By IJ Saldanha Shet
Mangalore, December 17, 2011: The inteligentia of the Mangalore Konkani Community was upbeat with the release of yet another novel picturing the early times by prominent writer Alan Machado (Prabhu) of the ’Sarasvati’s Children’ fame. At St.Aloysius College on December 16, 2011; his new novel "SHADES within SHADOWS" was unwrapped at a tasteful formal function organized under the banner of CASK (Catholic Association of South Kanara). President of Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Latha R Kini mentioned that knowledge of contemporary issues supported by creativity is a valuable contribution to the society in terms of dissemination of information and preserving it for posterity. Happiness is a subjective learning and the book "Shades within Shadows" will give joy to the readers and gratification to the author, she said, adding that "Tomorrow is not assured but today is sure".
Dr William D’Silva introduced the author and said that Alan Machado Prabhu has commitedly worked to bring out ’Shades within Shadows’, based on an in depth research on Konkani Catholics. The is set mainly before the Captivity era. Further he said Alan Machado Prabhu has done extensive research on this subject and it promises to throw new light of this sad episode on the community’s history and add to his earlier books. Readings from the book captivated those present and gave them a pre-view. Dr. Derik Lobo President CASK gave rendered the Presidential address in which he thanked all concerned. The occasion is sure to bring repute to the gripping novel.
A PEAK INTO THE NOVEL:
An estimated 50,000 Christians emigrated from Goa between 1570 and 1740 and settled in Kanara. In March 1784, in a secret operation, Tipu Sultan ordered the arrest and deportation of Kanara’s Christian population to Srirangapatna and the confiscation of their properties. Kanara’s churches were destroyed. This operation was extended to Mysore and other parts of Tipu’s dominions and orders were issued to officials to arrest and send to Srirangapatna Christians who continued to live in their jurisdiction. Younger males were circumcised and converted to Islam. From their numbers, a chela or military slave corps, the Ahmedies, was formed. Young women and children, probably family, also received a salary. Men too old for the Ahmedy Corps were given lands to cultivate. Those who escaped were rounded up in further operations in 1787 and later. The chelas fought in Tipu’s wars, suffering heavy casualties. Many escaped in 1792 to Kodagu and some of the survivors returned to their previous homes after Tipu’s death in 1799, deprived of their families and property. A census taken in 1800 revealed a Christian population of just 13,000 in Kanara.
Shades within Shadows is a story of these people, set largely in the 10 month period that Tipu spent in Mangalore during his siege of the fort. This time frame is used as a canvas on which to paint details of the life of the community, their culture, their work, their festivals and interaction with Kanara’s traditions. Most of all it is a very human story which weaves around individuals: little Paulu’s friendship with Chiku the home-grown pig, his restless brother Foka, aging Natalami and drunken Bastiao, floundering Konngi, Padre Miranda of Talaulim, Goa who founded the seminary of Monte Mariano near Mangalore. It handles birth and love, relationships and death with delicacy, and weaves little stories around humourous incidents and latent fears, of ghosts and spirits and other things.
Shades with Shadows does not ignore the links of the Mangalorean Catholics with Goa, and this is brought out in the very first chapter, the flight from Goa due to economic reasons, religious strictures introduced by the Inquisition, and political unrest resulting from the Dutch blockades of Goa’s ports and Maratha invasions. It then delves into the lives of two families, Konnggi’s in urban Mangalore, and Jaki’s in rural Mermajal, their lives and activity interwoven into the fabric of sowing and harvest, summer and monsoon, Christian festivals and bhuta lore. And then the axe falls with their arrest on Ash Wednesday, and then the deaths multiply on the road to exile and in Srirangapatna and in Tipu’s wars. Only Joao survives and returns.
Shades with Shadows is a story of life and death and survival, of the near destruction of the unique culture of a community, how one man’s actions, whatever his motivation, nearly destroyed a community and left the traumatic events of the Captivity forever imprinted on its psyche. Many reasons have been advanced by various authors for Tipu’s actions. Alan Machado (Prabhu) has done extensive research on this subject and his findings will be published in a subsequent book. It promises to throw new light of this sad episode on the community’s history and add to his earlier book Sarasvati’s Children, a history of the Mangalorean Catholic community, published in 1999.
Note: Shades within Shadows is co-published by Goa 1556 (Goa1556@gmail.com) and ATC Publications (firstname.lastname@example.org). The book is priced at Rs.350 and can be purchased directly from the publishers who will arrange delivery or through Flipkart or from bookstores. In Mangalore it will be available at: Athree Book Centre, Balmatta Road, ATC (Dr Christopher Pais compound) Kadri, and Jerosa Co., Milagres Mansion. Mangalore and later at other out lets.
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