Mel D’Souza, born in Tanzania, went to school in the Goan village of Saligão and is the author of Feasts, Feni and Firecrackers: Life of a Village Schoolboy in Portuguese Goa (2007). He lives in Brampton, Ontario with his wife, Lineth.
At last we have a book that answers the who, what and why for the distinct Goan society. More Matata by Braz Menezes is a book that needs to be read by anyone who may wish to learn more about Goans, and particularly by those with Goan roots who seem to be striving in vain to “discover their identity.”
In More Matata, Braz Menezes has painted a photographic picture of the quintessential Goan without the embellishments that preoccupy many other Goan writers.
Goans can be found in every society anywhere in the world, while being notably inconspicuous. This trait is a legacy of their Portuguese heritage that goes back to 1510 when the Portuguese invaded Goa and declared it as Portuguese territory. In the process of converting the populace to Christianity, they insisted on total assimilation with their European masters.
In the ensuing centuries, assimilation became a Goan trait and enabled them to blend into the mainstream in any society they chose to live in. And this they did very successfully when they ventured beyond the boundaries of Goa to find ready employment in countries that came under the realm of the then mighty British Empire, and the once adventurous Portuguese Throne.
In More Matata, Menezes has defined the classic Goan in a way that makes for easy reading. It’s devoid of academic research, deep analysis, or boring introspection. Instead, the free-flowing story gives the reader an insight into the Goan psyche and a way of life during Britain’s colonial era as seen through the eyes of Lando, a young Goan boy and, later, as a young adult.
More Matata is the second book in the Matata trilogy about the life of Lando. The first book, Just Matata: Sin, Saints and Settlers, is about Lando’s early years in Kenya and later in a boarding school in Goa. In the second book, it becomes evident that in the first book, Menezes was portraying the typical Goan and setting the stage for launching More Matata.
And who is a “Goan?” Historically, a Goan has always been identified as being a brown-skinned individual, born in Goa, of the Catholic faith, with an English or Latin first name, and a Portuguese last name. The Hindus born in Goa were referred to as ‘Hindu-Goans.”
As to what a Goan is all about, this has been the source of endless opinions offered by various discussion groups, pointing out a double standard stemming from the perceived conflict between Goans’ devotion to the Catholic religion and their alleged practice of subtle caste distinction. When seen through the eyes of Lando, a boy with a non-judgmental but inquiring mind, it becomes very clear what the real Goan is all about.
In More Matata, Lando is a keen observer of social and political events that are taking place around him in colonial Kenya, and he questions them in his mind with candor and a delightful sense of youthful humour. As one reads through the book, one can’t help but put oneself in the shoes of Lando and/or his parents and begin to understand why Goans have a mindset that is distinct from other Indian societies.
The book amplifies the various factors that have influenced the make-up of Goans — the underlying ancient Hindu culture, the Portuguese-instilled Christian values, the sense of loyalty acquired through devoted service in the British Colonial government — all of which have stood them in good stead in bygone years. For those who lived in Kenya or any of the neighbouring countries in East Africa during the Mau Mau uprising, More Matata will also make one realize that they lived through a historical colonial era and were witness to a momentous period in the transition of Africa from colonialism to independence.
Menezes is a fine writer, and I had no matata following the smooth, informative and altogether entertaining, narrative.