this but hardly people want to recount the kind of racial mixtures, sexual violence, displacement, heartbreak and so on involved in their lives.
Wendell, as I said before with his interest in the culinary arts has incorporated very special recipes of cakes, cookies, vindaloos and many other Goan dishes as a part of the narrative. And as a reader we find these recipes blending easily with the narrative like egg yolk in cake batter. Some of the recipes are from the Poskem people. At times the reader would feel that the narrative is created for incorporating recipes and making them interesting. Any book about Goa is pretty readable for the pronounced exoticism that they carry. Rodricks’ work has the same remoteness and exotic nature. A good and light read.