| A Kind of Absence
Life in the Shadow of History
João da Veiga Coutinho
The most useful offerings of this little volume are the parables and paradigms for self-discovery. For the act of digging into childhood's buried treasure of memories lets in a light of exaltation. Telling one's story in one's own voice turns out to be a creative act of sharing in a community transcending the limits of marginality and uprootedness.
George V. Coelho, Social Psychologist
No stone is left unturned as the author untangles the intricate web referred to as "Goan identity", "Goanness", "Goan history", "Goan", "Goenkar" through the discussions of geography, biology and time.... I encourage every Goan who wants to look beyond the deceiving surface of Goan-ness to read A Kind of Absence to gain a deeper insight into who we really are or are not and who we should be. To add our own questions to the list already introduced by the author. To learn from the shadows of the past and aim for the horizons of the future....
Jaime de Mello, Writer
In A Kind of Absence João da Veiga Coutinho wrestles with the visible and invisible Goan presence. He writes with passion, insight and erudition. His memories of the Goan homeland are ours also. His questions ours too. His journey of self-discovery becomes ours and we ask: "Who am I? Where am I going?"
Promila Coelho Sen, Artist
João da Veiga Coutinho's A Kind of Absence raises questions that must lurk in the mind of every thoughtful Goan living in an alien land--questions that include how we Goans ourselves regard the nature of a Goan identity, and Goan history, and what meaning we give to either of these terms. A Kind of Absence is a unique document, the outcome of a lifetime's probing by a keen and analytical intellect; it is at once profoundly moving and philosophical. I find myself rereading it at odd moments, being challenged by the issues it raises, trying (in da Veiga Coutinho's own words) "to make clear in my own mind some issues in Goan history." Eventually we may find, as he does, that "there is no single way of being Goan." That one realization should shatter at a blow the very things that sometimes divide us--prejudices based on religion, caste, customs, even language and shades of color. Goans by the thousand are now spread across the face of the earth. Where so many ethnic minorities here and elsewhere are concerned about roots, da Veiga Coutinho has contrarian advice: "We must learn to live without roots. Roots have been replaced by horizons.... India is an arc of our horizon... in the process of creating itself." Presumably, for some of us at least, Portugal is another arc, and the land of our adoption--whether the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Brazil, a new-born African country or whatever--is yet a third, also creating itself, this time with our help.
Victor Rangel-Ribeiro Founder-Member and Past President, Goan Association of New York
What am I doing here? Home, the place one starts from, is only a nest, good for a season, never to be anxiously sought again. The past is gone forever, not only our childhood but the world, the only world, the accustomed world in which we lived. They have become invisible, entrusted henceforth to the keeping of each individual heart.
From A Kind of Absence
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