Book on Goan diaspora readies for British launch

July 24th, 2010 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, July 24 (IANS) The British Goan Festival here Sunday will see the launch of a book on Goan diaspora experiences. And first-time author Selma Carvalho, who has lived in Dubai, the US and now Britain, insists she is

simply “a Goan”.

The 290-page “Into the Diaspora Wilderness” throws light, perhaps for the first time, on the ties between the Goans and Britons, right from the times of the British Empire to the modern day and in locations spanning East Africa, the Middle East and Britain itself.

Carvalho, who has family in Nuvem and Vasco in the Indian state of Goa, says she “grew up in Dubai when the place was just an arid patch of land with a few houses huddled around the Creek”. She has been based in the US and then in Britain with her husband Savio and young daughter Lauren.

But at heart, she’s simply a Goan.

She told IANS: “I’ve lived in Dubai, the US and now the UK. I am a Goan. I kind of know about the lives of Goans in the diaspora across the continents. I thought of putting this wealth of information together to let people know how Goans have balanced their identity in the global diaspora.

“It’s a kind of combination of a memoir, family history, taking stories from the community. It’s about nostalgia. But I have also given an economic and political backdrop to the stories the book takes up.”

The book, published by Broadway Publishing House, tells little-known stories of Goans who ventured out to far-off lands to make their name and begin a new life.

Drawing on their experiences, one such focus is on the lives and adventures of the Goan ‘tarvottis’ (ship staff) whose earnings, as they coursed the waters right up to East Africa, propped up their home economy in the early 20th century.

The book tells the story of independent Kenya’s first martyr Pio Gama Pinto, the expulsion of Goans from Malawi, the bombing of the ship M.V. Dara in Dubai in 1961, in which many Goans, including crew, died, the Gulf War which unsetttled the large Goan comminity living in the Gulf countries, and Goans of Swindon in Britain.

It brings to the fore the behind-the-scenes experiences of Goan ‘lads’ who worked for the famous explorer Sir Richard Burton. It relives the turbulent times when Goans from East Africa began to re-settle in the US and Britain.

Says Carvalho: “People generally know about the relationship of the Goans and the Portuguese. But there is an equally strong relationship the Goans have had with the British, particularly in East Africa and the Middle East.

“Today there are many Goans in the UK and the current generation of them clearly says they’re British. They have been assimilated into society to a large extent.”

She says she is naturally excited that her book is being launched in Britain and that too at a Goan festival. It is the country’s premier Goan annual event held in Croydon in south London. The book will be launched in Goa next month.

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at

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