Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Pramod Kale and Sharon da Cruz: In Memoriam" - THE GOAN: I'm Not Here (3 August 2013)

On June 23, 2013, Dr. Pramod Kale passed away. About a month later, on July 25, so did Dr. Sharon da Cruz. I did not know Professor Kale personally, but Sharon was a classmate of mine at St. Xavier’s College, Mapusa. The news was shocking. In their passing, not only have Dr. Kale and Sharon’s families lost their loved ones, but our community has lost two academics who researched different aspects of Goan culture and history. While having had many publications to his credit, Dr. Kale is perhaps best known for his article “Essentialist and Epochalist Elements in Goan Popular Culture: A Case Study of Tiatr” which appeared in an issue of Economic & Political Weekly in 1986. The weekly also carried Sharon’s “The Partido Indiano and the September Revolt of 1890 in Goa,” which she co-authored with Dr. Max de Loyola Furtado in 2011. In addition, Sharon had her hand in other publications, and was well known as an instructor at Cuncolim College. 

Dr. Kale’s article on tiatr may be considered an important intellectual intervention for having given an often derided art form its critical due. Aware of the negative social attitudes towards the theatrical genre, Dr. Kale highlighted the exact reasons for such dismissiveness by saying of tiatr that “[i]t is a form ... rooted in the working class and lower middle class Goan Catholic population living in Goa or outside expressing their trials and tribulations, hopes and aspirations.” He saw in its audiences that they gathered to witness the metatheatrical, evidence of one of the major political dramas of Goa in the 1980s – the language issue. In regard to this, Dr. Kale notes in his essay that for those audiences of tiatr, “Konkani [was] not merely a language, a medium of communication, but a cause...” In so saying, the researcher acknowledged the socio-cultural significance of this traditional style of Goan theatre, its class and caste affiliations, and its ability to rally a community concerned with the socio-political theatrics beyond the stage. 

In her role as a historian, Sharon’s interest in the Goan past ranged from her doctoral research on the Franciscans to the Opinion Poll, on which she co-wrote a book, and the aforementioned September Revolt of 1890, among other topics. Of the politics of 1890, Sharon’s article astutely points out that while the revolt had an “elitist ... nature, it [also] had a mass popular base ... from [within] the Mundkar community.” Thus, she underscores not just the alliances formed in challenges to colonial power, but also “contesting versions” of historical events which, when taken into account in their multiplicity, may “[enable] us to view the historical process holistically by visibilising the other...”

As we mourn, it is necessary to consider not only the legacy that researchers like Dr. Kale and Sharon leave behind, but also how their work could have been studied while these scholars were still with us. It is generally only at the postgraduate level that students in Goa are supported in their choice to take up the study of the region and read the writing of researchers like the ones memorialised here. Yet, how much more might we have benefitted from a curriculum of Goan Studies that
pervades our educational system at all levels while encouraging established scholars of Goa to be an interactive part of the process? One imagines that it would have allowed students to interact personally or virtually with thinkers like Dr. Kale and Sharon whose dedication to studying Goa is inspiring. Even though they are no longer with us, their scholarship lives on and what we can do to sustain and build upon it remains to be seen.

To see the print version of this article, visit here. My thanks to Dale Menezes for providing the EPW essays quoted herewith.

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