Search This Blog

CYPRIAN FERNANDES: How Ben Antao got it all wrong


The unkind cut

Roland Francis: I fully agree with what Francis Noronha of Lethbridge Alberta has written in reply to Ben Antao’s unnecessarily harsh and critical analysis of Cyprian’s books. 

Being neither from East Africa nor a resident in Goa except during Summer Holidays, I support the need any Goan may have to write about his life experiences. These are precious because that human ecology exists no more.

I enjoyed Cyprian’s two books immensely while I found Ben Antao’s books extremely shallow. I am not attempting a comparison here, but will go so far as to say that one who plays in the wet mud of a village is bound to find it meaningless to look up to a magnificent setting sun, let alone enjoy it.

Braz Menezes, Cyprian Fernandes and to a certain extent Selma Carvalho have made a huge contribution to my understanding of the Goan African experience.
Roland Francis


Vivian A. D’Souza: Ben's remarks were totally un-called for and betray an underlying jealousy, as well as mis-conception about us East Africanders. There is a certain panache about East Africanders which makes those who did not experience that life, very jealous.  I once had an exchange with someone, who asked me to explain what was special about life in Tanzania.  He thought it was hum ho, and no different from life in Bombay, where he grew up.  I guess I could not adequately describe the ambience of East Africa,

I exchanged correspondence with Ben Antao many years ago when he was writing a novel about a Portuguese soldier who had defected and moved to  Belgaum.  I spent 6 years of my life in Belgaum, so l was able to give Ben some tips, to make the novel  appear more authentic.  Ben also visited  us in Goa, so I got to see him but have not been in touch with him in over a decade..

I was born in Tanzania, but the family moved to India when I was 12 years old as my father had to retire prematurely because of ill-health.  I returned to Tanzania when I was 19, got married there and had two of our children there before emigrating to the USA where my wife and I spent 32 years of our lives.  In Tanzania we were not well off, lived in a single bed-room apartment, an did not own a car or a scooter or even a bicycle till 18 months before we left Tanzania.  I had many African friends.  I was General Secretary of the Goan Institute for 2 +  years at the time of  Tanganyika's independence, and our club was reserved by the Government  for all the diplomatic functions as it was the best facility in town at that time. I was  invited " to all the Independence related functions, not because I was anyone of importance, but they wanted me around in case there were any facility related problems.

After educating our three children and  seeing to them getting married, we moved to Goa, to experience the life I recalled from my younger days. We built a large house and are enjoying our life here.  We return to the USA for 3/4 months every year, as we maintain an apartment and a car there.  So we have the best of both worlds.

Despite having experienced the luxuries of the West, we still remember our simple but very contented lives in Tanzania.  In the last 6+ years of my life in Tanzania I worked for the American embassy, and visited Nairobi at least two times a year on temporary duty. We remember the days in Africa as the best days of our lives, even though we did not have much money.

We were the poor cousins of you Nairobi based folks, but living by the beach, going fishing and enjoying fresh fruits of the sea, we were a contented lot.

Cyprian, Francis Noronha has done an excellent job of rebutting  Ben's small minded comments.  Don't worry about his comments. You have achieved renown and are respected by many.

Warmest regards,

   Vivian

MARK FONSECA: I am a Goan, born and bred in Bombay (now Mumbai) and left India permanently in 1971 for Canada. In late 1973 I moved to Australia to be with most of my family. So I have experienced life across 3 countries. I have NEVER been to Africa and specifically Kenya but I am married to an ex Kenyan and have many East African friends - all with wonderful memories of a life in days gone by. I am a good friend of Cyprian Fernandes who I met in Sydney and have worked with him for the Goan community here in Sydney. As you may be able to gather from that, Cyprian is a very proud Goan, a popular and respected person in our Goan Community here in Sydney.
 In reading your review and opinion about Cyprian's books, I find the general tone and some comments offensive and uncalled for. You stated: "In 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Rudi and I decided to bring out a second anthology called Goa Masala 2, but the response was lukewarm and disappointing, in that several submissions were tedious reminiscences of East Africa, of no general human interest. So we shelved the project." How many people did you canvass for this opinion?
 What has your failure got to do with Cyprian's books? Could it be that the presentation was lacking and added little value to the already rich heritage that is East African? Its colonial past was not the subject of the book, nor was it intended to be. Africa retains a raw natural beauty and heritage, regardless of its past colonial masters or present day rulers that you could not expect a Goan from Goa to ever understand.
Added to that, I Ben Antao I am a Goan, born and bred in Bombay (now Mumbai) and left India permanently in 1971 for Canada. In late 1973 I moved to Australia to be with most of my family. So I have experienced life across 3 countries. I have NEVER been to Africa and specifically Kenya but I am married to an ex Kenyan and have many East African friends - all with wonderful memories of a life in days gone by.
 I am a good friend of Cyprian Fernandes who I met in Sydney and have worked with him for the Goan community here in Sydney. As you may be able to gather from that, Cyprian is a very proud Goan, a popular and respected person in our Goan Community here in Sydney. In reading your review and opinion about Cyprian's books, I find the general tone and some comments offensive and uncalled for.
You stated: "In 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Rudi and I decided to bring out a second anthology called Goa Masala 2, but the response was lukewarm and disappointing, in that several submissions were tedious reminiscences of East Africa, of no general human interest. So we shelved the project."
How many people did you canvass for this opinion? What has your failure got to do with Cyprian's books? Could it be that the presentation was lacking and added little value to the already rich heritage that is East African? Its colonial past was not the subject of the book, nor was it intended to be. Africa retains a raw natural beauty and heritage, regardless of its past colonial masters or present day rulers that you could not expect a Goan from Goa to ever understand. Added to that, I the first edition, she paused thoughtfully and said, 'I have had some interesting experiences in Canada.' 'Well, write about them and tell your friends to do the same', I said." Are you a self-appointed mentor of the Goan community in Canada? haven’t heard about you nor your book.. and definitely will not be seeking to read your works.
Mark Fonseca