Poskem – you probably have never heard of this term. I have lived in Goa for last 3 years but the first time I heard it was on author Wendell Rodricks Facebook Timeline when he announced this book. I gathered this book was about Goans we do not know. And I assumed it is about underprivileged in Goan society. But, I could not by any stretch of the imagination think that it might be about the abandoned children in Goa. The fact that they were a norm in the large Goan households tells you a lot about the society. No, it is not to pity them for they did get a home to live in. However, knowing they do not belong to the family they live with comes with its own complications.
In this small Novella, written in a very simple yet engaging manner, Wendell Rodricks tells you the tale of four Poskems from Goa – all of who have a very different life. His foreword says that all these stories are inspired by real life stories he knows. I could imagine the villages of Goa as they existed since the 1930s to this day. How life has changed but then not really. I wondered if I have unknowingly come across a Poskem in Goa. If I meet one, would it be ok to discuss their lives?
In choosing his takes of Poskem, the author picks up a spectrum of stories. He picks up a life that is not treated so well and it leads the protagonist to become wicked. In a way, this character keeps seeking revenge. At the other end of the spectrum is a life well lived – the foster home treats this character as well as they can. It, of course, goes through what every Goan must have gone through during the crisis times. However, once you know that your biological family is somewhere there in the Goan landscape – the yearning to find them always stays.
Other two characters take you through scenes like incestuous relationships and growing outside Goa. All the stories and characters come together in an expected yet very endearing way. You almost feel like stepping into the scene and intervening so that the story gets a happy ending.
Goan Recipes in Poskem
The book is full of Goan recipes. Each character, especially all the women jump into cooking at the drop of hat. They then elaborately spell out the recipe for the readers. It does not matter what they do, they all like to cook & bake & serve their loved ones. They cook when they are in distress, they cook when they are happy, they cook when they visit someone and they cook when they have to seduce someone.
Without these recipes, the book would perhaps be a short story. Do the recipes always fit in the story – I do not think so. They pop up like songs in a Bollywood film – after almost every scene. The afterword of the book carries a long list of names whose recipes have been included in the story. I found a bit of disconnect as while reading the book I was under the impression these recipes came from the 4 characters in the story. I assumed that the food is something like a thread that runs through their stories or food is something they all find comfort in.
If you love Goan food, especially the non-vegetarian food, you may find many recipes to try here.
Cartoons by Mario Miranda
Mario Miranda is like the soul of Goa – no place in Goa is complete without his sketches. Wendell Rodricks also uses some of his works to show you the Goa you may not know. Even if you know Mario Miranda has a way of giving you a quirky version of the same.
What I liked is the simplicity of the narrative. You feel for each of the character. Next time you are in Mapusa Market, your eyes may be searching for these Poskem people. You may not gather the courage to speak to them about being a Poskem, but you would definitely give them a thought. The book does throw light on them and brings them to the forefront even if for some time.
Wendell Rodricks loves Goa and that shows in each sentence of this book as it did in his memoirs – The Green Room.
Would the book change anything for them – only time will tell!
You may buy this book – Poskem – Goans in the Shadows by Wendell Rodricks at Amazon.
Other Books on Goa: