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August 21, 2017

Wendell Rodricks’ New Book Captures The Misfortunes Of The ‘Adopted Children’ Of Goa

Text by Zaral Shah. Illustration by Mario Miranda

In his latest literary offering, the designer-author talks to us about throwing light on the lives of the Poskim through his arresting narratives

Drawing from experiences — some personal, a few hearsay and others passed down through ages — fashion designer Wendell Rodricks takes readers through the time of Portuguese rule in Goa right up to the post-Liberation period in the state in Poskem: Goans in the Shadows. Motivated by the need to talk about the tradition of Poskem — the ‘adopted children’ of Goa — one that he believes should have been told long ago — Rodricks has taken real events and people and told their tales through a narrative.

The genesis
“I first toyed with the idea of writing a non-fiction book, but I realised that that would curb the writing style I wanted. I started writing Poskem at a friend’s home in Mandrem in Goa — and its ambience is reflected in the magical realism in the book.”

A mirror of life
“It was easy to write about the encounters in the book. The events are all real. I had visual inspiration all around me. At times when I needed motivation, I would take a walk through my village, climb the hills and go to the neighbouring one, or talk to neighbours or guests…. The story shifts from happiness to despair with the same fluidity that is seen in my clothing. I could have dwelt on the history or descriptions of the four main characters in the book, but I left them in the shadows…much like they lived their real lives — behind closed doors, not looking anyone in the eye, submissive, eager to please, riddled with an unknown guilt, always on the edge of Goan society.”

The underlying tones
“People will see a dark side of ‘India’s sunshine state’. Goans are ashamed of admitting that the tradition of Poskem still exists. But what I want most of all from the book is that this tradition stops. There have been too many generations of abuse. Poskem will hopefully put an end to this shameful secret of the state of Goa.”

Writing blocks
“The love scenes mortified me. Even though I am an openly gay man, I am uncomfortable talking about sex. I prefer to talk about love. I took the easy way out and included a love-making scene in the first chapter. That prepared me for the other mentions of physical interaction in the book. The other challenge I faced was the language. The book is based in many cities and I had to overcome the difficulty of coping with three languages — Konkani, Portuguese and French. Since the storyline moves from Goa, Bombay and Pune to Lisbon and Lyon, I had to keep the historical and cultural contexts of these places in mind.”

Lessons learnt
“Thoughts of my mother stayed with me throughout the book. I kept hearing her voice telling me stories about the Poskim. With this tome, I rediscovered my youth, her youth. The story of the Poskim is so visual that it can easily be translated onto celluloid. Above all, I have become more compassionate towards people in general. I no longer look at villagers in the same light. Especially the downtrodden, those reduced to poverty.”

Poskem: Goans in the Shadows by Wendell Rodricks, with illustrations by Mario Miranda, is published by Om Books International.

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