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Who out there really doesn't know Joel D'Souza? (FN)
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2018-08-21 19:48:19 UTC
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Joel's Goa

Frederick Noronha
***@gmail.com

It must have happened four or more years ago. We
were seated at this restaurant just alongside the
Porvorim water-tank, a prominent landmark midway
along the Panjim-Mapusa road. Joel and me got
talking, while casually digging into a tasty
bhaji-chapati on a hungry evening after an
enlightening session at the nearby XCHR historical
centre. As usual, we had a lot to gossip about.
Mediapersons, they say, are broadgauge gossips.

Video recordings are such an easy way of digital note-taking
(and something that retains memories to boot and in sharp
detail, especially when we grow forgetful), and so I offered
to record Joel. He declined. Or, given the finality with
which he did so, maybe it would be more apt to say that he
flatly refused.

We continued talking. At one point, he mentioned that his
real name was not even Joel. Whaaaaat? I had known (or
thought that I had) this guy for maybe three decades, and
here he was breaking the news that I didn't even know his
name? That was simply too much. Without further asking, and
with total disregard for his earlier 'no' in these
no-means-no days, I just whipped out a tiny camera (or was it
a smartphone?) and started recording.

That resulted in a scratchy, noisy recording, retaining the
clutter of restaurant plates and other conversations in the
background. It is one of the handful of interviews (if not
the only) recording of a man who himself recorded Goa and her
people in great digital detail. In it, we have Joel shyly
talking about his own life and times in journalism. Less
about himself, and more about how journalism was conducted in
those times.

Even if the result was noisy and at points even
inaudible, I am glad to have recorded those
memories. For, shortly thereafter, Joel D'Souza of
Assagao (who as Goa Today editor Vinayak Naik says,
was in his late 60s but looked like someone in his
early 50s) passed away most unexpectedly. He left
behind few details of his own life, but tonnes of
video and audio recordings, photographs and
writings about so many aspects of Goa.

Joel was modesty personified. He was most unlike the rest of
us journalists who often place ourselves at the centre of the
story, or brag about our own doings (for example, here).

Recently, a slender 82-page book titled 'Celebrating Joel
D'Souza' was published (under the sharable Creative Commons
license, very glad to note) by his close friends and
admirers.

Knowing Joel, I feel confident that he would not like to even
talk about himself. He was one of those rare breeds of
journalists who believed that their own views were
immaterial. That his role was to act as a mirror to society
and simply reflect the doings, thoughts, opinions and actions
of others. In a way, the greatness of a man lies in such
humility, for it's very easy to be boastful.

So, instead of focussing on Joel -- the book on him
is available for free download, for all who wish to
read it, via GoaCom at http://bit.ly/JoelEbook --
what might be better is to look at the times and
era that he lived through.

Among the photos included one (p. 12) shows scraggy young
men, like the photographer Lui Godinho (of Majorda, Vasco and
now in the UK) standing before some obviously Portuguese-era
compound fencing sometime in the 1970s. It reminds us of the
trying times and simple days of that time, when food was in
short supply, and getting access to a simple camera (and the
possibility to process film) was itself a big deal.

Just on the weekend, while venturing through Mapusa, one
happened to notice the number of mostly old,
creaking-staircased and sometimes dilapadated photography
studios that were once active in the town. Today, these seem
to have mostly fallen on bad days, and probably have a tough
time to post returns. They seemed much more vibrant in the
1970s or 1980s.

In spite of this, journalists of that era (and Joel is one
who kept behind quite some record, to put it mildly) managed
to put in there best. They struggled to get across their
reports from Vasco to the state capital, sports or otherwise.

There was a lack of technology, a lack of transport, and even
a terrible takehome for the trouble put in by then. But then,
there was only so much that a struggling-to-get-established
press of the times could afford to pay. There were also only
a few outlets where creative work, or even journalism could
be published in those times. On the other hand, in the times
of our youth in the 1970s, there were innovative magazines
like the JS (Junior Statesman, not as rendered in the book p 5)
that those trying to express themselves from Goa too reached
out to.

