Tale of a city and the East Indian

Published: 06 December, 2011 07:03 IST | Soma Das |

Viva Queimada, a coffee table book by ad man Neville Gomes, traces the 500-year journey of the East Indian community in Mumbai. The book launch will include a theatrical production that pays homage to the city's original inhabitants

Viva Queimada, a coffee table book by ad man Neville Gomes, traces the 500-year journey of the East Indian community in Mumbai. The book launch will include a theatrical production that pays homage to the city's original inhabitants

For advertising professional Neville Gomes (65), Viva Queimada is a labour of love. The idea of documenting the East Indian community's history first cropped up in 2008 when he was approached by friends with manuscripts and reference material. While Neville was initially skeptical, his wife Sandra took a keen interest in the project. But when Sandra passed away in 2009, Neville decided to complete the book considering it a farewell tribute to Sandra.

On December 31, 1600, English traders entered the Asian region. The
East India company (logo shown above)changed the fortune of the East
Indians. The community got their name through an official decree from
Queen Victoria during her golden jubilee.

Journey across time
From 2010 onwards, Neville and his six member team travelled across the city, from Revdanda to Thane and Gorai, re-tracing the steps of the original inhabitants of the city. The quest also took them across the seven seas to the USA, Canada and Australia where they met up with the diaspora.

The first East Indian journal, Patriota, was published in 1799. It predates
the first edition of The Times of India by almost 40 years.

The result is Viva Queimada, a coffee table book with 100 illustrations which documents the landmarks in East Indian history, from the 15th century till the 21st century. Along the way, readers also get a peek into the history of Mumbai which ran parallel to that of the community.

"Every community needs such books to document their culture and contribution to society for posterity. It also helps put an end to hostilities among communities. In that respect, there should be books on other notable communities as well, including the Parsis and the Kayastha Prabhus," says Neville.

To mark the book launch, a special 30-minute theatrical performance has been organised, which will incorporate portions from the book which delve on East Indian customs, their unique cuisine and the impact of colonialism on the community. It will also provide a  brief character sketch of notable East Indians.

Conceived and directed by Etienne Coutinho, the cast includes Marianne d'cruz Aimen and Shahriyar Atai among others while the costumes and props have been designed by Darryl Loyola.

Celebrating the spirit of Mumbai
"The title of the book comes from the Portuguese word 'Queimada' which means burnt. It denotes a Gaelic celebration ritual that has been carried from Ireland and Scotland to Portugal and Spain. The ritual involves a celebratory get-together during winter evenings marked by consumption of liquor.

There are parallels even among the East Indian traditions and since the book is a celebration of the spirit of the city and the community, it was an apt name," explains Neville. While conducting his research, Neville admits that there were surprises at every turn. "I found that the Amish settlements bore a lot of similarities to the original East Indian settlements."

He admits that he is prepared for constructive criticism. "There may be people who will point out that the Britishers brought along exploitation in their wake. But at the same time, they were the ones who recognised the potential of the city, after the Portuguese had given it away as dowry when Catherine Braganza married Charles II of England," he states, adding that the dates and events have been meticulously researched.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be distributed among three charities -- the NGO Kripa, Women's India Trust (WIT) and the NGO Ummeed. The book starts from 1498 when the Portugeuse came to India and goes on to describe the Battle of Diu when the Portugeuse triumphed over a joint fleet from Egypt, Calicut, Gujarat, Venice and Croatia. It goes on to describe the formation of cities such as Thana (Thane), Bandora (Bandra) and Mahim.

"Researching the era was fascinating as the course of world history changed during this period. From the Industrial Revolution to the American War of Independence, they all took place during these 500 years and significantly there was an Indian connect to many of these events. For example -- the ships that were used in the American War of Independence were manufactured on the west coast of India. The book thus offers a crash course in history for the uninitiated," he concludes.

On: Today, 7 pm onwards
At: St Andrew's Auditorium, Bandra (W).
Price: Rs 2,500
Available at venue and NGO offices.

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