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Between Aurora and Maria:Being and Becoming in Goa

Peter Ronald deSouza

By Maria Aurora Couto
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2004, pp. 436, Rs. 495.00


There is this charming passage on page 61 of the book where Aurora, recounting the tense and fluid months after the Liberation of Goa, gives us a glimpse into that private world that she and Alban, an IAS officer of the Bihar cadre sent to Goa to help with the transition, had to negotiate. ‘He could sense my personal turmoil and my wistfulness, but to him I was Maria. He has come to know and acknowledge Aurora best perhaps only in the reading of this book. (“Oh no”, he had said when we were engaged to be married, “North India is full of Aroras/Auroras; it is a surname there, and I have a subdivisional officer called Arora. Please, please let me call you Maria. Besides, I cannot even pronounce Aurora the way it should be.”’   Goa: A Daugther’s Story, is really a conversation between Maria and Aurora. In it Aurora, who does most of the talking, speaks about Goa, a place that is real and also imagined, a place with a history in which flesh and blood persons, driven by ideals and troubled by passions, face, with spirit and verve, the age of colonialism and the process of decolonization. Aurora speaks with an urgency as if she needs to persuade Maria, who is the more reflective, that the Goa she is describing also belongs to India. Aurora’s story has the sensitivity of a life lived at many levels of emotion, Maria’s is the more analytical seeking the patterns that history in its mischief decides to weave. It is a story of being and becoming in Goa. It is the story of the being and becoming of Goa.   For this is Goa. Those who accompany Maria through the pages of this book would discover a magical world of European-like bhatcars and Indian-like gentlemen preserving, conserving, adapting, modifying their world as they try and make sense of India’s first encounter with Europe, as they struggle for Goa’s liberation from Portuguese colonialism. They would find a romantic story about the people and the pasts of Goa, a delightful journey through the grandness of mansions and of people who rightfully reside in them. They would find a vibrant intellectual world. A little fictionalized by Aurora’s act of recalling the way things were, through childhood memories, and half remembered facts, and amateur histories. For those who accompany Aurora, however, ...

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