The name Lambert Mascarenhas will be a familiar one to anyone who has been a regular reader of Goa's monthly magazine Goa Today. And, fans of his popular column, 'Musings Moods Memories', will be delighted to know that it has been compiled into a book of the same name.
Lambert Mascarenhas (1914-2021), schooled in Poona (now Pune), and graduated from St Xavier’s College, Bombay (now Mumbai). He began his career in journalism with the Morning Standard (for eight years), and later joined The Free Press Journal, Onlooker and Bombay Sentinel.
An ardent advocate for the liberation of Goa, in 1949, while writing for The March, he got involved with Goa’s freedom struggle.
He was sent to Goa to report about the actual conditions in the Portuguese colony, and was arrested by the Government for his dispatches and imprisoned for three years, which enforced him into a life of exile in Bombay. He then joined The Goan Tribune as editor (1956-1961).
He returned to Goa after Liberation, and was the editor of the Navhind Times. In 1965, he founded the magazine, Goa Today, which he edited for 20 years.
In 1961, friends urged him to write some humorous, light-hearted reading, which he did and wrote under the pseudonym, Lamas. His wrote a regular column, Musings Moods Memories, from 1961 to 1985. These articles have been compiled into a book, which was recently launched at The International Centre Goa (ICG), Dona Paula.
FACT OR FUNNY?
Narrations on his family life, social and political events, his tongue-in-cheek humour, is uproarious. Some excerpts from his book:
“I hated academics. When assigned to write on Shakespeare, I would write long, in-depth introductions, full of smiles and lace them with allegory, take names of unknown Italian and Portuguese authors and judicially quote them. It was sheer nonsense, but sounded impressive, actually succeed in the fraud – since Providence distributed luck in ample measures in those days, especially to me, in bucketfuls. By the time the examiner read through it, he’d forgotten what the original question was, and that’s how I passed my examinations.”
Aunt Artimizia, who lived in Goa (and who he often asked for money) and a friend Degolacao, from Igatpuri (who had buffalos, usually taps him for money on his visits in Bombay), are prominent in his narrations.
“Degolacao, owns buffalos, one being named Pudecina. Yes, that is the name of the buffalo. All his buffalos are named after his aunts and neighbours in Goa, who he loves as much as he does his buffalos. One is also named Artimizia.”
Both have ambitions to join politics, take part in rallies and protests against political issues, as narrations subtly indicate unscrupulous politicians, and how easily money can be collected if you’re in politics and touch the right people. Readers often wondered if they were fictitious or real.
LIFE & LAURELS
Among others that caught my eye were on Goan weddings, when the bride or the photographer come late, while guests await the reception ‘thereafter’, mentioned in the invitation, with people reminiscing the ‘good old days.’
“If there are some people, both, Goan and non-Goan who believe that the Liberation from the Portuguese has brought little good, let them. I, for one, think that the Liberation has worked wonders. The sudden blossoming of Goa – value in land, value of money, the panorama of the sea and the horizon, the discovery of existence of ‘kunbi’ folklore and culture by those called high Christians, who take great pride in presenting it, especially to visiting VIP’s – is a miracle, deserving a chapter on its own in letters of gold.
“But, I did not know that the value of land was so high until I heard my aunt Artimizia talk about her love for her properties with the same fervour that she talks of God. She had small pieces of land in the village that no one wanted, until a seaman was prepared to pay cash down for land next to his house. She says, “A reasonable price is little consolation.”
“He smiles, but his smile is short-lived when she says, “Coming down to brass tacks will you pay 55 thousand for the land. I’ve had many offers, never wanted to sell it, but since this is next to your house and …” “Fifty five thousand,” said the stunned sea-man and walked down the steps. I asked my aunt on what basis she had fixed such a fantastic price for the land not even seven hundred square meters. “On what basis? What do you mean on what basis? Isn’t the property mine and I can fix any price that I think is proper?”
“Credit for people dusting their old chairs and bric-a brac lying in corners, because they are ‘Hidden gold,’ should go to the Bombay Goans who promoted them. The other day someone visited me and hardly had he entered the ramshackle house, when he was in raptures over everything he saw. “Can I take pictures of this beautiful ceiling?” he asked pulling out his camera. “The New York Times will pay me a fortune for this picture ceiling and other things.”
“But, this ceiling leaks, my dear. Thank God, it is not raining now.” The guy goes around from room to room, peering at the old brass lamp, touching ancient shaky chairs, peering at old photographs, in the bedroom, he banged his knee against the old four-poster bed, gave a short cry of pain and sat on the bed. It was in that position that he spied something in the corner of the room. “Hey, what is that beautiful piece?” he asked. “Isn’t it a period piece? Louis XIV? “No,” I replied. It’s a ‘Lamas Junior’, my little son’s chamber pot.”
Musings in the 1980s are on a serious note. The opinion polls, assembly of illiterates in the government, influx of tourists and migrant workmen.
“And, when I see foreign tourists gamboling on the beaches, or desi women especially from the North who have never seen the sea before, rushing into waves with their sarees on, carried away by the fascination they feel, I recall that morning long ago, that filled with me with joy.”
He authored three books and a play, and won the State Cultural Award from the Directorate of Art & Culture for his literary and journalistic achievements (1999-2000); the Laxman Borkar Writer’s award (2004); the Gomantak Sharda Puraskar (2008); the Lifetime Achievement award (2013); the Gomantak Vibhushan (2014); and the Padma Shree (2015).
He lived in Dona Paula, and passed away at age 106. He is survived by his wife, four children eight grandchildren and a great-great granddaughter.
The book is remarkably enjoyable and revealing. This compilation is a must read!
'Musings Moods Memories' by Lambert Mascarenhas is available from Broadway Book Centre, Panjim (contact: +91 9822488564)