The stories of migration to Vasco for jobs, sports
and entertainment available there, managing in
times of job losses, and life in the dusty port
city of another era make for a fascinating record
of those times. Return-migration from East Africa,
the Goa Radio Amateur Society (GRAS) of Vasco, the
fledging Konkani journalism of those times, the
need to make a 'trunk call' even between Vasco and
Panjim... these are the episodes we come across.
Once, a couple of contributors to the media of
those times even slept on old cardboard boxes made
into a mat, on the cement benches in some Margao
garden area, to reach an interviewee on time.

The pictures and text tells of another Goa: Opposition leader
Dr Jack de Sequeira, obviously lionised by his supporters.
Natraj Theatre in Vasco where Konkani tiatrs were staged. The
world of black-and-white films. Or even the Goa of the 1990s
and beyond.

Two of Joel's contributions to Goan journalism
(besides his prolific videography and photography,
mostly and very generously shared online) were his
series of articles on Goan villages, and cyber
newsclips that he put out on a daily basis for long
years. In those times (late 1990s and early 2000s),
Goa had just got online. There was very limited
access to both internet bandwidth and news from
Goa. Despite being just a humble freelancer, Joel
would put together news-summaries from various
newspapers, and, with due credits, share these with
the rest of the world. Many old-timers in
cyberspace would certainly remember him for this.
But there is also a history of Goan cyberspace
waiting to be adequately documented and understood.

With due respect to my otherwise talented friend, cartoonist
Fabian Gonsalves, the front cover rendering of Joel depicts
him as being too serious, almost glum. I cannot for the life
of me remember Joel without a mischevious, impish grin on his
face at almost every time our eyes met. Even when he was
contemplating something, deciding the best angle to shoot
from, or trying to make sense of some Goan tradition or
cultural festival, he seldom to never looked as if he carried
the world on his shoulders. On the contrary, he took on his
onerous responsibility of 'recording Goa' with a lot of
mirth, fun and enthusiasm. Though the work was tough, as I
should know because we often shared notes, he took great
pride in the job he did.

Something that alerted me even more (goodness knows how many
times one is oneself responsible for this!) is the manner in
which memories get sometimes incorrectly recorded. Facts get
a bit jumbled, and a few of the comments mentioned in the
book couldn't have been as they were recorded. How would I
know? Because I was part of them, and this is not how I
recall the same. Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble, and
just being noted here to remind ourselves that our own
memories can play tricks on us. Sometimes.

Joel's friends, colleagues and admirers pay tribute to his
work in this small tome. But knowing the man's interest, I'd
think the story of Goa that emerges from these 82 pages is
something he himself would have pointed to with the most
pride and appreciation: the uniqueness of the Goa of those
times.

To say that Joel was a man of many talents would be
an understatement. Towards his last years, he even
collaborated (with Isidore Dantas of Pune) in
compiling a much-needed entire dictionary in the
Romi script of Konkani. His work in translations
has also been acknowledged. So was the role in
creating a plant festival at Siolim, an annual
event that's still going strong in August each
year. He was also an author of books and could have
done more if not felled in an untimely way by a
heart attack. This is certainly not a case of
saying something positive just because someone has
departed.

###

Goanet, founded by Herman Carneiro in 1994, enters its 25th
anniversary year very soon. Joel was part of that journey for
long, including by way of the GoaCom service he then ran out
of Goa. You can find his posts via the Goanet Archives:
http://lists.goanet.org/pipermail/goanet-goanet.org/ To join
in a Goanet discussion, or share your views/concerns there,
simply send your message as plain text, within the body of
the message, to ***@goanet.org It will reach everyone on
that list.

Frederick Noronha (FN) is a Goanet volunteer for 23 out of
its 24 years. This article was earlier published in The Navhind
Times, under the title of 'Joel's Goa'.

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