19 Apr 2024  |   04:53am IST

Finding hope beyond the sunset

Journalist and author Alexandre Moniz Barbosa will be releasing his new fictional book ‘Colonial Sunset’ today, April 19, that brings to the fore a story that began just before Goa’s Liberation and spans over a period of 52 years. It deals with how relationships broke religious and cultural barriers
Finding hope beyond the sunset

Dolcy D’Cruz

The knowledge about the past is useful to complete our knowledge of the world we live in. The same goes with how we learn about our past. Alexandre Moniz Barbosa has a beautiful way of telling these stories that blend the world of the 1960s and recreating the settings of Goa pre-Liberation while still keeping the story relevant to today’s times. 

Fundacao Orients is organising the book launch of ‘Colonial Sunset’ by Alexandre Moniz Barbosa on April 19, 6 pm at the premises in Fontainhas, Panjim. The speakers at the book launch will include Dr Paulo Gomes, director, Fundacao Oriente, Prof Isabel Santa Rita Vas, writer and Dr Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues.

‘Colonial Sunset’ is a fictional story that revolves around the forbidden love story of Avelino Dos Santos and Maria Das Dores Mesquita as the state is on the verge of Goa’s Liberation. From serenading in the narrow lanes of Fontainhas to the excitement of witnessing a football match between the Goan and Portuguese team, the book creates the charm of Goa in 1961. It all started with a true love story. In 2011, Panjim-based Alexandre was interviewing a couple who had come down to Goa to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. They were married just two days before Goa’s Liberation and had to face tribulations as the Portuguese had to leave the country. What exactly caught his attention about this couple? “It was their story. He was a Portuguese soldier and she was a Goan woman. After Liberation, he was arrested and kept as a prisoner of war and then repatriated. And she was able to go to Portugal only much later and join him there. They got married, and just two days later, Liberation took place. They were immediately separated as all these Portuguese soldiers were held as prisoners of war. It was quite an interesting story. I probably started writing the book in 2022, after the release of my previous book, ‘Kaddio Boddio’,” says Alexandre. 

The book is published by Broadway Publishing House. The cover illustration is by Abigail Crasto and the cover design is by Maryanne de Souza. Alexandre has been to Portugal and has interacted with people in Portugal about Goa too. While Goa has influences of the Portuguese culture, the Portuguese know very little about Goa, “They don’t know much about Goa, The older generation will be different, but anybody who’s like, below 50 years, Goa doesn’t really mean much. Except, of course, there will be a few exceptions. But in general, for them, Goa really doesn’t mean much,” says Alexandre. 

This is the fourth fiction book by Alexandre, his previous books inlcue ‘Touched by the Toe’, ‘Raw Earth’ and ‘Kaddio Boddio’. What got him interested about stories about the colonial times, “After I started as a journalist, I used to do a lot of stories that were not hard news. I used to come across a lot of people who were much older than me and they used to talk about those times and I would remember those conversations. It was only after becoming a journalist and talking to these people, I got interested in those colonial period. I do feel that we need a lot more literature and fiction about this period because we are yet to understand about a lot of things and how they happened and why it happened,” explains Alexandre.

He further adds, “In the last 18 months, there were many books dealing with or dwelling upon the past as the colonial period as a backdrop to their stories which was not happening even five years back. Now, we had two books by Uday Bhembre and ‘Rescuing a River Breeze’ by Mrinalini Harchandrai. It is important for people to understand that period. Historians will love history but for the general public, non-fiction literature is much more interesting.” Uday Bhembre’s books include ‘Faith on Fire’ and ‘Kator re Bhaji’.  

Working as a journalist, it is different to write short stories or even a novel. “That is something that becomes difficult from a daily basis of writing of 300-350 words stories when you change your mindset and write something that goes to 60,000 words or more is not easy. After I got out of this full time journalism that I was really able to sit and write in this manner. My earlier two books took much longer time than ‘Kaddio Boddio’ and ‘Colonial Sunset’ because I was working full time and would be written as and when I had the time,” says this former executive editor.  

He further adds, “This was possible because the first draft was written very quickly because I was able to sit and write every morning and afternoon for a month. It is not easy to switch your mental state of mind from journalism writing to creative writing.” 

Alexandre is also involved in encouraging creative writing in Goa. His short story won the biennial Goan Short Story competition organised by Fundacao Oriente in 2013 and he was also the chairperson of the jury for the Fundacao Oriente Short Story Competition 2023. Conceptualised in 2011, the competition is open to stories in Portuguese, Konkani, Marathi and English. 

“There is a lot of talent in all languages in Goa, because in that Fundacao Oriente Short Story competition, there are four languages. And this year, while it might have been a lot less entry, there were still some of them that were very good for this year. And it’s not just restricted to English. It is Konkani, Marathi also Portuguese. There are book clubs, like Goa Writers Group and Out of Context which meets on a monthly basis with lot of book discussions happening,” says Alexandre.

How would he like to motivate young writers? “They have to read much more and not just a single author or a genre. There are lots of online books sales happening. Even if one goes to the Central Library, there are lots of books to read. In our time, when I was a student, the books were limited. If one becomes a member, they can take three books a month. Unless you read, you will not be able to write, after that you will be able to write but you have to continue reading.”

‘Colonial Sunset’ will be available at the book release today, April 19 as well as at Broadway Book Shop, Panjim and online on Amazon.


Idhar Udhar